Following on from Peter Thompson's popular recent 'Species of the Month' feature on the stoat we have the latest information from our National Gamebag Census.
We established the NGC in 1961 to provide a central repository of records from shooting estates in Britain. The records comprise information from shooting and gamekeeping activities on the numbers of each species shot annually (‘bag data’).
The stoat is widespread across Britain. Its main prey is the rabbit and numbers of stoats dropped when myxomatosis devastated the British rabbit population in the 1950s and 60s. Since 1961, stoat bags have approximately doubled, but with a broad-based dip during the 1980s followed by recovery during the 1990s. The two increase phases match the two periods of most rapid increase in rabbit bags, while the decrease phase matches a period when rabbit bags were roughly stable and fox bags were increasing. It is thus possible that the bags reflect predator-prey interactions, but if so, it is not clear why stoat bags have remained high in recent years despite a fall in rabbit abundance and a high fox abundance.