Posted by: braddenvillage | December 31, 2010

Weasels or Stoats in Bradden?

Weasels or Stoats in Bradden

So there I was, walking the dogs towards St Michael’s church, passing the Glebe Field to my left, when suddenly I saw what I first took to be a squirrel bouncing – yes, definitely bouncing – across the road in front of me.

It took a split second to realise that this was not a squirrel, having no bushy tail, and a more elongated, longer body than a squirrel would have had. So what was it?

Well, from scouring the internet, I believe I saw a Stoat, which, is a first for me.

For your information, I attach an article published in the Guardian in June 2008, so that if you see “something” that could be a Weasel or a Stoat, you can work out which it was!

“These fearless little killers are easily confused. Stoats are bigger. “The weasel appears the size of a large mouse,” explains Dr Robbie McDonald, head of Wildlife Disease Ecology at the Central Science Laboratory at Woodchester Park. “A stoat is similar to a skinny squirrel, with a bristly black tip on the tail, which stays black even when the coat turns white.”

Once you get past superficial similarities, the uniqueness of the stoat is revealed: it can turn white in winter. “The advantage of this is that, as snow falls, the stoat is less likely to be spotted by a predator,” explains Jim Cokill, director of the Durham Wildlife Trust. “But with global warming and climate change there is less snow and stoats are losing that protection.”

Skinny, fast and vicious, weasels prey on small mammals – mice and voles. Stoats can manage rabbits and rats. Both kill by biting into the base of their prey’s skulls.

Stoats have a little secret. The females have delayed implantation, so a fertilised egg won’t start to develop until up to 10 months after mating. They are also reproductively mature from three weeks old, when they are still blind and naked. “So when an adult male enters a nest to mate with the adult female, he will also fertilise her nestling daughters. This means all females are pregnant from the day they leave the nest,” explains Dr McDonald. A weasel can have two litters a year. The stoat will only have one litter in the spring but can produce as many as 13 young. There are about 500,000 stoats, and the same number of weasels, across England.

Where they live

Both species can be found throughout Britain, in habitats ranging from lowland farmland and woodland, through to high moorland and bogs. Both the stoat and weasel live in dens or burrows taken over from their prey, such as rabbits and voles. Their long slim bodies are suited for life underground, so a stoat will sneak into a rabbit burrow and eat the young, then use the remaining fur to make a nest. Both animals are highly territorial and scent-mark their turf by leaving droppings and by rubbing scent glands on marking posts.

How to spot them

Usually you’ll just see a brown streak, running across the road, and you won’t know which it is. Both species hunt through day and night (they don’t hibernate and are even out hunting in and under the snow).


Stoat


Weasel

Did you know?

Ermine, the stoat’s winter coat, has traditionally been used on royal and judicial robes. The black spots are from the stoats’ black tails.”


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