Stoatally Amazing. Eva Phillips, Communications Officer

There are only a modest number of stoat records from Birmingham and the Black Country, but enough to show they are distributed across the conurbation and are established residents in the area. Find out more about these mini mammals...
Stoat

Credit: Richard Steel/2020BISION

Stoats are larger than weasels but smaller than polecats, measuring 15-30cms tip to tail. They have reddish-brown fur with cream underneath, but the further north they are spotted an increasing proportion become white in the winter - whilst still retaining their distinctive black tipped tail.

Stoats are active day and night as they need to eat 25% of their body weight in food daily. During the breeding season a lactating female requires 100% of her body weight in food each day. This means starvation is the biggest cause of death. Stoats are largely carnivorous, mostly killing rabbits, rodents and birds.They can kill prey much larger than themselves by attacking and biting the back of the neck.

Stoats are terrestrial predators but they can swim (occasionally taking fish) and climb, and they pursue prey in their tunnels. This strategy enables them to survive under ground for several days when the land is covered in snow. Stoats are solitary and territorial and have a range of up to 2 0.2Km Ha, with between 2 and 10 dens. They are adaptable creatures which colonise a variety of habitats - hedgerows woodland, grassland, shrubby river banks, grassy meadows and stone walls. Stoats are particularly dependant on good populations of rabbits, the preferred prey, in contrast to smaller weasels which feed mainly on field voles.

Stoat

Credit: Amy Lewis

In urban areas where railway embankments, canals and streams are in close proximity, stoats may be present if there is enough prey and ground cover. Stoats favour cavity type dens in hollow trees, burrows, stone walls and rock crevices.

Stoats mate during May and June but the fertilised egg is held in the uterus for 280 days before implantation followed by a short 21-28 days gestation. A litter of four or five is born the following April. The female is renowned for the fierceness with which she will defend the young. The average life expectancy of a stoat is just over a year.

Nationally the stoat population is estimated at about 450,000. They are generally distributed, essentially following the wide distribution of rabbits.

Their fur has been highly prized by the fur trade and traditionally trimmed the ceremonial robes of members of the House of Lords and the academic hoods of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Now there are strict regulations about importing ermine (stoat skins) into the EU and the increasing awareness of animal rights means fake fur has largely replaced the real thing. 

Map of Stoat records across Birmingham and the Black Country

Credit: EcoRecord

Stoats are not considered to be rare in the UK, but the habitats that they favour are declining - our grasslands, heathlands and woodlands are all under threat, this is why we work with farmers, landowners and gardeners alike to encourage a sustainable wildlife-friendly approach to development and food growing.

The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country leads the Nature Improvement Area - developing a network of habitats and wildlife corridors across the area which so both wildlife and people can travel freely. Find out more here.

And remember, it's easy to tell the difference between a stoat and a weasel - A weasel is weasily wecognised while a stoat is stoataly different...