Ferrets are useful

In Europe, they are used as aids by sportsmen and for ridding houses of rats

The ferret, practically unknown in this country, is an almost indispensable adjunct of country life in England. There this fierce, snakelike little animal is used for hunting rats and rabbits from their burrows, and never a gamekeeper, but has a hutch that serves as a home for the little “varmints.”

The ferret is regarded variously by naturalists as an albino variety of weasel, or a deviation from the usual type of the polecat. It differs from the polecat mostly in color, which is usually yellowish-white, though the coat sometimes runs considerably darker, or pure white. The eyes are pinky-red and sharp as needles. The animal measures about 14 inches, exclusive of its tail, which is about five inches long.

In practical use, for the purpose of bolting rats or rabbits from their holes, the ferret has to be used when hungry, so as to make it fierce, and is almost invariably muzzled to prevent it from killing its quarry and then sleeping off its gorge in the burrow. It often has a bell attached to its neck to aid in locating its whereabouts when underground.

How ferrets are useful

Ferrets are very susceptible to cold, and need warm hutches and bedding while in the field, and they often travel in a keeper’s side pocket. They are, of course, carnivorous, but in captivity thrive on plain bread and milk, with an occasional rat or bird thrown in for a luxury.

On this side of the Atlantic, ferrets have been seldom used except by some men who have made a business of rat catching, i.e., clearing buildings, ships, etc., of rats. One reason for this may be the comparative scarcity of the burrowing rabbit.

The methods employed in hunting rabbits with ferrets are two: If it is desired to bag the rabbit, i.e. catch him alive, for coursing with terriers or any other purpose, loose nets are spread over the mouths of the burrow, into which the bunny bolts and becomes entangled.

More usually, the rabbits are simply bolted into the open, so affording very lively snap-shooting, especially when there is plenty of coverts, and it becomes necessary to bowl the swift-footed little beasts over while they are crossing some strip of ground no wider than an ordinary road.

It is common to find persons manifesting the utmost repugnance to these animals, which may be due partly to their snakelike way of coiling together in a tight knot in the straw of their hutch, and partly to the idea that they are unclean and unsavory.

Like the domestic pig, the ferret may frequently be unclean because it has no chance to be otherwise. This is the fault of those human beings who will not clean the hutch or pig pen, as the case may be. For example, when they are fed a bird or a rat, they never touch the skin, and this, of course, should be removed, as it will speedily become offensive. – N Y World.

MORE: Do ferrets really make good pets?


About this story

Source publication: Perrysburg Journal (Perrysburg, Wood Co., Ohio)

Source publication date: May 13, 1899

Filed under: 1890s, Home & garden

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