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S38 Ep12

The Mighty Weasel

Premiere: 2/19/2020 | 00:00:35 | Closed Captioning Icon

Discover the truth about the infamous weasel, often associated with unsavory behavior. Do these critters deserve their bad reputation? Follow the adventures of a first-time weasel mom, fearless honey badger and a tiny orphan weasel.



About the Episode

Discover the truth about the infamous weasel family, often portrayed as villains and associated with unsavory behavior. We “badger” people, “ferret” out the enemy and “weasel” out of things. Do these critters deserve their bad reputation? To find out, follow the adventures of first-time weasel mom Bandita, raising her kits in a unique garden, and meet tiny but mighty orphan weasel Twiz on her journey back to the wild. New, ground-breaking science uncovers the problem-solving abilities of the honey badger, the secrets behind the ferret’s legendary flexibility and the wolverine’s remarkable sense of smell. Step into the world of weasels as Nature reveals their real lives. Narrated by Ana Gasteyer.

Noteworthy Facts:

  • The weasel family, also known as mustelids, is one of the most varied animal groups in the world, with about 60 different species found from the Arctic to the tropics.
  • Wolverines are the largest of all land mustelids. Found across the Arctic, wolverines are built to survive in the cold. Their fur is thick and frost-proof and their large padded feet act as snowshoes when traveling up to 20 miles a day across the ice. A wolverine’s supersensitive nose is most crucial to surviving these extreme environments, as it allows them to sniff out prey from deep under the snow.
  • Ferrets have a unique body shape that allow them to spend 90 percent of their time underground. They have an extreme flexibility in their spine due to a unique set of back vertebrae that allows them to make their body 30 percent longer when stretched out. Ferrets’ shorter-than-average limbs allow them to move quickly even when stretched under a tunnel.
  • At only six inches long, the Least weasel is the smallest carnivore on earth. They also have the strongest bite, pound for pound, of any mammal.

Buzzworthy Moments:

  • Nearly a million stoats and weasels live in the British countryside. One stoat enthusiast, wildlife artist and photographer Robert Fuller, transformed his country garden into Stoat City, filled with tunnels, nests, secret chambers and around 50 hidden cameras. One stoat mom named Bandita comes to live in Stoat City to raise her kits. Bandita utilizes the space to protect and play with her kits, gather food and fight against predators like owls over turf.
  • Robert Fuller also created an oasis for the stoat’s smaller cousin, the weasel. Called Weasel Town, it’s a miniature version of Stoat City since weasels are much smaller. Fuller spotted a baby weasel lost during a nest move. Rescued by Fuller and named Twiz, she is nursed to health and raised by Fuller until she is ready to live in Weasel Town.
  • Honey badgers are known for their brawn, but they also have surprisingly large brains for their size. On the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa, researchers use puzzles to test honey badgers’ problem-solving skills, including a challenge to determine if they possess the ability to use tools. They pass each test with flying colors, proving that honey badgers are among the top innovators in the animal kingdom.


































The Arnhold Family
Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III
The Fairweather Foundation
Kate W. Cassidy Foundation
Kathy Chiao and Ken Hao
Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust
Charles Rosenblum
Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation
Rosalind P. Walter
Sandra Atlas Bass
Doris R. and Robert J. Thomas
Bradley L. Goldberg Family Foundation
Corporation for Public Broadcasting





© 2020 BBC


♪♪ NARRATOR: A weasel.

♪♪ How we might describe an untrustworthy person.

It conjures up images of deceit and betrayal.

Members of the weasel family are often portrayed as villains and associated with somewhat unsavory behavior.

We 'badger' people, 'ferret' out the enemy, 'weasel' out of things.

But do they deserve this bad reputation?

Now, with ground-breaking science... And by following the adventures of a wild stoat family... We'll step into the world of weasels -- and finally reveal their true nature.

♪♪ [Theme music playing] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ NARRATOR: The weasel family is also known as the mustelids.

It's one of the most varied animal groups in the world.

The 65 different species are found almost everywhere from the arctic to the tropics.

From the biggest -- the six-foot giant river otter that's adapted to life below the surface... To the smallest -- the tiny two-ounce least weasel that gives this animal family its name.

