Polecat is a common name for mammals in the order Carnivora and subfamilies Galictinae and Mustelinae. Polecats do not form a single taxonomic rank (i.e., clade); the name is applied to several species with broad similarities (including having a dark mask-like marking across the face) to European polecats, the only polecat species native to the British Isles.
Despite the name, polecats, being various caniform mustelids, are more closely related to dogs than cats, which is why they belong to the suborder Caniformia.
In Canada, the term polecat is sometimes applied to electric utility linemen. In Southern United States dialect, the term polecat is sometimes used as a colloquial nickname for a skunk.
According to the most recent taxonomic scheme proposing eight subfamilies within Mustelidae, the polecats are classified as:
- Genus Ictonyx
- Genus Vormela
- Marbled polecat, V. peregusna (Southeastern Europe to western China)
- Genus Mustela
Black-footed ferret, the “American polecat”
- "Skunk Fact Sheet" (PDF). The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division.
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