Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Spot the Furry Visitor

A friend called Duncan is helping out at Balintore for a few days. As he was typing away on his laptop in the ruined castle scullery yesterday evening, he had a little furry visitor. Can you spot the critter in the first photograph? If not, I have enlarged the interloper for the second image.
spot the furry visitor

So what kind of animal is this? Duncan thought it might be a stoat. I thought it looked more like a pine martin. My builder says it is a ferret with a hint of pole cat. I am tempted to believe my builder as he has kept ferrets in the past. If anyone would like to toss their own oar in ...... ? :-)

furry visitor close-up

Sadly, I never have had furry visitors as cute as Duncan's, and haven't even seen one of these in the wild.



10 comments:

  1. Ferret or polecat. Definitely.

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    1. Thanks! This seems to be the emerging view. :-)

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    2. Polecat? That's funny! Here in Texas a polecat is a skunk & the last thing you want in your house. I didn't know that ferrets are called polecats.

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    3. I have heard the Americans use the term "polecat" but didn't realise it would be a different critter from ours. One of my unfulfilled ambitions is to smell a skunk. We get the Disney cartoon ones as children, but we don't get the full picture, so to speak. :-)

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  2. Definitely a ferret/polecat. Could be someone's pet - they're brilliant escape artists, mine have been on so many adventures of their own, lucky to get them back - they tend not to survive too well on their own

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  3. Looking at Wikipedia I'd go with the Polecat/Ferret option too

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  4. Polecat-ferret. They are feral in Angus and I see them not infrequently when on the road. They are the product of cross-breeding between ferrets and polecats, the latter being a truly wild species originally but not with diluted bloodlines (rather same as Scottish wildcat being interbred with feral cats.) They would survive fine on their own were they not so frequently shot. This one by your new neighbour probably...

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  5. It is difficult to tell the difference between a polecat and a ferret. However, the polecat has dark fur on the face which reaches the nose, while the ferret does not: its nose is completely "ringed" by pale fur. The polecat also has a dark chest/throat, while the ferret's is pale. This creature is more polecat than ferret (from what we can and cannot see, the shadows may be misleading), but it could easily be a hybrid, since they interbreed and produce fertile young, and the dark fur reaching the nose on this little beauty is not typically extensive.

    To make matters worse, their summer and winter coats differ in both species (they both tend to be darker in summer), and we are in the season of change.


    The pine marten has a dark face, with pale chest, and more pointed ears, while the stoat has a dark face and pale chest, with rounded ears.

    Pine Martens are pretty rare, with their stronghold in the Highlands, while polecats are making a recovery, but still very rare in Scotland (once believed to be extinct by 1914, or shortly thereafter). A hybrid sighting in Angus might even be significant, unless it is an escapee (in which case it may seek human association, and not survive well in the wild:-(.

    Curiously, my first sighting of a (roadkill) polecat in Oxfordshire was not far from Sutton Courtenay, when they were first being spotted in the county.

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  6. I saw this animal (or possibly a close relation) when walking up the Balintore valley earlier in the year. It was playing around near the stream about half-way between your castle and Longdrum. I suspect they make a good living on the rabbit population.

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    1. Thanks for the nature watch report! Friends have reported seeing this animal outdoors, but I've always drawn a blank. There is definitely an over-population of rabbits in the area, so nature always steps in with a predator. I've been told my mice numbers should be reducing too - again there is a super-abundance in the castle.

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