polecat species account
SOGSOIIS of the year.
The distribution and habits of the conimon polecat have been well described by Blasius in his AS7ivethiere Deutsch-lands, and the following is an abstract of his account. The polecat ranges over the greater part of Europe, reach-ing northwards into southern Sweden, and in Russia to the region of the White Sea. It does not occur in the extreme south, but is common everywhere throughout central Europe. In the Alps it ranges far above the tree-line during the summer, but retreats in winter to lower ground. In fine weather it lives either in the open air, in holes, fox-earths, rabbit-warrens, under rocks, or in wood-stacks ; while in winter it seeks the protection of deserted buildings, barns, or stables. During the day it sleeps in its hiding place, sallying forth at night to plunder dovecots and ben-house-s. It climbs but little, and shows far less activity than the marten. It feeds ordinarily on small mammals, such as rabbits, hamsters, rats, and mice, on such birds as it can catch, especially- poultry and pigeons, and also on snakes, lizards, frogs, fish, and eggs. Its prey is devoured only in its lair, but, even though it can carry away- but a single victim, it commonly kills everything that counes in its way, often destroying all the inhabitants of a hen-house in order to gratify its pa,ssion for slaughter. The pairing time is towards the end of the winter, and the young, from three to eight in number, are born in April or May, after a period of gestation of about two months. The young, if taken early, may be easily trained, like ferrets, for rabbit-catching. The polecat is very tena-cious of life and will bear many severe wounds before succumbing ; it is also said to receive with impunity the bite of the adder. Its fetid smell has become pro-verbial. To this it is indebted for its generic name Pula-rius (derived, as are also the low Latin putachts, the French putois, and the Italian puzz•ola, from puteo), as well as the designation fountart (i.e. foul marten), and its other Eng-lish names litchet, fitclaw. Attempts to account for the first syllable of the word polecat rest entirely on conjec-ture.
The other species of the polecat group are the follow-ing : - The Siberian Polecat (Putorius emrsmanni), very- like the European in size, colour, and proportions, but with head and back both nearly or quite white, and skull more heavily built aud sharply constricted behind the orbits, at least in fully adult indi-viduals. It inhabits the greater part of south-western Siberia, extending from Tibet into the steppes of south-eastern European Russia.
The Black-footed. or American Polecat (Putorius rigripes), a native of the central plateau of the United States, and extending southwards into Texas. It is very closely allied to the last species, but ha.s nevertheless been inade the type of a special sub-genus name.' Cynomyonax, or " King of the Prairie Marmots," a name which expresses its habit of living in the burrows of, and feeding upon, the curious prairie marmots (Cynomys) of the United.States. An excellent account of this species may be found in Dr Elliott Coues's Fur-bearing Animais North America.
Lastly, the Mottled l'olecat (Palorius sarmaticus), a rare and peculiar species occurring in southern Russia and soutli-western Asia, extending from eastern Poland to Afghanistan. It differs from the other polecats both by its smaller size and its remarkable coloration, the whole of its upper parts being marbled with large Irregular reddish spots on a white ground, and its underside, limbs, and tail being deep shining black. Its habits, which seem to be very much those of the common polecat, have been studied in handahar by Captain Thomas Hutton, who has given a vivid description of them in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal for 1845.