Animals

By Jos Weale


This is the moment a tiny but ferocious stoat took down a rabbit FOUR TIMES its size and devoured it.

In a move more commonly seen by big cats on the African plains, the pint-sized predator was caught latching onto the poor bunny’s neck while going in for the kill.

PIC BY HOWARD KEARLEY/MERCURY PRESS 

The extremely rare sight was captured by wildlife photographer Howard Kearley, 62, in the lush coastal landscape around Rye, Hastings.

The West Sussex-based photographer had been out on a dog walk when he claims he was alerted to the brutal scene by the rabbit’s harrowing squeals of pain.

Howard, who has been snapping wildlife for ten years, said:  “We were on a trip to Hastings and I was out on a walk with my other half and the dog.

“Then I heard the commotion, the rabbit was squealing really loudly. The screaming and squealing was awful.

“The rabbit was at least four times bigger than the stoat, it looks massive on the photographs.

PIC BY HOWARD KEARLEY/MERCURY PRESS 

“The stoat had hold of the rabbit’s neck and it was trying to run away, but the stoat was latched on. I hadn’t ever seen anything like it before.

“It’s like they instinctively know that the neck is where they will be most vulnerable.

“As it was so big, the stoat couldn’t kill it straight away. It must have taken a few minutes for the rabbit to die.”

Howard says the frantic moment was a prime example of how wildlife snappers need to be prepared to jump into action at any second to bag the best shots.

The sporty photographer claims his own natural instinct kicked in as the scene unfolded and he scrambled into action to document the kill.

Howard said:  “We were walking and taking photos now and again as we went along and it was the rabbit’s squeals that alerted me.

“I jumped down onto my belly with my camera and crawled up to it, and managed to get three shots of the stoat wrestling with the rabbit.

PIC BY HOWARD KEARLEY/MERCURY PRESS

“It all happened so quickly so that it’s all I managed to get before they got away.

“I was really happy to get the shot, but I did feel sorry for the rabbit.”

Howard claims he was surprised to see the stoat, measuring no more than around 30 centimetres long, hunting an animal that was so much larger.

He says sharing one of the pictures on social media recently opened his eyes to stoats’ incredible, but vicious, capabilities.

Howard said: “Those pictures had been sat on my camera for a good while and only recently decided to share one of them on social media.

“I couldn’t believe all the comments – I didn’t know that stoats could do that. Lots of people were saying how they are able to kill rabbits.

“I received lots of compliments from people on the shot.”

And chuffed Howard says he was proud to capture such a rarely seen sight that photographers can often wait years for and never catch.

Howard said: “Usually for things like that you need to be set up like Springwatch, but that was a lucky moment.

“I will often sit for hours to capture something.

“Some photographers often set up shoots for birds, leaving mice out for them and waiting for them to come in for the kill and getting the shots then.

“But with this one you can tell that it’s completely natural and not set up.”