The polecat (Mustela putorius) is of considerable conservation significance in Britain. This is particularly so because of its current recolonisation of many areas of lowland Britain from which it was trapped to extinction at the end of the 19th century.

Our Research

The general lack of awareness and understanding of this recovery, and the paucity of information on the status, distribution and behaviour of polecats in the recently colonised areas, prompted the VWT to initiate a number of conservation-centred studies on the species. This included looking at the relationship between wild polecats and feral ferrets. For more information about the polecat please visit our Free downloads page.

The Trust has undertaken two national polecat distribution surveys, one during the 1990s and a second one in 2004-2006, which monitored the range expansion of polecats and polecat-ferrets (see map below of polecat distribution as shown by the 2004-2006 survey). See our publications page for the reports published on these surveys. Until 2010 the Trust ran an annual Polecat Abundance Monitoring Survey every autumn, using volunteers to record live or dead polecats seen whilst driving.

Records of polecats (green) and polecat-ferrets (yellow) 2004-2006 

National Polecat Survey- We need your help!

The Trust is embarking on its third national polecat survey, to run from 2014 to 2015, to gather up-to-date information on the distribution of the polecat in Britain and investigate hybridisation between polecats and polecat-ferrets. Please see here for information on how to submit records to us and further information on the survey. 


If you have seen a polecat or feral ferret anywhere in mainland Britain, please send us the record to contribute to our survey.