Common Coward – Species Description, Occurrence and Hunting

The standard ferret is small (but highly ferocious!) Predator from the mustelid family. Although some of its varieties were adopted as pets until recently, its presence in our area caused utterly different, rather negative emotions.

Cowards have a complicated relationship with… hunters, who know more than anyone that the deceptive name “coward” has little to do with true nature. 

What Are Cowards Related to?

The ferret belongs to the mustelid family, part of the Mustelidae family. There are many species of this family in Poland, such as:  

  • weasel, 
  • pine marten, 
  • Otter 
  • badger.

Other species of mustelids in the world include 

  • honey badger, 
  • American mink, 
  • tayra, 
  • wolverine and 
  • osprey.

What Is the Scientific Name of the European Coward?

The scientific name for the European coward, usually referred to as simply a coward, is Mustela putorius.  

How to Recognize a Coward?

A coward is a short-legged animal with a relatively long (up to half a meter in length) body and weight not exceeding one and a half kilograms. Its color is generally dark, but the lighter undercoat slightly brightens the silhouette. 

The most distinctive feature of the coward is its “mask” on its face, with white fur above its eyes and around its mouth. 

Common Coward – Occurrence

Cowards are found all over Europe, from Great Britain and Portugal in the west to the Urals in Russia in the east. In Poland, they are common throughout the country. 

What Is the Preferred Habitat of the Coward?

Cowards tend to be a generalist and are not dependent on one habitat type. Some studies have shown that they prefer riparian vegetation, wetlands, meadows, pastures, farmland and mountain pine forests.

In Poland, the coward was most abundant in forest landscapes, where he had an abundance of quiet and shady places and was close to food in the form of small rodents, reptiles, and amphibians.

Today the situation is entirely different. Due to human activity, the expansion of residential and industrial areas, the favorite environment of cowards began to disappear, which forced them to relocate.

Therefore, they can be found more and more often in the vicinity of farms and poultry farms, where they sometimes plant chickens or even ducks. However, they are not so deadly in this respect, 

Interestingly, cowards prefer to use existing structures such as rabbit holes, hay piles, and logs when choosing places for a lair. 

What Do Cowards Eat?

In Poland, the basis of the menu of cowards are small rodents, such as mice and rats, but cowards do not avoid hunting for larger specimens, such as rabbits, young hares or birds nesting on the ground.

They also do not disdain frogs, fish, lizards, snakes, sometimes snails and insects. Sometimes he sneaks into henhouses. During winter hunting, it “dives” under the snow in search of prey, and in times of hunger, it does not avoid carrion.

Rebuilding the Coward Population

After the mass extermination of the species, the cowards recover mainly through their efforts, taking advantage of the advantageous situation and less and less persecution from human activities.

Unfortunately, they still do not have it easy, on the one hand, being pushed out of the shrinking natural environment by raccoon dogs. On the other hand, they are massively victims of road collisions, which are the leading cause of mortality of this species.

Cowards can also die or be injured in traps for other species such as gray squirrels, rats and weasels.

Watching Cowards in the Wild

Cowards are elusive and, therefore, difficult to see in nature. Most of the observations are based on single individuals running across the road at night.

Cowards sometimes visit gardens and may be lured by food displayed to other mammals such as foxes and hedgehogs. There are no hiding places or places for “coward watching,” so your success depends on your luck.

What Is the Difference Between a Coward and a Ferret?

The coward is the ancestor of the domestic ferret. Cowards and ferrets can reproduce to form hybrids of ferrets.

Breeders also cross domestic ferrets with wild cowards for a variety of colors. Genetic analysis can only distinguish some ” ferrets from real cowards.

However, the presence of ferret genes in the coward population does not pose a threat and may even increase genetic diversity.

Hybrids are mostly found at the edge of the expanding range of cowards, and true cowards seem to be competing with hybrids in the long run. In terms of behavior, ferrets and ferrets are entirely different. 

Hunting for Cowards

Hardly anyone hunts the cowards intentionally. They are usually shot while hunting other species. This is mainly due to the characteristics of the hunting itself and the fact that only a fur trophy remains after a coward.

The exception is shooting motivated by the damage that cowards can inflict on poultry farms by attacking birds released in free-range. When this happens, a seat is often set up where the intrusion has been detected, in some situations using scent decoys.

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