Mustela putorius furo

Range: Western Europe to the Ural Mountains

Habitat: In the wild, ferrets den in crevices, hollow logs, and burrows dug by other animals.

Conservation status: Least concern. Note: The domestic ferret is a good model for the endangered black-footed ferret.

Domestic Ferret

  • • Belong to the order Carnivora, family Mustelidae (which includes badgers, wolverines, pine martens, otters, weasels, polecats, mink)
    Note: Skunks no longer belong to this family. In 2003, skunks were reclassified into their own family, Mephitidae, most likely because they use their musk for defense (in addition to scent-marking and courtship).
    • Scientific name: Mustella (= weasel or mouse killer), putorius (=stench), furo (=thief)
    Literally “stinky mouse-killing thief.” The name ferret comes from the Latin word furonem, meaning “thief”
    • Thought to be a descendant of the European polecat, the domestic ferret has been bred in captivity since the 4th century B.C. Used to be bred for rabbit hunting.
    • All mustelids have long slender bodies and short, rounded or pointed ears. Their limbs are short with five digits, each with nonretractable claws (for digging and grasping).
    • They are nocturnal, terrestrial, and capable of climbing. (Pet ferrets sleep up to 20 hrs/day, but adapt to owner’s sleep/wake schedule)
    • They have large canine teeth that hang lower than the lip flap, so are in view.
    • Eyesight is poor; they have a limited ability to distinguish color (see some reds and blues)
    • Hearing is excellent
    • Sense of smell is excellent

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