European polecat – Mustela putorius – Turón

European polecat – Mustela putorius – Turón

The European polecat – Mustela putorius – Turón in Spanish is a mammal in the weasel family (Mustelidae) that is native to Europe. It is a medium-sized carnivore that typically weighs between 0.6 and 1.3 kg (1.3 to 2.9 lbs) and has a body length of around 30 to 50 cm (12 to 20 inches).

The European polecat has a long, slender body, short legs, and a bushy tail. Its fur is typically brown in color with white underparts, and it has a distinctive mask of black fur around its eyes. The polecat is a skilled hunter and feeds primarily on small rodents, although it will also eat birds, rabbits, and other small animals.

(Main image Malene Thyssen

The polecat is primarily nocturnal and is known for its strong odor, which it uses for communication and to deter predators. Although it was once widespread throughout Europe, the European polecat has declined in many areas due to habitat loss, persecution by humans, and competition with non-native species like the American mink. However, in recent years, conservation efforts have led to increases in some populations, particularly in the United Kingdom where it has been reintroduced in several areas.

The European polecat – Mustela putorius – Turón in Spain

The European polecat is known as the “turón” in Spain, and it is considered a native species in the country.

Historically, the polecat was widespread throughout Spain, but like in many other parts of Europe, it suffered significant declines in the 20th century due to habitat loss, hunting, and persecution by humans. In addition, the introduction of the American mink, a non-native species, has had a negative impact on polecat populations in some areas.

The European polecat (Mustela putorius) is found throughout most of Spain, although its distribution can be somewhat patchy in some areas. The polecat is most commonly found in northern Spain, particularly in the Pyrenees Mountains and the Cantabrian Mountains. It is also found in other parts of northern Spain, such as the Basque Country and Navarre.

In central Spain, the polecat is found in the Sistema Central mountain range, as well as in the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park near Madrid, where it has been reintroduced. In southern Spain, the polecat can also be found in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and other areas of Andalusia.

Overall, the polecat’s range in Spain has become somewhat more restricted in recent years, due in part to habitat loss and fragmentation. However, conservation efforts such as reintroduction programs have helped to expand the polecat’s range in some areas.

Threats and natural predators

In terms of conservation status, the European polecat is listed as a species of “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which means that it is not considered to be at significant risk of extinction. However, the polecat is still vulnerable to habitat loss, persecution by humans, and other threats, so conservation efforts are still important to ensure the long-term survival of the species.

The European polecat has several natural predators, although it is a relatively small and agile predator itself. Some of the most common predators of the polecat include:

  • Birds of prey – In many areas, birds of prey such as eagles, hawks, and owls will prey on European polecats.
  • Foxes – Foxes are known to prey on European polecats, particularly young or inexperienced individuals.
  • Domestic dogs and cats – Domestic dogs and cats can pose a threat to European polecats, particularly in urban or suburban areas where they may come into contact with each other.
  • Badgers – Badgers are known to occasionally prey on European polecats, although they are more likely to compete with them for food.
  • Humans – Historically, humans have been one of the biggest threats to European polecats, as they were often hunted for their fur or killed as pests. Today, hunting and persecution of European polecats is illegal in most parts of their range, although they may still face indirect threats from human activities such as habitat loss and road mortality.
Further reading

The team at BBC Wildlife Magazine have a great article about the European polecat here:

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