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ENTERPRISING MRS. R. A .

STOATS

HARRISON

I used to think that stoats were animals which kept more or less to the ground, until, on looking out of my bedroom window at Snape about 9 o'clock one morning in early October, I saw a big stoat running over the roofs of the farm buildings within a few yards of where I was Standing. For some three or four minutes it continued to run up and down the roofs, the highest point of which must have been about fifteen feet from the ground, but I could not make out what it was trying to do. It was closely watched by a row of sparrows on top of a wall who showed little anxiety until the stoat decided to run along the wall itself, when the sparrows promptly left. Unfortunately it was impossible to see how the stoat climbed down from the roofs as it disappeared from view behind the highest point and did not reappear. On 27th December a small stoat came to where I feed the birds outside the windows, and made several efforts to lift and carry off a mutton bone which must have weighed considerably more than itself. It did succeed in carrying it a few feet but it was obviously very nervous and kept darting backwards and forwards into a flower-bed and behind a water-trough. Twice it stood on its back legs by the door as a cat does when trying to get in. Sparrows and tits showed no interest in the stoat but three moorhens, who were eating a mess of boiled scraps I had put out for them, departed at ungainly speed. A seven-inch section of the windpipe of an ox, which later was found to weigh just over four ounces, was put in the middle of the lawn to try and attract the stoat. Two days later at about 10 a.m. I noticed the stoat in a flower-bed. Three moorhens were feeding on some bread between the stoat and the windpipe. The stoat advanced very cautiously, giving the moorhens a wide berth but they saw it and showed intense, and comic, interest, Standing quite still with ther heads poking forward watching every movement. Eventually the stoat reached the windpipe, seized it by one end and carrying it quite high in the air ran straight back tothe flower-bed, scattering the moorhens on the way. Considering how encumbered it was it was astonishing how fast it could move across the open lawn, but the difficulty of manoeuvering such a large bĂźrden through the plants in the flower-bed slowed it up and gave the moorhens time to recover their composure and follow. At the far side of the bed I lost sight of it behind a small bush but I could see by the interest of the moorhens, who were Standing in a small semicircle with their heads craning inwards, that it was still there, so after about ten minutes I went out to investigate. The moorhens left but I found their focal point was a hole,


454 Transactions of the Suffolk Naturalists',

Vol. 12, Part 6

presumably a mole's, down which the stoat had pulled the windpipe until its end was flush with the entrance, thus forming a complete lining to the hole. I could distinctly hear chewing going on underground and after a few minutes the stoat came up the windpipe and proceeded to gnaw the outer rim with its head fully in my view. Although I watched directly above the hole for at least five minutes it showed no sign either of seeing or scenting my presence. Unfortunately I then had to return to the house but on going back to the hole about ten minutes later I found the stoat was again gnawing the lower end. By the evening there was no sign that it had left the hole but by the following morning the fresh earth had been disturbed though the windpipe was still in position and a dry leaf was just inside the entrance. This leaf was not disturbed for several days so I removed the windpipe and found that only a small amount of the lower end had been eaten away so presumably the stoat didn't find it appetising enough for more than one meal.

Enterprising Stoats  
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