Minia­ture hun­ters with bite

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

MY col­leagues tend to treat me as a bit of an old fo­gey when it comes to mod­ern things.

They wouldn’t see me tweet­ing from my tablet while lean­ing against a juice bar drink­ing a smoothie. I would rather make con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple face-to-face.

How­ever, I am a fan of Face­book and the Lan­cashire Wildlife Trust Face­book page has pro­vided a fab­u­lous fo­rum for pic­tures of wildlife and our work and mat­ters for dis­cus­sion.

The other week, Carl Bate pro­vided us with a video of a stoat on the Manch­ester moss­lands. The stoat was run­ning along the bank of a ditch and it was bril­liant to see this wildlife mo­ment on our doorstep.

If you see a stoat or a weasel it tends to be a flash as one darts across the path. Af­ter all, stoats are small and fast, with a low-slung body mak­ing them well adapted for hunt­ing – watch out rats and rab­bits.

A weasel will bolt across low to the ground, while the stoat arches its back and bounds along af­ter its prey.

They are pretty fear­less and, re­cently, one popped its head up through long grass on one of our re­serves and stared me out for at least 20 sec­onds be­fore de­cid­ing I was too big to eat.

Rab­bits are much big­ger than stoats but the su­perb hunter has a tech­nique, which in­volves a bite to the base of the skull, which over­comes the size dif­fer­ence. This op­tion of go­ing for the neck has led to ac­cu­sa­tions that the stoat drinks blood like a vampire. Not true.

And for the mis­guided peo­ple who be­lieve myx­o­mato­sis was a good thing as it rid many ar­eas of rab­bits, it also nearly wiped out stoats and other preda­tors.

Stoats are ac­tive by day and at night and are eas­i­est to spot in open habi­tats, such as sand dunes, grass­land and heath­land. Stoats mate in sum­mer but only give birth in the spring of the fol­low­ing year. They have one lit­ter of six to 12 kits a year.

Stoats are larger than weasels and have a longer tail with a black tip. They have an or­angey-brown back with a creamy white throat and belly.

To sup­port the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side, text WILD09 with the amount you want to do­nate to 70070. The Trust is ded­i­cated to the pro­tec­tion of the wildlife in Lan­cashire, seven bor­oughs of Greater Manch­ester and four of Mersey­side. It man­ages around 40 na­ture re­serves and 20 Lo­cal Na­ture Re­serves.

To be­come a mem­ber of the trust, go to lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife, call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust. org.uk.

●● Stoats are bril­liant hun­ters

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