Female Polecat

Female Polecat

 
  Last week a large female polecat was found by the A3 under-pass. Unfortunately it had been killed on the road, however this did give us the opportunity to make a close examination.
The Polecat became virtually extinct in this country thanks to over enthusiastic ‘vermin’ control on behalf of poultry keepers and organised shoots. A top predator, the Polecat will make its home in and around rabbit warrens whose inhabitants make up about 85% of their diet. During the winter they may move to farmyards, and rodents.
Over the last 20 years this fascinating creature has been staging a comeback, moving south from strongholds in the north of England and in Wales. Sightings in Hampshire are still rare and very welcome. 
 
Polecat

Polecat

 
 The Polecat is the sole ancestor of the domesticated ferret, and the two are superficially similar.  Lost and abandoned ferrets do turn up in the Park from time to time but they do not generally thrive. However size, colouration, length of coat and general behaviour help tell them apart. Hybridisation does take place and the final and absolute test involves DNA.
For this particular animal all the signs were positive, particularly the white muzzle and chin, one of the best indicators. The weight was 858 grammes and the length 500 mm from the nose to the tip of the tail. 
It is good to know that Polecats have reached the area and hopefully they will soon become a permanent fixture.
 
If you do see anything that looks Polecat like in the general area of the Park, and inevitably this means road kill, then please report it so that we can build a better picture of the local population.       
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