The Life of the Stoat
What is a Stoat?
A stoat (Mustela erminea), if you've never heard of it, is also called short-tailed weasel or an ermine. It is a mammal which belongs to the order Carnivora and in the family Mustelidae. The stoat is somewhat related to the ferret, otter, badger and the weasel, and has similar character and behavior like these animals.
Being in the order Carnivora, the stoat is indeed a wild carnivore and eats meat. The fearless stoat usually hunts and attacks amphibians, rodents, fish, small reptiles, rabbits, squirrels and even little birds. Even hedgehogs and certain lizards are on their list of foods. The wild carnivore slays its prey with a vicious quick bite to the back of the neck, just similar to the way a Tyrannosaurus-Rex dinosaur would do without showing mercy. Stoats travel and hunt any time of the day as well. However, the stoat does have its own predators and remains wary of them. Foxes, wild cats or large snakes can attack the stoat.
Stoats usually live alone in narrow rock fissures or deserted burrows. It will often line its nest with furs of its victims. They often move very swiftly and speedily, and maybe covering up to 18-20 miles in one hour. Their ability to climb is tremendously remarkable and very agile, and also they are good swimmers. In regions that are covered in snow, or in the winter season, the stoat transforms into a creamy-white color either partially or fully, but the black tip in its tail remains the same color without changing. When this happens the stoat is then called an ermine. Bear in mind that the stoat's black-tipped tail is what makes it identifiable without mistaking it for a weasel. However, in regions where there's a warmer climate, the creamy-white color of the stoat may be partial and not fully distinctive, which gives the predator a sort of patchy appearance.
Stoat in the Winter
These cunning and vicious carnivores mate in the summer season but the fertilized egg is not actually in process until the next year in March, so the development of newborn stoats (kits) are delayed. Due to this the young stoats are born in Spring between the months of April and May, but it really depends on the climate conditions and the regions where they inhabit. The litter consists of six or twelve kits per birth, and the young kits are helpless and blind, but they become independent after 6-8 weeks and start to hunt for food with their mother.
Recognizing stoats can be a bit difficult but they do have some features which distinguish it from their close relatives. The stoat's body is long and appears reddish-brown to ginger with the underparts being white. The head is kind of triangular and supported by the long neck. Their teeth are very sharp but the mouth is kept shut unless it's attacking its prey, so the teeth will not be visible. The eyes are distinctively black and shiny, with roundish ears and long whiskers like a cat. The tail has a bushy black tip as already mentioned, and a good way to know it's a stoat.
The male stoats are bigger in size than the females, and also the males weight is much more than the females. The body length of a stoat is between 25-35 centimeters and the tail measures between 8-14 centimeters long. The stoats are normally silent animals, but they make sounds like a weasel. The adults make squeaking or twittering sounds before mating. The kits are known to make chirping sounds similar to birds.
The stoat's habitat could be practically anywhere where there is prey. They are found living in the woods, farmlands, moors, heaths and also in coastal and mountainous regions especially in the northernmost part. These animals are mainly native to Asia, Europe and North America.
Further Facts on Stoats
- Male stoats usually urinate and defecate in their occupied territories as a marker.
- Stoats are very good swimmers.
- Stoats makes hissing noises to communicate with each other.
- As well as ermines and short-tailed weasels, stoats are also known as Bonaparte weasels.
- In the past, humans have used the fur of stoats for clothing in the winter.
- In the late 19th century, stoats were introduced to New Zealand. The purpose was to reduce the number of rabbits in the country. However, stoats had a negative impact because the native species of birds were threatened.
- It is difficult to capture stoats because they get suspicious of baits and traps in their environment. They are indeed very smart.
- Stoats are known to have good eyesight, hearing and sense of smell. This means with their good senses, they can climb trees rapidly to eat baby birds and eggs in the nest whenever they can sense them.