This is very exciting news because, as far as we know from our records, this species has been extinct from Sussex since the late 19th century. In the last couple of years there have been four “wild” Polecat records in West Sussex. These have been verified by the Vincent Wildlife Trust as being true polecats and not polecat/ferret hybrids.
A record of a road fatality in Midhurst in July 2004 was the first record, followed by another found in the same area in November 2005. In July 2005 a lady reported, and photographed, three polecats who spent a day under her chicken shed in North Marden. Then I was out in the Hooksway area near Chichester in April this year and found one dead on the road. Like the other dead Polecats it was put in a freezer and then sent off to the Vincent Wildlife Trust who positively verified it.
During 2004-2006 the Vincent Wildlife Trust are running a new polecat distribution survey jointly with The Mammal Society and need people to collect bodies (or photos) of any wild polecats, feral ferrets or polecat-ferret hybrids. Please phone or email them for instructions if you find any. Their contact details can be found on the Vincent Wildlife Trust website. Alternatively you can call 01531 636441 for more information.
So this is really a plea to recorders to look out for dead Polecats when driving along, as it would be fascinating to track this mammal’s recolonisation of Sussex. If you do find one dead on the road it would be great if you could either collect the body or get a few photos of it, BUT your safety is obviously paramount, so please be careful! A grid-reference, location-name and date will be needed too.
If you would like some further reading, you can download a copy of the latest Polecat newsletter and also the very interesting Polecat in Sussex paper that was handed out at the Sussex Biological Recorders Seminar in 2005.
If you have any records of this species in Sussex, past or present, they would be gratefully received.