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Stoat Camera Stories 2020 | The Fotherdale Stoats

This blog post follows a family of stoats in my North Yorkshire garden. The matriarch, Bandita,  is famous. She is the star of a BBC Natural World documentary.


Autumn 2020

Stoat Kits At Play

Stoat Camera Stories 2020

Now that Bandita has moved her family into the bin nest, she’s much closer to my house and I’ve been able to watch the young stoat kits as they grow up. These young mustelids are almost grown now and are increasingly independent. They spend their time fighting and playing. 

Watch the film

Below is a short film as they tussel and navigate the steps outside the house.

Getting to know individual stoat kits

It’s been fun getting to know their individual characters. All seven stoat kits are so adventurous! Look out for ‘Doc’ in my latest film, a really characterful stoat kit who has somehow lost his tail. I’m not sure how he lost it, but It doesn’t seem to bother him much as he leaps up the steps chasing his stoat-sibling.

 

 

Summer 2020

Bandita Recovers from Serious Gash & Moves Kits AGAIN

Stoat Camera Stories 2020

As is the case with stoats, Bandita has moved her kits countless times during the summer. However, in June, I became a little worried about her after noticing a serious gash on her neck. She is a wild animal and of course there was little I could do but keep a close eye on her. So when I noticed her move her kits back into the garden again I wondered if she was keeping them here as a place she knew to be safe whilst she recovered.

By July, all seemed well with Bandita’s neck and again she moved the family – this time back into the complex I have built in the garden where there are plenty of cameras to watch the action. 

Watch the film

Below is a short film to show how Bandita calls to her kits to persuade them to follow her to each new nest. Listen to the whickering, chittering sounds she makes. They are really adorable. It is fascinating to see how they respond, first in dribs and drabs, bimbling along the garden path, then, once the remaining few begin to realise the family is on the move, all at once. Notice how Bandita had to carry the last one! There’s always one!


May 18th, 2020

Bandita is On the Move Again

Stoat Camera Stories 2020

Just 10 days after moving her family into the wall at the bottom of my garden, Bandita was on the move again. This time she moved all seven kits, one by one, into a stone wall in the valley below. The wall is rigged with cameras and has a bespoke stoat nest inside it. This meant I was able to film the action as she carried each kit through the narrow tunnels. 

Watch the film below to see her as she grasps the fleshy skin on the back of each kit’s neck to pick it up. These kits are almost as big as she is now. Notice how they become submissive and allow their bodies to go limp during the move.


May 8th, 2020

I Spy Bandita’s Kits

Stoat Camera Stories 2020

My cameras picked up Bandita carrying seven kits to a new location in my garden. She scampered along so fast I almost missed the action. In fact, if it wasn’t for her repeated behaviour, I might not have noticed the nest move at all.

First, she spent about an hour carrying grass and leaves in her mouth. She stashed mouthful of nesting material in a wall at the bottom of the garden. Then she picked up each kit and carried it in her mouth to the wall. Stoats move their kits often in the first few weeks to keep them safe from predators and keeping track of their nest sites is almost impossible.

Realising she was busy lining a new nest, I followed the action on the cameras closely. It is now exactly a month since I noticed Bandita’s belly was slim and deduced that she had given birth. So these kits are roughly four weeks old now. The clip below shows her as she carries each kit to its new nest site and is worth watching because nest changes like this are so very fast they are rarely recorded. You need to concentrate – if you blink you’ll miss it. I hope to be able to locate cameras close to this new nest site to watch the action, so please do keep checking in to this blog for updates.

 


April 14th, 2020

Bandita’s Babies Are Born

Stoat Camera Stories 2020

Bandita has given birth!! My cameras picked her up this week looking slim again! I have since discovered where her nest is but it is off-camera and I’m keeping well away because I don’t want to scare her off. Stoats tend to move their kits often during the first few weeks and two years ago she moved her kits so many times I lost count. At the time I had a BBC camera crew in the garden filming her for a Natural World documentary and it was really tricky keeping track of her.

Click here to read the story of how I tracked down each new nest.

I’m hoping when, inevitably, she moves this litter Bandita will choose a nest I built for her and we can watch her bring up her kits on the cameras.  Below I’ve stitched two clips together. The first is from this week, showing Bandita look slim, and hungry. Watch as she takes a chick. Then keep watching to see the second clip where you can see again how rounded her belly was last week. 


April 7th, 2020

Bandita is Pregnant!

Stoat Camera Stories 2020

The cameras revealed some exciting news this week! Bandita is expecting. I noticed that her belly seemed distended as she leaped onto a dry stone wall built and so I trawled through the footage more closely to find the following clips. At times I could even see the kits wriggling inside her belly. Bandita is an excellent mother – so good in fact that the story of how she raised her last litter featured on BBC Natural World – and I’m looking forward to seeing how she cares for this latest litter.


How Stoats Breed

Stoat Nest Camera Facts

Stoats are solitary for most of the year and only come together in Spring to breed when a female will normally have multiple partners. She is often forced by the male, who does not help raise the young.

Female stoats can become pregnant just a few weeks after birth. However, a process known as delayed implantation means the young will not be born until the female has matured around nine to 10 months later.

Implantation of the fertilised egg in the wall of the uterus can be delayed for 280 days, however, the gestation period after this is just 21 – 28 days, so most young are born in April to May of the year following mating. In spite of being such a small animal, a stoat’s gestation is among the longest reported for mammals (11 months) because of this delayed implantation.

Female stoats produce one litter of 5 – 12 young per year. The young,  called ‘kits’,  are weaned at five weeks and are fully independent and able to kill their own prey at 12 weeks. Male stoats will sometimes mate with young female kits in the nest, so that these young kits are pregnant before they even leave their mothers. 

A litter of around 6 to 12 young, known as kits, are born in spring. The female will care for the young until they are self-sufficient at around 12 weeks.

The average life span of a stoat in the wild is one to one and a half years, however, they can live up to seven years of age.


Paintings of Stoats

These are just some of the paintings inspired by watching the stoats in my garden. Click here to see my stoat art collection.

original paintings
Crackle Standing Proud | Original Acrylic Painting | Available Here
Sitting Pretty | Limited Edition Art Print | Available Here
stoat cameras
Climbing Stoat | Limited Edition Art Print | Available Here

Read More: 

The Fotherdale Stoats: The Stoat Story So Far

 

16 Stunning Paintings Of Stoats & Weasels

5 Fascinating Facts About Weasels & Stoats

Turning White for Winter | Charting Bandita the Stoat’s Story

 

After Filming, Bandita the Stoat’s Story Continues

 

Filming Bandita the Stoat for TV | Behind the Scenes | Tracking Down a Stoat Star

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