European polecats belong to the mustelid family and are related closely to domestic ferrets. Their slender body is weasel-like, with short legs and a wide head. The males are much bigger and heavier than the females, but otherwise, the genders have the same general appearance, their coat being buff to black, with a white mask around their face. In winter their coat is thick, glossy, and lustrous, but in summer it thins out and looks somewhat faded.
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
A burrow is a hole or tunnel excavated into the ground by an animal to create a space suitable for habitation, temporary refuge, or as a byproduct ...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Predators are animals that kill and eat other organisms, their prey. Predators may actively search for or pursue prey or wait for it, often conceal...
Polygyny is a mating system in which one male lives and mates with multiple females but each female only mates with a single male.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
European polecats are native to North Africa and western Eurasia. They live in lowland areas, being found in marshes, wooded areas, edge of forests, riparian zones, wetlands, shrubland, grasslands, coastal areas, and agricultural land.
Like most mustelids, polecats are solitary creatures. They will defend their territory fiercely, unless a female has young, or is in season. They are primarily nocturnal, though females and their young will forage during the day. In winter polecats are less active, emerging during the day more often than in summer. European polecats have a settled way of life and have definite home ranges, which vary according to habitat, season, gender, and social status. A male will typically have a larger territory than a female. Each individual uses a few den sites throughout its territory. Sometimes abandoned Red fox or European badger burrows are also used. Like other mustelids, European polecats are usually silent animals, though they growl fiercely when angry, and squeak when distressed. They also make a low, mewling cry to their mate or offspring.
European polecats are polygynous, with each male mating with several females. Breeding takes place in winter. One litter per year is usually produced, though, if a litter is lost, a female may give birth a second time that season. 3-7 young are born following 42 days of gestation, and weaning takes place after one month. Mothers care for their offspring until they are about 3 months old and adult size. European polecats reach reproductive maturity after 1 year of age.
European polecats were pronounced vermin during the time of Elizabeth I and seen as bloodthirsty animals. Threats today are from accidental trapping, as well as secondary poisoning from rodenticides. Other threats include changes in land use (like hedge removal), road deaths, and crossbreeding with feral species, which threatens their genetic integrity.
No estimate of population size is available for European polecats, but it's believed to be large due to its wide distribution. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC), but its numbers today are decreasing.
Polecats are important in the ecosystems where they live as predators of small mammals.