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Ecology and conservation of the polecat Mustela putorius (Linnaeus, 1758) in Portugal: a review

Costa, Mafalda, Fernandes, Carlos and Santos-Reis, Margarida 2014. Ecology and conservation of the polecat Mustela putorius (Linnaeus, 1758) in Portugal: a review. Munibe Monographs. Nature Series 3 , pp. 79-87. 10.21630/mmns.2014.3.05

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In Portugal, the current status of the European polecat Mustela putorius (Linnaeus, 1758) is Data Deficient but, although apparently widespread in the country, empirical evidence suggests a population decline. The present review summarises information from published studies and grey literature concerning the species’ distribution, ecological requirements and the negative impacts of anthropogenic pressures. In southern Portugal, polecats seem to be strongly associated with riparian habitats and specialised in the consumption of lagomorphs. Main threats to the species in Portugal are habitat degradation due to agricultural intensification, decline of prey populations, direct persecution, and road mortality. Further research is urgently needed to accurately map the occurrence of the polecat and assess the current trend of its populations, so that conservation and management actions can be properly applied. Ongoing studies are expected to provide new insights into patterns of time and space use, genetic structure and putative hybridisation with domestic ferrets, and interspecific interactions with the other semi-aquatic carnivores of the Portuguese fauna, the otter Lutra lutra (Linnaeus, 1758) and the American mink Neovison vison (Schreber, 1777). Conservation actions should include the recovery and preservation of the habitats for polecats and their prey, promotion of non-intensive farming and restricted use of pesticides, surveillance of predator control activities, enforcement of mitigation measures in human-altered landscapes, and monitoring of hybridisation with ferrets. The implementation of these measures should increase polecat chances of persisting in Portuguese landscapes and, ultimately, would benefit the whole carnivore community.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
ISSN: 2340-0463
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2020 11:15

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