Stoat-ally great BBC show stars wildlife artist

The main thread of the Weasels: Feisty and Fearless programme is based at Robert Fuller's gallery in Thixendale.
The main thread of the Weasels: Feisty and Fearless programme is based at Robert Fuller's gallery in Thixendale.

Former Woldgate School pupil and talented wildlife artist Robert Fuller is set to star in a BBC Natural World programme.

The show, entitled Weasels: Feisty and Fearless, will air this Friday (October 25) at 8pm on BBC Two.

The main thread of the Weasels: Feisty and Fearless programme is based at Robert Fuller's gallery in Thixendale.

The main thread of the Weasels: Feisty and Fearless programme is based at Robert Fuller's gallery in Thixendale.

The programme, developed by the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol, is narrated Dame Julie Walters.

It’s a one hour documentary about the weasel family (which includes stoats, ferrets, badgers, wolverines, honey badgers, pine martens, etc.) and hopes to change the public’s perception of these animals that are often known as the ‘baddies’ of the natural world.

The main thread of the documentary is set at Mr Fuller’s gallery in Thixendale and follows a stoat family throughout the year as a new stoat mum Bandita raises her very first litter.

A spokesman for the BBC said: “Robert is an amazing advocate for wildlife.

“He is a stoat and weasel fanatic and has created an entire wonderland for these animals in his garden, which includes areas such as ‘Stoat City’ and ‘Weasel Town’ where the wild stoats and weasels live.

“They play on his children’s climbing frame, steal eggs from his vegetable garden and even fight the owls for food. These areas are rigged with over 50 mini cameras so he can watch what they all get up to and follow their adventures.”

Mr Fuller said: “I started a serious study of stoats and weasels in 2014, after spotting a family of stoats in my garden.

“I wanted to learn and see more of these elusive and secretive mammals. I always try to really understand a species before I begin painting.”

“Stoats and weasels are difficult to watch closely. I have surveillance cameras positioned throughout my garden so I can follow them through their territory. I also listen out for bird alarm calls to alert me to their presence.

“Birds have particular calls that they make when there is a ground predator.

“Once I know there is a stoat or a weasel about I use old fashioned tracking skills. If you look carefully at the way the dew has been knocked off the grass in the early morning, you can follow the path a stoat or a weasel has just taken.

“I worked out their regular runs by looking at how the grasses were bent over; grass has a different sheen to it if it has been continually pushed over. In the snow it is even easier because you can see their tracks.

“As far as I know, I am the only person in the world to have filmed inside wild stoat and weasel nests, recording them as they raise their families. It has been a fascinating journey.

“I’ve learned that both animals are surprisingly arboreal - they can climb trees as well as any squirrel.

“They also love water. It has been amazing to watch them swim and dive under water so competently they are like mini otters.”