There has been a change of attitude towards the polecat by farmers and foresters who now welcome them as they benefit from its voracious appetite for a variety of rodents and rabbits.
Amazing Facts About the Polecat
- The European polecat, also known as the black or forest polecat, is a species of Mustelid native to western Eurasia and North Africa.
- Polecats have a thick, silky and attractive brown fur with a pale yellow underbody. Their coat moults to silvery-grey in winter for camouflage.
- They have distinguishable small white-trimmed ears, a white-tipped nose and a lighter bandit-like mask across the face,
- With a long tail and short legs they are somewhat larger than weasels but smaller than otters.
- It is the sole ancestor of the ferret, which was domesticated over 2000 years ago for the purpose of hunting animals classed as ‘vermin’.
- The male polecat is one and a half times heavier than the female. He usually takes the larger prey, leaving the smaller animals for his mate.
- Males are very territorial. They patrol regularly and defend their territory against other male polecats. The female ranges over a smaller area and her territory may overlap with that of another female or male.
- Both sexes mark territories with an oily, yellow musk, which has a pungent smell. The polecat also uses this as a defence if it is frightened or angry.
- While breeding, the male polecat drags the unresisting female round by the scruff of her neck for as long as an hour before mating commences. This courtship ritual encourages her to produce her eggs and usually guarantees fertilization. The pair will then mate several times during the next hour.
- Female polecats can give birth to as many as ten young in a nest of dry grass and moss. The female suckles her litter for a month or more and brings them small pieces of meat, which they chew and suck before they are weaned.
- Young polecats are about a month old before they open their eyes and they will then follow their mother out of the nest to begin exploring their surroundings. After another two months, under the watchful eye of the mother, they will learn to play, explore and hunt and are sufficiently well developed to begin to fend for themselves.
- The polecat was almost wiped out in Britain by gamekeepers at the end of the nineteenth century, but this solitary, night-time hunter is now making a comeback.
- There has been a change of attitude towards the polecat by farmers and foresters who now welcome them as they benefit from its voracious appetite for a variety of rodents and rabbits.
- In the past polecat fur has been sought after by hunters for the fur trade, however, public opinion has largely turned against the wearing of wild-trapped furs, seeing it as cruel.
- Type: Mammal
- Diet: Carnivore
- Lifespan: 4-5 years
- Size: 35-50 cm in length (males larger than females)
- Weight: 0.7-1.5 kg (males heavier than females)
- Habitat: Lowland areas, marshes, forest plantations, wooded areas, riverbanks, sea cliffs and sand dunes.
- Range: Europe and Morocco.
- Scientific name: Mustela putorius