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Stoats and weasels

Apart from my interest in amphibians and reptiles I also have a huge interest in mammals, including weasels and stoats. I have been studying them over the years through field observations and the rescue of a good number of orphaned animals.

Young weasel (c) Andrew Gray

This summer I raised a young orphaned stoat whose mother and siblings were killed by a fox. I ended up raising it to the point where he could fend for himself. After getting quite attached to the little creature it was a really hard call to know when to release him back to the wild, particularly as I knew he would probably only live for a relatively short length of time compared with being in captivity due to limited food resources through the winter and predators. However, I am still a great believer that wild animals belong in the wild.

IMG_4512

orphaned weasel (c) Andrew Gray

2018 Update: Having gained more experience dealing with mustelids in the UK over the past 7 years I have learned a great deal more about them.  I established a helpline in order to support orphaned and injured specimens found by people and do my best to rear and pass them to specialist. I used to believe that they had a raw deal in the wild and still do in many cases. Cats are major threat to weasels and stoats in the UK and are responsible for the killing of both young and adult weasels. I am told that they can also kill a fully grown stoat. A parasitic nematode worm that is passed on through prey items also effects the health of both stoats and weasels in the wild.

It appears to me that a variety of parasites have quite an effect on both the wellbeing and behaviour of weasels and stoats – I have seen wild weasels constantly writhing and irritated beyond words by flea infestations and seen others die whilst their heads twitch continually, when otherwise they appear to have nothing wrong with them. I am convinced that the twitching and erratic behaviour seen in some of these highly reactive animals is due to parasites of one form or another.  However, I am also pleased to say that the energetic playful behaviour seen in both weasels and stoats is a natural phenomenon that reflects how much these animals love life – these wonderful creatures are serious balls of energy and fun!

 

An Artists W easel

Young stoat & adult wolverines

If you come across an orphaned or injured stoat or weasel and need support please now contact:

NORTH OF ENGLAND

Robert Fuller on:   01759368355      or     Jean Thorpe on: 01653 695124

SOUTH OF ENGLAND

Mathew Binstead on: 07748534135

4 Responses

  1. Super-interesting!!! I didn´t know the differences between a stoat and a weasel, thanks a lot Andrew for the information…and about the parasitic nematode…does it kill shrews as well?

  2. Field,
    I loooooove stoats ever since i saw a documentary about them as a kid. And otters since I read ring of bright water. oh and Fishers since i watched another documentary about some guy who raised the cutest baby fishers. I loved the videos of the little stoat.

    Our zoo recently received an orphaned river otter, whom was taken home and handled frequently by zookeepers, kids etc and he was a total love. He didn’t bite like otters are supposed to. However, when they went to neuter him his blood was like water- some sort of red blood cell production issue was present and he passed. Was very sad.

    We are hoping for more otters and other mustelids at the zoo!!

    BethinAK

  3. Hi Elena, Thanks for the comment and pleased you found the post of such interest! I forgot to mention that the best way to tell weasels and stoats apart except for their size is that stoats have a black tip to thier tail. As far as I am aware the shrews are the host carrier for this parasite, but they are not so long lived either. The level of feeding on the shrews is significant in the numbers of weasels affected, stoats feed on less (more rabbits etc) so have much fewer cases of this worm. But scarily its not just mustelids that that get parasitic worms in the brain….

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PainManagement/story?id=6309464&page=1

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