Saharan striped polecat

Saharan striped polecat
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Mustelidae
Genus: Ictonyx
Species: I. libycus
Binomial name
Ictonyx libycus
(Hemprich & Ehrenberg, 1833)
Saharan striped polecat range

The Saharan striped polecat, also known as the Saharan striped weasel, Libyan striped weasel, and the North African striped weasel (Ictonyx libycus) is a species of mammal in the family Mustelidae.[2] This animal is sometimes characterized as being a part of the genus Poecilictis, and its coloration resembles that of the striped polecat.[3]

Physical characteristics

Saharan striped polecats are about 55–70 cm in length, including their tails, and generally weigh between .5 and .75 kg. It is striped white in a non-uniform fashion and has black feet, legs, ears, and underside. Often a white ring goes around the face and above a black snout. It is sometimes confused with the striped polecat though it is generally smaller and has distinct facial markings.[4]


The Saharan stripe polecat is distributed around the northern and southern edges of the Sahara Mauretania, Western Sahara and Morocco in the west along the Mediterranean littoral of North Africa to the Nile Valley in Egypt, while in the south its range is the Dahel east to Sudan and Djibouti.[1][5]


The Saharan stripe polecat is found on the margins of deserts especially in mountains, in arid stony terrain and sandy semideserts, rarely seen in woodlands and is prefers steppe like habitat.[6]



It eats a diet primarily of eggs, small birds, small mammals, and lizards.[7] Much of its prey is tracked down by scent and dug out of burrows, and although it is normally a slow, deliberate mover it can move quite rapidly and pounce quickly when pursuing prey.[6]

Lifestyle and reproduction

The Saharan striped polecat is nocturnal and solitary. It hides during the day in other animals' burrows or digs its own. It generally gives birth to one to three young in spring.[4]

Defense mechanisms

This creature is known to spray a foul, skunk-like anal emission when threatened.[2] It moves about at night in the open in a quite deliberate way with its tail help vertically.[6] Before releasing the anal emission it will raise its fur in an attempt to warn the potential attacker.[7]

Relation with humans

In Tunisia these animals are often caught and exploited because of the tribal belief that they may increase male fertility.[1]



  1. 1 2 3 Hoffmann, M.; Cuzin, F. & de Smet, K. (2008). "Ictonyx libyca". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 21 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
  2. 1 2 Newman, Buesching & Wolff (2005). The function of facial masks in ‘‘midguild’’ carnivores (PDF). Oxford: Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Dept of Zoology. p. 632.
  3. Ball, Marion (1 January 1978). "Reproduction in captive-born zorillas". International Zoo Yearbook. 18 (1): 140. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1090.1978.tb00245.x.
  4. 1 2 Hoath, Richard (2009). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. Egypt: The American University in Cairo Press. pp. 82–84.
  5. 1 2 "Saharan Striped Polecat". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  6. 1 2 3 Kingdon, J. (1997). The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press. p. 229. ISBN 0-12-408355-2.
  7. 1 2 Hoath, Richard (2009). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. Egypt: The American University in Cairo Press. p. 83.
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