Irish Stoat

Mustela erminea hibernica

The Irish stoat is widespread throughout Ireland and is a distinct sub-species confined to Ireland and the Isle of Man. They are often mistakenly called weasels in rural areas, but weasels are not found in Ireland.

The main difference in the Irish stoat is the dividing line between the chestnut-brown fur and the cream underside, which is usually irregular, and the hair on the upper lip is brown in the Irish stoat, also there is no white edge on the ear. The tip of the tail is always black. They do not normally become white (Ermine) in winter, due to our climate and lack of sitting snow.

Irish stoats have long thin cylindrical bodies and short legs. Males are larger than females with the average adult male measuring up to 40cm for the head and body while the females are shorter measuring up to 30cm. Stoats have long slender tails in proportion to their bodies which have a distinctive black tip at the end, males grow slightly longer tails than females which can measure up to 14cm in length. Adult males weigh up to 400 grams with females being much lighter weighing on average 200 grams. Unusually for mammals there is a noticeable difference in the size of the Irish population of stoats with individuals in the south being bigger and heavier than those found in more northern areas. Stoats have excellent vision and largely hunt by sight, their senses of smell and hearing are also well developed. They are good climbers, can swim well if required and able to run quite fast for short distances using a bounding stride interrupted to stand upright on their hind legs to survey the area.

They can be found in woodlands, hedgerows, marsh, heather, lowland farms, moorland, coastal areas and mountains. They prefer open woodlands and rocky scrub covered areas, on agricultural lands they would be near stone walls, ditches or hedgerows.

Irish stoats are skilled hunters they generally prey on rodents, birds, rabbits and insects. Male stoats will stalk and kill prey much larger than themselves, while females concentrate on smaller mammals like shrews, mice and rats. A single strong bite to the back of the neck is the favored method of attack for stoats. While they are largely carnivorous they will supplement their diets with berries and fruits depending on availability. While above ground stoats use their eyesight to locate prey such as birds, reptiles and voles while they use their sense of smell if hunting rabbits or rats below ground. Stoats are good climbers and will eat bird’s eggs from the nest, and as competent swimmers they can hunt fish in slow moving rivers.

The main breeding season for the Irish stoat begins in May and ends in July. An unusual adaptation for small mammals sees a long delay between mating and when gestation begins, this is done to ensure that the young are born the following year in early summer to avail of better conditions and food supply. Irish stoats produce one litter per year with each litter of five to twelve young known as kits. When born they are blind, deaf and have a light covering of fluffy white fur weighing only 4 grams. They are totally dependent on their mother and are fully weaned after five weeks. Rapid growth will see the young stoats becoming fully independent after twelve weeks by which time their mothers will have taught them several hunting techniques which they will need when establishing their own territories. Another unusual reproductive trait of the Irish stoat is that some female kits can become sexually mature after only a few weeks, if mating occurs with an adult male then the young stoat can become pregnant while still being weaned by her mother although the delayed gestation period of stoats means she will not give birth until the following year once she sets up her own territory.

The Animal Ecology & Conservation Group, NUIG, with the support of The Vincent Wildlife Trust, are carrying out a nationwide study of the Irish stoat. If you have any information on the Irish stoat, especially sightings, please fill in our online survey form at:

Photo by Carrie Crowley


Controversy over mini Minis at Olympic athletics

Fans at the Olympics have been chuckling at the sight of the miniature radio-controlled Minis which are being used to help out officials at the athletics.

The cars have been used to return javelins, discuses and hammers to competitors in the field events at London 2012, saving time and effort for all involved and adding a light-hearted element to the serious business at hand.

But the remote-controlled cars whizzing around the athletics stadium have triggered branding questions. The Olympic venues at the London Games are supposed to be strictly ad-free, but the use of the distinctive cars appears to be blatant advertising.

The International Olympic Committee ensures adverts or logos of products are not visible in the fields of play in line with its Olympic Charter despite sponsors paying hundreds of millions of dollars to be associated with the Games.

The Minis, made by German car manufacturer BMW who is also a Games sponsor, may not carry visible logos but are instantly recognisable for what they are.

However, they are not the iconic British-owned Minis produced from 1959-2000 but the new type produced by BMW.

“There is no commercial reason (behind choosing Minis),” said Timo Lumme, the IOC’s director of TV and marketing services, when asked if branding rules were being broken.

He said the choice as transporters for the athletes’ equipment was not dictated by a commercial decision.

Since the start of the athletics competitions last week, the Minis have instantly become a point of discussion with their use inside the stadium raising the questions of whether the IOC was indirectly relaxing its own strict ad rules.

He said the International Association of Athletics Federations, responsible for the track and field competitions at the Olympics, had cleared the use of the small vehicles.

“IAAF validates several different transporters. Yes, it happens to be the official partner of the London Games but there is no commercial delivery,” he told a news conference.

“There is no link between the sponsorship and the coverage of the physical fact that these are mini Minis on the field of play,” Lumme said.

