Bolton Ferret Welfare

Yarm Ferret Rescue May 2008

by Sue Lloyd

Winter wasn't hard hitting until January and the ferrets didn't start to take up their extra nesting until then. Despite little snow, a pair of stoats in our area went into ermine (white winter coats) which for this area was very unusual

Eventually spring arrived; it was a long haul and dull weather seems to have delayed some jills coming into season, yet others came in very early despite living outdoors! The vasectomised hobs who had come into their season by the new year had gone back over in the prolonged dull weather so it was a slow start tot he vasectomised hob service that we offer. Another consequence of the prolonged winter was the lack of availability of shavings due to horse owners needing more and a warehouse fire at one of the major shaving producers, so at times I had none.

Veterinary fees seem to be increasing rapidly which seems to be having a knock-on effect as several cases of neglect due to medical problems and their resulting treatment costs have occurred in two instances, illness was too advanced to respond to the delayed treatment.

Earlier in the year there was an alarming number of young lads wanting to home ferrets for the purpose of breeding; if this is your aim don't bother coming to me for stock although I do seem to do a bit of match-making for the more responsible breeders.

On the subject of jills in season, vulval swelling usually indicates a jill in season. However, one jill that we took in failed to reduce even after being spayed; it transpired that she poor soul had a grass seed lodged in her nether regions. Ouch! Instant relief once removed!

Warning: a working jill in season has been lost in my area; she came up out of a warren and normally would have returned to her box. However, on this particular day she wandered off into a rape-seed field. To make matters worse she had a tight locator collar on. Is it really safe to work ferrets when crops and vegetation mask warrens? Most of the local ferreters don't, nor would they work a jill in season.

Fingers crossed, on the rescue front things are quiet although strays have come in from around Thirsk where a monthly fur and feather auction takes place. Veterinarians class ferrets as exotics yet at these sort of auctions they can be sold for pennies. Why?

An enquiry last year from a gentleman needing a foster jill for some very young orphaned kits led me to think why not run a register and provide a service to ferret breeders should they need it. The idea was put to the NFWS committee who approved it and I offered to run it. If you have orphaned kits and need a foster jill, phone to see if one is available OR if you have a jill in milk who has lost her kits or has a small litter and you think that she would adopt more kits, again please phone and register her. In the case of jills who have lost all of their kits, their milk will soon dry up so unless quickly used as a foster mother their time on the register will be short. However, by expressing milk gently with your fingers you can keep the flow going for an extended period.

Legally, if you offer a jill to adopt kits the jill still remains your ferret and the kits remain the property of the person who bred them, you are ONLY lending/borrowing a jill.

At the time of writing there is a case in my area where a jill is due to give birth but since being mated it was discovered that she has a rare syndrome where her nipples have no openings so she is unable to feed them. An appeal in the local Evening Gazette has resulted in a foster jill with only one kit being lent as a foster mother. It remains to be seen if the new born kits survive without receiving colostrum (mom's first milk which contains antibodies to diseases known to that jill).

The success of this idea will depend on how many people offer their jills so if you can help with a jill or need a foster jill please telephone 07817 415645.

First Published May 2008

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