Atlas der Säugetiere Nordrhein-Westfalens
AG Säugetierkunde in NRW
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Mustela putorius furo
The Ferret is the domesticated form of the polecat. It was domesticated over 2000 years ago. It has not been completely resolved whether the Steppe Polecat (Mustela eversmanni), the nearest populations of which occur in Hungary, Slovakia and the equivalent eastern border regions of Poland, Czech Republic and Austria, belong to the ancestors of the Ferret.
The Ferret occurs in a variety of colour variants, from Albino to silver and brown to Polecat-coloured and black. The Polecat-coloured animals can hardly be distinguished from the actual Polecat on the outside. Differences exist in some skull characteristics as well as in a reduced brain volume typical for domesticated forms.
Originally the Ferret was used for hunting rabbits. This form of hunting is called ferreting. For this purpose the Ferret is released into the burrow of rabbits to drive them from their hiding places and subsequently shoot them. Nowadays the ferret is becoming increasingly popular as a pet. Repeatedly Ferrets have been released into the wild or escape unintentionally. Since Polecat and Ferret can interbreed there is a risk of hybridization. Thus there are studies of free-ranging hybrids from England.
Free-ranging Ferrets have been recorded but information of their distribution in North Rhine-Westphalia and their survivability in the wild is hardly available, whereby the partial similarity between Polecats and Ferrets or hybrids complicates the differentiation.
Hötzel M (2023): Frettchen (Mustela putorius furo).In: AG Säugetierkunde NRW — Online-Atlas of the mammals of North Rhine-Westphalia. Downloaded from saeugeratlas-nrw.lwl.org on 2023/03/26