Stoats belong to the weasel family but they are a bit bigger. As with their cousins, weasels, these creatures are purely carnivorous. This article will look at what do stoats eat as well as their behavior in the wild.
Originally, stoats were used to get rid of rabbits and hairs in farms in the 1800s. Well, their primary diet is composed of rabbits and other small mammals. In the wild, however, stoats will also feed on other prey.
Stoats live in any place that they can access food easily. It does not matter whether it is a forest, urban areas, grasslands or even parks. Well, in most cases, they will live in burrows and tunnels. Understand that stoats will not dig their burrows. Rather, they will use abandoned burrows, perhaps ones left after they feed on prey.
These creatures are thorough and intelligent. Their main diet includes rabbits, as I mentioned earlier. However, they also feed on other prey such as rats, vermin and other rodents. Do not be surprised to see stoat climbing trees to poke in bird’s nests.
The hunting skills of stoats
As I mentioned earlier, stoats are very smart and cautious during hunting. Now, they hunt on the ground and underground. The male stoats are likely to go for bigger prey and on-ground prey. This is because they are bigger. The female will hunt smaller prey such as rats and mice and usually underground.
Once a stoat spots prey, he/she will start chasing. One more thing, stoats are extremely fast, they will run 20 miles per hour. They will hunt prey to eat and hunt even more to save for later. They will drag their leftovers back to their burrow.
Their vision at night is excellent while they may not have good color vision during the day. And because they have a certain unmistakable musky smell, they must be careful while hunting. They will run in a zigzag way to avoid suspicion by potential prey.
If the food resources become scarce, the stoats will travel, looking for something better. They can travel for more than 70KM fortnightly looking for food. They can also swim across water bodies to islands.
Male stoats are strong and will be able to catch larger prey than themselves. Stoats will also eat birds, fish, bird eggs, frogs and insects. Stoats are capable of covering more than 8 km in just one hunt.
Stoats in the wild
As with the weasels, stoats do not hunt or interact with one another. They will protect and mark their territory and only associate during mating. Otherwise, they will not be comfortable having another stoat around, and especially if they are of the same sex.
Now, their reproduction is quite peculiar. Stoats are already ready to get pregnant at the age of 2-3 weeks. This is when they can barely see or hear anything and are still lactating. The male will mate with the female and leave them pregnant.
However, stoats have a slow implantation period. After mating, the fertilized eggs will remain in the stoat’s body until they are ready to handle pregnancy. This will take about 280 days after which the stoat will give birth to a litter of 5-12 kits.
Stoats are suspicious of baits in the wild. They are careful and will observe closely before they get close to something. For this reason, it is almost to eliminate stoats in farms.
Stoat Fact sheet
Above, we have looked at stoats habitat, diet as well as reproduction behavior. Below, I am going to bring you a few fun facts about stoats:
Stoat’s body size
Stoats are small carnivorous animals belong to the Mustelidae family. They are slightly bigger than weasels. However, compared to ferrets, stoats are much smaller in size. Furthermore, stoats do not have the blackface spot as ferrets do.
Accurate olfactory sense
Stoats have a great sense of hearing as well as excellent eyesight. Well, this is very necessary during hunting. They will smell prey from afar. However, prey like rodents can smell stoats from a distance and escape as well.
Coat color may change with seasons
Stoats will grow a winter coat that may vary from the usual reddish-brown. In the winter, he will grow a white coat but leave the tail tip black. This coat can be far thicker than the summer coat. Well, this is to keep them warm during cold seasons.
Stoats will also live in tree hollows
Earlier on, we looked at the stoat’s homes. While most of them live in burrows, some stoats will live in tree hollows. This is especially when they are living in urban areas.
Stoats have a long lifespan
Stoats will enjoy a great lifespan of 4-6 years on normal occasions. Well, did you also know that they will only have one litter in their lives? Yes, stoats will rarely get pregnant after giving birth to a litter. The litter may consist of as many as 15 kits!
They are sometimes referred to as ‘short-tailed weasels’
Stoats are extremely close to looking like weasels, only with a short tail. Some people may call them short-tailed weasels and others will call them ermines.
They also do the weasel war dance
Killing birds is not a difficult task as they will bite the head and neck until the prey is dead. However, when chasing bigger prey, most stoats will use their canning behavior. Most of them will jump up and down, twisting and even roll over their bodies with the intent of confusing prey.
Stoats dislike closed forests
While stoats might end up living in forests because of the rich availability of food, they do not like closed forests so much. They are more likely to live in open fields and grasslands.
They are heavy feeders
Stoats are small in size but they will spend most of their life hunting. They can eat more than 3 mice in a day, thus the need for an environment with enough food resources.
Stoats might disrupt the natural bird environment but will also get rid of rats and vermin in the fields.