Average lifespan: 5 years
When to seeJanuary to December
AboutA member of the mustelid family, which includes the stoat and badger, the polecat is roughly the size of a ferret - its domesticated cousin. Brought to the brink of extinction through persecution, the polecat has been undergoing a recovery recently and can be found in rural Wales and parts of England.
Polecats set up home in lowland wooded habitats, marshes, along riverbanks, or even in farm buildings or dry stone walls. They particularly prey on rabbits and may be found in rabbit burrows. They have one litter of five to ten young a year in early summer.
How to identifyThe polecat has a two-tone coat: dark brown guard hairs cover a buff-coloured underfur. It has a distinct bandit-like appearance, with white stripes across its dark face. It has a short, dark tail and rounded ears. Polecats do sometimes produce young with escaped ferrets; these hybrids tend to have lighter, creamier fur on their back and more white on their faces, extending past their ears.
In our area
The polecats in Shropshire have displaced escaped hybridised ferrets and have been recorded right across the county. Like all members of the mustelid family of mammals (excluding badgers), polecats are unpredictable to spot but can sometimes be seen hunting for rabbits along vegetated river banks and hedgerows. If you do see a polecat, let Shropshire Mammal Group know by emailing the location and time of sighting to smgrecord@gmail,com