Acta Theriologica

, Volume 58, Issue 3, pp 233–244 | Cite as

Population status, habitat associations, and distribution of the steppe polecat Mustela eversmanii in Europe

  • Martin Šálek
  • Nikolai Spassov
  • Miloš Anděra
  • Karin Enzinger
  • Barnabás Ottlecz
  • Zsolt Hegyeli
Review Article


The steppe polecat Mustela eversmanii is a medium-sized mustelid species whose European population has significantly declined over the past century. However, due to the lack of systematic surveys, little is known about its status and distribution. In this paper, we review the current distribution, habitat associations, and population trends of steppe polecats in Europe and assess the main factors associated with these trends. Our results reveal ongoing population declines in most of the studied countries, which led to fragmentation and local population extinctions at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The species was assessed as rapidly declining in Austria, Czech Republic, Moldova, Slovakia, and Ukraine; declining in Bulgaria; and stable in Hungary. Due to insufficient data, its status was not evaluated for Romania, Poland, and Serbia. M. eversmanii naturally occurs in steppe habitats, but recently seems to have adopted open agricultural landscapes consisting of a mosaic of grasslands, small fields with hedges, and dry embankments. Its distribution often coincides with populations of ground squirrels and hamsters. However, in intensively used agricultural landscapes, smaller rodents (especially voles) could also be an important dietary component. Intensive agricultural production, habitat loss, the degradation of steppe and grassland habitats, and significant declines in the availability of its main prey are the crucial factors for the species’ current population decline. Further research is urgently needed to fill the gaps in our knowledge of its distribution, population densities, feeding ecology, habitat associations, and population genetics. This would enable first steps towards its effective conservation and management strategies.


Steppe polecat Mustela eversmanii Distribution Habitat associations Population status Europe 



We are grateful for the information provided by Miklós Heltai (Institute for Wildlife Conservation, Hungary), Dumitru Murariu (“Grigore Antipa” National Museum of Natural History, Bucharest, Romania), Victoria Nistreanu (Institute of Zoology, Academy of Sciences of Moldova, Moldova), Duško Ćirović (Faculty of Biology, University of Belgrade, Serbia), Anton Krištín (Institute of Forest Ecology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia), Petr Koubek (Institute of Vertebrate Biology, ASCR, Czech Republic), Wieslaw Bogdanowicz (Museum & Institute of Zoology PAS, Poland), Andrzej Zalewski (Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland), Hermann Ansorge (Senckenberg Museum für Naturkunde Görlitz, Germany), Boris Kryštufek (Group for Biodiversity, Slovenia), Jerzy Romanowski (Centre for Ecological Research PAN, Poland), and Vlasta Škorpíková (Regional Council Znojmo, Czech Republic). We would also like to thank Phil Butterill and Marina Kipson for editing the English manuscript and Frank Zachos, Franz Suchentrunk, and Barbara Herzig for their comments on the first draft of the manuscript. This work was supported by the research aim of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (RVO 68081766).


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Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Šálek
    • 1
  • Nikolai Spassov
    • 2
  • Miloš Anděra
    • 3
  • Karin Enzinger
    • 4
  • Barnabás Ottlecz
    • 5
  • Zsolt Hegyeli
    • 6
  1. 1.Institute of Vertebrate BiologyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.National Museum of Natural HistoryBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria
  3. 3.National MuseumPraha 1Czech Republic
  4. 4.Austrian League of Nature ConservationViennaAustria
  5. 5.Institute of Wildlife Management and Vertebrate ZoologyUniversity of West HungarySopron Ady E. U. 5Hungary
  6. 6.“Milvus Group” Bird and Nature Protection AssociationTîrgu-MureşRomania

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