The strange things you do to tempt out an in­quis­i­tive stoat

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

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

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