Domestic Ferret


ORDER: Carnivora

FAMILY: Mustelidae

GENUS: Mustela

SPECIES: putorius furo

DESCRIPTION:
Ferrets have a long and slender body covered with brown, black, white, or mixed fur. Domestic ferrets have been bred for a wide variety of fur colors and patterns. Average length is 20 inches including a 5 inch tail. They weigh 1.5 to 4 pounds with males substantially larger than females.

GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
The European Polecat (and/or the Steppe Polecat) which the ferret probably descended from lives in forests and meadows near water. Domestic ferrets are found in much of the world as pets.

DIET:
Carnivorous. Small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, invertebrates. Most domestic ferrets are fed manufactured ferret, cat, or dog food.

LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Domestic ferrets are crepuscular. Wild ferrets are nocturnal and live in burrows. Gestation is 42 days, litters are usually 3 to 7 young, but sometimes more. Females may have two to three litters annually. Young are weaned after 3 to 6 weeks and become independent at 3 months. Sexual maturity may come at 6 months. Average life span is 8 years.

SPECIAL ADAPTATIONS:
Quick and agile, they can leap up to one meter. They have keen senses of smell, sight and hearing.

INTERPRETIVE INFORMATION:
Ferrets have been domesticated for at least 2500 years. They are still used for controlling rodents and hunting rabbits in some parts of the world today.

OUR ANIMALS:
The ferrets are part of our education animal collection and are not on exhibit.

STATUS IN WILD:
Domesticated ferrets can become feral and cause damage to local fauna. As a result, some parts of the world, including California, have imposed restrictions on the keeping of ferrets. The Black-footed Ferret of North American prairies is endangered due to loss of habitat and/or loss of their main food source, the prairie dog. Captive breeding and release has kept them from extinction.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Internet:University of Michigan Museum of Zoology; Wikipedia.
  2. Novak, Ronald. Walker