on the trail of the polecat
The Vincent Wildlife Trust has launched its next national polecat survey, to run from 2014 to 2015, and needs your help to gather up-to-date information on the current distribution of the polecat in Britain. See the flier in the Downloads section.
The polecat is a native British mammal and a member of the mustelid (weasel) family, which includes otter, stoat and weasel. Polecats are generally dark in colour with a striking mask-like pattern of dark and light fur on the face. The polecat is closely related to the ferret and escaped or feral ferrets may breed with wild polecats to produce wild polecat-ferret hybrids, which are generally paler in appearance than true polecats. Polecats are mainly nocturnal and solitary and the most common evidence of their presence is the bodies of animals killed on roads.
The polecat population suffered a severe decline due to historical persecution and became confined to mid-Wales by the early 20th century. The population slowly recovered during the 20th century and polecats are now widely distributed in Wales and central England, with outlier populations in northern England and Scotland. This recovery was documented by distribution surveys carried out by The Vincent Wildlife Trust in the 1990s and 2004-2006.
The Trust is keen to receive any records of polecats, polecat-ferrets or feral ferrets, dead or alive, from anywhere in mainland Britain. Ideally, records should be validated by photographs to allow the animals to be identified. The Trust will also be collecting muscle samples from carcasses for genetic analysis, to investigate hybridisation between polecats and polecat-ferrets.