Respect to this stoat! This ambitious little predator is willing to take on a much bigger animal – and win. Stoats are small mammals found over a wide geographic range that takes in large areas of North America, Europe and Asia. Their preferred habitats are cooler and they are able to swap their darker coat for a white one in the winter months. This is used in fur coats as the highly prized “ermine”.
Stoat’s Appearance and Lifestyle
The name ‘stoat’ comes from an old Dutch word for “bold” or “pushy,” and this perfectly sums up an animal that we would now describe as aggressive carnivores.
They usually feed on smaller rodents and this typically includes voles, mice and hamsters. However, they are not picky eaters and will have a go at many other animals. This means that their diet can also include insects, birds and even lizards. As we see here, stoats are also very willing to tackle hares and rabbits.
Stoats have a reputation for hunting prey that is bigger than they are! They are quite happy to hunt during the day or night and use speed, stealth and tenacity to locate, chase and overcome their victims. Their long, slim and flexible bodies allow them to follow burrowing animals (like rabbits) into their underground dens. Normally, diving into a burrow is an excellent defense tactic for a rabbit but not when they are being pursued by a stoat.
Stoat Hunting a Rabbit
This footage was recorded in a September in the English countryside and is narrated by wildlife expert David Attenborough. It shows a stoat bounding through a group of rabbits and focusing on one that is about ten times bigger than itself.
The stoat is too clever to rush straight in and risk getting a hefty kick. Instead, it aims to tire the rabbit with a relentless pursuit. Eventually, the rabbit starts to flag and the superior stamina of the stoat becomes more apparent. Amazingly, the stoat manages to get alongside the rabbit so that it can grasp the prey around the neck. The stoat is dragged along for a few seconds but then the rabbit falls to the ground. The predator and prey are locked in a fight until the stoat manages to deliver a deadly bite to the back of the neck and the kill is complete. Despite feeling desperately sorry for the rabbit, we can’t help but also admire the skill of this tenacious predator.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Petr Muckstein/Shutterstock.com
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