Feb 1

We’ve asked conservation organisations around the world to nominate a species that they believe to be overlooked, underappreciated and unloved, and tell us why they think that they deserve a fair share of the limelight, this Valentine’s Day.

Each nominee’s story is featured on the Arkive blog with information on the species, what makes them so special, the conservation organisation that nominated them and how they are working to save them from extinction.

Click the ‘unloved species’ tag above to see all of the nominations and their blogs.

Once you have perused the blogs you can vote for your favourite to help get them into the top ten unloved species and get them the recognition that they truly deserve! Share your favourite with others using the #LoveSpecies hashtag on Twitter and Facebook and tell them why they should vote for them too. Voting closes on February 14th at 23:59 PST (07:59 GMT).

Join us and our conservation partners in celebrating and raising awareness for some of the world’s most unloved species this Valentine’s Day!

Species: European polecat

Nominated by: Vincent Wildlife Trust

Conservation status: At the start of the 20th century, the polecat was close to being wiped out in Britain. Today, the polecat population is recovering and has become more widespread, but in some areas it is still absent or rare. The polecat is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. In parts of mainland Europe, polecat populations are declining.

Why do you love it? The polecat has an image problem and has had a troubled history with humans. It was once killed in higher numbers than any other animal with the exception of the mole.  Its reputation for being foul smelling didn’t help its cause; and indeed its scientific name Mustela putorius is hardly flattering, translating as ‘foul-smelling musk bearer’. Its unloved status is made clear in Shakespeare’s ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ with the lines: ‘Out of my door, you witch, you rag, you baggage, you poulcat, you runnion! Out, out!’

The polecat does not deserve such a negative press. It is of course a predator and will eat people’s chickens if owners allow them entry to coops, but with good husbandry practices the polecat will stick to its preferred fast food – the rabbit. It will also eat rats – and that must be a plus point.

To the staff at the VWT the polecat’s bandit-like mask is endearing rather than threatening, and its continuing recovery is a remarkable comeback for a mammal once close to extinction across much of Britain. The VWT has been studying the polecat for decades in order to better understand the animal’s ecology. The Trust also works hard to raise public awareness of this elusive, charismatic, if perhaps a little smelly, native mammal.

What are the threats to the European polecat? Today, the polecat’s recovery and survival could be threatened by secondary rodenticide poisoning – this is where polecats eat poisoned prey, such as rats, and are then poisoned themselves. Polecats are also vulnerable to being caught in lethal traps set for other species. However, the main cause of mortality in polecats is their collision with vehicles, and a dead polecat on the side of a road is not an uncommon sight in areas where polecats have recovered their numbers.

What are you doing to save it? For more than 20 years, The Vincent Wildlife Trust has been working to build our knowledge and understanding of the polecat’s ecology and its needs. The Trust has carried out radio-tracking and dietary studies and has also completed three national distribution surveys to track the polecat’s recovery as it expands its range across Britain. Results of the most recent survey will be published later this year.

What is clear is that the polecat is a very good example of a native mammal that despite past human persecution has managed to pull back from the brink.

Find out more about the Vincent Wildlife Trust’s work with the European polecat

Find out more about the Vincent Wildlife Trust

Discover other weasel, badger and otter species on Arkive




  • Lori Drapeau (February 9th, 2016 at 10:36 pm):

    They are a beautiful part nature.