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Filming for TV | Behind The Scenes | Watching Stoat Kits at Play
A TV documentary filmed in my UK garden featured Bandita a stoat mum as she raised a family of five. The kits were a joy to watch as they romped through my garden – taking over the entire space as if it were their own.
For US readers: In my blogs, a weasel refers to your ‘least weasel’ and stoat is your ‘short-tailed weasel’. For more on ID and definitions: CLICK HERE
A playground for stoat kits
My daughter’s climbing frame became a playground for the stoat kits as they grew. I had built this wooden adventure fortress for the girls a few years previously and it was a large wooden structure constructed out of four towers all connected by wooden walkways. Needless to say, once the stoats adopted it, my daughters were banned from playing there!
Bandita was already used to finding tidbits of food on the upper walkways and so she was adept at scaling the 7ft climbing walls and ladders. I had begun leaving food in the most inaccessible reaches of the fortress whilst she was in the bin nest to stop the rats from pinching her food.
Her kits seemed to think the climbing frame it was built especially for them. The fortress was now fully-rigged with five cameras as well as bespoke lighting. There was one wide-angled camera that had a view back to the bin nest entrance and this would capture the young kits running down the bank from their nest like exited children heading to the park to play. The decking base was great for the kits to hide under and run across, especially since I’d set out various obstacles for them there.
The trampoline is a favourite
But their favourite area was the trampoline. They just loved it. They would bounce, hop, twist, turn and tumble on it. Sometimes they slid along their bellies, pulling themselves forward with their front legs. The texture seemed irresistible to them as did the surrounding bar and elastic. Sometimes just one or two kits played on the trampoline, but my favourite moments were when the whole family went on together. Bandita would take the lead and the four of them would play and play and play, Bandita rolling amongst them displaying equal enthusiasm for their games.
Learning to hunt
All this play was in fact Bandita’s lessons in important hunting manoeuvres. It was like watching a well-choreographed stoat dance as they twisted and turned round to grappled one another – until one kit fell off the edge. By this point the two male kits had grown and were bigger than Bandita, but they still had a lot to learn. Despite her playfulness, Bandita remained alert to danger and would sometimes pause, standing up on her back legs to watch and listen.
The kits sometimes took this as an opportunity to attack her, and you could see her frustration as she recomposed herself to concentrate on protecting her family whilst being piled on by the kits. But the kits would ignore her, pulling each other’s tails and romping around, pouncing on one another. The mission of their game appeared simple: send your opponent off the edge of the trampoline and keep them off.
The chasing and playing got faster and more furious as the kits got bigger. Before long their game of chase extended to large parts of the garden. Watching them as they leapt across paths, patios and decking walls, at times literally bouncing off these walls like tennis balls, and all the while mirroring one another’s movements, was like watching ‘parkour’ free runners.
With Bandita in the lead, they would travel around their territory with the precision of well-trained athletes before piling up on the trampoline for a fight – here their long sinuous bodies would twist and turn as they tried to avoid capture by their siblings. Then they would all leap off again for another romp around the garden.
Click on the links below to read more about the weasels in my garden.
Read how I tracked down Bandita for her TV debut:
Author: Robert E Fuller