Animals

Did You Know? 17 Incredible European Polecat Facts

European polecat facts about the ancestor of the domestic ferret.
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The European polecat is commonly recognized by its scientific name, Mustela putorius. They are slender mustelids with compact bodies and powerful jaws who were originally bred around 2000 years ago to hunt vermin. As per European polecat taxonomy, they are native dwellers of North Africa and Western Eurasia. European polecats (mustela putorius) are a voracious group of carnivore organisms. The morphologically glossy, dark and thick winter coating of these organisms in combination with their black-brown and light coloring, beady eyes, and dark masked face make the members of the European polecat species adorable sights to behold. However, showing biannual shedding, these mustelids possess thinner and faded coats in the summer season. The domesticated descendants of Mustela putorius, that is, ferrets, are well-recognized pet options.

Like weasels, European polecats have short legs and a wide head. Read on to learn and discover some interesting facts about these members of the mustelid European polecat progenitor species. After reading  these interesting European polecat facts, do check our other articles on zonkey facts and klipspringer facts as well.

European Polecat

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Rodents, rabbits, birds, amphibians and reptiles

What do they eat?

Carnivores

Average litter size?

5-10 offspring

How much do they weigh?

Male: 35.27-52.91094 oz (0.99 - 1.49 kg) Female: 22.92-28.74 oz (0.64 - 0.81 kg)

How long are they?

Male: 14-18 in (35.56 - 45.72 cm)

Female: 12–16 in (30.48 - 40.64 cm)

How tall are they?

N/A

What do they look like?

Orange body, black tipped tail; coat molts to silver-gray in winter

Skin Type

Fur coat

What are their main threats?

Habitat loss, predators

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Fresh water, wetlands, grasslands

Locations

Western Eurasia and North Africa

Kingdom

Animalia

Class

Mammalia

Scientific Name

Mustela putorius

Family

Mustelidae

Genus

Mustela

European Polecat Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a European polecat?

The domesticated European polecat (mustela putorius) is a slender and weasel-like member of Mustelid species. These wild animals are in fact the designated ancestors of domesticated ferrets.

What class of animal does a European polecat belong to?

The European polecat belongs to class of small mammals or mammalia; that is, organisms that are recognized by the presence of milk-producing mammary glands, anatomically designed for the nourishment of their young ones. European polecat's body is covered with hair, they are viviparous and warm blooded animals.

How many European polecats are there in the world?

There are no exact details about the total population of European polecats. However, these members of the mustelid family are categorized as a least concern species in the IUCN Red List. The above estimation is based on the wide-ranged population of the ancestors of domestic ferret.

Where does a European polecat live?

Mustela Putorius are dwellers of wetlands. European polecat population can primarily be located along the marshes, scrub trees, sand dunes,  edge of forest plantation, woodlands, and freshwater bodies.

What is a European polecat's habitat?

European polecats are native wildlife residents of North Africa and Western Eurasia and European polecat natural territory size is vast. The European polecat ecosystem and population of these mustelids can be traced to low ranges along the British isle (due to human interference). However, the population is increasing but steadily. These animals can be found across various North American zoos who have actively reintroduced ferrets back into the wild since 1990.

Who do European polecats live with?

Keeping up with the general behavior of most mustelids, European polecats also exhibits solitary behavioral traits. These wild organisms are highly territorial, except during the breeding season. Enjoying major isolation, the members of the wildlife European polecat species are primarily active during the nights. However, females and their offspring are known to forage during bright lights.

How long does a European polecat live?

The European polecat lifespan ranges between 10-14 years; that is, these mustelids are known to retain the longevity of about six years in the wildlife. Whereas, in captivity, European polecats enjoy a lifespan of about 14 years.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding cycle and mating in European polecats generally takes place during the winter season. European polecats exhibit no courting rituals. The females make a nest in hay or inhabit rabbit burrows to raise their young. The male grabs the potential female in order to stimulate the process of ovulation in the oestrous female.  Mustela putorius are polygamous, mating with multiple partners. The male mounts the female for insemination which may last for about an hour. Insemination is followed by fertilization, that is, the fusion of male and female gametes leading to zygote formation. Following a gestation period of about 40-43 days, the female gives rise to a litter size of about 7-10 young ones. Maternal care lasts for about 3 months in these organisms, wherein the female is highly and fiercely protective of its infant. The infants attain full maturity by the age of six months.

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature and forest) Red List, the European marbled polecat populations have been categorized under the conservation status of Least Concern species. Therefore it can be safely predicted that the global population of European polecats is quite steady and stable. As the historic European polecat Britain range of habitat is being restored where the population declined due to historical predator control as well as gamekeeping and sporting estates related persecution. In Britain, the polecat now enjoys legal protection under Schedule 6 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, that barrs specific methods of killing the animal. It is safe to assume that these animals face no existential threats in immediate future and the population will continue to thrive in the natural habitat.

