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                         Stoats are great at catching rats

Irish Stoat ( Éasóg ) --: The stoat is the smallest of our flesh eating mammals and is wrongly called a weasel. There are no weasels in Ireland. It was not until the eighteenth century that it was discovered that what was thought to be a weasel was really a stoat, but most Irish people still call our stoat a weasel. Unlike stoats from colder areas the Irish stoat rarely changes to a white winter coat. In colder countries the stoat will change to a complete white (except for the tip of its tail) so he will not be seen easily in the snow. The winter white coat is known as ermine and is expensive, as it is used to make fur coats for some women.It is also used to put around kings capes.

The Irish stoat is about one foot long it has thin,tube like a body  with short legs and weighs about half a pound. The Irish stoat, which is common throughout the country, is a darker and smaller relation of the stoat found in England and Europe. They hunt mainly by scent. It is very good at  hunting and can tackle animals far bigger then itself. It will attack rabbits and hares. It may also kill pheasants,duck and hens and because of this farmers call stoats "vermin" and usually put down poison to kill them. Some farmers like the stoat because they are great at catching rats and mice around farmyards. Stoats are normally quiet animals but when in trouble give out a sound like a small bark. They can climb and swim very well. You might see them during the day but they mainly hunt at  night.

Stoats produce one litter per year.The young are born in March or April. They do not build nests but use any old burrow, or tree hollow.They take great care looking after their young. When the young are a few weks old their parents show the young them, how to hunt and feed themselves.The young stay with the parents much longer then most mammals.

I have never seen a stoat. I never heard of one until I was asked to do this project. I know a lot about them now. I would like to see one someday. I will see one soon when we go on our school tour to Dublin in the Natural History Museum, but it will be dead.

Anto  Sherlock