On the 11th of May I got a message about a new delivery to our casualty care centre, a very special bundle of fur! Excited by the news I was then greeted by this image …
This little bundle of fur, eyes closed and curled in to a sleepy ball was in fact a tiny stoat. Caught by a cat and brought in to an unsuspecting lady’s house, he had now ended up on my doorstep as an unexpected but totally adored foster child.
Not at all bothered by his ordeal he immediately took to being fed by syringe, lapping to his heart’s content. Unusually for most hand reared mammals, stoats are required to begin eating meat before their eyes even open. Most rodents and mammals will open their eyes for the first time at around 10 days to 2 weeks but stoats eyes don’t open until they are around a month old, and they are then usually weaned by 5 weeks - so they need that head start.Right on cue at around 4 weeks old, the little stoat opened his beautiful big eyes … and went crazy. Dashing around his cage like a hyperactive toddler, he was due to be paired with another baby stoat at a different rescue centre, unfortunately their stoat turned out to be a weasel and all hopes of bromance were crushed, this was a problem. A young stoat is EXTREMELY easy to tame, particularly if they are reared on their own. Following advice from a well-established wildlife rescue centre, it was time to cut the apron strings and put stoat in to a pen, on his own, with absolutely zero human contact, zilch, sob sob. Having gathered all the branches and hidey holes a stoat would love to create stoat paradise in the pen, tiny little stoat was dropped in to the big, scary pen to toughen up and remember he’s a stoat … with the little addition of a web cam so that we can keep track of his progress.
The first few days were unbearable!!!! After continuous hand feeding as a youngster, to be completely cut off from any contact felt unnatural, but it had to be done. As the weeks went by, little stoat was squeaking less and exploring more, and beginning to show not only fear of humans when his food was quickly slid in, but also showing stoat behaviour in practising his hypnotic dance. Adult stoats perform a mesmerising ‘dance’ to distract the prey, giving them the opportunity to pounce on their victim. Every time little stoat was given a chick or a mouse he would go MAD jumping around, shooting from side to side and rolling all over the place, just as the adults would do, magic! Our little stoat is growing up fast, and release day is fast approaching!