A RARE and elusive mammal once hunted to extinction in England has been caught on camera in a Winsford back garden.

Linda Blake, who lives on Chester Road, caught the stripy intruder, a polecat, on a wildlife trail camera she set up near her hen house.

Polecats were persecuted by gamekeepers all through the 19th century, leaving just two tiny populations in Wales’ remote Black Mountains, and Eryri National Park.

Linda, a holistic therapist and businesswoman who has gardened organically to attract wildlife for 28 years, says she was ‘thrilled’ when she saw the footage.

“It was a real joy and a real treat”, she said.

“The polecat was probably trying to get the eggs from our chickens. We caught it on camera in the summer, but we saw it again in the winter after it had caught a rat.

“We weren’t worried about the chickens. The hen house is really secure, and polecats rarely come out in the day when the hens are free.

“It’s marvellous they’re back in Cheshire after so many years, and this one looks really healthy. We were thrilled.”

Polecats are known for their bandit-like appearance, and historically, the term was used to refer to a vagabond. 

They can sometimes be confused with their domesticated cousin, the ferret, which have been known to escape captivity and and thrive in the wild as ferals.

A spokesman for Cheshire Wildlife Trust said: "Polecats are small, sleek mammals, known for their distinctive masked faces. 

"They quietly inhabit the woodlands, grassy meadows, and riverbanks of Cheshire.

“With a diet primarily composed of small rodents and birds, polecats play a crucial role in maintaining the local ecosystem's balance.

“Though once threatened by habitat loss and persecution, conservation efforts and increased awareness have contributed to their gradual resurgence in Cheshire's countryside."