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Focus on: Mustelids

Stoat in its winter coat

Of the 7 carnivores present in the Park, 5 are mustelids.

In Latin mustela means "little mouse", but the largest mustelid in the Park is closer in size and weight to a medium sized dog: it is the badger (Meles meles), a stout, slow animal, generally shy, nocturnal, living in underground setts. Thanks to its long, strong claws it can dig deep dens in the ground where it rests in the daytime, these dens are often used by foxes too. By digging it also finds insects, grubs and earthworms which are the basis of its diet, although it will also eat vertebrates and fruit.

Completely different both in size and habit are the beech marten (Martes foina) and the pine marten (Martes martes), these are extremely agile tree climbers, about the size of a cat. They are similar in appearance and behaviour, and although pine martens are generally more commonly found in conifer woods and the beech marten prefers deciduous woodland, they can be found in the same habitats. Both species are formidable hunters of birds, mice, squirrels and dormice.

Weasels (or least weasels)(Mustela nivalis) and stoats (Mustela erminea) are very small ground hunters, but are equally agile and tireless when hunting their preferred prey: the rodents that live in the mid and upper grasslands and scree slopes. Weasels are particularly common in the valley bottoms, whilst stoats are never found below 1000m in altitude; both species moult in winter, turning completely white, except for the tip of the tail, which remains black in the stoat.

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