Phil Tration's picture

Is it a Ferret or a Polecat?

Observed: 2nd March 2010 By: Phil Tration
P1030640a lo

Dead beside the A49. Fairly fresh, but too smelly to put in the car with the food shopping.

Species interactions

No interactions present.


anonymous spotter's picture

Mystery Mustelid

A chap named Birks did a lot of work on identifying wild polecats from polecat ferrets: it was several years ago, the last I heard it was best to do a DNA test. There was a theory that a pale patch on the upper chest was distinctive. Sadly, I can't remember of which! Also, things may have moved on since.
Sorry, not much help, I'm afraid...

Rob Coleman's picture

There was a recent article in

There was a recent article in British Wildlife on recovering numbers of polecats in the UK (20:p237). Features to distinguish 'true' polecats from polecat-ferrets include: pink nose, pale chest fur and white fur fully encircling the muzzle (in the ferret-hybrid). I'd say from this the animal was a true Polecat.

Rob Coleman

Ganit's picture

Considering the sheer number

Considering the sheer number of ways that a domestic Polecat can become a feral Polecat id be amazed if there are anything other than Hybrid/Feral Polecats in Britain.

I think with the increasing number of people who have kept Ferrets and Polecats as pets in recent years (evidenced by the numbers in animal re homing centres) its no surprise that many have been abandoned by "liberating" them into the countryside.

Gill Sinclair's picture

Polecats in the UK

The long-term research of the Vincent Wildlife trust has confirmed the widening distribution of pure polecats in the UK. More info. on the Mammal Society's website:

Gill Sinclair
OU Certificate in Contemporary Science
Twitter @Gill_Sinclair

lavender's picture

ferrets vs polecat

ferrets are domesticated - polecats are feral can they inter breed


Gill Sinclair's picture

Can ferrets and polecats interbreed?

Yes, ferrets are domesticated polecats ie. the first ferrets were derived from polecats, so they can and do interbreed. The difficulty of distinguishing between a pure wild polecat and a polecat-ferret hybrid is one of the great challenges in assessing the distribution of the wild polecat population of Britain.

Gill Sinclair
OU Certificate in Contemporary Science
Twitter @Gill_Sinclair

Goldfinch's picture


I am pretty sure that this is a polecat because it has a white striped face.

the naturalist man's picture

Polecat or Ferret

The animal has all the markings of a polecat and you are in the middle of the 'pure' polecat distribution. Therefore, I think it is most likely a 'pure' polecat.

However, as mentioned above, there is some thought that genetically 'pure' is a relative concept as there may be no polecats out there which do not have some ferret genes.

Graham Banwell

Visit the iSpot Yorkshire forum for information on events, issues and news relating to 'God's own country'

Tony Rebelo's picture


Tag "Road kill" removed - interfering with national project in southern Africa. Please change to Roadkill to prevent confusion. At present this was the only observation of Roadkill from the UK.

Tony Rebelo's picture