What Is a Stoat?

: the common ermine ( Mustela erminea ) chiefly of northern Eurasia and North America that is brown above and white below in summer and in its northern range all white in winter and that ranges from 9 to 15 inches (23 to 38 centimeters) in length including a black-tipped tail that is usually 1 to 3 inches (3.8 to 9 centimeters) long : erminesense 1a , short-tailed weasel

Can a stoat be a pet?

The stoat is rarely found in captivity and is a difficult animal to look after. Keeping stoats as pets is illegal in most states in the U.S., and as such, there are no licensed breeders. This means that any stoats for sale are likely wild-caught specimens and very likely illegal.

Is a stoat a ferret?

INTRODUCTION. Ferrets belong to the family Mustelidae, a diverse group of small to medium-size carnivores that includes weasels, stoats, polecats, mink, skunks, otters, and badgers.

How do stoats kill?

Stoats kill their prey by a bite to the back of the neck and may travel as far as 8 kilometres in one hunt. Stoats are fierce predators and can move at speeds of 20 miles per hour when hunting.

What is the difference between a stoat and weasel?

The easiest and most reliable way to tell a stoat (Mustela erminea) from a weasel (Mustela nivalis) is the tail. A stoat’s tail is around half the length of its body and ends in a bushy black tip. A weasel’s tail is short and stubby by comparison and solely brown in colour.

Stoats and ferrets, along with weasels, minks, and badgers, belong to the same family of carnivorous mammals called Mustelids. This family of mammals has similar physical characteristics, including elongated bodies, short legs, and thick fur. They are also all typically nocturnal animals that prefer to live solitary lives.

Image Credit: Juvenile_Colin Seddon, ShutterstockStoats are small but ferocious little animals and can take on prey up to 20 times their own weight. They are typically found in wooded areas all over North America, and although they are not considered endangered, they have commonly been hunted for their beautiful fur.

The stoats coat changes color for the winter, and they turn from a reddish-brown with a light brown or cream tummy, to all white except for their tail, which always remains black. If you have raised a stoat from a baby (known as a kit), they are easier to tame and less likely to act aggressively, and can thus usually be domesticated in the same way as ferrets. Stoats mainly feed on small mammals like rabbits and water voles and are highly adept hunters, known for killing prey much larger than themselves with one fast bite behind the head.

Image Credit: Martin Prochzkacz, Shutterstock The stoat is rarely found in captivity and is a difficult animal to look after. Another issue is owners not being able to handle the complicated needs of a stoat and releasing them into the wild, which can have a devastating effect on local ecosystems. Image Credit: PBarlowArt, PixabayFerrets are a fair bit larger than stoats and are typically around the size of a small housecat.

Despite the controversy surrounding keeping ferrets as pets, they are not caught from the wild and can live happily in a domestic environment. Ferrets are playful and endlessly entertaining little animals that have unique characters and personalities that continue to develop as they grow older. Ferrets are known to be widely varied in their personality types; some are loners that prefer their own company most of the time, some are exceedingly playful and entertaining, and others are akin to small dogs that enjoy attention whenever they can get it and have tons of affection to give.

Small mammals like mice and rats are the ideal diet for a ferret, with occasional treats of chicken or turkey. Stoats are smaller, at least half the size of a ferret, are much more energetic and active throughout the day stopping only to take small naps occasionally and are rarely kept as pets.

The stoat or short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea), also known as the Eurasian ermine, Beringian ermine, or simply ermine, is a mustelid native to Eurasia and the northern portions of North America. Because of its wide circumpolar distribution, it is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.[1]

The name ermine is used for species in the genus Mustela , especially the stoat, in its pure white winter coat, or the fur thereof. Introduced in the late 19th century into New Zealand to control rabbits, the stoat has had a devastating effect on native bird populations.

