Miniature hunters with bite
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