STEPPE POLECAT

This animal belongs to mustelids (weasels). It is like a sable in size. Large male species weigh up to 2 kilos, the females – up to 1300 grams. The marking of the upper part of the body is sandy-pale. The pads, the chest, the lower part of the neck, the groin and the rear half of the tail are of dark-brown color. There is a brownish spot around eyes and on the forehead. The ears and the tip of the face are pure white.

The peak of the animal’s activity falls on the twilight and dawn, rarely – on the daytime. The polecat is good at swimming and climbing though it doesn’t use these skills often. Sometimes it digs up ground squirrels’ burrows, particularly in winter time. The animal moves by jumps (45-60 cm in length).

The polecat feeds mostly on small-sized mammals (long-tailed squirrel, mouse hare, mouse-likes and chipmunks), sometimes birds (more often eggs and chicks), reptiles and insects. Occasionally it sneaks in henhouses. The most common and favorite summer prey is long-tailed squirrel.

The steppe polecat lays in a food stock. During its fight with the squirrel the polecat first breaks the squirrel’s lower jaw and then it strangles its victim.

The animal’s habitat is steppe and forest-steppe; through the farmlands it penetrates to the taiga area. It is a common animal in Kanskaya, Achinskaya and Krasnoyarskaya forest-steppes and Minusinsk kettle hole.

The polecat rarely digs burrows by itself; it uses burrows of squirrels and other rodents by changing them a little bit. The coupling period is in March; gestation lasts for 36-40 days. The average number of cubs is 8-9, sometimes 14-15. At the age of 1.5-2 months young polecats begin to hunt the squirrel together with their mother. The spring change of coat takes place in April, the autumn one – from August till October.