Ferret

 

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Range:  Domestic species, wild ferrets live in both North America and Europe

Natural Diet:   Rodents and other small animals, strictly carnivores.

Diet at Rain Forest: Prepared ferret diet.

Keepers Notes:  How we came to be so closely linked to this animal is a little uncertain, but we do know that for at least 3,000 years we have had this wonderful little animal as a companion.  Initially, like many of the animals people domesticated, the ferret was used to assist man in his daily struggle for survival. 

They are still used for hunting rabbits in some parts of the world today, but increasingly they are being kept simply as pets.

Being so closely related to polecats, ferrets are quite easily able to hybridize with them, and this has occasionally resulted in feral colonies of ferret-polecat hybrids that have been perceived to have caused damage to native fauna, perhaps most notably in New Zealand. As a result, some parts of the world have imposed restrictions on the keeping of ferrets.

Ferrets give birth to 2-7 babies after a gestation of only 40-44 days.  The babies nurse for approximately six weeks, after which they may stay with their mother for up to three months.

Female ferrets can give birth to as many as three litters in a year.

Size: .  1-2 pounds, approximately the size of a small rabbit.  Males and females are generally the same size with males being slightly larger, when compared next to each other males generally show a larger head and broader shoulders.  

A very elongated animal that is built almost "snake like" in the design of a body that is very long with small legs. 

Status in Wild: The North American black footed ferret is making a very nice come back after facing near extinction due to the loss of it's primary food item, the prairie dog.  

The domesticated pet ferret is doing extremely well in many homes world wide.

The direct ancestor of the domestic ferret is the European polecat, this species is so wide ranging in Eurpoe that it is listed as a species of least concern.

 

History:  The domestic ferret has an amazing history with man. 

The European ferret, or pole cat, enjoyed sailing the seas with many colonial ships as they set sail for Americas in the 16th and 17th century.  These curious and intelligent animals were not on board for a pleasure cruise, they were on board to hunt rodents.  Early mariners needed an effective way to control the rats and mice that boarded ships, in both cargo, and by climbing the ropes holding the ship fast to the dock.   

These agile and effective hunters would help rid the ships galley of unwanted pests that would jeopardize the ships ability to feed its crew on the way to the New World.  

 Ferrets have enjoyed a close relationship with man dating back at least 3,000 years!

Today ferrets enjoy a special place in our hearts as a playful and curious domestic pet. 

 The ferret is a crepuscular animal, meaning it is active primarily at dusk and dawn.   Unlike many larger predators that sleep as much as 20 hours per day, the ferret generally only sleeps about 14 hours a day. 

 Cover your nose when you sneeze around a ferret, they can catch the same cold or flu as a human!