The polecat’s body measures about 40 centimetres, and its tail 15 centimetres. It is brownish black with a yellow to ochre belly. The ridges of its ears are white, and its broad face is black with a white mask ringing the base of its muzzle.
The European polecat lives in low-lying areas such as woodlands, forest plantations, marshes, riverbanks and sea cliffs throughout Europe to the Urals. It often appears in settled areas.
Active at twilight and at night, the polecat marks its territory with foul-smelling secretions from its anal glands. When cornered, it squirts this substance at its enemy in self-defence. The polecat climbs well and moves by jumping. It preys mainly on small vertebrates such as rodents, birds and frogs, but sometimes also feeds on insects.