top of page


Stoat (Mustela ermine)

Stoats have a long, narrow body shape typical of the mustelid family, with short legs, brown fur and a white underside. They have a bushy black-tipped tail which distinguishes them from the similar but much smaller weasel. They grow to a length of 40cm (including the tail) and males can weigh up to 450g (males are twice as heavy as females). The species is extremely playful and inquisitive, tirelessly exploring nooks and crannies, tree holes, buildings and bounding along at top speed.

Stoats live in most habitats where there is sufficient prey and shelter, including woodland, farmland, grassland and upland areas. They predominately predate rabbits and rodents but will also take squirrels, birds, berries and insects. They themselves are predated by foxes, owls, kestrels and occasionally domestic cats. Sadly stoats are still trapped and shot by gamekeepers in certain areas. Despite this they are widespread across the country and Somerset.

Weasel (Mustela nivalis)

Weasels have small, slim bodies and are Britain’s smallest carnivore. They have chestnut brown fur, a white underside and a short tail. They grow to 30cm long (including the tail) and a weight of 185g (males weigh twice as much as females). Weasels, are shy, solitary mammals and are mostly nocturnal. They hunt along hedgerows or walls, sniffing out their prey of mice, voles and birds’ eggs and chicks in spring.

Weasels are found in a wide variety of habitats including farmland, woodland edges and grassland. The main threats to the species are from foxes, owls, kestrels and domestic cats. Weasels are widespread across the UK and Somerset.

Polecat (Mustela putorius)

Polecats are larger than stoats and weasels, growing up to 60cm long (including the tail) and weighing up to 1.4kg. They have the characteristic mustelid shape of a long, thin body with cream-coloured underfur and black-tipped guard hairs. They have distinctive markings on their snouts and ears, giving them a characteristic bandit-mask.

Polecats eat rodents, rabbits, frogs, toads and small mammals. Carrion, birds eggs and fish are also sometimes taken. They are mostly active at night and make their dens in old rabbit warrens, badger setts or between tree roots. When threatened, polecats emit a foul-smelling scent from their anal glands which gives them their Latin name, meaning ‘foul-smelling musk bearer’.

Females give birth to a litter of 5-10 kits in May-July, which become independent at 2-3 months of age. Polecats are found in a variety of habitats including woodland, river valleys and farmland. The species readily hybridizes with domestic ferrets and still suffers from poisoning and trapping. After a dramatic decline in the last century due to heavy persecution, the species has been recovering and is now widely re-established in Wales and central and southern England.

bottom of page