Polecat (Mustela putorius)

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.

Today, polecats have spread out from their historical stronghold in mid Wales and have recolonised much of southern and central England and have recently reached parts of south-west and eastern England. There are also polecats present in north-west England and parts of Scotland (Perthshire, Argyll and Caithness) originating from reintroductions.

The polecat’s conservation status in Britain is much more favourable today than it was a hundred years ago. Provided that no new serious threats emerge to halt the current recovery, it seems likely that the polecat will become widely re-established in mainland Britain.


Our work

The general lack of awareness and understanding of the recovery of this species 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.

The Trust has completed three national polecat distribution surveys to monitor the range expansion of polecats, the most recent of which was carried out during 2014 and 2015. The report on this survey and an up-to-date distribution map will be published shortly. The map on the right shows polecat distribution as shown by the previous distribution survey in 2004-2006.


Useful links

Banner photograph: Polecat © Anne Newton