Monday, 7 May 2012

Sybil the Stoat

A little over a week ago we had a young baby stoat brought in to the Centre. It was found lying next to it's dead mother, who had sadly been hit on the road. We therefore decided to take it in and rear it to give it a chance of a happy, healthy life.

Izzy took on the role of stoat mum, and has been doing a great job at rearing little "Sybil". Sybil has been growing quickly, and is becoming very friendly too... when she is old enough to fend for herself she will take up permanent residence in our Hedgerow stoat display, giving her a large enclosure both inside and out to explore and still allowing us to sit in with her and play.

Stoats are one of my favourite British mammals. They are a ferocious predator for their size and capable of taking on a fully grown rabbit. They are not wasteful either, once eating the rabbit they often use the fur as bedding before moving on.

They sometimes display a hypnotic dance in front of a rabbit before catching it, whether this really does help or is just a display is unsure, and in most cases its pure stamina, strength and cunning which allows the stoat to catch something nearly ten times it's own weight!

I will let you all know when Sybil is out on display, but until then you may be lucky enough to see her out and about around the Centre with Izzy.


  1. I watched a stoat sniffing around my front doorstep...I was looking thro the window...when I was unlocking the heard me and moved off a relaxed way...I got a wonderful look at it...then watched it chase a baby rabbit....I couldn't watch...later watched the stoat doing what can only be described as a 'blood-lust' dance cavorting around the dead body....throwing itself into a mini bird bath sitting on a low kept going back and having a play with the rabbit....but showed no interest in eating it....OR the other baby rabbit ( alive ) some feet away....but hidden by plants...nor that rabbit seem bothered by the stoat...
    The dead rabbit has still not been eaten....all this happened about 9 am...I live in rural north Cumbria....and am thrilled to have seen this....
    We have had other sightings of a white stoat in broad daylight earlier in the year...
    How common is all this please...
    Thank you

    1. Hello,

      It all sounds like fairly normal stoat behaviour, but at the same time rarely seen so you are right to be thrilled to have seen it! Was it recent?..

      I am assuming it may have been a young stoat, still learning how to hunt. The "dancing" is a behaviour they do sometime, although no one is 100% sure why. It is likely linked to hunting behaviour though, and I am fairly sure watching our stoats at the Centre, that sometimes it is just done out of fun and excitement. I would imagine this young stoat was just excited and playful about the dead rabbit.

      Stoats can turn white in the Winter if cold enough for a long enough time. Again, this is normal, although certainly more common up aound you than it is down by us for example. Doesn't often get cold enough down here for them to go in to ermine (white coat).

      Hope that helps.

  2. Thank neighbours watched a white stoat wandering down the path a few months snow this winter....they said that they thought that the white coat was triggered by day length ( ? )...and that given global warming and our mild winters, such mammals are being caught out ( ? )
    I would very much appreciate your thoughts on this....
    I saw my stoat on my doorstep last week!!
    The dead rabbit stayed untouched on the lawn all day, then finally disappeared later that day..
    I probably see a stoat at least 3 / 4 times a month crossing the road....also privileged to be driving on a high quiet road, and stopped to watch little family of excited youngster rolling, tumbling, playing in the road....think they were living in the dry stone wall...
    Thank you so much for all your work.

    1. Hi,

      Yes, I would imagine day length is a trigger and I believe they must have to have a genetic tendency to turn ermine too as not all do. We had a few stoats at the Centre a few years back that all turned white in the winter. None before or since, so I am sure several factors play a role.

      Stoat may have come back for the rabbit, or an adult stoat, or perhaps more likely a fox if you have them in the area.

      Stone walls are a classic nesting area for stoats so most likely were nesting there.

      We have wild stoats around here, which I love to watch when I get the chance. Unfortunately I have seen less over recent years. Our display stoats are great, but nothing beats seeing an animal out in the wild.