Marbled Polecat

The Marbled Polecat, Vormela peregusna, is a small mammal to the subfamily Mustelinae. They are typically found in the dryer areas and grasslands of southeastern Europe to western China. The range includes Bulgaria, Romania, Asia Minor, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia, China, and other Asian countries. They are found in open desert, semi-desert, semi-arid rocky areas in upland valleys and low hills, and subtropical forest. They avoid mountainous regions.

The marbled polecat is 11.5 to 13.75 inches long (head and body). It has a short muzzle and very large, noticeable ears. Its limbs are short and the claws are long and strong. While the tail is long, with long hair, most of the rest of the body is covered in short hair. Black and white marks the face, with a black stripe across the eyes and white markings around the mouth. Dorsally, pelage is yellow and heavily mottled with irregular reddish or brown spots. Tail is dark brown with a yellowish band in the mid-region. The limbs are a dark brown. Adult males weigh up to 25 ounces while the female weighs usually to only 21 ounces.

Marbled polecats are most active during the morning and evening. Their eye sight is weak and they rely on a well-developed sense of smell. Vocalization is limited and consists of shrill alarm cries, grunts and a submissive long shriek. When alarmed, marbled polecats raise up on their legs while arching their back and curling their tail over their back with long tail hair erect. They also raise their head, bare their teeth and give shrill, short hisses. If threatened, they can expel a foul-smelling secretion from enlarged anal glands under their tail.

The diet of the marbled polecat consists of ground squirrels, Armenian hamsters, voles, mole rats, house mice, small hares, birds, lizards, frogs, insects, and fruit and grass. They have also been known to attack and eat chickens and pigeons. They also have been known to steal smoked meat and cheeses. When excavating dens and burrows, they will use their teeth to pull out obstacles such as roots or small stones.

Marbled polecats mate during March to early June. Gestation can take anywhere from 243 to 327 days. Litter sizes range from 4 to 8 cubs. Only females care for the young. Cubs open their eyes at around 38 to 40 days, are weaned at 50 to 54 days and leave their mother at 61 to 68 days.

Photo by Laszlo Szabo-Szeley ©AVESTOURS