Durham Priority Species
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Polecat Action Plan

Priority Species: Polecat


1. Establish and maintain a comprehensive understanding of polecat distribution and status.
Protect, maintain and enhance habitat features required by polecats
3. Increase the numbers and range of polecats

Vision Statement: To have a number of connected populations throughout the Durham area.

Target Type Unit Value
1. To maintain the population of polecat in the Durham BAP area. maintain occupied km squares none

The polecat is a member of the Weasel (Mustelid) family, related to the stoat, otter and badger.  Occupying most rural habitats the polecat was formerly abundant throughout the UK. It became extinct in most areas excepting Wales in the late 19th century due to persecution.

In the later half of the 20th century the polecat began to expand its range outside of Wales and now occupies more 10km squares in England than in Wales. It is firmly re-established in the English West Midlands, with a continuous distribution from the southern fringes of Manchester to south Gloucestershire, and from the Welsh borders to the Peak District, Northampton and Oxford. Beyond this naturally recolonised range, populations derived from reintroductions are established in Cumbria, the East Midlands and central southern England.

Local status

After having become extinct in the late 19th century the polecat has recently been reported in Cumbria, Northumberland and Durham. These animals may be the offspring of releases in Cumbria and may in some cases be polecat/ferret hybrids.


  • Isolation through shrinking areas of semi-natural habitats such as woodland and wetlands
  • Persecution
  • Interbreeding – genetic dilution
  • Road mortality
  • Secondary poisoning from eating poisoned rats