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Stoats are very similar to weasels in appearance, although are usually larger and have a prominent black tip at the end of their tail.

You may spot stoat footprints by our canals in winter

Stoats are surprisingly multi-talented: they can run, swim, climb trees and even (some say) dance. Stoats have been recorded ‘transfixing' rabbits by doing a sort of dance. The hypnotised rabbit fails to notice the stoat come within striking distance and consequently is easy prey for the stoat.

Long and thin with very long tails, stoats are one of the few species able to follow burrowing mammals into their homes. They are also skillful tree climbers and strong swimmers. Add to the mix that stoats are capable of killing animals much larger than themselves, and you have a fearsome predator on your hands.

Stoats are largely nocturnal, but can sometimes be spotted during daylight hours. They make their dens in hollow trees, burrows or dry stone walls. Look out for them along waterways flowing near moorland, woods and mountains.

In winter, it is not unusual for the stoat's fur to turn completely white. At this time they are called ‘ermine'.

Stoat facts

Appearance: Stoats are long and thin with short legs and thick fur. They also have a long tail with a black tip.

Size: Up to 30cm

Weight: 100-450g

Lifespan: 10 years

Diet: Insects, small mammals, rodents, birds, bird eggs, fish, reptiles and amphibians

Family: Mustelidae

Family nature guide 2019

Download your free nature guide

Identify footprints and read fascinating facts about the creatures who make their homes along our canals and rivers

Last Edited: 16 November 2020

photo of a location on the canals
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