POLECAT Mustela putorius
STATUS: Formerly widespread
Formerly widespread but eliminated from the county by the
beginning of the 20th century. The last definite record was from
Bradley in 1900 (see Moyes 1994 for a historical summary of the
polecat in Derbyshire). Polecats began to expand their range
nationally from mid-Wales during the 1960s, spreading steadily
into the Midlands. The first recent Derbyshire record was a road
casualty at Church Broughton in June 1993 (Moyes 1994) and they
have spread widely across the county since then. Early Peak
District records came from Bamford (1994), Buxton and Tideswell
(1998) and Hayfield (1999). Many road casualty records date from
the period 2003-2006 and reflect both further colonisation and a
greater intensity of reporting stimulated by national surveys
organised by Vincent Wildlife Trust and the Mammal Society.
Records include ‘pure’ polecats and hybrid polecat-ferrets. Some
road casualties that were too damaged to identify with certainty
were assigned to ‘polecat-ferrets’, so the total of pure animals
may be slightly underestimated. Northern localities in the last
3 years include Longdendale, Dove Holes, Buxton, Wye Valley, and
Calver. Recent records have come from a range of habitats
including farmland, woodland edge, limestone dales and upland
pasture. Polecats were reported on high moorlands, eg the
Derwent Moors, in the 19th century but there have been few if
any recent records from this habitat. Polecats and
polecat-ferrets are expected to continue to expand, but the
pattern of natural expansion may be partly obscured by releases
of pure-bred polecats by ferret breeders (Moyes 1994).
[Old local names: foulmart, filimart].
More on the polecat in Derbyshire.
Photo: Steve Docker