1. The stoat (Mustela erminea), also known as the ermine and short-tailed weaselermine is a small mammal of the family Mustelidae. They originate in North America, Asia and Europe. In the New World, they range from east to west in a broad belt from the Arctic Ocean and adjacent islands of the Canadian Archipelago southward into the northern United States.
The scientific name of a stoat is Mustela erminea, and it is from the family Mustelidae, the family of weasels.
‘Stoats’ are also known as ‘short-tailed weasels’, ‘Bonaparte weasels’ and ‘ermines’, and they occupy a wide range of habitats. It is distinguished from the least weasel by its larger size and longer tail with a prominent black tip.
2. Stoats range from 17 to 35 centimetres (6.7 to 13.8 inches) in length, and generally weigh between 180 to 258 grams (6.3 to 9.1 ounces).
3. In summer the stoat is brown, with a whitish throat, chest, and belly. In colder climates the winter coat is white, except for the black tail tip. In moderately cold climates the fur becomes only partly white.
4. The fur of stoats has been historically used by humans for winter clothing purposes, and commonly for ornamental reasons, especially by nobility. The term “ermine” also refers to the animal’s white coat, sold in the fur trade. According to John Guillim, in his Display of Heraldrie, the word “ermine” is likely derived from Armenia, the nation where it was thought the species originated, though other authors have linked it to the Norman French from the Teutonic harmin (Anglo-Saxon hearma). This seems to come from the Lithuanian word šarmu.
During the reign of Edward III (1327–77) of England, the wearing of ermine was restricted to members of the royal family. Thereafter, state robes were constructed in such a way that in many cases the rank and position of the wearer could be determined by the presence or absence or disposition of the black spots.
Ermine luxury fur was used in the 15th century by Catholic monarchs, who sometimes used it as the mozzetta cape.
5. Although ermine are primarily terrestrial, they climb trees and swim well.
6. Stoats are carnivores that ʜᴜɴᴛ primarily at night. The diet of stoats varies, depending on their location, and it can include rabbits, rodents, lizards, insects, birds and fish; and they are preyed upon by wild cats, foxes and snakes.
7. Stoats live alone and are territorial. They mate once a year and have several babies, which are called kits. The kits may not develop for 8-9 months after the female becomes pregnant. When weather conditions are good and there is plenty of food, the kits begin to grow and are born within a month.
8. The stoat is classed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as least concern, due to its wide circumpolar distribution, and because it does not face any significant ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛ to its survival.
9. In the late 19th century, stoats were introduced into New Zealand to control rabbits, where they have had a ᴅᴇᴠᴀsᴛᴀᴛing effect on native bird populations.