Polecat (Ictonyx striatus)

Conservation Status

Least Concern (LC)

Physical Description

Small mammal with long hair; black and white vertical markings with a bushy tail. 4 white vertical marking along back with a white patch between the eyes and base of each ear.
Weight 0.6-1.4 kg
Size 10-15cm shoulder height. 57-67cm length
Lifespan (wild) Unknown
Lifespan (captivity) 13 years


Strictly nocturnal, found singly or in pairs or family groups. They either excavate their own burrows, or use those of other species for shelter. If startled or provoked, they will adopt a defensive posture with their rump towards the aggressor, back arched and tail erect.

Social and Reproduction

Usually solitary, but also travels in pairs or family groups.

Mating System Polygamy (Polgyny)
Breeding interval once yearly
Breeding season Spring and summer months.
Gestation 36 days
Number of offspring 1-5 young born in summer months.

Habitat and Food


Found in all major habitat types.


Rodents, reptiles, insects, birds, frogs.


Medium to larger carnivores such as jackal and caracal, as well as large birds of prey. Predators however risk being sprayed with a foul-smelling liquid if not cautious.

Conservation Challenges

Polecats often fall victim to domestic animals and night traffic on roads. Usually not persecuted for conflicts, but have been known to excavate burrows under buildings.

Naankuse Solutions

Orphaned and injured polecats are taken in at Naankuse, raised, rehabilitated, and released.


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Polecat at Naankuse sites