Marbled Polecat

Vormela peregusna (Guldenstaedt, 1770)

Putorius sarmaticus Pall.: Kovachev, 1925: 19-20.

Order Carnivora

Family Mustelidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Vulnerable VU [A4 c,d,e ], BDA-II, III; International: IUCN-VU (the European subspecies); HD-II, IV, BeC-II.

General distribution. From the steppes and deserts of the Middle East and Central Asia, including Mongolia and Northwestern China, to the Central and Eastern part of the Balkan peninsula, where the European V. peregusna peregusna (Guldenstaedt, 1770) is present. The subspecies disappeared from Hungary and Moldova and survived in an eastern population with low numbers in Southeastern Romania, Southeastern Ukraine and Southern Russia.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. It inhabits mosaically the valleys, gorge fields and forest-free terrains in semi-mountainous regions. It is found more often in Northeastern and Southeastern Bulgaria and in the high fields of Western Bulgaria. [1; 2; 3; Bulgarian Forestries Questionnaire (1989), Z. Spiridonov, L. Mileva]. It numbers about 2 000 individuals (without the cubs) with a probable density of 1 individual/10 km2, calculated on 20% of the territory of the country (the potential habitats).

Habitats. Meadows, pastures, stony terrains, deserted lands, including river valleys, dry ravines, canyons. Preferred are the territories with large colonial rodents [2;3].

Biology. Understudied. The mating season is mainly in April-June; pregnancy lasts 8-11 months (with a latent period); it gives birth to an average of 4-5 cubs from January to May. The females become sexually mature at the age of 3 months, males at the age of 1 year. [1; 4; 5; 6;]. Basic prey: sousliks, hamsters, mole rats, small rodents, rarely frogs, reptiles, mollusks [1]. Individual territories in the Ukraine 10-30 ha, in Israel 50-60. Within a day it covers up to 1 200 m. [5; 7].

Negative factors. Turning meadows and pastures into arable lands; intensive agriculture (fields with monocultures, destruction of the field boundaries, use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers). Decrease of the numbers of the major prey. Fragmentation of the habitats by transport corridors and road accidents. Human poaching [1; 2; 3].

Conservation measures taken. It is included in the Bulgarian Red Data Book of 1985. A group for the preservation of the European subspecies at the IUCN (with Bulgarian participation) has been set up. An action plan has been prepared for the preservation of the species (The Wilderness Fund Society) [3]. The subspecies is included in the EU Habitats Directive on Bulgaria's proposal. It is envisioned for national monitoring.

Conservation measures needed. Mapping of the habitats. Declaration of important habitats for the steppe faunistic complex for protected territories [8]. Building passes through the roads and ensuring ecological corridors between the habitats. Applying alternative activities to combat rodents' calamities. Public education activities.

References. 1. Spassov & Spiridonov, 1993; 2. Spassov & Spiridonov, 1985; 3. Spassov et al., 2002; 4. Ben-David, 1988; 5. Geptner et al., 1967; 6. Ben-David, 1998; 7. Abelentsev, 1968; 8. Spiridonov & Spassov, 2005.

Authors: Nikolai Spassov, Geko Spiridonov

Marbled Polecat (distribution map)

Marbled Polecat (drawing)