HAMISH MacBEAR or Turned Out of Bed by a Ferret!

by Bill Beck

"I used to keep polecats when I was young.”

We’ve all heard them at shows and events, haven’t we? You know, those people who insist that they had polecats when they were kids. But we know that what they really had were ferrets (especially when they were white!) We hadn’t seen a genuine polecat until a friend who ran a ferret rescue/welfare was given one by an RSPCA Wildlife Unit in Cheshire to look after.

Now, once upon a time (well, 2004 actually) also in deepest Cheshire an albino jill escaped and had (we surmise) a night of passion with a wild polecat. She was later recaptured and re-homed with Sheila Crompton of Bolton Ferret Welfare (BFW), where she was found to be pregnant. A few days later she gave birth to three jills and five hobs. The mother’s owner kept two kits; two were re-homed with June McNicholas, two were re-homed elsewhere and the two remaining brothers ended up staying at BFW with Sheila. These two brothers, Murdo and Hamish, were a bit of a handful both figuratively and literally. They were very large, dark and handsome but also nervous and prone to biting.

Now these ferrets were an accident, but some people deliberately set out to cross ferrets and polecats. God alone knows why; perhaps they hope to get some sort of ‘super ferret’ (as if ferrets weren’t super enough already). Perhaps it’s a macho thing, the same way some people think having an uncontrollable pit bull terrier or a 30 foot long python is a ‘Big Man’ thing. Anyway, some gormless dolts think that they know better than 2,000 years of ferret breeders who have been trying to breed good, healthy, useful and tractable animals….‘Don’t get me started.’ as they say.

OK, ranting over: back to the story.

Murdo died last year leaving Hamish on his own. (Three others of this litter have also died very young). Sheila found that he ‘did not play well with others’ so she was left with a lone ferret who was looking a bit depressed.

In the past whenever Sheila visited we always asked her to bring Murdo and Hamish round to our house so that they could play in our garden, which they so obviously enjoyed, so Ann had the idea of giving Hamish a holiday to cheer him up. Well, funnily enough it’s turning out to be rather a long holiday. This really suits all parties involved since it saves Sheila a lot of work; Hamish gets more freedom and we get to look after a wonderful poleret (or perhaps that should be a fercat?) Mind you, we reckon that Ms. Crompton might have worked a flanker here, as us having him on indefinite loan has probably halved BFW’s food bill. We have had some success with introducing Hamish to our bunch of hooligans. At least now there is mutual toleration and he does sleep with them but he does not seem as sociable as most ferrets we’ve come across. I suppose that’s him being in touch with his polecat side.

All ferrets seem to be capable of strange and often hilarious behaviour, and Hamish is no exception. A few weeks ago he was asleep in one of the snuggle-bags we have dotted around the place when Ann put her hand in to give him a cuddle. He gently took her thumb in his mouth, carried her hand back outside the bag and dropped it in a ‘No thank you, not just now.’ sort of way! He has since repeated this odd behaviour with Ann and has also done it with me a couple of times, on each occasion carefully removing the offending limb from his bed!

Hamish OK, so how did he get his name I hear you ask. Well, Sheila christened him Hamish and all our ferrets have bear-related names, so that made Hamish Bear and the MacBear was because the part of Cheshire he came from was ….Macclesfield…. Geddit?

(First published in NFWS News - #81 May 2008