The ArgusConservationists on the hunt for rare polecats in Sussex (From The Argus)

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Conservationists on the hunt for rare polecats in Sussex

The Argus: Conservationists on the hunt for rare polecats in Sussex Conservationists on the hunt for rare polecats in Sussex

Conservationists are on the hunt for a rare animal – especially those found dead by the side of the road.

After becoming extinct in the late 19th Century due to hunting from gamekeepers, polecats returned to Sussex a decade ago.

With conservationists claiming numbers are still low, a widespread search has now begun to try and pin down how successful the recolonisation has been.

Wildlife experts are now calling on members of the public to keep an eye out for the long thin animals which have distinctive bandit-like masks.

But, with polecats being nocturnal and not emerging during the day, most of the sightings are those which are found dead at the side of the road.

Jess Price, conservation officer at the Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “Polecats were once a common feature of the Sussex countryside, but persecution from game keepers caused their population to plummet and they became extinct in much of England.

“Conservation efforts, along with an increase in rabbit numbers, have allowed the polecat to recover, but not fully.

“The 2004 to 2006 national survey found that polecats have made it back into Sussex after an absence of over a century.

“However they are still very rare and it is difficult to know the true extent of their recolonisation because the population is not pure.”

Polecats are members of the Mustelid family, which includes otters, stoats and pine martens.

They have long, thin bodies and are generally dark in colour.

Their most distinctive feature is a black band that runs across their eyes, highlighted with white on the forehead and muzzle.

Polecats are often mistaken for ferrets, a similar animal which was domesticated more than 2,000 years ago in Southern Europe to hunt vermin.

Due to their genetic similarity, the two can cross-breed to create polecat-ferret hybrids.

It was only through DNA testing of an animal found dead at the roadside in Midhurst in July 2004 that the return of the polecats to the county was confirmed.

As Vincent Wildlife Trust carries out its third national polecat count, it is looking for as many samples of pole- cat/polecat-ferret carcasses as possible.

To help, call 01531 636441 or email enquiries @vwt.org.uk.

Comments (5)

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11:41am Thu 9 Jan 14

getThisCoalitionOut says...

I've never seen a wild polecat.

Gamekeepers and their horrible employers should all be sent to a remote island without any birds or animals.
I've never seen a wild polecat. Gamekeepers and their horrible employers should all be sent to a remote island without any birds or animals. getThisCoalitionOut
  • Score: 0

1:04pm Thu 9 Jan 14

Tailgaters Anonymous says...

Question.
If polecats are rare will they not be even rarer if the essence of this is to trace the dead ones on the roadside? What does this prove? - they only cross the road slowly, they are too numerous and the odd one gets swiped by a vehicle, they are part of a generation that believes the roadside is their domain so they are born, live and die there?
Question. If polecats are rare will they not be even rarer if the essence of this is to trace the dead ones on the roadside? What does this prove? - they only cross the road slowly, they are too numerous and the odd one gets swiped by a vehicle, they are part of a generation that believes the roadside is their domain so they are born, live and die there? Tailgaters Anonymous
  • Score: -1

2:02pm Thu 9 Jan 14

btownman says...

Im sure ive seen these around the benfield golfcourse area and hangleton feilds area
Im sure ive seen these around the benfield golfcourse area and hangleton feilds area btownman
  • Score: 0

10:12am Fri 10 Jan 14

redwing says...

Tailgaters Anonymous wrote:
Question.
If polecats are rare will they not be even rarer if the essence of this is to trace the dead ones on the roadside? What does this prove? - they only cross the road slowly, they are too numerous and the odd one gets swiped by a vehicle, they are part of a generation that believes the roadside is their domain so they are born, live and die there?
They aren't asking people to run them over. They may be killed accidentally (judging by the other slaughter that's seen there) and then people might spot and report them. Maybe you haven't gathered just how rare and elusive polecats now are.
[quote][p][bold]Tailgaters Anonymous[/bold] wrote: Question. If polecats are rare will they not be even rarer if the essence of this is to trace the dead ones on the roadside? What does this prove? - they only cross the road slowly, they are too numerous and the odd one gets swiped by a vehicle, they are part of a generation that believes the roadside is their domain so they are born, live and die there?[/p][/quote]They aren't asking people to run them over. They may be killed accidentally (judging by the other slaughter that's seen there) and then people might spot and report them. Maybe you haven't gathered just how rare and elusive polecats now are. redwing
  • Score: 0

10:19am Fri 10 Jan 14

redwing says...

getThisCoalitionOut wrote:
I've never seen a wild polecat.

Gamekeepers and their horrible employers should all be sent to a remote island without any birds or animals.
Let's add in all the sadistic idiots who want to shoot these birds that are bred specifically to be such easy targets. Some people have got more money than sense. They can take their guns with them. of course.
[quote][p][bold]getThisCoalitionOut[/bold] wrote: I've never seen a wild polecat. Gamekeepers and their horrible employers should all be sent to a remote island without any birds or animals.[/p][/quote]Let's add in all the sadistic idiots who want to shoot these birds that are bred specifically to be such easy targets. Some people have got more money than sense. They can take their guns with them. of course. redwing
  • Score: 0

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