The Irish stoat is related to the otter, badger and pine marten but it is much smaller and has been in Ireland for longer, over 12,000 years. Its fur is reddish-brown on top, with a white belly, and its tail has a distinctive black tip. Its body is long and thin and it moves very quickly on its short legs.
Stoats are active by day and are intelligent and inquisitive animals, due to their brain being large in relation to their small bodies.
It is often called a weasel but there are no weasels in Ireland. Ireland's stoat is a sub-species that is found only in Ireland and the Isle of Man and its Irish name is Easóg. It is protected by law. In countries with snow cover in winter the fur of stoats turns white to conceal them from predators and is called ermine, but stoats do not need this camouflage in Ireland’s mild winters.
Where does it live?
The Irish stoat is one of the hardest mammals to spot because of its habit of sticking close to cover. It avoids predators by running fast along walls, hedges and vegetation. Stoats often den in the burrows of rats and rabbits, once it has eaten the original occupant! Female stoats give birth to up to ten young in a nest from April onwards but many will not survive their first year.
What does it eat?
The Irish stoat can climb and swim, so is able to eat a variety of food, including rabbits, rodents and birds. It has extraordinary courage and strength and attacks prey larger than itself.
For more on our native mammals and the work being done to help them go to Vincent Wildlife Trust website.
Thanks to Dermot Breen for the photograph.
The Video link at the top of the article their 'Mostela' project on the Galway-Mayo border which ran from May to July 2019, and successfully detected the elusive Irish stoat at a number of sites.