Whilst out in Newlands recently we had the good fortune to have an ermine running along the hedgerow beside us, the first time we’d ever encountered a fully white coated stoat in the Lakes.  Ermine actually refers to the dense white winter coat of the stoat (Mustela erminea), though not all stoats turn fully white in winter: those living in warmer climes may only partially change colour, or not change at all.  Stoats are fearless predators with the ability to take prey much bigger than themselves – they can kill a rabbit with a bite to the back of the neck.  The stoat is our second smallest mustelid; it has a black tip to its tail and has a bounding gate, which is a good way to differentiate it from the smaller weasel (the world’s smallest carnivore), which runs while remaining level and has no black tail tip.  The mustelid family in the UK is also represented in the wild by badgers, otters, pine martens and polecats.  American mink are the descendants of escapes from fur farms, whilst ferrets are domesticated, selectively bred polecats.

If you’d like to know more about the nature on your doorstep, Steve will be happy to help.  He offers guided nature and mountain walks on which to explore and explain the environment around you.  Get in touch on 07796 213817 or at