The IOC’s rule on advertising states that no form of advertising or other publicity shall be allowed in and above the stadia, venues and other competition areas which are considered as part of the Olympic sites.

Commercial installations and advertising signs are not be allowed in the stadia, venues or other sports grounds.

There are three of these vehicles in total. Each puts in four-hour shifts across nine days of athletics competition, covering six kilometres per day.

The Mini also featured in the Games opening ceremony but again it was the new version and not the one symbolising iconic British post-war design.

“The bottom line is that the producer showed an individual quirkiness, a fantastically entertaining take on British history,” said Lumme of the car’s presence in the opening ceremony.

“The Mini is an incredibly known globally, British icon. Again Rule 50 compliant. No logos,” he said.

The London Games have received some £700m from sponsors wishing to be associated with the 2012 Olympics.

Barney McKenna, last of original Dubliners, dies r.i.p

DUBLIN (AP) — “Banjo” Barney McKenna, the last original member of the Irish folk band The Dubliners, died Thursday while having a morning cup of tea with a friend. He was 72 and had just marked his 50th year with the troupe.

Irish classical guitarist Michael Howard, who was with McKenna when he died, said he was talking with his longtime friend at his kitchen table, when “all of a sudden Barney’s head dropped down to his chest. It looked as if he’d nodded off.” Howard said paramedics over the phone talked him through emergency revival procedures, but McKenna “was pretty much gone.”

“The comfort that I take from it is, he passed away very peacefully sitting at his own breakfast table having a quiet cup of tea and a chat,” Howard said.

“What a lovely way to go,” said McKenna’s Dubliners bandmate for a quarter-century, guitarist and singer Eamonn Campbell.

McKenna was considered the most influential banjo player in Irish folk music. He spent a half-century performing, recording and touring with the band ever since its 1962 creation in the Dublin pub O’Donoghue’s. The other three founders – Ronnie Drew, Ciaran Bourke and Luke Kelly – died in 2008, 1988 and 1984, respectively.

McKenna completed a United Kingdom tour with The Dubliners last month and performed Wednesday night at a Dublin funeral. Howard, who also performed there and drove McKenna home afterward, said his friend performed “absolutely beautifully. When he finished there was a spontaneous, thunderous round of applause in the church.”

Born in Dublin in 1939, McKenna tried to join the Irish army band but was rejected because of bad eyesight. He busked in the streets and pubs of the capital and developed a reputation as an innovative performer on a specially tuned, four-stringed tenor banjo, then a virtually unknown instrument in Ireland that he made an Irish folk favorite.

The gravel-voiced Drew recruited him to Friday night “sessions” – impromptu barside concerts – at O’Donoghue’s, a diminutive pub near the Irish parliament so famously packed that its barmen had to stand on stepstools to take orders. It soon gained a reputation as the country’s top venue for live folk music, with The Dubliners performing alongside such other rising folk stars as The Chieftains and the Fureys.

Many noted how McKenna always made time to help younger musicians learn the art of the tenor banjo, particularly the intricacies of his own strumming and tuning techniques.

“His influence on and generosity to other instrumentalists was immense,” said Irish President Michael D. Higgins, who saw McKenna perform last month in a Dublin cathedral at one of The Dubliners’ many 50th anniversary performances.

Friends and bandmates told anecdote upon anecdote Thursday of the many off-the-wall, comically illogical comments made by McKenna over the years.

“He was like a brother to me,” recalled fiddler John Sheahan, who joined The Dubliners in 1964 and remains in the band today. His favorite Barneyism: calling an optical illusion an “obstacle confusion.”

“He was very droll man and great company. You’d never know what he’d come out with next,” Campbell said. “My favorite song that he sang was `I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day.’ And that was true about Barney.”

His Dutch wife, Joka, died 28 years ago and the couple had no children. He lived alone in the upscale fishing port of Howth and spent spare time tinkering with his boat and fishing on the Irish Sea. He continued to perform, despite suffering from diabetes and a mild stroke.

McKenna is survived by his partner Tina, sister Marie and brother Sean, who is also a top Irish banjo player. Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

CHRISTY MOORE @ Grand Canal Theatre


Well what a gig last night. Went to see christy moore and declan sinnot in dublins grand canal theatre.myself and my dad have made this a yearly gig that we go to see and christy didnt dissappoint. We arrived at 7:45pm to a beautiful crisp january evening (10°) might sound funny but its january and its never this mild. Tickets were presented at the door and off to the bar i went


Bar is very expensive €6 a beer and €4 a soft drink. Once i finished we went in to get our seats this was about 8:10pm show started slightly early so we were in good time.the announcer introduced christy moore onto the stage and the crowd found its cheering voice what an atmosphere in this theatre.


Christy welcomed us to the gig and intoduced declan sinnott onstage and then the magic happened a 2hr set of great music some classics were played some oldys were also played and off the new album “folk tale” he played a good few all in all it was an amazing gig and would recommend going to see him or checking out his music.