Striped Polecat - Ictonyx striatus

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Striped Polecat - Ictonyx striatus | Honey Badger - Millivora capensis | Clawless Otter - Aonyx capensis


Afrikaans Stinkmuishond Zulu Ngankakazana Tswana Nakedi Shona Ehidembo 

3 cm

Distribution Dung
Light in color

Visible Male/Female Differences

Males larger than females


Occurs in most habitats in Southern Africa, most often seen dead on the road.


Insects and mice, also spiders, scorpions and sun-spiders, birds and their eggs, reptiles and amphibians. 


Litters of up to three are born October-March after gestation 3 of 6 days. Babies are pink and hairless, unable to crawl the first week, when 10 days they crawl on all fours; when 7-8 weeks trot after mother and a week thereafter displays defensive threat.  Young's eyes are open at 6 weeks and are weaned at 8 weeks. Young are able to hunt and kill rodents at 9 weeks and are full-grown at 20 weeks. When 8-15 weeks play is a major activity. Striped Polecats produce one litter per year. If the young die early the female will mate and breed again. Lifespan 4-5 years. 

Behavior and Habits

Striped Polecats are active at night and solitary. They may be territorial. Family groups are rarely seen. Rests during the day in holes dens in the ground, crevices or dense vegetation. Prey is detected by scent and sound and  underground insects are dug up with the front paws. Rodents are killed with a bite to the neck. Their very successful defense is a revolting-smelling secretion and they are rarely killed by any of the carnivores.

Foraging/Predatory Behavior

When looking for insects, sniffs loudly, with nose to ground and back arched, tail horizontal. Pounces on flying insects and kills rodents by wedging teeth between 2 vertebrae, breaking the spinal cord. When killing a snake it bites repeatedly near middle or tail, grasps the snake and shakes it repeatedly until snake uncoils after which it pins it with forefeet and bites it behind the head.


When foraging moves with a springy trot. They are good swimmers.

Social/Mating System

Always seen singly.


  • Response to disturbance: warning growl.

  • Threat display:  loud threat call.

  • High intensity scream and squirting: release call.

  • High-pitched call, rising and falling: yapping.

  • Courting call: greeting yapping call.

  • Yapping and chirping: mating call.

Dung and Field sign

Droppings are 4-5 cm long, 1 cm thick and contain insect fragments and rodent remains.


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