The Taming of Bear

by Frieda & Ben Byng

One day during the summer of '96 a young poley ferret about 5 months old and without a tail was found wandering in a lane near where we live by someone on their way to work. He was taken to a small animal sanctuary that was conveniently quite nearby where he lived all alone in a large cage in the middle of a field for about six weeks. There were other small animals there as well, mostly rabbits, two pigeons and a horse, but they were all in a separate enclosure. He was treated very well, had all his ticks and fleas removed, and fed and watered etc. Unfortunately he had one major problem. . . . . . HE WAS VICIOUS! ! ! and could not be handled at all.

The person who owns the sanctuary works with Ben, my husband, and as she knew of his connections with the N.F.W.S. she asked if he would consider taking him on. We discussed it at home quite a lot as we hadn't intended having another ferret while we'd still got Bas, but Ben seemed to have already made up his mind so that was that, on his head be it I said.

On the 30th August we went over to the sanctuary to collect the little beast, how Ben caught him I don't know, I must have blinked it happened so quickly. We got him home after much grumbling and scratching during the journey and put him into the new hutch Ben had made specially. Ben was very brave and stuck his finger through the wire talking to him all the time saying that he wouldn't bite him would he. . . . . . .but he did, and he lock on! I went to his rescue and for the first time ever the hutch door stuck and it seemed to take ages before it came open, didn't I get a mouthful for that. My fault of course, isn't it always when things go wrong?

The poor little animal with no tail (goodness know what sort of agonies he'd been through in his past) not even a stump was so angry that it took the two of us to handle him kitted out in a pair of leather gauntlet welding gloves each (gardening gloves were useless). He would throw himself at us with mouth open ready to bite, we know now what a real ferret bite feels like. He wasn't fussy either where he sunk his teeth so long as he could do so.

Ben constructed a 'playpen' in the garage specially for him and we kitted it out with plant pots, a ball, a shoe and a carpet tube to give him plenty to do. He really loved all that especially the tubes. . . . . but he still was vicious with a capital 'V'.

After two weeks had gone by I think Ben was starting to give up, progress if any was so slow that we were wondering if we'd imagined it and were just kidding ourselves.

One day I decided while Ben was at work and I was on my own that I'd be brave and have a go at getting him out and without gloves. Success, I managed it! From then on we didn't look back. I began to read his mind and when I could see him thinking about a bite he was told no very firmly together with a little flick on his nose. It was amazing how quickly he learnt and how he really seems to understand the word "No". It's funny to see him sometimes because you see him open his mouth ready and then I say "No" and he conveniently turns it into a yawn.

At the end of the third week things had changed dramatically and the once wild animal was transformed, like the ugly duckling, into a sweet tempered and beautifully coated little creature, all soft and silky and quite podgy too. I say little but actually he has grown a lot and if anything is slightly over weight.

Now that he was manageable we decided to get him to the vet to have him castrated and they were amazed when I told them his story. It only takes one of us now to get a harness on him to walk him round the garden which he loves. When he's romping about he reminds us so much of a little bear because he is so plump and his lack of a tail that we have unanimously decided to name him 'BEAR

Frieda and Ben Byng. (1st November, 1996)

(First published in NFWS News - #40 January 1997)