♪♪ They may look different, but they're united by a special set of skills.

It seems they can conquer anything, from the tallest trees, to snow-topped mountains and raging waters.

They have to survive in a world where predators and prey outsize them.

But whether they're a stoat... ferret... honey badger... weasel... or a wolverine... [ Squeals ] They don't let anything hold them back.

♪♪ Stoats and weasels are native to Britain, and nearly a million roam the countryside.

But to get more than a glimpse of one would be exceptional, because these animals like all of their kind are amongst the most secretive on Earth.

That's what makes this corner of Yorkshire so extraordinary.

It's spring.

A young female stoat is looking for a place to start her family.

This is Bandita.

She will give us a unique chance to follow one of these elusive animals in the wild.

Because even when she disappears, we can still see her.

Bandita lives in a garden unlike any other.

♪♪ FULLER: This may look like an ordinary garden, but it's designed and built all around the lives of stoats and weasels.

♪♪ We've got all sorts of different habitats.

And not only have we got the habitats, we've actually got nearly 50 cameras covering their secret lives.

♪♪ NARRATOR: This is wildlife artist and photographer Robert Fuller.

♪♪ His passion for stoat surveillance knows no bounds.

♪♪ He's spent years creating a whole world for them.

♪♪ FULLER: So the main area of the garden is Stoat City.

Lots of dry stone walling... secret tunnels leading to nests and chambers, and this is a great area for them to run around and explore in.

NARRATOR: Rob has also catered for the stoat's smaller cousin, the weasel.

FULLER: The back garden's Weasel Town, and it's all on miniature scale 'cause the weasels are so much smaller.

They've got hidden nests and even ponds just for the weasels.

NARRATOR: Rob's even built his own underground tunnel so he can watch the stoats without disturbing them.

♪♪ ♪♪ This stoat and weasel wonderland will reveal the hidden lives of these intriguing animals.

Bandita was born here two years ago.

As one of eight kits, she spent her first few weeks with her siblings, cuddled up for warmth in their nest.

[ Kits cooing ] As they fed from their mother's rich milk, they grew quickly.

And after just 12 weeks, were able to live independently.

Now, two years later, Bandita is pregnant and she's come back to Stoat City to start her own family.

FULLER: The body shape changes really significantly.

The pregnancy goes really low down between the back legs.

So she's almost engaged ready to give birth.

NARRATOR: Rob leaves food out for all the wild animals in his garden.

To prepare for her new arrivals, Bandita must stock up on these offerings and find somewhere safe to nest.

Bandita is about to have the toughest few months of her life.

This first-time mother will have to draw on all of the skills the mustelid family are famous for.

One of these is the unflinching ability to take on anything and everything around them.

The boldest of the family takes that to extremes -- the honey badger.

Living in the African bush, they cause havoc wherever they go.

[ Snarling ] Daring and dangerous, they'll face up to lions... hyenas... even venomous snakes.

♪♪ But they don't just have brawn -- they also have surprisingly large brains for their size.

It's even thought that honey badgers might be some of the most intelligent animals on the planet.

But just how clever are they?

♪♪ South Africa, home to the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre -- and a remarkable rescued honey badger called Stoffel.

He became notorious for his ingenious escape antics.

♪♪ JONES: You really wanna know what Stoffel's like?

You want to bring back memories and nightmares?

NARRATOR: Brian Jones runs the center and couldn't believe the extraordinary lengths Stoffel would go to.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ NARRATOR: This certainly suggests brain power but how does it stand up scientifically?

♪♪ Dr. Natalia Borrego studies animal intelligence.

BORREGO: Honey badgers are really cool.

They have these really complex ecological lives, these very broad diets, so they need to climb, they need to dig, they do these behaviors that indicates a high level of intelligence but we haven't actually tested that yet.

NARRATOR: Stoffel's more obliging son, Stompie, and another rescued honey badger, Julius, are taking on the challenge.

This is a specially designed puzzle.

Inside the box will be food covered in honey -- their favorite treat.

To open the door, they must lift the wooden bar.

This tests their problem-solving skills.

♪♪ It might look simple, but this is something they would never see in the wild, so they must be innovative and use their imagination to figure this out.

