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Food habits of stoats Mustela erminea and weasels Mustela nivalis in Denmark



Food habits of stoats Mustela erminea and weasels Mustela nivalis in Denmark



Acta Theriologica il; 51(2): 179-186



Stoats Mustela erminea Linnaeus, 1758 and weasels Mustela nivalis Linnaeus, 1766 exploit the same array of prey species at different frequencies according to body size. The rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus, which typically is the dominant prey for stoats in temperate parts of Europe, is absent in Denmark. The present study based on gastrointestinal tract contents examines the food habits of sympatric stoats (n = 112) and weasels (n = 132) from Denmark. Rodents were the most important prey group for both stoats and weasels, constituting 77% and 84% of their diet respectively, expressed as frequency of occurrence. No differences were detected in the proportions of major prey groups between sexes within species, but between species the diets differed. Stoats ate birds and birds' eggs more often than weasels did, while weasels ate more insectivores. Stoats ate more often Microtus voles and water vole Arvicola terrestris than weasels did, while weasels ate more bank vole Clethrionomys glareolus and mole Talpa europaea. There was a larger dietary overlap between sympatric stoats and weasels in Denmark than in other dietary studies in areas where rabbits were available.

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