Striped Polecat

Striped Polecat

African polecat, Zoril, Zorille, Zorilla, Cape polecat, African skunk

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Suborder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Ictonyx striatus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
13-14 yrs
WEIGHT
0.6-1.3 kg
LENGTH
60-70 cm

Striped polecats are carnivorous mammals that live in dry and arid climates of Africa. Their coloring usually varies by location. Generally, they are black on the underside, white on the tail, with stripes running from their heads down their backs and on their cheeks. The legs and feet are black. They have unique face mask coloring, often including a white spot on their head, and white ears. These masks are thought to serve as warnings to potential predators.

No

Nocturnal

Ca

Carnivore

In

Insectivores

Te

Terrestrial

Pr

Predator

Al

Altricial

No

Nomadic

So

Solitary

No

Not a migrant

S

starts with

Distribution

Geography

Striped polecats are found in Central, Southern, and sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the Congo basin and the more coastal areas of West Africa. They live in savannahs, grasslands, shrubland, rocky areas, woodlands, forests, and even deserts. They also frequently visit agricultural areas such as plantations and croplands.

Striped Polecat habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Striped polecats are terrestrial and active year-round. They are solitary creatures and typically only associate with other members of their species in small family groups or for the purpose of breeding. They are nocturnal and hunt mostly at night. During the day they will burrow into the brush or sleep in the burrows of other animals. Striped polecats are aggressive and very territorial animals. They mark their territory with their feces and through an anal spray. The spray also serves as a defense against predators, in a similar manner to skunks. The spray temporarily blinds their enemies resulting in an intense burning sensation. Before spraying the opponent with this noxious fluid, the Striped polecat will often take a threat stance with its back arched, rear end facing the opponent, and tail straight up in the air. Striped polecats communicate with each other using various verbal signals and calls. Growls are used to act as a warning to possible predators, competitors, or other enemies to back off. High pitched screams are usually used in situations of high aggression or accompanying the spraying of anal emissions. An undulating high to low pitched scream has been used to convey surrender or submission to an adversary. Conversely, a quieter undulating call has been interpreted as functioning as a friendly salutation. Young polecats often have a specific set of calls and signals, used when they are in adolescence, either signifying distress or joy depending on if the mother is absent or present.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Striped polecats are carnivores. They feed on various small rodents, snakes, birds, amphibians, and insects.

Mating Habits

REPRODUCTION SEASON
spring-late summer
PREGNANCY DURATION
4 weeks
BABY CARRYING
1-5 kits
INDEPENDENT AGE
18 weeks
FEMALE NAME
jill
MALE NAME
hob
BABY NAME
kit

Striped polecats breed from spring and until late summer. After mating the gestation period lasts about 4 weeks. During this time the female prepares a nest for her offspring which are born blind, deaf, and naked. Around 1 to 5 kits are born per litter in the summer season. However, the mother is able to support up to 6 young at one time because she has a six milk-producing breast. The kits stay with their mother until 18 weeks of age when they are able to survive on their own. Reproductive maturity is achieved between 20 and 30 weeks old.

Population

Population threats

Striped polecats are not considered endangered at present. They are sometimes killed by farmers for preying on poultry and suffer predation by domestic dogs.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Striped polecat is common throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The other common name of the Striped polecat is zorilla. This name comes from the word "zorro", which in Spanish means "fox".
  • Striped polecats belong to the family Mustelidae, which also includes weasels, badgers, otters, ferrets, martens, minks, and wolverines.
  • The family Mustelidae is one of the oldest. Mustelids first appeared about 40 million years ago, roughly coinciding with the appearance of rodents. The common ancestor of modern mustelids appeared about 18 million years ago.
  • Striped polecats have 34 sharp teeth which aid them in shearing flesh and grinding meat.
  • Due to their small stomachs, Striped polecats must eat often; they have clawed paws that help them dig around in the dirt in pursuit of their next meal.

References

1. Striped Polecat on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Striped_polecat
2. Striped Polecat on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/41646/45212491

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