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The amazing thing the stoat did


I was going to write about something else this week, until something really interesting happened on the walk today. It took less than four minutes but it was something I have never seen before. It was a miserable walk because it was raining a lot, and we had to change socks half way through. It had been raining so far that the stream we were going to cross was too wide, and we had to go around. On the drive back from the moor dad stopped the car to check a dead corvid by the side of the road. Then he looked in the rear view mirror and he saw what he thought were some baby rabbits and a stoat playing on the road !

He was more interested in the stoat which was running from one side of the road to the other. It looked soaking wet from the rain. This picture was taken three minutes before It Happened.

Stoats are mustelids, which is the same family as polecats, ferrets, mink and weasels, all of which look like stoats. (Badgers are also mustelids but they look nothing like this.) Stoats have a black tip on the tail to tell them apart.

It seems to like being on the road but didn't stay there for long.

Then another came in the opposite direction, and because dad's car was blocking the road he had to reverse back a bit to let them past. He parked to have another look and see if the stoat was going to come out again.

It did and was running across the road again back and forth. Then suddenly it ran down the left hand side of the road towards a baby rabbit !

It pounced on the rabbit before the rabbit could run away.

The stoat clung onto it and wouldn't let go. The rabbit didn't seem able to run away.

The rabbit didn't manage to shake him off at all.

It took about 30 seconds and you could see that it was trying to bite the back of its neck.

Then it carried the rabbit, which was much bigger than it, to the side of the road.

Dad walked down with his camera, and found the dead rabbit in grass with teeth marks at the back of the neck. The stoat's teeth would have not have been deep enough to go to the spine or arteries, so the rabbit must have died of fear.

I have seen stoats before but I have never seen them do this before. I first wrote about stoats here. It was surprise because rabbits are so much bigger than stoats and normally animals hunt things that are smaller than them. This stoat caught a mouse on the walk I wrote about here. Stoats look cute but they must be lethal hunters.

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Ric Morris said...

Oh wow! I really love stoats! This is an amazing sighting and a stunning sequence of photographs! Well done Jake and Nick!

Si Barber said...

Hi Jake,

Any idea why the stoat didn't take the rabbit away to eat - was he disturbed? S

Jacob said...

I once saw a buzzard fly right in front of our car into a hedge, grab a rabbit and carry it back. It was awesome. But, you know, gruesome.

Jake said...

@Ric: Cool, thanks !
@Si: I think it's because my dad disturbed him when he went down the road.
@Jacob: Yeah it's gruesome too. I saw a rabbit being hit by a car last week, that was nasty too.

Rhea said...

What a great story, and wonderful photographs! You are quite the naturalist. I imagine if you had set up a camera on the rabbit then you would have seen the stoat return for its catch. This is like something out of an Attenborough program!

Jake said...

Thanks Rhea !

Rafael Jasso said...

You just stood there and took pictures but did nothing to help the baby rabbit? Disgraceful.

Jake said...

First of all, I don't think there is anything I could have done. The rabbit didn't realise what was happening and neither did I or dad. The pictures were taken from quite a long way away, so even if I had run down there, the rabbit would have still have been fatally injured. Finally I don't like it when animals die but it's all part of nature. It was killed for food, not fun, and even if I had stopped it, that stoat wouldn't suddenly turn vegetarian and eat lettuces from then on. It would still go and kill another rabbit to eat.

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