Sunday, September 19, 2010
There are two types of ferrets found in North America. You have the domesticated one called the Mustela putorious and the wild one called the mustela nigripes. Both of which are closely related to the weasel family. Now let’s talk about these two in more detail.
The domesticated ferret has been treated as a pet for more than a thousand years. They are no longer suited for life in the wild and were used to kill rats or assist the hunter in searching for rabbits hiding in the burrows. These days, they are simply kept as pets while some are used by institutions for scientific research. One example is to produce vaccines for farm raised mink.
This type of ferret descended from the European polecat. It comes in different coat colors and patterns but this has not changed much due to selective breeding. You might see some domesticated ferrets that are albino in color with yellowish white fur, pink eyes, nose and claws.
The difference between the domesticated ferret and the Polecat is that the latter is slightly smaller. They are also polygamous and usually produce one to two offspring that is about six to seven litters per young a year over a 42 day gestation period. In terms of gender, the male is much longer and heavier than the female.
One example is the Angora ferret that has very long fur. It is rarely seen or even owned because it is very hard to breed.
The domesticated ferret is very popular because it is friendly, intelligent, playful and sociable. You can adopt one from a shelter or buy one from a breeder and then enjoy its company for many years to come.
The wild ferret is bigger than the domesticated version. One example is the black footed ferret that is now classified as an endangered species. The number has drastically dropped as a result from human destruction of prairie dog populations and their habitat.
You won’t miss seeing the black footed ferret because it has a yellowish buff coat that becomes brown on the top of the head and along the back. Its feet and legs on the other hard are black and you might mistake it for a raccoon. Just the same, the males are bigger than the females and this creature is nocturnal.
Domesticated ferrets eat poultry and meat products that are given by their owners. Wild ferrets on the other hand have to hunt for food and prey on prairie dogs. Once the pack has been depleted, they will move on to another in order to survive.
Now that you know the two basic types of ferrets, you won’t have a hard time identifying them. If you want to own a ferret, you will have to settle for the domesticated type. You should be ready to spend your time and your money so it will be able to live for 8 years or more. Some of the things you will need to buy are a cage and food.
You will also need to have the ferret vaccinated annually as this is required by law to prevent the spread of rabies in case this creature bites anyone.
One misconception about ferrets is that they are often referred to as rodents. This must be corrected because they are cute, furry and intelligent mammals.