21 February 2011

The Smell Of Success

Another welcome visitor at the Sony was a Striped Polecat. I haven't photographed many of them at Tygerberg and this is the first good images I've got, so I'm very pleased.

The Striped Polecat (Stinkmuishond - Ictonyx striatus) appears to be searching for something

The Striped Polecat goes under many different names, one of the more popular ones is Zorilla. I always find that name somewhat puzzling. For me the Striped Polecat doesn't look anything like a cross between Zorro and Godzilla... On the other hand it does somewhat resemble what a cross between a pole and a cat might look like (if you have the imagination to back it up) and it is striped...

The Striped Polecat also, naturally, resemble a skunk. Or rather one of the many forms of skunk found in other parts of the world. But in fact these days scientists seem to have separated the skunks from the polecats. Skunks fall into the Mephitidae family and polecats form part of the Mustelidea family.

It seems to have found something to chew on (unfortunately it's not clear what it is from the photograph)

Similarly to skunks (and many other smallish mammals) the Striped Polecat can secrete a foul smelling substance when under stress. They also share a common colour scheme. The black and white pattern is often used by animals as warning colours and I'm sure many would like to avoid upsetting a polecat/skunk if at all possible.

Mmm, what is in here?

Striped Polecats are territorial and aren't usually found at high densities. They make up for this by tolerating a wide variety of habitats and can be found across most of Southern and Central Africa.

This particular individual might have been attracted to the increased rodent activity near the trail camera. The rodents were feasting on bird seed I put out. Cape Gerbils were photographed moments before and during the visit from the polecat, but more about them next time.


  1. That is another glorious camera trapping achievement!

    I also get a good idea of the critter from your photos, since I've known it only from study skins at the US National Museum.

    Getting any mustelid is something to crow about.

  2. What a charmer! I love that tail. We used to see lots of them spotlighting in the Kalahari (um, we were holding the light, not them) but they seem more scarce around here.

  3. Saw one in viljoenskroon tonight. Just after twelve when I went home after work. I found it strange that it was in town.