♪♪ BORREGO: He's trying a bit of everything to try and get in.

♪♪ BORREGO: Well, there you go.

JONES: There you are, he's got it.

Good for you.

Well, I'll be blowed, aye, he's actually done it, aye.


Well done, sir.

♪♪ NARRATOR: Both Julius and Stompie solve this first challenge.

But what happens when it becomes more complicated?

♪♪ BORREGO: A lot of animals have difficulty once they figure out how to achieve a goal in one way, they get kind of stuck on that solution, so we're gonna see if honey badgers are able to change their thinking and not get stuck on that bar solution.

♪♪ NARRATOR: This second challenge tests how adaptable their brains can be.

BORREGO: There is a clear container inside that the food will be in but it's out of reach of the honey badger so they have to figure out to pull the string to get the food.

Do you think they'll be able to solve this one as well?

♪♪ NARRATOR: In the wild, honey badgers eat up to 60 different species.

To hunt this range of food, they have to think flexibly.


He's worked that out.

JONES: Isn't that wonderful that.

Ah, you can't help but love these things, doesn't matter what they do to you.

NARRATOR: So far, the honey badgers have shown problem solving skills and adaptability.

But in the third and final test, can they do something that would mark them as one of the most intelligent animals on the planet -- use tools?

BORREGO: We've hung the box from a tree so the honey badger can't reach it from the top, they can't reach it from the bottom, the only way they can reach it is by dragging either a tire or their cage under it so that they can then step up and reach the food that is inside.

♪♪ If in fact honey badgers can use tools this puts them up there with some of the smartest animals in the animal kingdom, like chimpanzees or elephants, so it would be really exciting.

JONES: Every single one has had that ability to escape, to take an object to the side of the wall and climb out, so definitely the potential is there.

♪♪ BORREGO: So he seems to be just jumping and trying to get to the box but not making that connection that he needs to bring the crate or the tire over.

He really wants it but he just can't seem to figure out how to get to it.

JONES: You see, he knows there's something there.

BORREGO: Mm. He's looking at it.

♪♪ He pushed his crate closer to the box, so that he could then climb on top of the crate and get to the box, which indicates tool use, and it's really exciting.

JONES: Stunning. That is pretty cool.

Yeah, I must say.

♪♪ BORREGO: Giving them this puzzle box is confirming what we've long suspected, that honey badgers are very good at solving problems, that they're very exploratory and adaptable.

From what we've seen, they're up there with the top innovators in the animal kingdom.

NARRATOR: It's this intelligence, often misread as calculated and cunning, that gives these animals an edge in the wild.

♪♪ Back in Stoat City, it's May.

Bandita has given birth but her kits have remained hidden.

Until one morning, when she gave Rob the surprise of his life.

FULLER: I'll never forget the day when we first got the footage of the kits emerging.

♪♪ One by one the kits came out and then we realized there was four kits, and incredible things, 'cause they were actually really strange color, they were white mottled-y color.

This is really rare.

There's very few records of this, right the way across the world.

So we're absolutely delighted that we've got extra-special stoat kits to watch.

NARRATOR: Some stoats turn white or ermine in the winter, to camouflage themselves against the snow.

These kits were born in a cold spell, which could be the cause of their unusual color.

But their first outing doesn't go according to plan.

Inexperienced mom Bandita quickly loses control of her kits.

One falls over the edge of a wall, followed by another.

♪♪ Bandita appears to panic.

♪♪ And instinctively moves her kits away from this danger.

♪♪ She leaves Stoat City, and Rob spots her running into an elm tree down the valley.

♪♪ For now the kits seem okay.

But this move has unwittingly led her into further peril.

This nest site could jeopardize the safety of her vulnerable youngsters.

FULLER: She's got problems here.

She's next to the road and this is also the favorite tree for a family of tawny owls.

The kits are in real danger here of predation.

Not so much her -- she's quite feisty.

But the little kits walking around, they're quite pale and they really stand out in the dark.

This is the road just here, so instead of running up the dale side which is the sensible thing to do she actually goes out onto the road, which is really dangerous.

