Finland and Russia

Probably more fieldwork has been done on stoats than on any of the other small mustelids. The pioneering studies of their home ranges were all done by snow tracking. In Finland, Nyholm (1959a) followed one stoat around its home range, which was divided into several separate hunting areas, visited in turn. Each area had at least one den or refuge, usually in a barn or a pile of logs, or in the banks of ditches. He tracked many other stoats as well, and calculated the home ranges of 63 of them (Table 8.1). They usually traveled about 500 m in a night; one ran 1.8 km within its own territory, and another, presumably a nonresident, ran almost 6 km.

In Russia, Vaisfeld (1972) mapped the winter ranges of stoats in the provinces of Arkangel and Kirov, in the very far north of European USSR. In the vast flat flood plains of the great northern rivers, the stoats' trails were concentrated around patches of scrub. Every home range (varying from 21 to 69 ha) had at least some scrub cover; no stoats lived out in the open meadows. In some areas, the scrub had been cleared so as to extend the meadows, and there were windrows of bulldozed scrub piled up for burning. These windrows provided even better cover and food for small mammals than the natural scrub, so were greatly favored by the stoats. At the beginning of the winter of 1970-1971, 18 stoats lived on 80 ha of this habitat (i.e., averaging one per 4 ha). Within a few months, 15 of them had been caught by hunters. The three that remained lived in one corner, on home ranges of11, 13 and 17 ha—not so as to avoid the hunters, but because human disturbance (the piling up of the scrub) had so increased the prey resources of that area.

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