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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.

In the United States, the term polecat is sometimes applied to the black-footed ferret, a native member of the Mustelinae, and (loosely) to skunks, which are only distantly related.

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.[1]

TaxonomyEdit

According to the most recent taxonomic scheme proposing eight subfamilies within Mustelidae, the polecats are classified as:

Subfamily Galictinae

Subfamily Mustelinae

Mustelidae

Lutrinae

Mustela, Neovison (subfamily Mustelinae)

Galictis, Vormela, Ictonyx, Poecilogale (subfamily Galictinae)

Melogale (subfamily Helictidinae)

Eira, Gulo, Martes (subfamily Martinae)

Arctonyx, Meles (subfamily Melinae)

Mellivora (subfamily Mellivorinae)

Taxidea (subfamily Taxideinae)

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Skunk Fact Sheet" (PDF). The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division.