NARRATOR: To hunt in her usual territory, Bandita risks everything, traveling over 300 feet along the road.

♪♪ ♪♪ FULLER: I've watched her coming up the hill and a van comes down and you're just like, aw, it's just, you're just hoping she spots it, you know hoping they're all gonna be okay.

♪♪ NARRATOR: Will Bandita be able to keep her kits safe in this hazardous location?

Moving kits from nest to nest is one of the mustelids' survival strategies, but it can involve risks.

During the journey kits can become separated from their mom.

Weasels, the smallest of all mustelids and a close relative of the stoat, are particularly vulnerable.

A baby weasel that was lost during a nest move has been spotted and rescued.

She's now in Rob's care.

FULLER: This is quite incredible here, we've got a tiny little female, this is about three weeks old.

Tiny little tail, which obviously tells us it's a weasel rather than a stoat.

At this stage we call them fingerlings, 'cause they are literally the size of your finger.

NARRATOR: By following this orphaned weasel, we can see how she grows up to be a tiny but mighty predator.

Rob names the weasel Twiz.

FULLER: The actual name weasel is to weasel out of a situation.

It has such negative connotations but when you see such a sweet little baby weasel like this it's hard to imagine why you would be negative in anyway, they're absolutely stunning little mammals.

♪♪ NARRATOR: A week has passed.

In these early days, weight gain is vital -- and last week, Twiz weighed just half an ounce.

♪♪ These tiny animals have an extremely high metabolism and have to feed every few hours.

FULLER: That's incredible, she's more than double her weight in one week.

Her fur's grown, her eyes are just about to open any day now.

Her feet are getting more useful, she's able to move around a lot more.

Teeth are coming through now and she's eating meat so she's on a high protein diet, so she's gonna grow really quickly now.

Even though her eyes are still closed, her senses are absolutely astonishing.

She's able to use her sense of smell and find the food.

NARRATOR: This incredible smelling ability is one of this animal family's most valued skills.

♪♪ And one uses this to its fullest potential -- the wolverine.

♪♪ ♪♪ These tough animals are the largest of all land mustelids, and their attitude is even bigger.

♪♪ Found across the arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, wolverines are built to survive in the cold.

♪♪ ♪♪ Their large padded feet act as snowshoes when traveling up to 20 miles a day across the ice.

Their fur is thick and frost-proof, so they can stay warm and dry in sub-zero temperatures.

But it's their supersensitive nose that is crucial to their survival in these extreme environments.

Even sniffing out prey from deep under the snow.

Research suggests that this phenomenal smelling ability is linked to a structure in their skull known as the cribriform plate.

The cribriform plate is located between the nasal cavity and the brain.

It's a bony sieve-like structure with holes, for nerve fibers to pass through.

These nerve fibers carry scent signals from the air to the brain.

The bigger the cribriform plate, and the bigger the holes, the more scent information can travel to the brain.

In wolverines, their cribriform plate is relatively large, which could be the answer to their heightened scenting ability.

♪♪ ♪♪ They've also been known to blow out air to warm and disturb odor particles, causing smells to become stronger and helping them to locate prey.

♪♪ Once they've found the food, their strong jaws and powerful bite enables them to break through a frozen carcass and stash it away from other carnivores.

♪♪ ♪♪ This incredible smelling ability means that wolverines and other mustelids can find the food they need to survive, wherever it is.

That's key to their success in the wild.

♪♪ Orphaned weasel Twiz is now five weeks old.

Her eyes have opened, her hearing is becoming more acute, and she's much more active.

In the wild, Twiz would be playing with the rest of her litter, so Rob takes over this role.

Play is how a weasel would learn how to fight, and to hunt.

FULLER: They use all four limbs to grip the prey items, deliver a real powerful bite then to the back of the neck, but very gentle at this stage, she's only small still, so it's fabulous to see that she's got this instinct in her already.

The little chittering, this is like a contact call.

I've heard this in the wild with wild weasels lots of times and it's, to me it's one of the most beautiful sounds that there actually is.

[ Twiz chittering ] NARRATOR: Twiz must start strengthening her muscles to improve her agility.

And this needs to be done indoors.

FULLER: We're gonna test her strength, agility in a safe environment.

