Ferret Relations: The European Polecat

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It’s September and this month we’re going to explore the close relations of our furry ferret friends. In particular, their relations in the wild.  

We’ve already covered the fact that there is no such thing as a wild ferret. There are, in fact, only feral ferrets. For that reason, we will be looking at ferrets’ closest cousins and where they came from.  

We’ll look at European Polecats, Step Polecats, Black-Footed Ferrets and European Mink.  

European Polecats

Our domesticated ferrets come from European Polecats. Polecats generally have a shorter, more dense body than some of the other mustelids like stoats and weasels. They also have quite dark guard hairs. Their undercoats are generally a white colour and they have a wide head.  

While Polecats are more powerful, they are also slightly less agile. To compensate, they have really strong teeth. When they catch and eat prey, they pierce the prey’s skull with their canine teeth, paralysing the prey, which they drag into their lair, hole or burrow. They then leave it there – a kind of refrigeration – until they’re ready to eat it.  

Polecats are capable of emitting a really foul-smelling scent to mark their territory. Ferrets can do something similar – we call it skunking – and it happens when they’re excited or scared. It’s not as bad as a skunk skunking, but we call it skunking because it’s still not pleasant.  

They cover the area from North Africa all the way up through the western part of Eurasia. They are on the endangered table of animals but are listed as least concern, meaning there must be quite a few of them in the wild.  

European Polecats will eat pretty much anything – birds, small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish.   Next week we’ll talk about the Step Polecat.  

Check out the video to find out more.

More to explore

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