BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild January -

ri­tain’s rab­bits need to look out – a swift, svelte rab­biter par ex­cel­lence is gain­ing ground. The pole­cat is the per­fect size for chas­ing them into their bur­rows (the species also tar­gets rats and other small mam­mals). Yet while most of us have heard about the re­cov­ery of the ot­ter and pine marten, the quiet come­back of their ban­dit-masked rel­a­tive is one of our least-known con­ser­va­tion suc­cess sto­ries.

Soli­tary, highly elu­sive and mainly noc­tur­nal, this mustelid is eas­ily missed and its scats can be hard to find. But records are nev­er­the­less on the up. From a low point in the early 1900s, when the species was con­fined to a small area of mid-Wales and the English bor­ders, it has crept east to re­colonise cen­tral and south­ern Eng­land. Its spread has been tracked by The Vin­cent Wildlife Trust for 20 years, most re­cently with the third na­tional sur­vey dur­ing 2014–15.

Pole­cats fare best in low­lands, where they den in rab­bit bur­rows, hay bales and farm build­ings. They are in­creas­ingly spot­ted on trail­cams and in car headlights, and even visit gar­dens where they raise fam­i­lies un­der sheds and deck­ing and in piles of compost.

is mustelid con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer for The Vin­cent Wildlife Trust:

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