GWCT National Gamebag Census & Tracking Mammals Partnership

Stoat Mustela erminea

Taxonomy: Class: Mammalia; Order: Carnivora; Family: Mustelidae

Description

Stoat photo
Stoat © Laurie Campbell

The stoat is a small slender carnivorous mammal native to Britain. It is larger than the weasel, with a black-tipped tail. In winter some animals may turn completely white apart from the tail tip. The stoat's main prey is the rabbit, and numbers of stoats declined drastically when myxomatosis devastated the British rabbit population in the 1950s and 1960s. The stoat also commonly eats gamebirds, waders, eggs and chicks. It may be culled throughout the year.

Further information:
Mammal Society website stoat page.

Conservation status and legislation

Status:
UK: Native
World: Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

Legislation:
 
Logo NBN Gateway © Crown Copyright. All rights reserved NERC 100017897 2004
Source: National Biodiversity Network and its data providers, who bear
no responsibility for interpretation of the 10x10-km grid map
 

Distribution and abundance

The stoat lives throughout Britain, although its presence on the Scottish islands is restricted to Shetland, Islay, Jura, Mull, Skye, Raasay and Bute. It is also found on the Isle of Wight and Isle of Man. It occupies the whole of Ireland, despite the paucity of records on the map.

Estimates of stoat abundance (numbers of individuals in the spring) across the UK, from Harris et al. (1995):

United Kingdom 462,000
England 245,000
Scotland 180,000
Wales 37,000
N Ireland no estimate

Recent trends from the National Gamebag Census

United Kingdom

Index of bag density from 1961 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Stoat trend United Kingdom

The bag index has doubled between 1961 and 2009, but with a notable broad-based dip during the 1980s followed by recovery during the 1990s. Broadly, the increase follows that of its main prey, the rabbit, although it is not obvious why the dip occurred.

Change in stoat bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
United Kingdom 1072 1961 2009 117*
75 to 173
50*
23 to 80
28*
12 to 42

* significant at P < 0.05

England

Index of bag density from 1961 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Stoat trend England

The bag index has more than doubled between 1961 and 2009, but with a notable broad-based dip during the 1980s followed by recovery during the 1990s. Broadly, the increase follows that of its main prey, the rabbit, although it is not obvious why the dip occurred.

Change in stoat bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
England 781 1961 2009 150*
88 to 228
53*
25 to 97
42*
22 to 69

* significant at P < 0.05

Scotland

Index of bag density from 1961 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Stoat trend Scotland

A broad-based dip during the 1980s was followed by a recovery during the 1990s, leading to a significant increase between 1984 and 2009. Overall, however, there was no detectable change between 1961 and 2009.

Change in stoat bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Scotland 250 1961 2009 49
-8 to 156
51*
11 to 96
11
-6 to 34

* significant at P < 0.05

Wales

Index of bag density from 1961 to 2009 (see statistical methods and interpretational considerations).
Error bars represent 95% confidence intervals.

Stoat trend Wales

Despite large standard errors on the estimated values, there has been a significant decline between 1995 and 2009. As numbers of its main prey, the rabbit, have increased during the period, the trend may reflect a gradual abandonment of traditional gamekeeping in Wales.

Change in stoat bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Wales 29 1961 2009 -48
-70 to 88
-23
-80 to 20
-35*
-71 to -2

* significant at P < 0.05

N Ireland

There are too few bag records of stoat to produce an index graph. Stoat trend N Ireland

 

There are too few bag records of stoat to evaluate rates of change over time

Country Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
N Ireland Too few sites

Environmental zones

Change in stoat bags over time, with 95% confidence limits (see statistical methods):

Environmental zone Sites Start
year
End
year
Change (%)
1961-2009
Change (%)
1984-2009
Change (%)
1995-2009
Easterly lowlands (England/Wales) 511 1961 2009 64*
10 to 142
-12
-35 to 21
7
-23 to 42
Westerly lowlands (England/Wales) 186 1961 2009 12
-30 to 93
-13
-49 to 3
-3
-32 to 33
Uplands (England/Wales) 110 1961 2009 394*
131 to 770
224*
157 to 297
77*
47 to 111
Lowlands (Scotland) 76 1961 2009 22
-41 to 158
-21
-57 to 45
-37
-64 to 8
Intermediate uplands/islands (Scotland) 39 1961 2009 -1
-49 to 101
-3
-47 to 65
10
-39 to 79
True uplands (Scotland) 137 1961 2009 62
-12 to 237
87*
28 to 157
26*
7 to 49

* significant at P < 0.05

Comparison with BBS mammal data

No comparison with the NGC trend is possible because too few stoat records are received through the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) organised by the British Trust for Ornithology.

Long-term trend from the National Gamebag Census

There are too few bag records of stoat to produce a trend starting before 1961.

References and further reading

  • Battersby,J. (2005). UK Mammals: Species Status and Population Trends. Joint Nature Conservation Committee/Tracking Mammals Partnership, Peterborough (JNCC download page).
  • Harris,S., Morris,P., Wray,S. & Yalden,D.W. (1995). A Review of British Mammals: Population Estimates and Conservation Status of British Mammals Other than Cetaceans. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough (JNCC download page).
  • Harris,S. & Yalden,D.W. (2008). Mammals of the British Isles: Handbook, 4th edition. Mammal Society, Southampton.
  • McDonald,R. & Harris,S. (2006). Stoats and Weasels. Mammal Society, Southampton.

This report should be cited as: Aebischer,N.J., Davey,P.D. & Kingdon,N.G. (2011). National Gamebag Census: Mammal Trends to 2009. Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, Fordingbridge (http://www.gwct.org.uk/ngcmammals).

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