This film follows the journey of three baby stoats as they move from my care to a life in the wild.
You can watch more on the stoat kits’ rehabilitation journey in this series: and find more rescue films here:
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*ABOUT THIS FILM*
These mammals are part of the weasel family and can be found in every continent except Antarctica. In the US stoats are known as short-tailed weasels.
Stoats in the wild
I’ve long been fascinated by stoats and have devoted the last 10 years to documenting their behaviour. With hidden cameras, I was the first to film wild stoats inside the nest capturing unique moments of courtship.
Stoat babies dropped
Stoats have litters of between six and 12 kits. As they grow, females move them between sites. Unfortunately kits can get lost in the move.
When a four week old young female is handed to me her eyes are only just opening and she is small for her age. She is warm, which is a good sign, but hungry.
Baby stoats can eat solid food at only 2 weeks old and this one quickly demolishes all but the bone of a chicken wing. When I pinch her skin, it doesn’t fold back into place – a sign she’s dehydrated. I carefully feed her puppy milk formula then weigh her (she’s 51g) and let her sleep.
Caring for baby stoat
This tiny stoat needs feeding 10 times a day, so I take her everywhere with me – it gets tricky when I’m syringe feeding in my hide and a kingfisher I want to film arrives!
By 5 weeks she has gained 38g. Since she’s putting on weight so fast, I name her Rocket.
A new home
A wild stoat would be exploring just beyond the nest at this age, so I move her to a bigger enclosure where she will have more space and room to exercise. Her leg seems stiff so I think she needs it.
A stoat friend
Two weeks later another rescued stoat is handed in. I get a separate enclosure ready, right next to Rocket where they can get to know each other. Stoat kits belong in big litters and so it’s really important for them to be with other youngsters.
A dynamic duo
The following day I put them in with each other. After a lot of squeaking they are soon chasing one another playfully. I remain on hand in case it doesn’t work.
Days before they’re due to move, another stoat is handed in. This one is wild and frightened but I am confident it will be comfortable with other stoats and sure enough the three settle down quickly.
Stoats go outside
It’s time to get this trio outside. I have an outdoor enclosure designed especially for release, but, it’s been a year since I’ve had stoats in there so I need to top up the pond and put some fresh straw in for them. The enclosure is rigged with cameras, so I can capture footage of them exploring.
This enclosure has a secret hatch leading to an underground chamber I built for a family of rescued badgers a few years ago. The badgers have since moved on, so it’s the perfect place for the stoats to explore. And at the end of a network of tunnels, there’s a doorway opening to the great outdoors.
Into the wild
After a week, and a total of three months in my care, the stoat kits are ready for life in the wild. I open the grills and one by one they make their way into my garden. Over the following few weeks I spot them exploring, but they continue to sleep at the enclosure.
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.
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© Robert E Fuller
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