Rare polecat trapped at gardens

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Latest news from the Suffolk Free Press, suffolkfreepress.co.uk, @sfpsudbury on Twitter

A rare mammal only recently returned to the county after a 100-year absence, has been spotted in Brent Eleigh.

Gardeners at the Brent Eleigh Hall walled garden caught what they believed to be a polecat.

The polecat was trapped to extinction in lowland Britain at the end of the nineteenth century.

Despite making a return to many areas, the polecat has only recently returned to Suffolk, making its way up from Essex and through the south of the county.

Merriel Gardiner, head gardener, said: “Martin caught one in his rabbit trap at the weekend and managed to photograph it before releasing it back into the wood.

“Polecats love to eat frogs, rabbits, snakes and ground nesting birds – all abundant here.

“Looking at the polecat distribution map, we appear to be just outside the range of the polecat, so Brent Eleigh is very special indeed.

“Each cat has about five pups in June, so it’s likely that there are young here too.”

Dr Simone Bullion, senior conservation advisor at Suffolk Wildlife Trust confirmed that polecats had now been spotted across the county but said the find was nonetheless exciting.

“I think it’s brilliant. The last ones died out 100 years ago. I hope they will be here to stay.”

She added that as Suffolk is out of the ‘purity zone’ there would have been hybridisation with polecat-type ferrets with the genes of the domestic ferret species.

She asked for any further sightings to be recorded and details given to the Trust as well as the Vincent Wildlife Trust, which is carrying out a national study on the animals.