Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Mustelidae
Genus Mustela
Species putorius
Classification Linnaeus, 1758
Common name european polecat
Size 30 - 45 centimetres. Tail: 11 - 18 centimetres.
Male weight 750 - 1600 grams
Female weight 430 - 840 grams

Geographic Range Europe, North America.
Physical Characteristics elongated body, flattened head, small eyes; ears are small and not very protruding; dense fur; the tail is long, thick and it gets thinner towards the tip. It exhibits strong sexual dimorphism: the male may weigh the double than a female and it may be one third longer. The fur is reddish, with the exception of the paws, the tail, and the lower parts of the body which are brown. In winter the fur is thick, smooth and bright. In summer, after the biennial moult, the fur gets thin and faded and it doesn't have the same brightness as the winter coat. It has a black mask around the eyes like that of the racoon, while the snout is light and the ear tip is white. It is a slender animal, with short paws and a jumping gait which is more effective and faster than it may seem.
Behaviour like other mustelidae, the polecat has a pair of anal glands which give out a strong disgusting smell when the animal is excited or threatened. It is a solitary animal that defends its territory strenuously. It is mainly a night animal even if sometimes the female goes searching for food with the young during the day. Its sense of sight is not very acute and it makes use of smell to hunt and kill its prey.
Habitat it prefers living near fresh water bodies, in wet areas.
Food habits it is carnivore and it prefers preys as rodents and rabbits even bigger than itself. When the food is scarce, the polecat feeds on insects and fruits even if it digests with difficulty this kind of food.
Reproduction it builds its den in the ground or uses dens left from other animals. It reproduces in March-April, usually the female has a clutch a year, but if it dies, the female might have other young during the same season. In April-June, after 42 days of pregnancy, from 3 to 7 young are born which are weaned after one month, even if they reach maturity only at the age of nine months.
Status in the lagoon it is found in the reclaimed areas of the lagoon edge and in a few fish farms (Grassabò, Averto).

References Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
Parchi e Riserve naturali in Emilia Romagna
Guida alla natura nella Laguna di Venezia - di Giampaolo Rallo - Franco Muzzio editore
Web References http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/
Source of the photo http://www.coastalchordsmen.org/ animal.html
Pawprint images source http://www.regione.emilia-romagna.it/parchi/fauna/puzzola.htm

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