On the 6th of August 2022, Jeffrey Peereboom from the Habitat Foundation visited North Macedonia to meet Aleksandar Stojanov and Aleksandar Pavlov of the Macedonian Ecological Society. The visit, which lasted several days, was part of the Research and Conservation of Mustelids in the Balkans program and included the delivery of two Browning camera traps and two Bush Bandits with Bushnell Aggressor camera traps. The Browning camera traps can be used in mustelid research in general, such as for pine martens (Martes martes), or other marten species. The Bush Bandits are meant for recording the elusive marbled polecat, Vormela peregusna.
The first part of the trip was into an area in the east of the country, where a road casualty of the marbled polecat was found (see picture). Considering it was a male and found in May, the finding suggests that a population is active in the area. Jeffrey went there together with Aleksandar Stojanov, searching for suitable habitats of the marbled polecat where the Bush Bandits could be placed. A small ditch, which showed multiple wildlife tracks, seemed suitable. It was estimated that this location had the highest probability of recording the species, so the Bush Bandits were placed there.
The second part of the trip was in the south of the country, close to the Greek border. According to literature, several suslik (Spermophilus citellus) populations were present in the area. Susliks are an important part of the diet of marbled polecats and so regions that contain suslik populations could be suitable habitats for the species. Unfortunately, the search didn’t reveal any susliks. The historical locations were turned into agriculture or taken over by expanded villages. Interviewing the locals brought up the information that the species has been absent for years and isn’t present in the region anymore. Despite the absence of suslik, the region does contain suitable habitat for the marbled polecat. Therefore, it remains in consideration for future research into this species.
Today, several months later, the species has still not been recorded by the Bush Bandits. Other species were recorded though, such as badgers (Meles meles), tortoises and grass snakes (Natrix spec.). The search for the marbled polecat continues.
All photographs Jeffrey Peereboom, except the polecat head on the News-page: Zoofanatic (https://flickr.com/photos/zoofanatic/14154536321)