[5] According to John Guillim , in his Display of Heraldrie , the word “ermine” is likely derived from Armenia , the nation where it was thought the species originated, [4] though other authors have linked it to the Norman French from the Teutonic harmin ( Anglo-Saxon hearma ). The stoat‘s direct ancestor was Mustela palerminea , a common carnivore in central and eastern Europe during the Middle Pleistocene , [10] that spread to North America during the late Blancan or early Irvingtonian . [11] The stoat is the product of a process that began 57 million years ago, when northern forests were replaced by open grassland, thus prompting an explosive evolution of small, burrowing rodents.

The stoat‘s ancestors were larger than the current form, and underwent a reduction in size as they exploited the new food source. The stoat thrived during the Ice Age , as its small size and long body allowed it to easily operate beneath snow, as well as hunt in burrows. The stoat and the long-tailed weasel remained separated until 500,000 years ago, when falling sea levels exposed the Bering land bridge .

[13] The mountain weasel ( Mustela altaica ) was formerly considered its closest relative although more recent analyses have found it to be significantly more derived. Its vertical range is from sea level to 3,000 m. In North America, it is found throughout Alaska and western Yukon to most of ArcticCanada east to Greenland . Subspecies
Trinomial authority
Description
Range
Synonyms
Northern stoat M. e. erminea Linnaeus, 1758
A small-to-medium-sized subspecies with a relatively short and broad facial region [15] The Kola Peninsula , Scandinavia hyberna (Kerr, 1792) maculata (Billberg, 1827)

Kerr, 1792
A moderately sized subspecies with dark, tawny or chestnut summer fur [15] European Russia (except for the Kola Peninsula), Central and Western Europe algiricus (Thomas, 1895) alpestris (Burg, 1920) giganteus (Burg, 1920) major (Nilsson, 1820) M. e. augustidens Brown, 1908
Fergana stoat M. e. ferghanae Thomas, 1895
A small subspecies; it has a very light, straw-brownish or greyish coat, which is short and soft. [19] Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East including Kamchatka , except the Amur Oblast and Ussuriland , Transbaikalia and the Sayan Mountains .

Karaginsky stoat M. e. karaginensis Jurgenson, 1936
A very small subspecies with a light chestnut-coloured summer coat [20] Karaginsky Island , along the eastern coast of Kamchatka
Altai stoat Mustela e. lymani Hollister, 1912
A moderately sized subspecies with less dense fur than M. e. tobolica . Barrett-Hamilton, 1904
Larger than mainland European stoats [18] Great Britain ; introduced to New Zealand Caucasian stoat M. e. teberdina Korneev, 1941
A small subspecies with a coffee to reddish-tawny summer coat [15] The northern slope of the middle part of the main Caucasus range balkarica (Basiev, 1962)Tobolsk stoat M. e. tobolica Ognev, 1923
A large subspecies; it is somewhat larger than aestiva , with long and dense fur. [26] Unusual among the Carnivora, the size of stoats tends to decrease proportionally with latitude, in contradiction to Bergmann’s rule .

[10] Sexual dimorphism in size is pronounced, with males being roughly 25% larger than females and 1.5-2.0 times their weight. When attacked or being aggressive, the stoat secretes the contents of its anal glands, giving rise to a strong, musky odour produced by several sulphuric compounds. The division between the dark back and the light belly is usually straight, though this trait is only present in 13.5% of Irish stoats.

The moult, initiated by photoperiod , starts earlier in autumn and later in spring at higher latitudes. In the stoat‘s northern range, it adopts a completely white coat (save for the black tail-tip) during the winter period. In spring, the male’s testes are enlarged, a process accompanied by an increase of testosterone concentration in the plasma .

Stoats undergo embryonic diapause , meaning that the embryo does not immediately implant in the uterus after fertilization, but rather lies dormant for a period of nine to ten months. [32] The gestation period is therefore variable but typically around 300 days, and after mating in the summer, the offspring will not be born until the following spring female stoats spend almost all their lives either pregnant or in heat. [33] Males play no part in rearing the young, which are born blind, deaf, toothless and covered in fine white or pinkish down.

