Wee Stoater

As I mentioned, we’re off on holiday on Monday for a couple of weeks, and so it’s been the usual rush to get everything done before we go. So yesterday morning I was keen to get to my desk and get my head down, with a couple of work deadlines looming.

This would have gone better, had not a stoat decided to appear on our front lawn and – if you’ll forgive me the technical animal behaviour terminology – start wildly mucking about.

Up until now, my encounters with stoats have been pretty fleeting – something dashing across the road in front of my bike, or occasionally stopping to peer at me from the undergrowth. I’d certainly never seen one doing backflips before, let alone right in front of my study window. As a means of distracting me from work, it couldn’t have been bettered.

In fact, according to some sources, this was the point of the acrobatics: stoats apparently hypnotise their prey by acting weird and then pounce as their unsuspecting audience edges closer for a better look. This would be more convincing if there had been anything else around to watch than us – stoats are also known for taking prey much larger than themselves, but even so I think a couple of humans (however fascinated we were) might be overambitious for something that weighs a couple of hundred grams. Another school of thought is that it’s the side effects of a nematode infection (although there’s no reason both couldn’t be true and that the stoats have evolved to profit from their infestation-induced antics; after all, it’s been suggested a similar thing might be happening in humans).

Either way, by the time I’d extracted myself from an Internet-sized rabbit hole of animal behaviour work really was looming, so it took until today before I managed to get the resulting poor quality video up online to prove I wasn’t imagining things

This morning’s distraction was just as cute but rather less acrobatic.

young hare

Given the stoat is still around, if the dancing really is an effective form of hunting behaviour, and the leverets prove as susceptible as we were, we might have a dilemma on our hands …

4 Responses to Wee Stoater

  1. welshcyclist says:

    Fabulous stuff. I was stood still on Ynysbwllog canal aquaduct over the river Neath earlier this year when out of the corner of my eye I saw a movement approaching me from the left. It was a weasel which kept coming towards me, I stayed as still as I could and it continued crossing the aquaduct passing within a few inches of my feet. Sadly I never catch these fantastic encounters that I’ve had with foxes, rabbits, badgers, otters, mink, birds of prey etc., on my phone camera. By the time I get my cycling gloves off etc., the opportunity is gone. If I do get the camera on the subject it is too far away to be discernible………Doah!!!! Cheers.

  2. disgruntled says:

    Ah, it’s usually best to enjoy those encounters and not worry about trying to capture them!

  3. Charles says:

    I once saw a stoat do exactly this in a Wiltshire garden in 1985. I can be precise and say it was July or August as I was back in the U.K. on holiday from Namibia. It is amazing to see and I have never seen it since. Am I correct in thinking that the proletarian stoat becomes the aristocratic ermine in winter and can be separated from the weasel as it has a black tip to its tail, which accounts for all the black blobs on the white background when the lords done their rather camp finery for the opening of parliament.

  4. disgruntled says:

    @Charles – it’s true that stoats become ermines, but you don’t distinguish them from weasels by their black tail tips so much as the fact that weasels are absolutely tiny compared to stoats

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