♪♪ NARRATOR: Rob wants to see if Twiz is brave enough to explore, but also cautious enough to hide from any danger.

FULLER: Gotta be always close to cover because they're vulnerable from attack from other predators.

She's heading for cover when she's really unsure, which is a great sign 'cause she needs to be absolutely on the ball when she's out in the wild.

♪♪ NARRATOR: At this age, wild weasel kits would go on day trips with their mom, who would show them how to hunt prey and Rob's got just the thing to help Twiz.

♪♪ FULLER: It'll be an easy target.

In a matter of weeks they'll actually be independent and hunting for themselves.

NARRATOR: Weasels eat anything from birds to voles, so they need to climb and tunnel.

[ Twiz chittering ] FULLER: She's just coming back for a little bit of reassurance, that's what they'll be doing in the wild, going back to their mother and she'll go off again, adventuring.

She's showing great signs.

Yeah, it's great to see.

♪♪ NARRATOR: Stoats and weasels are at their most vulnerable when they are young.

Their early weeks are full of challenges and important life lessons It's now June.

Bandita has brought all four kits back to Stoat City... and they've made their home in one of Rob's specially rigged nests.

The kits are nine weeks old, but worryingly, one clearly isn't thriving.

♪♪ Having a runt in the litter is common.

If they are born smaller, they struggle to compete with their bigger and stronger siblings for food.

And sometimes, the struggle proves too much.

FULLER: Unfortunately it passed away.

It's a difficult thing to watch.

It was quite a sad day really that you realize we've lost one of these really special little stoats.

♪♪ NARRATOR: Despite this sad loss, Bandita still has three kits to care for.

Their appetites are enormous, she has to feed them half their bodyweight every day.

It's a demanding job, so Bandita has to be able to find food in all sorts of places.

♪♪ ♪♪ Her tail is half the length of her body -- great for balance when maneuvering around obstacles.

♪♪ For such a small animal, her jumping ability is incredible.

She can leap up to 10 times her body length.

♪♪ ♪♪ The saying 'to weasel out of something' owes its origin to this animal family's extraordinary agility.

Many of the mustelids are known for their acrobatics.

The Rocky Mountains -- home to one of the most arboreal and agile mustelids of all: the American pine marten.

They're built entirely for life in the trees.

Their long bushy tail keeps them balanced when jumping from branch to branch, and their razor-sharp claws grip tightly into the bark of trees.

They have to hunt up here too, moving swiftly through the branches in pursuit of their prey.

In the springtime they raid birds' nests for eggs.

An easy job with this stationary target.

But for the rest of the year, their prey is on the move.

Their claws are their secret weapon.

Not only do they help them latch on to tree trunks, but they can also partially retract, so the marten can move easily on the ground when an appetizing meal turns up.

Mustelids are so versatile that they can use their agility in many environments.

One species is particularly adept at maneuvers below the ground -- the ferret.

♪♪ They were domesticated from the European polecat over 2,000 years ago.

In the wild these animals hunt in tight and twisty burrows and their entire body can bend one hundred and eighty degrees both vertically and horizontally.

But how are they able to do this?

♪♪ Ohio.

♪♪ Dr. Angela Horner is the world's leading expert in ferret locomotion.

♪♪ HORNER: Ferrets are really neat.

It's almost as though you have an animal in liquid form.

They have a really well adapted body design to move rapidly through a tunnel and change direction quickly, and it has to be small enough to enter a tunnel but large and powerful enough to overpower something when it encounters that in the tunnel.

NARRATOR: This unique body shape is crucial for an animal that spends ninety percent of its time underground.

But being subterranean makes studying ferrets hard.

This Plexiglass tunnel will allow Angela to see how their bodies transform as they enter a burrow.

HORNER: So what I'm looking at here is a special setup designed to let me see what's happening during the transition from above ground conditions to below ground conditions.

We haven't really seen yet how this is happening from the animals' perspective, so that I'm really excited to try this out.

NARRATOR: By filming the ferret in slow motion, Angela can see exactly what the ferret is doing.

♪♪ HORNER: When they're moving around above ground they have an arched back posture.