Prior to the age of five to seven weeks, kits have poor thermoregulation , so they huddle for warmth when the mother is absent. The size of the territory and the ranging behaviour of its occupants varies seasonally, depending on the abundance of food and mates. During the breeding season, the ranges of females remain unchanged, while males either become roamers, strayers or transients.

The nest chamber is sometimes located in seemingly unsuitable places, such as among logs piled against the walls of houses. In Russia, its prey includes rodents and lagomorphs such as European water voles , common hamsters , pikas , and others, which it overpowers in their burrows. Prey species of secondary importance include small birds , fish , and shrews and, more rarely, amphibians , lizards , and insects .

[37] In Great Britain, European rabbits are an important food source, with the frequency in which stoats prey on them having increased between the 1960s and mid 1990s since the end of the myxomatosis epidemic. Typically, male stoats prey on rabbits more frequently than females do, which depend to a greater extent on smaller rodent species. The stoat typically eats about 50 grams (1.8 oz) of food a day, which is equivalent to 25% of the animal’s live weight.

[38] The stoat seeks to immobilize large prey such as rabbits with a bite to the spine at the back of the neck. [40] Small prey typically die instantly from a bite to the back of the neck, while larger prey, such as rabbits, typically die of shock , as the stoat‘s canine teeth are too short to reach the spinal column or major arteries. When nervous, the stoat hisses, and will intersperse this with sharp barks or shrieks and prolonged screeching when aggressive.

Submissive stoats express their status by avoiding higher-ranking animals, fleeing from them or making whining or squealing sounds. Stoats were introduced into New Zealand during the late 19th century to control rabbits and hares, but are now a major threat to native bird populations. The warnings were ignored and stoats began to be introduced from Britain in the 1880s, resulting in a noticeable decline in bird populations within six years.

In continental Europe, 26 flea species are recorded to infest stoats, including Rhadinospylla pentacantha , Megabothris rectangulatus , Orchopeas howardi , Spilopsyllus ciniculus , Ctenophthalamus nobilis , Dasypsyllus gallinulae , Nosopsyllus fasciatus , Leptospylla segnis , Ceratophyllus gallinae , Parapsyllus n. nestoris , Amphipsylla kuznetzovi and Ctenopsyllus bidentatus . Tick species known to infest stoats are Ixodes canisuga , I. hexagonus , and I. ricinus and Haemaphysalis longicornis . Mite species known to infest stoats include Neotrombicula autumnalis , Demodex erminae , Eulaelaps stabulans , Gymnolaelaps annectans , Hypoaspis nidicorva , and Listrophorus mustelae .

In Irish mythology , stoats were viewed anthropomorphically as animals with families, which held rituals for their dead. [46] In the folklore of the Komi people of the Urals , stoats are symbolic of beautiful and coveted young women. [47] In the Zoroastrian religion, the stoat is considered a sacred animal, as its white winter coat represented purity.

Similarly, Mary Magdalene was depicted as wearing a white stoat pelt as a sign of her reformed character. Gilles Servat ‘s song La Blanche Hermine (“The White Ermine”) became an anthem for Bretons (and is popular among French people in general). The fur from the winter coat is referred to as ermine and is the traditional ancient symbol of the Duchy of Brittany , forming the earliest flag of that nation.

There is also a design called ermine inspired by the winter coat of the stoat and painted onto other furs, such as rabbit. The ceremonial robes of members of the UKHouse of Lords and the academic hoods of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge are traditionally trimmed with ermine. [49] In practice rabbit or fake fur is now often used due to expense or animal rights concerns.

Prelates of the Catholic Church still wear ecclesiastical garments featuring ermine (a sign of their status equal to that of the nobility). Henry Peacham ‘s Emblem 75 , which depicts an ermine being pursued by a hunter and two hounds, is entitled “Cui candor morte redemptus” (“Purity Bought with His Own Death”). They could be attached to traditional regalia and cedar bark hats as status symbols, or they were also made into shirts.

