First Polecat ever to be spotted in Norfolk among highlights of county wildlife report

The polecat, which was once teetering on the brink of extinction, has made a comeback.

The polecat, which was once teetering on the brink of extinction, has made a comeback. - Credit: Community Newswire

They have made a remarkable comeback after being all but wiped out in Britain a hundred years ago, but now the polecat is back - and has been spotted in Norfolk for the first time.

The animals are members of the weasel family and thousands were killed because their appetite for game birds and chickens meant they were considered pests.

However, according to the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society's Bird and Mammal Report, which is compiled thanks to records submitted by amateur naturalists, the creatures are well and truly back.

The report states that what was considered to be the first polecat recorded in the county was reported as having been caught in a live rabbit trap at South Lopham Fen in November 2014.

However, it subsequently came to light that another member of the public had found the carcass of a polecat which had been struck by a car at Little Dunham two months earlier.

And ecological consultant Richard Moores, writing in the report, said: 'The spread of this species eastwards had been rapid over recent years and we can now expect an increased number of sightings in the county going forward.'

He added an adult female and a single kit, which he considered to be true polecats were found at Twyford in July this year, having been struck by a vehicle.

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Mr Moores said: 'This would be the first confirmed breeding record of the species for the county.'

The Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society was founded way back in 1869, to study and conserve the county's wildlife.

It arranges lectures and meetings and promotes field work, with specialist groups covering most aspects of the county's flora and fauna.

Tony Leech, chairman, said: 'Some fascinating insights into Norfolk's wildlife are contained within our latest bird and mammal report'

The Bird and Mammal Report, is free to all members of the society and costs £12 (plus postage and packing) for non-members.

To purchase a copy, send a cheque payable to Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists' Society to: Tony Leech, NNNS Publications, 3 Eccles Road, Holt, Norfolk NR25 6HJ or visit http://nnns.org.uk/content/bird-mammal-report

True polecats remain very difficult to identify with certainty from Polecat-Ferret hybrids.

The society urges anybody who comes across them, either alive or having been struck by cars, to take photographs of key features, including the muzzle, face mask, feet, throat patch and dorsal fur.

Key features of true polecats include: • The dark fur on the face extends to the nose

• Pale cheek patches and dark 'mask' on face

• Dark fur on paws

• No pale throat patch, or one of less than 50mm in length

All records of polecat-type animals should be submitted to Norfolk Biodiversity Information Services at www.nbis.org.uk and the county mammal recorder at francis.farrow@btinternet.com

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