©Stuart M Bennett 2010

Mustela putorius

Pole Cat

The Polecat is distributed over the whole of Europe, Northern Asia and Wales, although it is spreading out now into Worcestershire, Cheshire and Staffordshire. There have also been introductions to several areas of Scotland. Confusion with regards to the distribution of this species can arise due to the occurrence of polecat-ferret crosses, which are very similar in appearance to pure polecats. It was once known as the Foul-Mart due to it's strong smell, and it's fur, when stripped off is known as a fitch. It occurs in fields, and on the outskirts of forests, on over-grown hillsides and near rivers and ponds. In the winter it comes in towards human habitation to forage for food and can cause considerable loss among poultry populations. They prey on small mammals, frogs and fish but will also eat rabbits, hares and pheasants...who wouldn't they are very very nice..:) Like it's relations it lives under small piles of stones, in a hollow tree or in an abandoned burrow. The name 'polecat' may derive from the early French expression poule-chat - 'chicken-cat' , a reference to their perceived liking for poultry. When frightened or injured, they can produce a powerful stink from their anal glands.


Male: 15" (38cm) head and body wi a 5.5" (14 cm) tail. Female: is slightly smaller.

Courtship: Mating occurs in March to May and is very rough for the female with the male dragging her all over the place by the scruff of her neck.

Pregnancy: lasts about 40 days.

Litter Size: 4-8 young or kittens (kitts). There is usually only one litter a year. Only around half the litter survives to weaning.

Development: The young are born in June with whitish fur, this is replaced by darker fur within three weeks, they open their eyes at about 5 weeks old and leave the nest when about two months old. Within six weeks they are the same colour as the adults.

Family groups can be seen into late summer but normally polecats are solitary. Polecats can live for up to five years in the wild.

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