Bolton Ferret Welfare

Yarm Ferret Rescue May 2012

by Sue Lloyd

One of the more unusual requests I receive is for a bag of ferret droppings, these are required for people to put down in sheds to keep rats away. Myself I have doubts about the practice being effective. I have cages in a building and when the weather turns colder we get a few mice and rats come in. I like rats but not in the buildings, they do too much damage.

Looking out one January morning it was a beautiful picture of everything white all over, covered in frost. Alarmingly this included a white ferret running about! I dashed outside, picked the ferret up (at least she was one of mine and not one that had been dumped) and investigated. A rat had chewed a large hole in the cage where the wood was damp in the loo corner. I mended the cage and placed the ferret back in, I was lucky not to lose her, she was rather grey-coated after a good explore.

I dare not use kill traps in case something other than a rat goes to them and rats are rather wary of live catch cage traps so it's a case of putting bait down: modern poison acts very quickly.

The escaped jill's sister was having a run out some days later, under supervision. As she went behind a bale of straw her tail bristled. She pulled out a large rat not quite dead which she soon dispatched. Nervous of secondary poisoning I soon buried the rat. The jill had killed the rat by crushing through the neck vertebrae which is how ferrets instinctively kill, this jill has never worked but instinct told her what to do and in these days of Angora mutants I personally hope that ferrets never lose their basic instinct and remain ferrets. I've seen numerous ferrets over the years which have been kept purely as pets but given half a chance they've killed rabbits that they have come across.

Last December my lovely albino jill, Alice, came across one of our cats and launched herself at it. Luckily the cat made a hasty retreat. Alice was always kept as a pet but had daily runs outside. One day she came across a dead pigeon larger than herself. With great determination she carried the pigeon some fifty yards down a hedge back and then stashed it in a hidden corner.

Alice was a great favourite and I was very sad when at meal times she started to bring eaten food straight back up. She was still doing droppings so some food was getting down. The vets suggested antibiotics and vitamins: an X-ray revealed nothing. I knew it was bad news; the weight fell off her. She was active until her last day and after being put to sleep a postmortem revealed a condition known as Megaoesophagus which in her case was nerve damage to the oesophagus. Sad and totally unexpected: she was five and half years old. Yet another fur and feather auction has started in this region, poultry can make a decent price but rabbits, ferrets and guinea pigs may only sell for 50 pence each. It costs one pound to enter so I don't see the logic, plus the auctioneer takes a percentage of the sale price. It just seems a dumping ground for unwanted stock with no regard where they end up. Females with young are split up when probably the young are not old enough to leave mum. And they call us a nation of animal lovers!

I'm appalled by how even so-called experts can look after their stock. Last year I wouldn't part with a hob kit to go and live with another hob kit, they wouldn't be castrated and come spring I could see fights erupting. "They'll sort themselves out", I was told. This person keeps jills that fight to the point where at least two that I know off have lost ear flaps. Another jill kit was in with an unrelated hob kit over the winter, the jill is a fighter and the hob lost an eye, he never received veterinary attention, I presume he suffered pain but I was assured that he never stopped eating or suffered an infection. Yet their owner will be at the shows this summer, winning rosettes and handing out advice (and selling surplus stock at fur and feather).

Life in the ferret world is far from rosy. Spring and the breeding season are here so that will keep the rescues even fuller. Hopefully readers of this newsletter are responsible and whilst still keeping vasectomised hobs I am relying more on injecting jills with Receptal which makes the jill ovulate and go out of season and then cast their winter coat. It is especially useful for me with older jills that haven't been spayed and are too frail to be spayed or go in with a vasectomised hob.

Once again I'll run the foster jill register. The demand for jills exceeds the supply so if you have a jill that only has a small litter and you think that she may accept orphans (their ages can range from birth to weeks old) please think about putting her on the register. I can be contacted on Mobile 07817 415 645.

(First published May 2012)

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