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 Home>>British Animals>>Stoat Or Weasel?

Telling the difference between a stoat and a weasel  

Aside from a very bad joke on the subject, telling the difference between a stoat(Mustela erminea) and a weasel(Mustela nivalis) is very difficult at a glance, which is what most of us get of these little carnivorous mammals.

Both have a very similar diet and enjoy similar habitats and range around Britain, yet they tend to stay out of each others way if possible. Male and Female stoats and weasels are referred to as a dog and a bitch respectively. The young are called kittens or kits.

Here are a few facts about each:

Light brown with pale underside
Light brown with pale underside, black tip on tail
UK Distribution
All over the UK
All over the UK
Further Distribution
Most of Europe, parts of Asia, North Africa and North America
Much of Northern Europe, not in the Southern Regions
Voles, mice, small rabbits, eggs, birds
Voles, Mice, Rabbits, Hares, Birds, Eggs, Chickens etc..
Life Span
3 Years
10 Years
Seasonal Variation
Often turn completely white in winter.

Weasel in the grass courtesy of

A Stoat on the lookout
Stoats and Weasels are quite different in their reproductive habits, this is probably due to the short life that weasels lead, forcing them to produce offspring as quickly as possible.
The Weasel will raise two litters a year of between 3 and 6 kits in Spring and Summer with the young able to fend for themselves after only 5 weeks, by which time they are already able hunters.

Stoats on the other hand only have one litter per year in Spring but the breeding takes place in early summer of the previous year, with the females able to keep the fertilised egg implanted until it is allowed to gestate. A typical litter size is between 6 and 12 kits.

Neither the stoat or weasel is in any real danger of extinction in the UK, they are however threatened by hunting, habitat loss, poisoning and both often get run over on the country lanes. They do tend to live around farms as the hedgerow habitat and plentiful food supply suits them. This often leads them into conflict with farmers, especially problematic are stoats who are very able at snatching chickens, eggs as well as game birds.

And the joke...

Q. What's the difference between a stoat and weasel?
A. A Weasel is weasily wecognised and a stoat is stoataly different

Wasn't worth the wait was it!
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