Stoats, Weasels & Polecats

Do you know the difference between Stoats and Weasels? No?  Well scroll to the bottom to find out. 🙂

Stoats seem to be much more common than Weasels at Wimpole although this may be because they are more easily seen. In fact, when the garden staff and public go home in the spring and summer, one can often see one, if not a whole family, playing in the parterre in the back garden of the Hall. It’s likely that they breed somewhere nearby and  come hunting for small rodents like voles and mice, but also larger mammals like rabbits. For more information see here  wikipedia.

Weasels, on the other hand, are seldom seen except if you are lucky when walking in the woods. If you are fortunate enough to see one, its worth sitting down and waiting. I have often been in the woods, seen one and waited. The wait is never long as they soon re-appear manically hunting down their prey. Weasels in the UK mostly eat small rodents. For more information see here wikipedia.

Wild Polecats were only found in remote areas in the UK until the last decade or so. Here at Wimpole, when live trapping Mink last year to help the Water voles, we found a Polecat in our trap, an odd place to catch one I thought. After taking a photo of his face and sending it to an expert in these things, it was confirmed as a wild Polecat, a first at Wimpole. It appears that wild Polecats use waterways as corridors. Hopefully we will soon have breeding pairs here.  For more information see here wikipedia.

Domesticated polecat, note the much whiter face

Domesticated polecat, note the much whiter face

Lastly there are feral Polecats and Ferrets, these were originally tamed from wild Polecats and they now come in many different colours: sandy, albino and  polecat colours, however the domesticated polecat has a much lighter face colouration than the wild Polecat.

So how do you tell the difference between a Stoat and a Weasel?

Well one is stoatly different and the other is weasely distinguishable 😉

Actually the Stoat is bigger, maybe as long as a rabbit and it has a black tip to its tail. Sometimes it can be white all over except the black tip to its tail. A Weasel is half the size without a black tip to its tail and never goes white all over.

6 Responses to Stoats, Weasels & Polecats

  1. Anne says:

    Saw what I think was an albino stoat or mink in the lane, in June! White all over and about the length of a cat but thinner. Any ideas?

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    • Sadeik says:

      Try a ferret, bet it had a white tail with no black on the end, probably a big fat male hob by the sounds of it. Only stoats go white in winter but always have a black tip to their tails. Mind it’s been a cold spring. Ferret is my guess though. 🙂

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  2. Margaret McDonald says:

    Have lost two young cats in the last two years. Three years ago I saw a stoat woulld they take young cats?

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  3. Margaret McDonald says:

    I live on a farm in Somerset and we have chickens taken by a fox but think it unlikely they would kill a cat. Builders were here doing some renovations an they said they saw a polecat ….I have never ever seen one and don,t know what they look like.

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