Introducing the polecat by Lizzie Croose, the third article from our featured charity, The Vincent Wildlife Trust
Polecat (image: Anne Newton)
The polecat is one of our lesser-known mammals and many people have never seen or even heard of a polecat. The polecat is in fact a native British mammal, a member of the weasel (mustelid) family and related to the stoat, weasel, otter and pine marten. Polecats were once widespread in Britain and were probably the third most common carnivore in Britain during the Mesolithic period, with an estimated population of 110,000 polecats. The species then underwent a severe historical decline as a result of decades of persecution for protection of poultry and demand for their fur. By the early 20th century, the polecat was on the brink of extinction, having been wiped out across most of Britain and confined to a small area of mid Wales, with Shropshire and Herefordshire being the only English counties where polecats clung on. Thankfully, the polecat’s fortunes improved and due to a reduction in persecution, the population has been recovering since the 1930s.
- The national polecat survey: The Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) has carried out three distribution surveys to monitor the polecat’s recovery and changing distribution
- Polecats marching eastwards: The national survey confirmed that polecats are continuing to expand their range and have now re-colonised much of central, southern and parts of eastern England and today are found as far east as Suffolk and Norfolk and as far south as Devon and Cornwall.
- The future for polecats: Today, the picture looks positive for polecats as they continue their comeback across Britain.