Bolton Ferret Welfare

Yarm Ferret Rescue September 2011

by Sue Lloyd

Double Trouble

This was told to me by one of the men concerned. Two best mates used to go ferreting, usually they preferred to work albino ferrets but on these occasions they were using polecat coloured brothers who were very similar to each other. One of these hobs travelled the full length of a two-hundred yard drain and when his owner realised that he was in the drain, he ran to the end of it. There was the hob: the hob gave a chuckle and ran back down soon to emerge at the other end where he was picked up. On another day's ferreting this hob was put into a warren with a locator collar; away he went but he was soon out of range and couldn't be found: the hob was lost.

Nearly a year later in a different part of the same wood where the hob was lost, the two men were working the lost hob's brother. Down a burrow he went, a minute or so later out popped the hob, the owner was surprised as the warren housed a lot of rabbits. The hob was put back down but again he popped out. It was then that the owner realised that the hob was the one that he'd lost the previous year! How did he know? Well sometime later the other hob emerged and everyone went home very happy. The hob that had been lost was still wearing the locator collar although of course the battery was flat.

Locator Collar saves Suffering

A gentleman that I know works his ferrets and has re-homed two jills from my rescue, he uses locator collars and had purchased a new Deben Mk3 set with a range of sixteen feet.

One afternoon whilst out working two polecat coloured jills in an area that he knew, one of the jills returned to the surface bleeding heavily. She had had an upper canine tooth kicked out from within the gum. This has since healed; she was checked over that night by a vet. The other jill never returned to the surface. The locator showed her to be in the same place; her owner started to dig. He dug and dug and eventually dug down some sixteen feet, by which time he had to be lowered down to reach the jill. By this time it was nearly dark. The jill was injured and in great pain but still managed to crawl to his hand. She was immediately rushed to the vet but unfortunately had to be put to sleep. Her shoulder was smashed and splinters had gone into her chest cavity. Had her owner not cared she would have faced a dreadful end. It is presumed that both jills were kicked by a large buck rabbit.

Never presume a lost ferret is okay.

Rescue Update

Since last winter's snow left us my phone hasn't stopped ringing with people wanting to get rid of their ferrets, strays being found, owners dying, owners who have lost interest and so it goes on. Ferrets have been promoted as pets, they are in fashion and the rescues are bursting. My local 'fur and feather' auction still sells kits; Leed's market has a pet stall selling ferrets to anyone, regardless of the fact that the new owner may not even have a cage for the ferret.

This spring a local animal sanctuary contacted me; a man had bred a litter of kits from his jill and once weaned he was going to dump them in the woods. We looked for homes. We never got the kits. A local pet shop bought all but two of the litter despite the kits being thin. No-one at the pet shop knew much about ferrets but they were sold on. The two kits that did not go to the pet shop were jills, retained by the man that bred them. He has seen the pound sign and next year intends to breed, breed, breed.

Recently a northern branch of the RSPCA contacted me, they were swamped with everything and didn't have room for three ferrets that had come in. Neither did I, so I rang round and a new foster family agreed to take all three. I rang the RSPCA back; the ferrets were on their way to the vets to be put to sleep. Thank goodness for mobile phones! The van diverted, travelled the long distance and delivered three bouncing polecat coloured kit hobs to a new home. Once again I have run the foster jill/orphan kit register for the year. The demand for foster jills has outweighed the number I've had available. Next year if you breed from a jill that only has a small litter, please consider taking on orphan kits. Sometimes the kits may be new born, sometimes they may be weeks old. I can be contacted on 07817 415645.

Vasectomised Hob Failure

I've had and used vasectomised hobs for nearly as long as I've had ferrets without any problems other than the risk of spreading disease. I always have at least three due to the number of jills being presented. I average a hob a year being vasectomised: once done they are not used for six weeks and then only get one or two trial jills before going into full service if all appears well.

This spring, due to the cold weather, I was later than usual having a new hob vasectomised. He missed the first flush of 'in season' jills and it was nine weeks after his operation before I used him. All was well and he went into full use with no problems, that is until the end of the season; a jill that I'd put in with him went for a routine spay operation which revealed that she was pregnant. It was then clear that a second jill who I thought was having a false pregnancy wasn't and that it was the real thing!

This jill was rushed to the vets and spayed. Luckily neither jill went on to produce milk at what would have been their due date. If this seems harsh, well the fact is there are already too many ferrets needing homes as it is.

The hob in question is an albino and probably inbred so not the ideal sire. My vet is intending to castrate him free of charge after what has happened: I cannot risk using him again.

(First published September 2011)

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