European Polecat

Latin Name Mustela putorius putorius
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Mustelidae
IUCN status Least concern
Habitat Lowland areas below 500m woods, forest, riverbanks, sand dunes and farms
Distribution Throughout Europe and Northern Africa but absent in Ireland

General Information

A solitary and mainly nocturnal animal with a dark brown pelage and cream underbelly. It has a distinctive dark banded facial mask. Polecats hunt for small rodents, birds and amphibians.

Young are born in early summer in a litter of 2 to 5 kits.

The European Polecat is slowly increasing in numbers and range in the UK after rigorous persecution by gamekeepers.

Fun Fact

Polecat actually derives from the nickname ‘Poulet-chat’ from the French meaning Chicken-Cat (hencat or poultry-cat) as wild polecats have a habit of breaking into chicken farms. Then farmers realized they could encourage these creatures to keep the rats away and they became quite friendly … the beginning of the domestic ferret!

Keeper Notes

Over the years the Park has been involved with the UK Polecat Studbook. We aim to keep pure bloodlines for captive breeding because the wild population of polecats was in decline the UK.

Recently, the Polecat population appears to be recovering and we now have two non-breeding pairs.