Seven species of Mustelid now live in the British Isles. The weasel, stoat, polecat, pine marten, otter and badger are native to Great Britain. Feral American mink are not native but are a recent addition to the assemblage, following escapes and releases from fur farms. Ireland lacks the weasel and the polecat. Apart from the badger and otter, the native British and Irish mustelids are small or medium-sized and, by convention, referred to collectively as the ‘small mustelids’. All belong to the genus Mustela (stoat, weasel and polecat) or Martes (pine marten). They are characterized by their tubular body shape, which enables them to follow their prey down small tunnels and burrows. However, because of this similarity in body shape, they can be difficult to distinguish from each other. This is particularly true when, as is usually the case, you catch only a fleeting glimpse of one in poor light.
This new volume in the highly-acclaimed New Naturalist Library, brings these ubiquitous assassins out of the gloom and reveals an astonishing group of species. In every case, they can kill prey larger than themselves, in some cases much larger. They also have extraordinary lives – some in total seclusion, some in large related groups. They are a group worthy of the African savannah, brought into the light by the UK’s leading small mustelid expert.