The stoat is a small, cute-looking animal related to the weasel living in Europe, Asia, and North America. These animals are also called ermine, and that word is part of their scientific name Mustela erminea. The genus these animals are in contains ferrets and weasels as well.
During the summer, stoats have a white belly and a brown back, head, and sides. This brown color can range from light brown to dark brown or a reddish-brown. The back half of their tail is black. In the winter, their coloring changes to completely white, except for the tip of their tail, which remains black. This helps them camouflage in the snow, if there is any. You can see what this looks like in the picture below.
Stoats and weasels do look a lot alike, but one way to tell them apart from a distance is the way they run. Stoats bound across the ground with an arched back while weasels stay close to the ground while they run. The weasels don’t have a black-tipped tail, and they are much smaller than stoats.
Male stoats are much larger than the females. They range from 11-12 inches (28-31 cm) long, while the females are from 9.5 to 11.5 inches (24-29 cm). Their tails can be almost half the length of their body, ranging from 3.7 to 5.5 inches (9.5-14 cm).
While the males and females do not have a huge difference in length, the males are much heavier. While the females range from 5-10 ounces, the males have a minimum of 7 ounces and can weigh up to one pound (200-445 g)!
Despite their small size and cute appearance, stoats are actually predatory mammals. They aren’t picky predators either. Their preferred prey is small mammals, up to the size or rabbits. When mammals aren’t around to eat, they can feed on birds, eggs, frogs, fish, and insects. They kill their prey by sneaking up on it and pouncing on the animal’s back. They then hold on tight and bite their prey’s neck, making it unable to move.
In captivity, these animals have sometimes been observed eating fruit, but this is rare.
Habitat and range
The map below shows the area stoats call home. As you can see, they live in the northern portions of North America, Europe, and Asia. They prefer colder climates because their coats would keep them too hot in much warmer climates, and their white winter coats are great for camouflage there.
These animals can inhabit almost any habitat represented in this area of the world. They will live in woodlands, grasslands, farm areas, and many other similar habitats. Although they mostly spend their time on the ground, stoats can climb up into trees and swim as well. They make dens out of tree roots, hollow logs, piles of stone, and rodent burrows. They use this for protecting their young and storing extra food.
Status, threats, and protection
Stoats are classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Redlist. Despite this, they have a lot of predators, mostly due to where they live and their small size. Some of their predators include foxes, badgers, eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, large snakes, and domestic cats. Almost any large predator larger than the stoat itself can be a threat.
One piece of protection these animals do have is their fierce nature. The same strength they use to overpower prey much larger than themselves they can use to protect themselves from larger predators. Its sharp teeth give it a nasty bite for any animal that gets on its bad side.
As with basically all animals, stoats do have som non-natural threats. They are sometimes hunted by farmers who don’t appreciate the stoats eating their chickens. In the past, they were trapped for their winter fur, called ermine. Habitat loss and pesticides are the two main non-natural threats these animals face.
Reproduction and young
Stoat mating season occurs in late spring or early summer. When the females mate, they do not give birth the same year. Instead, they wait till the next April or May to give birth. This is better for them because there is so much prey to hunt at this time of year. Litters can be as small as 3 or as large as 18. Average ones are between 4 and 9 kittens, as they are called.
The kittens are born with completely white fur. Despite being blind at birth, the young are ready to hunt with their mother after just eight weeks! Females reach their adult size just six weeks after birth, and they are ready to mate the same year. The males do not reach full size until the next summer, and they are ready to mate then.
In the wild, stoats typically only survive one to two years. Seven years is about the longest lifespan of a stoat in the wild. In captivity, these creatures occasionally live as long as 12 years!
Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!
- Stoat – Public Domain
- White stoat – Wikipedia user: Guerillero
- Stoat range – Wikipedia user: Chermundy
- Mystery animal – Public Domain