Mustela putorius furo
Range & Habitat
Wild ancestors were found in woods and hilly thickets. They were native in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. They are found as a domesticated animal throughout the world, especially in the U.S. Its habitat includes log piles, hollow trees and abandoned burrows.
Their coloration can be blackish-brown, beige or blond. They have a distinctive dark mask and usually darker feet and tail. Their anal glands are large and used to produce a musk that they use to mark their territory. They are nocturnal and for defense they either overpower or outrun an enemy. Their hunting instincts as well as their ability to be trained has led to their domestication. The ferret uses its sense of smell to locate food. They are well adapted for hunting in an underground burrow. The ferret has a long body with short legs, a flattened triangular head and moderately long snout. Their flexible spine allows them to turn their body 180 degrees. Both adult and young are tame and playful. Much time is spent in playful chasing and mutual grooming. They communicate with a variety of squeals and other sounds.
Reproduction & Growth
Females may have 2-3 litters per year with 4-6 in each litter. Gestation is approximately 42 days. The young weigh less than one ounce at birth. They are weaned at one month old. Independence occurs at three months of age and maturity is reached during the first or second year. As adults they are approximately 18 inches long from head to the tip of the tail. Females weigh about 1 1/2 - 3 pounds, males weigh 3-5 pounds. Their lifespan is usually 6-8 years.
In the Wild: Small mammals, birds, reptiles, eggs and insects. In the Zoo: Ferret chow.