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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 19, 2018

A review of the status of the Western polecat Mustela putorius: a neglected and declining species?

Elizabeth Croose, J.W. Duckworth, Sandrine Ruette, Dmitry V. Skumatov, Vyacheslav V. Kolesnikov and Alexander P. Saveljev
From the journal Mammalia


The Western polecat Mustela putorius has a widespread European distribution and is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Reports are increasing of polecat population declines in several countries, although a paucity of data means population trends are poorly understood. This paper reviews and summarises information on the polecat’s status and range-wide population trends. Information and opinion were gathered for 34 countries, from individuals and organisations studying polecats and from reviewing the literature and national Red Lists. Where trends were identified, the polecat population is known or suspected to be declining in 20 countries, reported to be stable in five countries, stable or increasing in one country, and increasing in two countries. For many countries, data are so limited in quantity or spatial scale, or at risk of bias, that trends could not be identified or confidence in trend assessments is low. The main drivers of polecat decline are poorly understood, but might include habitat degradation; changes in prey availability; competition with invasive carnivores; poisoning; conflict with human interests; harvesting and killing of polecats; and hybridisation. Robust survey methods and systematic monitoring programmes are urgently needed to gather up-to-date data on polecat population trends across the species’ range.


We are very grateful to everyone who supplied information on polecats and population trends; A. Kranz (Alka-Kranz Ingenieurbüro für Wildökologie and Naturschutz), M. Guinot-Ghestem (Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage), A. Savouré-Soubelet (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle), A. Weber (Büro Wildforschung und Artenschutz), A. Schreiber, H. Ansorge (Senckenberg Museum of Natural History Goerlitz), P. Dollinger (Zoo Office Bern), V. Sidorovich (Centre for Biological Resources NAS of Belarus), A. Sándor (University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca), J. Ozolins (Latvijas Valsts mežzinātnes institūts “Silava”), M. Pavanello (Therion Research Group), I. Zuberogoitia (Estudios Medioambientales Icarus), E. Virgόs (King Juan Carlos University), J. Herrero (University of Zaragoza), T. Maran (Estonian University of Life Sciences), T. Hofmeester (Dutch Small Mustelid Foundation), A. Volokh (Tavricheskiy State Agrotechnological University), R. Melisch (TRAFFIC), A. Zalewski (Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences), H-H. Krüger (Aktion Fischotterschutz, Otter-Zentrum), A. Kitchener (National Museum of Scotland), W. Outhwaite (TRAFFIC), K. Kecse-Nagy (TRAFFIC), V. Sacré (TRAFFIC), Y. Xiao (TRAFFIC), T. Oldfield (TRAFFIC), A. Vaisman (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, Controlling Centre for Game Animals and their Habitats), N. Dronova (WWF Russia), P. Haffner (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle), C. Arthur (Société Française pour l’Etude et la Protection des Mammifères, S.F.E.P.M.), P. Rigaux (Société Française pour l’Etude et la Protection des Mammifères, S.F.E.P.M.), A. Abramov (Zoological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences), H. Thurfjell (Swedish Species Information Centre), S. Gippoliti (Società Italiana di Storia della Fauna ‘G. Altobello’), L. Schley (Administration de la nature et des forêts, Luxembourg), B. Krystufek (Slovenian Museum of Natural History), D. Vrček (Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Nature Conservation), H. Henttonen (Natural Resources Institute Finland) and P. Georgiakakis (Natural History Museum of Crete). We thank Helen Kidwell for producing the map figure and Johnny Birks, Steve Carter and Henry Schofield for helpful comments on the manuscript. We are also grateful to three reviewers, whose comments greatly improved the manuscript.


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Received: 2017-07-14
Accepted: 2018-01-18
Published Online: 2018-02-19
Published in Print: 2018-11-27

©2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston