The polecat can be considered a close relative to the weasel. Polecats are characterized by white, mask like patches across their faces. They have a body that is 11 to 14 inches and it is accompanied with a tail that is an additional 5-7 inches. It should be noted that male polecats are significantly larger than females. The average weight of a polecat is around 3 pounds. Polecats are mainly nocturnal hunters and eat small mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, snakes, insects and frogs. The polecat uses its small, agile body to enter in small burrows and attack unsuspecting prey. The polecat is found exclusively in Europe, though the domesticated descendant of the polecat, the ferret, is found in a far wider area. The polecats most favored habits include woodland areas, riverbanks, farmland buildings and the area surrounding farmland. They make their homes in stream banks and under tree roots. The polecat is characterized as living mainly as a solitary hunter and only meets with its own kind to mate in the spring. An average litter of polecats is 4-8, and they are born after a short two month pregnancy. The polecat has a well-known protective mechanism, which consist of liquid secreted from their anal glands. This liquid spray is of such strong odor that it fights off attacking predators and warns future attackers as well. It was because of their strong, distinguished odor that they earned its former name, the "foul mart." The polecat also has a very strong jaw grasp, which is said to be almost impossible to open.
Throughout history the polecat has been targeted and hunted. Though the polecat was at one time greatly prominent in Great Britain and the surrounding areas, today it is nearly extinct. For centuries, farmers have attacked polecats, because it was believed they were dangerous to small farm animals and poultry. The avid killing of polecats by farmers was met by equally high amounts of killings by hunters. In previous years, polecat pelts were in high demand, until dwindling populations ended the trade. The narrow minds of farmers and hunters did not account for the positive environmental effects that polecats had. They were responsible for keeping rodent populations in check, which prevent the spread of disease and infection. Once the polecat was removed from England and surrounding areas, the number of rats and rodents drastically increased. Though the population of polecats has dramatically decreased in recent years, the polecat is luckily not to be considered an endangered species. Throughout many parts of Europe, the polecat still flourishes and maintains its predator life style.