©Margaret Holland

Stoat

©Richard Steel/2020VISION

Stoat

Scientific name: Mustela erminea
The stoat is a small Mustelid, so is related to the weasel and otter. It has an orange body, black-tipped tail and distinctive bounding gait. Spot it on grassland, heaths and in woodlands across the UK.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 24-32cm
Tail: 9-14cm
Weight: 140-450g
Average lifespan: 2-5 years

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

The stoat is a small predator, with a long, low-slung body that makes it particularly well suited to hunting small rodents and rabbits. It can easily kill an adult rabbit, which is much larger than itself, with a bite to the base of the skull. Stoats are active by day and night, and are easiest to spot in open habitats, such as sand dunes, grassland and heathland. They mate in summer, but delay implantation of the fertilised egg until the spring of the following year. They have one litter of six to twelve kits a year.

How to identify

The stoat has an orangey-brown back, a creamy white throat and belly, and a black-tipped tail. It is larger than the similar weasel, has a longer tail and has a distinctive bounding gait, arching its back as it moves; Weasels do not bound, but run close to the ground.

Distribution

Widespread, found throughout the country, although absent from some Scottish islands, the Isles of Scilly and most of the Channel Islands.

Did you know?

In the winter, stoats living in colder climes may turn almost completely white, with just a black tip to the tail. This is known as 'Ermine' and is extremely valuable in the fashion world as the white fur is unusually dense. Stoats in warmer parts of the UK may not change colour at all, or may take on a 'patchy' appearance.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.