Species of the month: October - Stoat
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Scientific Name: Mustella erminea
Identification: The stoat is related to the weasel and otter which are all in the mustelid family. The stoat has an orangey-brown back, a creamy white throat and belly, and a black-tipped tail. It closely resembles the weasel however stoats have a longer tail and a distinctive bounding gait, arching its back as it moves; Weasels do not bound, but run close to the ground.
Diet: Rabbits are their favourite prey as well as other small mammals such as mice which are killed with a single bit to the back of the neck. They will also eat birds, eggs, fruit and even earthworms when food is scarce.
Behaviour: Stoats prefer to hunt along linear features such as ditches, hedgerows and walls – they do not like to be out in the open so meadows and marshes which offer cover are ideal. They run in a zig-zag pattern searching areas methodically. Male and female stoats live separately, marking their territories with scent. They defend their territory against intruders of the same sex, however, in spring the males’ territory expands as they range widely in search of females.
Where can they be found?:
Stoats are widespread and can be found in many different habitats including: urban and gardens, woodlands, heathland, farmland and grassland. You may be lucky to see one (if you’re patient) at a number of our reserves including:
Wildife Gardening Tips:
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