All About Stoats + Meet the New Family in My Garden | Live Q&A | Discover Wildlife | Robert E Fuller

This live is all about the fascinating breeding habits of stoats. It includes clips of a new stoat mum taken from hidden cameras and a Q&A.

Stoats are known as short-tailed weasels in the US.

You can watch more weasel and stoat films here: />
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New stoat mum

I first spotted one of the stoats in the garden was pregnant in late March, after noticing her swollen belly on the livecams. Stoats are slim and long and she looked as though she had swallowed a light bulb!

Stoats give birth in spring

After trawling through the footage, I identified her as one of Bandita’s kits from last year. I kept a close eye on her and sure enough after a few weeks I could see that her belly had slimmed down.

Locating the stoat nest

Stoats move very fast and I had to watch her movements carefully on the cameras to track down the location of her hidden nest. It was soon clear that she kept returning to the same spot, close to where she was born last year.

Nesting material

I spotted the stoat carrying grass into the spot and so I left some out for her. She waited a day or two, possibly the grass had my scent on it, before tucking it under her front paws and dragging it into her nest.

A male stoat catches the scent

It wasn’t long before a male stoat, attracted by her scent, followed her into the nest to mate her. You can identify males as they are considerably bigger than females. The average female weighs around 240gs, whilst a male can weigh up to 380gs.

Mating

Males will also take advantage of any female kits inside the nest and mate them too, despite these babies being just two weeks old. A sure sign that this female has been mated is the wet mark on the back of her neck, where she had been grasped by the male.

Territorial range

Female stoats can have territories of up to 50 acres, depending on food supplies, and males will range across these to try and mate as many females as possible. Interestingly, in New Zealand, males have been reported to swim 5kms at a time to reach females on islands out at sea.

Delayed implantation

A female can be mated a week after she has given birth to a litter but she won’t give birth to the new litter until the following year, in late March, early April. This is due to a process known as ‘delayed implantation’.

Glimpsing the kits

This young family will remain hidden underground for the next few weeks, however stoat mums often relocate to new nests in order to keep their young safe so we may see them earlier.

Nest moves

When on the move, stoat mums grasp their kits in their mouths and run with them, fast. Unsurprisingly, kits get dropped and much of my wildlife rescue work involves rehabilitating these young animals: Read my blog post on a rescued stoat named Whisper to find out how I do this: /

Litters

Stoats generally have litters of seven, but I have heard reports of up to 13, although when they are this large many don’t survive.

Playful kits

I’m expecting to see the kits playing in the garden within the next few weeks. Keep your eye on the livestreams as they are such fun to watch – I’ve donated my own children’s’ trampoline for them to play on!

Fotherdale’s stoats

I’ve watched generations of stoats grow up here at Fotherdale. Read more about their fabulous characters here: /

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I am a British wildlife artist and filmmaker on a mission to share my love for wildlife with the world. As well as creating detailed animal film and art portraits, I promote wildlife tours around the world and do all I can to help conserve and protect wildlife here at my home in Yorkshire. I hope that by putting nature in the frame I can foster a deep love for wildlife amongst my followers.

Of course, you may like to purchase my artwork which you can find on my website: Many of my paintings are portraits of the wonderful characters you watch here!

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© Robert E Fuller

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