SPECIES: putorius furo
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.
Meat. 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.
Quick and agile, they can leap up to one meter. They have keen senses of smell, sight and hearing.
Ferrets have been domesticated for at least 2500 years but the reason for this is uncertain. They are still used for controlling rodents and hunting rabbits in some parts of the world today.
Two males in the Education Department. Both were donated pets.
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.
1. Internet:University of Michigan Museum of Zoology; Wikipedia
2. Novak, Ronald. Walker's Mammals of the World. 1999. Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore, MD. CL:09