Marbled Polecat

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Marbled Polecat

The Marbled Polecat (Vormela peregusna), a small mammal, belongs to the monotypic Vormela genus and is a member of the subfamily Mustelidae.

The word ‘Vormela’ is from the German word ‘Würmlein’ which depicts the size of the marbled polecat. The word ‘Peregusna’ has come from ‘Peregusnya,’ the Ukrainian word for ‘Polecat.’

Marbled polecats can be discovered in the grasslands and dry areas of western China in the south-eastern regions of Europe.

The anal sacs below its tail emit a secretion with a strong smell when threatened.

Table of Contents

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia 
  • Phylum: Chordata 
  • Class: Mammalia 
  • Order: Carnivora 
  • Family: Mustelidae 
  • Genus:  Vormela
  • Species: V. peregusna

Description

A small mammal that can be found in Europe and Asia is the Marbled polecat. A short muzzle and very large, evident ears are present in these animals.

The limbs are short, and the claws are lengthy and powerful. While the tail is long, the overall fur is short with long hair. With a black line around the eyes and white markings around the mouth, black and white lines mark the face.

The fur is yellow on the back and strongly mottled with irregular reddish or brown spots. In the centre region, the tail is dark brown with a yellowish band. The colour of the ventral region and limbs is dark brown.

From southeast Europe to Russia and China, marbled polecats are found. It covers Bulgaria, Georgia, Turkey, Romania, Asia Minor, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan northwest, Yugoslavia, Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan and Siberia north of the Altai steppes.

In upland valleys and low hill ranges, and steppe country, they live in the open desert, semi-desert, and semiarid rocky areas. In cultivated regions, such as melon patches and vegetable fields, marbled polecats can also be found.

Diet

Marbled polecats are renowned for their feeding on earth squirrels, Libyan hamsters and other rabbits (Meriones libycus, Armenian hamsters), rodents, mole rats, house mice (Mus musculus), small hams, lizards, fish, frogs, birds and insects (beetles, cricket) and even fruit and grass.

The marble polecats are also known for their food and dry cats. Small household poultry, including pigeons and chicken, and smoked meat and cheese are also reported to steal.

Lifestyle and Habits

During the morning and evening, the most active are marbled polecats. They have poor eyesight and rely on a well-developed sense of smell.

With the assistance of shrill warning calls, grunts, and a long submissive shriek, these animals are not very vocal and communicate. Marbled polecats are lonely and travel extensively around their home range at all times.

Generally, they only stay once in a shelter. They are normally aggressive when they encounter each other. Marbled polecats will raise up on their legs when alarmed, while arching their back and curling their tail over their back, with erect long tail hair.

They can also lift their heads, bare their teeth, and give short or shrill hisses. These animals can discharge a foul-smelling secretion from enlarged anal glands beneath the tail if threatened.

Burrows of large ground squirrels or similar rodents are used for resting and breeding polecats. They may also dig dens of their own or live in tunnels for underground irrigation. Marbled polecats line their dens with grass in the winter.

Carnivores are marbled polecats. They eat the squirrels of the ground, the Libyan jirds, the Armenian hamsters, the voles, the mole rats, the mice of the house, and other rodents, the little hares, the birds, the lizards, the fish, the frogs, the snails, and the insects.

Small domestic poultry like chickens and pigeons may also be taken by these animals, as well as stealing smoked meat and cheese, as well as fruit and grass.

Marbled polecats are very active during the morning and evening hours. Since their eyesight is poor, their movement depends a lot on their good sense of smell.

Their vocalization is very minimal and typically consists of shrill grunts, long shrieks, and warning cries. By default, they tend to be alone and drive between 0.5-0.6 km from their homes.

In general, they don’t linger at one position more than once and are very territorial when they encounter other polecats.

Reproduction

Marbled polecats know nothing about the mating mechanism. From March until early June, they breed.

Their mating calls in a slow rhythm are most commonly heard as low rumbling sounds. The gestation period can be long and variable, ranging from 243 to 327 days, and from late January to mid-March, kits are usually born.

Delayed implantation allows marbled polecats to allow favourable conditions, such as when prey is abundant, to time the birth of their kits. The sizes for litter range from 4 to 8 kits.

The young are cared for only by females. At about 38-40 days old, the kits open their eyes and are weaned at 50-54 days old. They become independent and at 61-68 days of age, leave their mother.

When they are one year old, young Marble Cats reach reproductive maturity.

Threats to the marbled polecat population

The loss of natural habitats through conversion to cultivated farmland is the major threat to Marbled polecats. Poisoning by rodenticides and population declines in key prey species are other threats. Marbled polecats also suffer from poaching for their fur in many regions.

Number of the population

The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the total population size of the Marbled Cat. Currently, this species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Endangered (VU), and its numbers are declining today.

Niche Ecological

In the habitats where they live as predators of small rodents, marbled polecats are important.

Species

The subspecies of V. peregusna include:

  • V. p. alpherakyi
  • V. p. euxinia
  • V. p. negans
  • V. p. pallidor
  • V. p. peregusna
  • V. p. syriaca
Total
18
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