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.

By the end of the 20th century polecats had recolonised England as far north as the southern fringes of Manchester, as far south as Wiltshire, and east into Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. A survey conducted during 2004-2006 suggested that the polecat’s main range has continued to expand in central and southern England.

At the start of the 21st century the polecat’s conservation status in Britain is much more favourable 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.



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 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 of polecat distribution as shown by the 2004-2006 survey). In 2014, the VWT launched its third national polecat survey and this is ongoing to the end of 2015.