European Polecat Fun Facts

What do European polecats look like?

European polecats are slender mustelids with compact builds and bushy, short tails. Populations of these mustelids members possess a wide skull with comparatively stronger dentition. That is, the teeth are powerful and large. European polecats possess anatomically short legs. Their eyes are dark and brown-toned, embedded in a small but broad fascial region. European polecat populations possess a morphological color band on their face; that is, shades of dark and white tones forming simultaneous bands are observed, with the area around their eyes lodged in darker shades. The fur coats of European polecats exhibit seasonal adaptation.

During the winter, the fur of European polecats exhibits smooth and lustrous characteristics and are comparatively thicker. Whereas, following a periodic shedding, the coat of Mustela putorius takes on a thinner and faded appearance. The European polecat possesses a brown or black underbelly along with a combination of dark and light tones (generally black or brownish guard hair with yellowish, grey, or white underfur) that can be observed on the back of these mustelids. Mutation in the color range is observed in the populations of this species. Albinos and Erythrists are mutation shades that are commonly observed in the members of the Mustela Putorius species.

European polecats can feed on fruits and insects if other food sources are scarce.

How cute are they?

On a scale of five, with their slender and bushy appearance, dark beady eyes, and glossy fur, the members of European polecat can easily score a four for their cute looks. However, these mustelids are quite infamous for their territorial fierceness and production of a characteristic foul-smelling liquid European polecats emit to mark their domains.

How do they communicate?

The communication in European polecat is largely based on their visual and olfactory senses. European polecats largely depend on their senses of smell and visual receptions to track and hunt. Mewling sounds are produced by European polecats to communicate with their mates.

How big is a European polecat?

The average length of European polecat ranges between 12-20 in (30.48-50.8 cm). Sexual dimorphism can be observed in mustela putorius; that is, the male members of the species are larger than their female counterparts. Male members generally range between 14-20 in (35.56 - 50.8 cm) of body length, whereas female members lie somewhere between  12-16 in (30.48 - 40.64 cm).

How fast can a European polecat run?

There are no exact details about the running speed of European polecats. However, these members of the mustelid family show average agility and are not particularly fast. In fact, European polecats can be outrun by an average athlete.

How much does a European polecat weigh?

The average weight of European polecat ranges between 35-52 oz (0.99-1.47 kg). The male members of the species can be twice the size of their female counterparts. The weight of male European polecat ranges between 35.27-52.91 oz (0.99-1.49 kg) , where the adult female ranges between 22.92-28.74 oz (0.64-0.81 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no specific name allotted to European polecats based on their sex. The males are referred to as male European polecats while females are referred to as female European polecats.

What would you call a baby European polecat?

The young ones of European polecat are referred to as kits, offspring, or juvenile. European polecats are known to create hybrids also by breeding with other polecat species.

What do they eat?

European polecat diet is carnivorous; that is, they feed and prey on other organisms for their diet survival on any season. The diet of European polecats includes rodents, birds (chicken, quail, pigeon, etc.), rabbits, and amphibians (such as frogs, green toads). In the dire circumstances of scarce availability of food, the members of the Mustela putorius species are also known to survive on insects and fruits in different seasons.

Are they dangerous?

No, but an albino European polecat is particularly dangerous until and unless one happens to be their domestic prey. These wild animals show silent and isolated behavioral traits and are rarely aggressive. However, when provoked continuously, they may emit distressed squeaks and bite to defend themselves.

Would they make a good pet?

A European polecat pet is not a good choice, as it is a solitary animal and is not really high on their socializing skills. These domestic members of the mustelidae family don’t really appreciate the company and therefore are not attractive options as pets. However, their descendant relatives, the ferrets, prove to be wonderful options as pets.

Did you know...

Besides its scientific nomenclature mustela putorius, the European polecat is also allocated the designation of the forest polecat or the black polecat.

Scientific name Mustela Putorius is derived from the foul smell produced by this species. The scientific name translates to stench and is the origin for the English word putrid.

When you compare, European polecat vs ferret, there are various differences which you might notice despite all the similarities between a polecat and a ferret. In fact, ferrets are popularly known as domesticated polecats. Polecats have larger heads than the domestic ferret and the coat color of ferrets is also quite different than polecats.

In order to mark their territorial presence, the females and males members of the mustela putorius emit fetid liquids.

Domestic European polecat pelt is common and hunting for the European polecat mink is quite widespread.

A polecat, after scaring away its enemy, secretes a foul liquid that keeps everyone at bay. As a result, European Polecats have been used as a symbol of foul-smelling people in the US since the 1680s.

After its enemy runs away, a polecat is known to rest proudly at its territory.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these striped polecat facts and mink facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our bobcat coloring pages.

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