The strange things you do to tempt out an inquisitive stoat
ONLY the other day I was on the Woodhead Road above Glossop on my knees, camera in one hand and making a noise like a squealing rabbit with the other, as you do, when I was surprised by four walkers who gave me some very funny looks as they rushed past.
Truth is, it was they who were surprised, and maybe even horrified, at the sight before them.
‘I can explain,’ I said feebly, ‘If you make the sound of a terrified rabbit by sucking air onto the back of your hand, stoats are so inquisitive they will come out of hiding and have a look.’
The four didn’t bother to hang about for further explanation, and muttered something about catching a train as they sped off.
Ten minutes earlier a stoat had run across the road and vanished into the reeds but, I had managed to spot where the animal had gone, and could even see a furrow in the grasses which indicated that this was a regular run.
I proceeded to make the aforementioned ‘squeals’ and fully expected the little fella to show himself, enabling me to take a photograph. I was unlucky this time but this method has worked so many times in the past, especially when I lived at Crowden - the most memorable being when a curious ‘ermine’ in its pure white winter coat came within three feet of me before standing on his hind legs and giving me the once over – a truly magical moment.
The ruse also works on the stoat’s tiny cousin, the weasel. Stoat Facts: The stoat is a small but highly active and efficient predator which can be found all over the British Isles. Although brown in summer, they sometimes turn pure white in the winter, except for the tip of the tail which remains black.
The fur is then called ermine and used to be highly-prized for trimming ceremonial robes.
The stoat is a slender, long-bodied animal with a black tipped tail.
They weigh up to 300g, are 15–30cm long with a tail length of 6–12cm. Male stoats are larger than females.
The summer coat is reddish-brown on the back with pale underparts.
Stoats prey on birds, reptiles and small mammals, especially voles, hares and rabbits.
On finding prey, the stoat will creep as low as possible until close to it, then it leaps onto the prey with a quick jump.
A stoat kills by biting through the back of the skull or the neck.
Stoats also take the eggs of chickens and game birds.
The stoat usually moves by a series of jumps, with its back strongly arched.
Stoats only raise one litter of ‘kittens’ a year, in the late spring, with mating taking place early in the previous summer.
The nest used for breeding is usually in a hole in a dry stone wall, under a hedgerow or in a dry ditch.
Occasionally a stoat will kill the rabbits in a warren and then use that as a base.
The number of kittens will vary with the food supply, but ranges from 6 to 12 young.
The kittens are suckled and are weaned after 7-10 weeks.
The parents then teach them to hunt for themselves.
Stoat Fiction: The only accurate method of telling the difference between a stoat and a weasel is that, one is weasily identified, and the other is stoat-ally different.
Stoats are naturally inquisitive creatures
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop