Mustela putorius 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Mustelidae

Scientific Name: Mustela putorius
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1758
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Western Polecat, European Polecat
French Putois d'Europe
Spanish Turón
Taxonomic Notes: The origin of the Moroccan population has been debated; some authors contend that it is a feral population of M. putorius 'furo', although fossil remains found in 2001 and ascribed to M. putorius suggest that the species may be native to Africa (see Griffiths and Cuzin in press, and references therein). Only Mustela 'furo' (ferret) occurs on New Zealand (Clapperton 2001). M. eversmanni (here recognized as a distinct species) was widely considered conspecific with M. putorius under the latter name (Corbet 1978); much information published under the name M. putorius refers to M. eversmanni.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Fernandes, M., Maran, T., Tikhonov, A., Conroy, J., Cavallini, P., Kranz, A., Herrero, J., Stubbe, M., Abramov, A. & Wozencraft, C.
Reviewer(s): Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category.
Previously published Red List assessments:
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The species is widespread in the western Palaearctic up to the Ural Mountains in the Russian Federation (absent from Ireland, northern Scandinavia, and much of the Balkans and eastern Adriatic coast). The species occurs only marginally in northern Greece. It is found in Morocco in the Rif Mountains from sea level to 2400 m (Griffiths and Cuzin, in press). The ferret is introduced in the British Isles, and some Mediterranean islands and New Zealand (Clapperton, 2001).
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Andorra; Austria; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Gibraltar; Greece; Hungary; Italy; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Moldova; Montenegro; Morocco; Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia (Serbia); Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The species is common in forested areas of European Russia. In Western Europe, the species is scarce, typically occurring at densities of about 1 individual per 1000 hectares, and rarely exceeding 5-10 individuals per 1,000 hectares even in optimal habitat. The population appears to be stable in the eastern parts of its range. In Morrocco, Cuzin (in press) suggests that populations may be decreasing. In central Europe the main prey item has decreased and hence the polecat numbers are also decreasing. In The United Kingdom and Estonia numbers are now increasing (Jim Conroy and Tiit Maran pers. comms. 2006), following a major persecution driven decline from the 1800s to 1920s in the United Kingdom (W. Duckworth in litt. 2006). In Portugal population numbers and trend are unknown, but may be related to the declining trends in the rabbit population.
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: A generalist, it is found in almost every type of lowland habitat. It is often found in lowland woods in riparian zones, and in areas close to farms and villages in the winter; but it also uses wooded steppe, sand dunes, marshes and river valleys, agricultural land, forest edge and mosaic habitats (Birks 1999, Cabral et al. 2005). Mountainous areas are avoided.

It feeds on live rodents (voles, mice, hamsters) and other vertebrates, also sometimes on invertebrates and carrion. In wetland areas it often feeds on amphibians (Birks 1999).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): In Western Europe, it was formerly widely hunted for sport and fur and persecuted as a pest, however, this threat has become less serious as the species is now protected in a number of range states and rates of hunting have greatly reduced. Accidental mortality in car collisions and via secondary rodenticide poisoning is a problem. Declines in the prey species, e.g., hamsters and rabbits appear to be resulting in declines in parts of the range.In European Russia, the species is commonly hunted (Abramov pers. comm.). Hybridization with the ferret is a possible threat in the United Kingdom. Possible competition with the American mink may also be a problem. In Morocco, the species may be captured in some areas for hunting.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It is listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention and Annex V of the EU Habitats Directive. It is listed on Schedule 6 of the WildLife Countryside Act (UK). It occurs in a number of protected areas across its range. Better monitoring of the species is needed to reduce hunting pressures. Also, there is a need to control release of ferrets into the wild.

Citation: Fernandes, M., Maran, T., Tikhonov, A., Conroy, J., Cavallini, P., Kranz, A., Herrero, J., Stubbe, M., Abramov, A. & Wozencraft, C. 2008. Mustela putorius. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T41658A10501394. . Downloaded on 28 June 2016.
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