Mustela putorius

  1. Wildlife
  2. Mammals
  3. Polecat


A member of the Mustelid family, which includes the Stoat and Badger, the Polecat is roughly the size of a Ferret - its domesticated cousin. Numbers seriously declined in the early 20th century, reaching their lowest ebb in the 1950s. They were considered to be a pest of game and poultry and were persecuted. However, Polecats have been undergoing a recent recovery and can be found in rural Wales and parts of England. Polecats set up home in lowland wooded habitats, marshes, along riverbanks or even in farm buildings or dry stone walls.

How to identify

Polecats have a two-tone coat: dark brown guard hairs cover a buff-coloured underfur. They have a distinct bandit-like appearance with white stripes across their face. Polecats do cross with escaped Ferrets; crosses tend to have lighter, creamier fur on their back and more white on their faces, extending past their ears. Polecats have short, dark tails and rounded ears.

Where to find it

Found in Wales, parts of Scotland and parts of England including Avon, the South East, South Cumbria, as far north as Cheshire and as far east as Leicestershire.


When to find it

  • January
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  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Persecuted to the brink of extinction, Polecats have been making a comeback since they received legal protection and because their favourite food - the Rabbit - is on the increase. Threats continue today, however, with accidental trappings, road deaths and cross-breeding with escaped Ferrets. If you think you've spotted a Polecat, let your local Wildlife Trust know as they will be keen to hear about sightings of rare animals. And you can help this species continue its comeback by supporting The Wildlife Trusts: join us today.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Mustela putorius
Length: 40cm plus a tail of 15cm Weight: 1kg Average lifespan: 5 years
Conservation status
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, and classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.