The stoat was a fundamental item in the fur trade of the Soviet Union , with no less than half the global catch coming from within its borders. American actress Alice Maison shown wearing ermine fur in a Mack Sennett comedy film “Lineage Diversity and Size Disparity in Musteloidea: Testing Patterns of Adaptive Radiation Using Molecular and Fossil-Based Methods” .

“Age structure, dispersion and diet of a population of stoats ( Mustela erminea ) in southern Fiordland during the decline phase of the beechmast cycle” (PDF) . ^ a b c Harris & Yalden 2008 , p. 466 ^ Monaghan, Patricia (2004) The encyclopedia of Celtic mythology and folklore: Facts on File library of religion and mythology , page 426, Infobase Publishing, ISBN 0-8160-4524-0 ^ Daniels, Cora Linn & Stevans, C. M. Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World, Volume 2 (2003), The Minerva Group, Inc., ISBN 1-4102-0915-6 ^ Laakso, Johanna (2005) Our otherness: Finno-Ugrian approaches to women’s studies, or vice versa, Volume 2 of Finno-Ugrian studies in Austria , LIT Verlag Mnster, ISBN 3-8258-8626-3 ^ Sax, Boria (2001) The mythical zoo: an encyclopedia of animals in world myth, legend, and literature , ABC-CLIO, ISBN 1-57607-612-1 ^ a b “A house of traditions” .

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Visual Differences

While both stoats and ferrets have the characteristic short legs, thick coats, elongated bodies, and short, rounded ears typical of the Mustelid family, upon closer inspection, the two are fairly simple to tell apart. For one thing, the ferret is far longer than the stoat and almost twice as large and has a characteristic black mask, black feet, and black-tipped tail. The ferret’s tail is also shorter than the stoat’s in comparison to its body.

Stoat

TheThe name ermine /ˈɜːrmɪn/ is used for species in the genusIntroduced in the late 19th century into New Zealand to control rabbits, the stoat has had a devastating effect on native bird populations. It was nominated as one of the world’s top 100 “worst invaders”.Ermine luxury fur was used in the 15th century by Catholic monarchs, who sometimes used it as the mozzetta cape. It was also used in capes on images such as the Infant Jesus of Prague.

Etymology[edit]

The root word for “stoatis likely either the Dutch word

Taxonomy[edit]

Formerly considered a single species with a very wide circumpolar range, a 2021 study split

Evolution[edit]

The stoat‘s direct ancestor wasCombined phylogenetic analyses indicate the stoat‘s closest living relatives are the American ermine (

Range and population[edit]

The stoat has a circumboreal range throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. The stoat in Europe is found as far south as 41ºN in Portugal, and inhabits most islands with the exception of Iceland, Svalbard, the Mediterranean islands and some small North Atlantic islands. In Japan, it is present in central mountains (northern and central Japan Alps) to northern part of Honshu (primarily above 1,200 m) and Hokkaido. Its vertical range is from sea level to 3,000 m.

Build[edit]

The stoat is similar to the least weasel in general proportions, manner of posture, and movement, though the tail is relatively longer, always exceeding a third of the body length,The dimensions of the stoat are variable, but not as significantly as the least weasel’s.The stoat has large anal scent glands measuring 8.5 mm × 5 mm (0.33 in × 0.20 in) in males and smaller in females. Scent glands are also present on the cheeks, belly and flanks.

Fur[edit]

The winter fur is very dense and silky, but quite closely lying and short, while the summer fur is rougher, shorter and sparse.

Reproduction and development[edit]

In the Northern Hemisphere, mating occurs in the April–July period. In spring, the male’s testes are enlarged, a process accompanied by an increase of testosterone concentration in the plasma. Spermatogenesis occurs in December, and the males are fertile from May to August, after which the testes regress.

