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Comparison of the diet of stoat (Mustela erminea) in relation to sex and season in Norway

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The stoat (Mustela erminea) is a small mustelid predator specialising on rodent species. However, they also can eat various alternative prey in different parts of their range. In the literature, sexual dimorphism differences in this species are reflected in different diet preferences with males hunting on larger prey than females. The aim of this study was to assess food habits of stoats trapped in two study sites in Norway. We analysed stomach content in relation to body mass, sex and season. In total, 137 stomachs, 101 of males and 36 of females, were analysed. Males (201.80 ± 37.71 g) were significantly heavier than females (85.06 ± 13.26 g) (F = 258.88, df = 1, p ≤ 0.0001). Six food categories were identified, dominated by small rodents, followed by anthropogenic food, birds, insectivores and invertebrates. The most common prey species were bank vole (Myodes glareolus) and tundra vole (Microtus oeconomus). We found no evidence of trophic niche segregation between male and female stoats despite body size differences between sexes. There were also no significant differences in diet of all stoats between seasons. The trophic annual niche breadth of all stoats was B = 3.88 and highly overlapped between sexes (O jk  = 0.97). The results confirm that the stoat in Norway is a generalist predator able to profit on human food refuse found in close proximity to permanent residents and summer cabins.

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We want to thank Odd Sandaker and Jan Hatløy for trapping the stoats in Hemsedal and Hadsel, respectively. The fieldwork was financed by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, and the follow-up work has been funded by Individual mobility grant, EEA Financial Mechanism and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism (FSS/2008/X/D3/W/0014).

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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

IW and KB conceived and designed the experiments. IW performed the experiments. IW, AP and WT analysed the data. KB contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools. AP, IW, KB and WT contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. All analyses were performed with accepted principles of ethical and professional conduct.

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All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Correspondence to Izabela A. Wierzbowska.

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Communicated by: Karol Zub

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Piontek, A.M., Wierzbowska, I.A., Bevanger, K. et al. Comparison of the diet of stoat (Mustela erminea) in relation to sex and season in Norway. Mamm Res 60, 301–307 (2015).

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