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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

The Striped Polecat: 15 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Striped polecat facts are really great to learn about.

The striped polecat (Ictonyx striatus) is an interesting breed known for its 'stink' and ability to adapt to many areas. They are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa and are also called African polecat. Along with the name African polecat, they also carry the name Cape polecat, zorille, zoril, and zorilla. The word 'zorilla' comes from the word 'zorro', which means 'fox'.  A zorilla has a black and white-colored coat, coming from the family Mustelidae and kingdom Animalia. They resemble a skunk in some ways. Their diet is mostly rodents. The zorilla breeding period is fixed in certain months at the start of the year. The breeding period is not very long. These mammals have domestic dogs and larger carnivores as predators but they use a high-pitched scream to ward them off. The breed is not really very handsome to look at and generally stays away from human contact, as much as they can. Hence, they are quite understudied.

Read on to know more fascinating facts about the Ictonyx striatus. Here are more similar animals for you to check out if you like this article ocelot and Balinese cat.

Striped Polecat Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a striped polecat?

A striped polecat is an animal that resembles a skunk.

What class of animal does a striped polecat belong to?

A striped polecat belongs to the class Mammalia.

How many striped polecats are there in the world?

Striped polecats are under the Least Concern and hence, there are many of them in the world.

Where does a striped polecat live?

A striped polecat generally prefers several kinds of habitat, mostly semi-arid regions. They are mostly found in Africa. Some of the places they live in are Cameroon, Djibouti, Nigeria, Mali, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and more such places.

What is a striped polecat's habitat?

The striped polecat can live in a variety of habitats. The habitats mostly include shrublands, desert areas, grasslands, and even the savannahs.  

Who do striped polecats live with?

The striped polecat travels a lot and tends to lead a very nomadic lifestyle. They are solitary creatures for the most part. However, their social life has not been studied in detail, so researchers are not sure striped polecats tend to interact in familial settings.

How long does a striped polecat live?

It is not clear how long a striped polecat lives. In captivity, a striped polecat lived for around 13 years and 4 months.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season of striped polecats is generally spread across the summer and spring seasons. The size of the males is generally larger than that of the males. It can therefore be assumed that some kind of competition exists between the males when it comes to mating. The litter is generally born during the winter seasons that is, September through December. The sexual maturity of striped polecats generally takes place when they reach their 20th or 30th week. However, due to the safer conditions of captivity, females have been reported to reach sexual maturity within the 10th week as well. The gestation period of a female striped polecat is around five to six weeks.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of striped polecats is Least Concern as per IUCN Red List. It is distributed widely around the planet. This is probably because they have a high habitat tolerance. As for threats, the striped polecat does not have any major ones. Humans generally kill them when they prey on poultry. However, they are declining in certain areas due to an increase in the human population in rural areas and similarly, being preyed upon by domestic dogs. Fortunately, there are many striped polecats found in protected areas too.  

Striped Polecat Fun Facts

What do striped polecats look like?

The striped polecat looks like the American weasel but is slightly larger in size. They have coarse black fur but along with that, there are white spots present on their faces. From the top of their head to their tail tip, they have four broad white stripes. Their tail is quite fluffy with a tinge of gray. Some of the differences between a striped polecat and an American weasel are the longer size of the coat and the three white dots that appear on their forehead. The striped polecats also have long sharp claws that they tend to use for digging. According to many researchers, the markings on their faces can create a sense of fear among their predators.  

Striped polecats can get violent.
* Please note that this is an image of a polecat, a similar-looking close relative. If you have an image of a striped polecat, let us know at [email protected].

How cute are they?

While the striped polecat may resemble weasels or skunks, they are not really very cute. They do have beady eyes and a pinkish nose, but they can get a little aggressive. Plus, their long claws can make them quite intimidating as well.

How do they communicate?

Striped polecats, generally, use screaming to communicate. There are generally two kinds of screams that striped polecats use. They tend to go for high-pitched screams which show fear or anticipation. Often, they can use low-pitched tones too. Low pitched tones convey submissiveness. When they want to ward off any predators like a dog, they can growl and fluff up their tail.

How big is a striped polecat?

A striped polecat is around 11-15 in long. In comparison, a weasel is around 6.8-8.5 in long. Hence, it is clear that the striped polecat is longer than the weasel.

How fast can a striped polecat run?

Striped polecats can climb trees since they have sharp claws. They often keep their backs arched when they are walking or running. However, there are no proper studies that have estimated the speed of the striped polecat. They are very good swimmers too.

How much does a striped polecat weigh?

The weight of a baby striped polecat is around 0.42 oz (12 g). Males are around 3.1 lb (1.4 kg) and females can weigh around  2.3 lb (1 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific male and female names of polecats. However, domesticated polecats are referred to as ferrets. Hence, by that extension, male polecats can be referred to as hobs while female ones can be referred to as jills.

What would you call a baby striped polecat?

As domesticated polecats are ferrets, then, striped polecat babies can be referred to as kits.

What do they eat?

Striped polecats diet contains mostly rodents, that is, rats and mice. They do not eat greens as such. At times, striped polecats can also be found feeding on snakes, lizards, frogs, and bird eggs.

Are they aggressive?

Striped polecats can become aggressive when they are trying to defend their territories. They use anal spray so as to aggravate and blind any predator or outsider who breaches their territorial grounds. In general, during the reproductive phases, males tend to be competitive and violent as well. However, in captivity, striped polecats did not appear to show the same territorial traits that they display in the wild. Since they are not studied properly, it is difficult to gauge how aggressive they can turn out to be.

Would they make a good pet?

Striped polecats live in the wild and are mostly solitary. They can also be very territorial, and when they are so, they tend to become aggressive. In general, striped polecats do not like companionship and hence, they are not studied too well. Striped polecats will not turn out to be great pets and you should not try to go near them and pet them either, even if you see them nearby.

Did you know...

Striped polecats from the family Mustelidae can really help in rodent control.

A zorilla eats often since they have small stomachs and need to fill themselves up at short intervals.

Striped polecats from the family Mustelidae can often act dead to prevent animals like their predators from preying on them.

Where can striped polecats live?

Due to their adaptability and resilient nature, the striped polecats can live in several habitat conditions. The striped polecats can be found in the savannahs of Africa or dry areas like the Namib desert. They can even adapt to Zimbabwe where there is significant rainfall.

Are striped polecats social animals?

Striped polecats are not very social. They lead nocturnal lives and they mostly live alone in rock crevices. At times, if the family meets, they can engage in grooming activities.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including black-footed ferret, or Egyptian mau.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Striped polecat coloring pages.

* Please note that the main image provided is of a European Polecat, a similar-looking close relative. If you have an image of a striped polecat, let us know at [email protected].

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