Polecat named Animal of the Year in Switzerland for 2024
Every year, nature conservation organisation Pro Natura releases its "Animal of the Year" in a bid to highlight the plight of endangered species and other wildlife in Switzerland. For 2024, the humble European Polecat took the top spot.
Polecats named Switzerland's animal of the year
Whether it be wiggling up a trouser leg or bounding about the countryside, polecats and ferrets have always captured the public’s imagination. English novelist D. H Lawrence, famous for writing Lady Chatterly's Lover, once wrote that they are “most lovely noble darlings in the world.”
For those interested, differences between ferrets and polecats include the fact that ferrets are weaker and have smaller heads than polecats, but tend to grow larger than their special ancestors. What's more, unlike their domesticated cousins, the European Polecat is known to be much more shy than the communal-natured ferrets. “The polecat would rather take a detour than move across an open area,” Pro Natura noted.
Pro Natura warn of threat to polecat habitats
Sadly, this is the reason why the polecat has been named the animal of the year, with officials explaining that much of the Swiss landscape, especially farmland, is now ill-suited for the animal to thrive. While not classified as an endangered species, the reduction in its habitat across Swiss cantons is a cause for concern.
Ideally, polecats need “a mosaic of ditches, hedges, high herbaceous meadows, piles of branches and stones, natural streams and wetlands” so that they can effectively hide from predators - although they are also able to produce a foul-smelling secretion if threatened, similar to that of a skunk.
As part of their campaign, Pro Natura is also focusing on preserving wetlands for polecats as they are home to sources of food like frogs, toads and small animals. Pro Natura added that the polecat’s favourite meal is frog legs.
Open your barns up to polecats, encourage Pro Natura
Alongside encouraging farmers to preserve the polecat's habitat, Pro Natura has also called on anyone who owns abandoned buildings, barns or stables to leave them open for polecats as they can serve as “accommodation” over winter. However, they conceded that such a policy could lead to some stolen food here and there.
Want to find out how you can help the polecat? Check out the Pro Natura website.