Territorial and sheltering behaviour[edit]

Stoat territoriality has a generally mustelid spacing pattern, with male territories encompassing smaller female territories, which they defend from other males. The size of the territory and the ranging behaviour of its occupants varies seasonally, depending on the abundance of food and mates. During the breeding season, the ranges of females remain unchanged, while males either become roamers, strayers or transients. Dominant older males have territories 50 times larger than those of younger, socially inferior males. Both sexes mark their territories with urine, faeces and two types of scent marks; anal drags are meant to convey territorial occupancy, and body rubbing is associated with agonistic encounters.The stoat does not dig its own burrows, instead using the burrows and nest chambers of the rodents it kills. The skins and underfur of rodent prey are used to line the nest chamber. The nest chamber is sometimes located in seemingly unsuitable places, such as among logs piled against the walls of houses. The stoat also inhabits old and rotting stumps, under tree roots, in heaps of brushwood, haystacks, in bog hummocks, in the cracks of vacant mud buildings, in rock piles, rock clefts, and even in magpie nests. Males and females typically live apart, but close to each other.

Diet[edit]

As with the least weasel, mouse-like rodents predominate in the stoat‘s diet. However, unlike the least weasel, which almost exclusively feeds on small voles, the stoat regularly preys on larger rodent and lagomorph species, and will take down individuals far larger than itself. In Russia, its prey includes rodents and lagomorphs such as European water voles, common hamsters, pikas, and others, which it overpowers in their burrows. Prey species of secondary importance include small birds, fish, and shrews and, more rarely, amphibians, lizards, and insects.The stoat is an opportunistic predator that moves rapidly and checks every available burrow or crevice for food. Because of their larger size, male stoats are less successful than females in pursuing rodents far into tunnels. Stoats regularly climb trees to gain access to birds’ nests, and are common raiders of nest boxes, particularly those of large species. The stoat reputedly mesmerises prey such as rabbits by a “dance” (sometimes called the weasel war dance), though this behaviour could be linked to

Introduction to New Zealand[edit]

The stoat is a usually silent animal, but can produce a range of sounds similar to those of the least weasel. Kits produce a fine chirping noise. Adults trill excitedly before mating, and indicate submission through quiet trilling, whining and squealing. When nervous, the stoat hisses, and will intersperse this with sharp barks or shrieks and prolonged screeching when aggressive.Aggressive behaviour in stoats is categorised in these forms:Submissive stoats express their status by avoiding higher-ranking animals, fleeing from them or making whining or squealing sounds.

Diseases and parasites[edit]

Tuberculosis has been recorded in stoats inhabiting the former Soviet Union and New Zealand. They are largely resistant to tularemia, but are reputed to suffer from canine distemper in captivity. Symptoms of mange have also been recorded.Stoats are vulnerable to ectoparasites associated with their prey and the nests of other animals on which they do not prey. The louseThe nematode

Folklore and mythology[edit]

In Irish mythology, stoats were viewed anthropomorphically as animals with families, which held rituals for their dead. They were also viewed as noxious animals prone to thieving, and their saliva was said to be able to poison a grown man. To encounter a stoat when setting out for a journey was considered bad luck, but one could avert this by greeting the stoat as a neighbour.

References[edit]

Stoat skins are prized by the fur trade, especially in winter coat, and used to trim coats and stoles. The fur from the winter coat is referred to as ermine and is the traditional ancient symbol of the Duchy of Brittany, forming the earliest flag of that nation. There is also a design called ermine inspired by the winter coat of the stoat and painted onto other furs, such as rabbit.Ermine (bothThe stoat was a fundamental item in the fur trade of the Soviet Union, with no less than half the global catch coming from within its borders. The Soviet Union also contained the highest grades of stoat pelts, with the best grade North American pelts being comparable only to the 9th grade in the quality criteria of former Soviet stoat standards. Stoat harvesting never became a specialty in any Soviet republic, with most stoats being captured incidentally in traps or near villages. Stoats in the Soviet Union were captured either with dogs or with box-traps or jaw-traps. Guns were rarely used, as they could damage the pelt.