The stoat looks very small. However, despite its small size, it is a predator. It has a long body and short legs. The stoat has a triangular head and small rounded ears, as well as an elongated neck. The body length is about 30 cm. The tail length varies up to 12 cm. The maximum weight of the stoat is 260 g. Males are twice as large as females.
Depending on the time of year the ermine looks different, because the ermine changes its color. The winter ermine becomes completely white. In winter the ermine looks more fluffy because its fur becomes soft and dense. In summer, the ermine has a two-tone color. The upper part of the body is reddish-brown and the lower part is yellowish-white; the ermine fur becomes coarse and sparse. Only the tip of the tail remains black throughout the year.
The winter color of the ermine is mostly characteristic of the northern areas. Molting occurs in spring and fall. In spring, the head molts first, then the back, and then the abdomen. In autumn, the molting begins in reverse order. For animals that live in the south, the color of the coat does not change in winter. Just in the winter period their fur becomes thicker.
Externally ermine looks very similar to the weasel. But in contrast to the weasel the weasel is larger and has a black tail tip. Another difference between the ermine and the weasel is the value of the fur, tail length and food preferences. The stoat is a valuable furbearer in the Fur family with a longer tail and hunts larger prey than the weasel.
Where does the stoat live and how does it live?
The stoat lives in North America, Europe, and Asia. It is found everywhere, from the shores of the Arctic Ocean to the southern seas, from the Baltics to Sakhalin. Ermine lives in the forest-steppe, river valleys, fields, tundra and taiga. It was introduced to New Zealand to control the rabbit population, but very unsuccessfully. The stoat multiplied rapidly and turned out to be a pest, destroying the young and eggs of native birds, especially the kiwi bird.
The stoat lives where there is a large population of rodents.
Also, the animal loves water. Therefore, the weasel often lives near ponds, lakes, on coastal meadows and by streams. It is impossible to find the animal in woods, as it prefers to live in glades, gullies and ravines. Sometimes the Ermine lives close to humans, in gardens, parks, at city outskirts.
The small raptor leads a mostly solitary lifestyle. It has its own territory, the boundaries of which are marked. The size of such a plot varies from 10 to 20 hectares. Males have a plot twice as large as that of females. Animals live separately and cross paths only during the mating season. Exceptions are mothers with their brood. In years when food is scarce, stoats migrate long distances, leaving their ranges.
The stoat is mostly active at dusk and at night; sometimes it may be encountered in the daytime. The predator is undemanding in its choice of shelters. It may be found in the most unexpected places, e.g. in a haystack, heap of stones or old stump. It may occupy tree hollows. Quite often ermine occupies burrows of rodents they kill.
The Ermine does not dig its own burrows. In winter the Ermine does not have permanent shelter, but takes shelters under fallen trees, stones, or tree roots.
The Ermine is a very frisky and nimble animal, and very fast. It swims and dives very well and easily climbs trees. Often, in case of danger or threat of attack by the enemy, it will sit upright in a tree. Usually the stoat lives quietly and silently, but when excited, it chirps, hisses and chirps loudly.
The predatory ermine is very brave and bloodthirsty. In a desperate situation, he risks to rush even on a man. Natural enemies of ermine are fox, sable, badger, marten, large birds of prey. The ermine lives from 2 to 6 years. The ermine has one more serious enemy - humans.
Despite the prevalence of the predator, the number of ermine has fallen due to hunting it.
The fur-bearing animal is exterminated by man because of the value of its fur. People exterminate the ermine also because of the harm caused to the economy: the animal destroys chickens and clutches of eggs. However, the ermine is useful in destroying rodents and controlling their population.