Striped Polecat (road kill) deposited at the East London Museum

These mammals occur in almost any habitat and this one collected by museum scientist Kevin Cole was found on a remote mountain road north of Elliot in the Eastern Cape. It was probably hit by a vehicle in the early hours of the morning (13th September 2015).

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These animals are solitary and nocturnal and possibly even territorial. Prey includes insects, mice, spiders, scorpions, birds (and their eggs), reptiles and amphibians. They mostly feed on insects (60% of their diet) and prey are detected by scent and sound.

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Gestation is 36 days and litters of up to 3 are born between October and March. Lifespan is between 4-5 years.

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A vile-smelling secretion (from the anal glands) is used by polecats as a defence against predators. Thanks to this they are also rarely killed by carnivores.

These animals are widely distributed but are not common anywhere as agricultural development and overgrazing has reduced the availability of prey species and they are killed by domestic dogs.

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Striped Polecat (Ictonyx striatus) Credit: Kevin Cole

Reference: Smithers’ Mammals of Southern Africa – A Field Guide (edited by Peter Apps)

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About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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