Brown/red fur, white/cream underside with neat straight line separating the two. Coat may turn white/partially white in winter. Long slender body with short legs, medium to short tail with distinctive bushy black tip. Body length of 24-31cm and tail length 9-14cm. Stoat is larger than weasel.
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Stoat tracks are similar to those of the weasel, but larger in size (width 2cm, length 2.2cm). They are five-toed, and most likely to be seen in mud or snow. Stoats are unlikely to walk through a footprint tunnel, a mink raft is a more commonly used piece of equipment to record their presence. Stoat footprints are similar to American mink footprints, and supporting evidence is recommended to be certain of their presence.
They are elusive by nature but they do leave droppings and footprints in the wild. All droppings, like other carnivores, are deposited singly. They are narrow with twisty ends, as with all carnivore droppings. They are longer and thicker than weasel droppings (40-80mm long and 5mm thick). They often contain hair and bits of bone (due to carnivorous diet)
Colour: blackish brown
Smell: Musky smell, but not too unpleasant.
Occurs in every mainland county and many of the islands. Found across Ireland (although known as a weasel in Ireland). (Maps are based on expert advice, as of 2007. Some species ranges may have changed in the time since. We are currently in the process of updating them.)
Specialised predator of small to medium sized mammals; rabbits particularly important but rodents and birds also commonly eaten.
Usually 1-2 years, can live up to 5 years.
Weasel (Mustela nivalis)
Smaller than stoat (weasel head could fit through a wedding ring whereas stoat’s head couldn’t). Weasel does not have a thick black tip to the end of the tail (it is all a ginger to russet brown colour), whereas the stoat does. Weasel has an irregular wavy line separating its top and underside colours (with a white underside that can have specks of colour, a spot of colour is often found on either side of the throat), unlike the stoat which has a neat line between its top and underside colours (with a cream underside, that would not usually have any specks of colour).
Adam Grogan, Senior Scientific Officer at RSPCA, says:
“I remember when Marching for Mammals having close encounters with both stoats and weasels. On both occasions the animals approached me on the path, but I didn’t get a chance to photograph the weasel – he got wind of me too quickly. But the stoats were much more carefree and I managed to get some pictures. And how do you tell them apart – well besides the black tip to the stoat’s tail, most people will say that the weasel is smaller. However, this only helps if you have some idea of scale, so I suggest looking at the length of the tail compared to the length of body. The weasel’s tail is much shorter compared with its body length than the stoat’s.”