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The Remarkable Polecat Comeback

Polecats, a native carnivore which was almost wiped out in the last century, have made a remarkable recovery, conservationists say. A nationwide survey, carried out by Vincent Wildlife Trust, has revealed that they have now spread into areas where they have not been seen for 100 years.

PolecatDistributionPolecats, with their bandit-like black and white face masks, are found across Europe but in Britain they were pushed to the brink of extinction last century. The creatures, which are members of the weasel family, were considered pests because of their appetite for game birds and thousands were killed. The last survivors retreated to Wales and remote parts of Scotland.

Now legally protected, the polecat has made a remarkable and welcome recovery, spreading across the country. They have spread from Wales back into England, heading east as far as Norfolk and Suffolk and north as far as Yorkshire. A population that was introduced into Cumbria in the 1980s continues to thrive.

Naturalist and BBC presenter Chris Packham said: "Fingers crossed over the next 25 years we should see polecats continue to spread and consolidate their population. I love the idea that polecats could be living out there. I don't necessarily need to see them, I just need to know they are there - maybe just seeing their poo, or footprint or prey remains. The fact they are now out there, back in England, in my lifetime, that has to be counted as a success."

polecatlongfinalsmlThis is another success story for those enthusiasts of Rewilding Britain, the campaign to restore the country’s natural eco-systems. Whilst many of the headlines for this campaign are given over to the debate over the introduction of major carnivores, such as wolves, the heart of the campaign lies with simply restoring diverse habitats from plant life, through herbivores and insects up to small carnivorous predators like the polecat. 

11 February 2016

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