Monday, 4 April 2011
A couple of years a go, we were home to one off the best and largest captive stoat populations. They were a huge success offering the sight of this very elusive predator to many a visitor, and their pens were often surrounded by the keen amateur photographer too.
Unfortunately, as many of you know, we had a very nasty virus sweep through our collection, claiming most of our stoats and weasels. It has taken us a while, but we are getting closer to where we used to be.
After a brief spell on display last Summer, our stoats were removed from public due to the hope that they may breed. Now I am very excited to say we have two male stoats back out on display in our photographic pens and a new female has joined our male in the hedgerow display in the hope we can breed from them. Still off-display are our breeding females who are due to give birth over the next month.
Stoats are one of the smaller members of the mustelid or weasel family. Differing from weasels in that they are larger, and have the very distinct black tip to the tail. Some stoats turn ermine in the winter, this is when they change coat colour to all white, yet retain their black tip on the tail, although usually this only occurs in the more northern regions they are found (we did use to have a Scottish stoat here who went ermine every winter.)
Stoats are very playful and curious creatures, but this hides a viscious streak. They are no doubt one of our greatest predators, able to single handedly take down prey far greater in weight, such as a fully grown rabbit. Far more impressive than a herd of lions having to work together to take down a zebra.
If you haven't guessed yet, the Stoat is by far one of my favourite of the British mammals! Come see them soon in their new display enclosures.