And as they enter a tunnel, they seamlessly lower that posture in their back until their spine is stretched out.

NARRATOR: This flexibility in their spine is due to a unique set of back vertebrae.

In other animals, protrusions, known as processes, on each segment of the spine stop it from moving too far.

In ferrets, these processes are thinner, creating flexibility and movement.

So their spine can stretch out when they go underground, making their body thirty percent longer.

♪♪ This footage shows how easily the ferrets can transition from above to below ground.

But these animals are predators, so what impact does this maneuver have on the ferret's speed?

The black and white backdrop helps Angela determine how fast the ferrets are traveling across a set distance.

When the footage is lined up, it reveals something completely unexpected.

The ferret barely loses any speed at all when running underground.

♪♪ HORNER: Their shorter than average limbs allow them to still be able to move very well and they aren't restricted in the limb movement in that position.

♪♪ NARRATOR: In most carnivores, the legs and body are about the same length.

But in burrowing mustelids, like the ferret, their legs are only half the length of their body.

♪♪ This means they can run in enclosed spaces without tripping over their own limbs.

♪♪ HORNER: Their limbs have to become more crouched to get into that position but they can manage it just fine.

In fact they do it so well that they barely decrease speed when they're making that transition from above ground to underground, and that's incredible.

♪♪ NARRATOR: The ability to shift so seamlessly between these environments, is just one of the remarkable ways that mustelids have refined their agility to catch prey.

♪♪ Back at Rob's house, Bandita's kits are now 10 weeks old.

So far, most of their days have been spent safely hidden away.

But now they're ready for a trip into Stoat City.

FULLER: I've named them Snap, Crackle and Pop.

Snap's the one, he seems to be a little bit more adventurous on his own.

Pop's the one with the little panda looking eyes, he is a little bit of a mummy's boy, he's always close to Bandita.

Crackle's the female and she's substantially smaller but she's got some real attitude about her, she really holds her own against the boys, fighting, rolling, playing.

NARRATOR: Bandita will need to watch over the kits every moment of this day trip -- it's a big garden and they could get lost.

[ Chittering ] So to keep them close, she makes a special chitter contact call.

[ Chittering ] ♪♪ It's time for a tour of her territory.

♪♪ She shows them the key places they can sleep and hunt.

♪♪ Over the next few weeks, they move on to the next lesson.

Bandita needs to teach them how to hone their chasing and fighting skills.

FULLER: This is really important 'cause this is teaching the kits how to hunt, and they will be hunting dangerous animals.

♪♪ ♪♪ NARRATOR: And it looks like these lessons are also lots of fun.

♪♪ FULLER: The trampoline's a great area for the stoats, they're loving being on there.

♪♪ So they're learning new tricks on there, pouncing, and they also just love the texture of the trampoline, they climb on and they just slide on, pulling themselves along with their front legs.

NARRATOR: After six weeks of intensive training, Bandita's biggest kit, Snap, is ready to go on a special hunting mission.

But Rob's garden is also home to other predators.

They compete with the stoats for food but they could also prey on the young kits.

♪♪ ♪♪ As darkness falls, owls come out to hunt.

♪♪ Bandita and Snap need to fight for their turf.

♪♪ These owls are three times their size, so the feisty stoats are punching well above their weight.

[ Squawking ] ♪♪ ♪♪ Their courage and tenacity means Bandita and Snap are victorious.

They've secured the territory and food for the family.

♪♪ To be truly independent, the kits have one more test -- they need to hunt for their own food.

Fortunately, all stoats have a secret weapon -- an exceptionally strong killing bite.

They can take down a rabbit, an animal five times their size, with one deadly strike.

But the strongest bite, pound for pound, is thought to come from the stoat's cousin -- the least weasel.

♪♪ At only six inches long, the length of a dollar bill they are the smallest carnivore on earth.

♪♪ So could they really have the most powerful bite?

♪♪ ♪♪ In North Carolina, Dr. Adam Hartstone-Rose studies the bite force of carnivores.

♪♪ ROSE: Bite force is actually a combination of three factors.

The first is the length of the jaws, and then the second factor is the amount of force that the muscles can actually put into closing the jaws, and the third factor is the placement of the teeth along those jaws.

