Stoats and the wildlife cameraman

Stoats and the wildlife cameraman

Just a few words about stoats and the wildlife cameraman.  I have a friend called John Keeling. John is a countryman through and through. Over the years he has developed some sort of affinity to the weasel clan.  The badger is a member of the weasel family.  So are weasels and stoats.

Stoat – still frame from video by John Keeling

John has often spoken to me about stoats and the wildlife cameraman. The chances of seeing a stoat on your average country walk are practically zero.  John has a very high success rate.  Some of his footage of stoat behaviour is remarkable if not unique. Why? Field craft is the answer.  Field craft cannot be learned from books, and some people cannot learn it at all.  It’s about a lifetime of being outdoors, listening, hearing and identifying subtle sounds.  Seeing, recognising and interpreting small changes in behaviour. John is brilliant at it.

Being able to film a stoat can happen by luck, but it is rare, and you have to be in the right place.  You obviously have to be there at the right time. What do you do then if you have one day in which to film a stoat?  It doesn’t matter what it’s doing, just nice shots of a stoat. If you can find a den with young, great, but it’s past the breeding season.  That isn’t an option.

I’m working on a series at the moment in which good research worked. We’re filming on The Great Orme, North Wales.  The researcher had been told of a location where stoats ‘had been seen’. Often this type of information is plain incorrect, or one was seen years ago.  In this instance he thought the information was genuine. He set up camera traps and watched over several days. Lo and behold a stoat appeared.  It not only appeared but chased and killed a rabbit in front of him.  I suggest that if there are gods they were smiling that day. One day later we turned up at the same location, sat, waited, and filmed a nice sequence of a young stoat tearing around a disused mine site.  At one point it rolled around in some moss, just playing by the look of it. I count myself very fortunate to have witnessed this and to have filmed it.

Stoats are lightning fast. Why doesn’t someone employ me to film sloths or something?