Polecat - Mustela putorius


Males 33 to 45cm, females 32 to 39cm. It has blackish guard hairs (appearing as the outer coat) and yellow under fur on the body, giving ‘black and tan’ appearance. Banded “bandit” face, dark mask reaches to tip of nose with no white band. Tip of nose dark. Darker legs and belly with no white patches. Fluffy tail is 12 to 19cm long.

Identification difficulty

In England, farmland with hedgerows and small woods is preferred.

When to see it

All year round.

Life History

May live up to 14 years in captivity, probably five years in the wild. In summer, rabbits are a major food, and polecats are slender enough to hunt them within their burrows. In winter, common rats become a favoured food, and sites with good rat populations become usual habitats. Birds may be taken and frogs may be important in spring, when gathered to spawn.

UK Status

Polecats are found throughout Wales where valleys and farms are favoured, the midlands and parts of central southern England, and are spreading steadily from these areas. There are isolated populations in Cumbria and Caithness, which probably result from unofficial releases. Once, polecats were widespread throughout Great Britain, but were nearly exterminated by 1915.

VC55 Status

Rare in Leicestershire and Rutland.

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map