The weasel has a relatively short jaw on a relatively long skull.

The jaw is about 50 percent of the length of the skull, and that means that it's able to more efficiently transmit the force into a higher bite force.

NARRATOR: If an animal has a long jaw, the force it produces is lost over the distance it has to travel.

♪♪ When an animal has a short jaw, the force has less distance to travel and to decrease.

♪♪ The shorter the jaw, the greater the force.

But the weasel also has another unique adaptation.

ROSE: For its body size, the weasel has a really long skull and that leaves a really large surface area for the attachment of one of the muscles that closes the jaw and that means that they can produce a lot of bite force for such a little guy.

NARRATOR: Bigger muscles -- or bigger springs -- have a huge impact on the damage a bite can do.

♪♪ The main muscle which closes the jaw is known as the temporal muscle.

It travels from the top of the skull right down to the jaws themselves.

But there's one final factor in the weasel's killer bite.

ROSE: For such a small animal, it actually has really amazing teeth.

So, the canine tooth is really long and sharp and pointy which means that the bite force that is transmitted into these killing teeth is transmitted very powerfully.

♪♪ NARRATOR: As a force disperses across a surface, the pressure at each individual point is shared around.

Concentrate all that same force into a smaller area and the pressure becomes much greater.

This is why the weasel's pointy teeth give them such an edge - all their muscle force is focused into a razor-sharp point.

ROSE: Combining all three parts, the shorter jaws creating better leverage, the large springs representing more powerful muscles, and the sharp teeth to really concentrate all of that force, this really creates the ultimate bite.

♪♪ ♪♪ NARRATOR: Adam's research now reveals that the weasel's bite, pound for pound is stronger than a lion, a tiger, a hyena, or any of the bears.

ROSE: If we were to take this weasel and scale it up to the body size of this huge tiger then what we would find is that the skull would actually be 40 percent longer than the tiger skull, and 20 percent wider.

NARRATOR: Their muscles would be much bigger, and their teeth longer and sharper.

ROSE: And so that would really make this essentially a super-predator.

Imagine what it would be like to be chased by one of these fearsome predators.

♪♪ NARRATOR: This amazing bite force is what makes weasels one of the most unparalleled predators on the planet.

♪♪ ♪♪ In Weasel Town, rescued weasel Twiz is showing all the signs that she too could be a successful hunter.

She's now ready to move into an outdoor enclosure and become more independent.

FULLER: It's really crucial for her that we get her thinking she's a weasel rather than part of a human family.

♪♪ This will be one of the last times I handle her.

Fabulous little animal.

A real character.

♪♪ I'm gonna miss her you know.

It is gonna be difficult to let her go.

♪♪ She looks quite happy so I think we'll just leave her now to explore her new area.

♪♪ NARRATOR: After a few weeks of independence, Rob feels Twiz is ready for the next milestone.

FULLER: She's an excellent climber, she tunnels, so I think she's really at the stage now where she's ready to be released into the wild.

♪♪ There we go, the door's open, so we'll wait and see.

NARRATOR: Twiz takes some cautious steps towards freedom.

FULLER: She's, uh, going really slowly, investigating everywhere, sniffing.

NARRATOR: For now at least, she joins the other weasels of Weasel Town.

♪♪ FULLER: I've done my best to teach Twiz everything I can to become a wild weasel, and it's really exciting to see how she's getting on.

♪♪ ♪♪ NARRATOR: Across the garden in Stoat City, Bandita's kits are also ready to leave home.

♪♪ Bandita has done whatever it took to keep her kits safe.

♪♪ This first-time mother has nurtured them, and fought to keep them fed.

♪♪ She's taught them everything she knows.

And they've had some fun along the way.

Rob's garden has revealed a unique insight into their lives but more than anything, it's been a safe-haven for this family to thrive.

FULLER: I'm really proud of Bandita.

She's raised these three really strong, independent stoats, ready to go forth and find new territories.

NARRATOR: As the kits reach adulthood, they will seek out new areas to live alone.

♪♪ It's been a challenging few months but Bandita's job is finally done.

She can now enjoy some well-earned rest in Stoat City.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ O0 C1 ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪


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