Innovative mammal conservation

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Polecats and Ferrets: How to tell them apart

This leaflet gives the key distinguishing characters that separate polecats, ferrets and their hybrids. Given their close relationship, it is not surprising that it may be very difficult to distinguish them in the field. Reliable ways of telling polecats and ferrets apart is from close examination of the pelage and skull of a specimen and analysis of mitochondrial DNA.


A guide to identifying the small mustelids of Britain and Ireland

The small mustelids are characterised by their long thin body shape, which enables them to follow their prey down small tunnels and burrows. However, because of their similar body shape they can be difficult to distinguish from each other. This guide helps with the identification of the mustelid family.


Quick-start guide to the identification of small mustelids

This ‘quick-start’ guide shows the distinguishing features of members of the small mustelid family in Britain and Ireland, which includes the otter, pine marten, polecat, polecat-ferret, mink, stoat and weasel. It also shows common small mustelid tracks and signs.


Shore, R.F. et al. (2003). Spatial and temporal analysis of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide residues in polecats

Polecats in Britain are currently expanding their range eastwards from Wales to reoccupy central and eastern areas of England. Second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs), to which polecats are exposed by eating contaminated prey, are used more extensively in these central and eastern regions, leading to fears of increased exposure, and possible resultant mortality.


Davison, A. et al. (1999). Hybridization and the phylogenetic relationship between polecats and domestic ferrets in Britain

Ferrets were domesticated from polecats more than 2000 years ago. Following their introduction to Britain, they escaped and hybridized with native European polecats. Native polecats declined to the point of near extinction prior to World War I but have recently begun to expand from a Welsh refugium. Concern has arisen as to the extent of polecat/ferret introgression, and in particular, whether the expanding population is of mainly hybrid origin.

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