Monday, 26 November 2012

European Polecat; Species Profile

No, today's post isn't about the pine marten... the photo above is of one of our female polecats, Velvet.

Polecats are one of seven members of the Mustelid family that can be found living in the wild of Great Britain. The others being the weasel, stoat, American mink, pine marten, otter and rather surprisingly the badger. As with much of our wildlife, the polecat came close to the brink of extinction with only a small number surviving in the wild in Wales. But with recent habitat conservation work, natural progression and in some cases the re-introduction of some of these animals back in to the wild, they are beginning to spread back across the country.

Here are some great facts about Britain's smelliest mammal:-

 - An old English name for the Polecat is "foulmart", due to it's very powerful and pungent smell that it can release from scent glands

 - This is why the term "American Polecat" is often used to describe a skunk

 - Their actual name, polecat, most likely comes from the French "poule chat" meaning "chicken cat", due to the their diet

 - Another old name for the polecat is "fitch" due to the fur they were once hunted for

 - A male polecat is called a "Hob", and female a "Jill" and the youngsters are called "kits"

 - A group of polecats is known as a "chine"

 - Polecats can "lock" their jaw shut when they bite, making it very difficult for prey to escape once caught

 - Although not a large part of their diet, polecats have been known to catch and eat snakes, including adders... it is believed that the polecat may even be immune to the adders venom!

Next post will be about the conservation work we are doing with the European polecat. To find out more about the life and biology of these animals, come and see us over the Christmas period opening when we will be doing a daily keeper talk on the polecat.

And don't forget, this is the last week that you can enter our BWC photo competition...

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