The European polecats are a part of the mustelid family and are related to domestic ferrets. They are also known as the common ferret, black or the forest polecat.

The name “polecat” comes from the French “poule chat” meaning “the chicken cat,” referring to polecat hunting and eating chickens. Native to western Eurasia and north Morocco, the polecats are dark brown in colour, with a pale underbelly. They have distinguishable small white-trimmed ears, a white-tipped nose and a lighter bandit-like mask across the face. Compared to minks and other weasels – fellow members of the genus Mustela – the polecat has a shorter, more compact body; a more powerfully built skull and dentition; is less agile; and is known for having the characteristic ability to secrete a particularly foul-smelling liquid to mark its territory.

Like most mustelids, polecats are solitary creatures. They will defend their territory fi ercely, unless a female has young, or is in season. They are primarily nocturnal, though females and their young will forage during the day. European polecats were pronounced vermin during the time of Elizabeth I, and seen as bloodthirsty animals. Threats today are from accidental trapping, as well as secondary poisoning from rodenticides. Currently this species is classifi ed as Least Concern (LC), but its numbers today are decreasing. If you dream about a polecat this is supposed to be a positive sign. These animals are considered a symbol of an upcoming productive and fruitful period in life.

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