Stoat in the Scottish Borders

Stoat (Mustela erminea)

These curious, cheeky little predators can often been seen running across roads and diving into hedges along country routes in the Scottish Borders. Their summer coat is reddish-brown on the back with a creamy coloured neck and pale under-parts. In winter they turn completely white except for the black tips of their tails.

Stoats typically feed on rabbits, voles, reptiles, birds and in season, eggs. They hunt in zigzag patterns, making use of walls and hedgerows to provide cover and to help them avoid detection by owls, larger carnivores and hawks. With so many things hunting them too their average life span is just 18 months.

Stoats have just one litter of “kits” per 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. The kits are suckled and are weaned after 7-10 weeks and are then taught by the parents to hunt for themselves.

Stoats are often found close to human habitation. Though usually nocturnal they can be seen in daylight hours through the spring and summer when they go in search of food for their young.

Photographs courtesy of Angela Hunter (summer coat) and Ian Cameron (white, winter coat)