The stoat is a carnivore, and a very skillful predator (4), typically feeding on birds and small mammals, particularly rabbits and small rodents, even taking prey as large as rats and grey squirrels (6). They hunt in a zigzag pattern, making use of features such as walls and hedgerows to provide cover, probing crevices and holes, and often standing alert on the hind legs to look around (4). Their exceptionally keen senses help them to locate prey; they try to get as close as possible to their target, before rushing in and dispatching it with a swift bite to the back of the neck (4). Males (dogs, bucks, jacks or hobs) (7) and females (bitches, does, or jills) (7) live in separate territories, which they defend against individuals of the same sex (2). In spring, males set off to search for females (2). Mating occurs in early summer, but births do not occur until the spring of the following year, as development of the fertilised egg is delayed (2) for eight to nine months (4). Between 6 and 12 blind, helpless kits are born per litter (2)
[;] after about eight weeks the young stoats begin to hunt alongside their mother (4). Females are able to mate before they are fully weaned at just 60 to 70 days of age, whereas males are unable to breed until they reach at least 2 years of age (4). Females typically stay within or close to the area of birth, and males disperse and establish large territories that overlap several female ranges (4). Predators of stoats include owls, larger carnivores and hawks (2). The average life expectancy of a stoat is just 1.5 years (5).