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Stoat (Mustela erminea)

Stoat skull and skin in winter pelage, collected in Isle of Bute, Scotland

Stoat skull and skin in winter pelage, collected in Isle of Bute, Scotland

This is an adult female stoat, Mustela erminea in ermine. It is a typical example of the series of skins of mustelids (stoats, weasels, otters etc.) in Glasgow Museumsí collection. The skin has been preserved in a standard way, so that one skin can be compared with another, in order to compare differences in size and colouration, for example. The skull has also been retained with the skin, as this is very useful for aging the specimen, by looking at the way the bones have fused together and also the wear on the teeth.

Stoats usually moult from their summer pelage of reddish brown to white (ermine), in winter, but always retain the black tip to the tail. With warmer winters, fewer stoats are fully moulting, as a white coat does not help to camouflage them when there is less snow. The white stands out against the background and make the stoats more obvious to predators (and their prey).

The similar, but normally smaller weasel, Mustela nivalis, does not turn white in winter in Britain, has a shorter tail, which does not have a black tip.

This specimen was trapped near Rothesay on the Isle of Bute in February 1978 and was donated to Glasgow Museums by Bute Museum.

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