Polecat – Mustela putorius


A member of the weasel family (Mustelids), polecats were once widespread and common throughout mainland Britain. Relentless persecution by gamekeepers up until the late 1930s resulted in extermination everywhere except for a small population in north Wales. They have since recovered and are now found throughout rural Wales, the Border counties and are spreading across to former ranges; the Midlands, South and into the South-East.

They are solitary in nature and active throughout the year. Their favoured habitat is woodland, riverbank and surrounding farmland. They will hunt by night or by day for small rodents, birds and insects using a keen sense of smell to locate their prey.

They emit a pungent musky odour, particularly when threatened. The polecat is the ancestor of the domestic ferret and can interbreed with them.

Origin: Native.
Size: Male length: 55 cm plus 20 cm tail. Female length: 50 cm plus 16 cm tail – about the same size as a ferret.
Description: Sexes alike. Fur long, almost black with purple sheen showing buff undercoat. White markings on face and ears.
Habitat: Favours lowland country below 500m in woodland, marsh, riverbanks, farmland and farm buildings.
Young: One litter of 3 -7 young born May or June after 40 days gestation. Fully grown in 3 months.
Diet: Frogs, water voles, trout, eels, rabbits, snakes and ground nesting birds.
Population: Pre-breeding season estimated to be more than 45,000 and increasing.