Return to the Blog Home Page
Rehabilitating A Stoat Named Whisper
A Tiny Stoat Kit Named Whisper
I am currently looking after a tiny stoat kit named Whisper. Whisper was found alone and apparently abandoned by a dog walker. She was handed to me to take care of because in recent years I’ve taken on the job of rehabilitating stoats and weasels for Mustelid Rescue UK. My job is to hand rear them until they are ready to be released into the wild.
Scroll down to follow Whisper’s story
Whisper Opens One Eye
At Five Weeks Old
Whisper is growing well. She is now five weeks old and both her eyes are now open. The first eye opened a whole day before the other and for that day she looked like a mini stoat pirate! Whisper is doing so well she is now ready to go into a larger enclosure where she has more space to explore. At this stage, stoat kits in the wild are starting to explore their immediate surroundings.
It is still very important that she stays warm but the good news she has been putting on weight – she now weighs 64gs – and has a lovely fat tummy so I will only be switching her heat mat on at night now. Watch the clip below to see her during her weigh-in.
So Quiet I Call Her Whisper
Four Weeks Old
Whisper is so small her eyes are yet to open and she can barely hold her own head up. She needs feeding every three hours – which means I’m not getting much sleep as I have to wake in the night to feed her. Unlike most baby stoats, which squeak loudly whenever they are hungry, Whisper is very quiet. In fact, it is for this reason I named her Whisper. This could be due to the fact that I am very diligent about feeding her on time.
Whisper: The Facts
Whisper May Have Been Dropped
Wild stoat kits are remarkable among young mammals in that they possess the ability to drop into a torpid state when their mother is out hunting. Their heart rate drops and they go into a deep sleep, a bit like the way an animal in hibernation behaves. This is one reason why so many kits that have been either dropped by their mothers or lost are found alive. The man who found Whisper waited some time to see if Whisper’s mother would come back to find her, before picking her up. I would always recommend this as stoats move their kits often and it isn’t uncommon for one to be dropped in the process.
Feeding Time is Crucial
Feeding a kit as young as Whisper requires considerable skill. Just a drop of milk on the lungs could drown her or leave her at risk of pneumonia. I use the palm of my hand rather than my thumb to push in the syringe. This isn’t easy because Whisper is just four weeks old and is so small she measures just 13cms from head to tail. She’s also very wobbly. Sometimes the milk runs down her chin and I have to wipe it for her!
A Diet of Milk and Meat
I feed Whisper a formula made from Esbilac, a puppy milk powder, but she also eats, and sucks on, tiny pieces of meat – she has minute little teeth. Many wildlife rehabilitators mistakenly keep baby carnivores on milk-only diets for too long. Since I had followed the lives of a family of wild weasels in my garden I knew that wild kits will suck on raw flesh as young as six days old. By two weeks old they are actively eating meat.
The Road to Release
Whisper is still a long way from being ready to release into the wild. The next stage will be to teach her to hunt. Ideally, for this skill, she needs other baby stoats to play with but I may have to stimulate her myself. I’ll keep posting photos and video of Whisper as she develops.
Art Inspired by Rescuing Weasels & Stoats
The following painting was inspired by watching stoat kits at play
And below is a portrait of Fidget, a weasel I rescued. Most of what I know about rearing stoats comes from rearing Fidget.
Click on the link below to see more paintings inspired by watching and caring for stoats in my garden.
Below is the story of a weasel I rescued.
Read more about my studies of stoats & weasels here:
Author: Robert E Fuller