How it All Began

by Alma Butcher

It all began about 22 years ago when looking into an old shed for something I saw this little face poking out at me. "It" looked friendly but I had not got a clue as to what "it" was! On calling a gamekeeper I knew, he came round and said "it's a jill ferret, I'll take her". "Not so fast" I said. So began my love of ferrets. Of course I called her Jill I was told by the gamekeeper that she must be mated so around he came with a big dog ferret and of course being green I let them get on with it, ending up with 14 littlies!

What to do with them? "Oh you'll have no trouble," said my friendly gamekeeper, "just advertise them", so that's what I duly did. These little ferrets had been spoilt, were full of fun and loved their mum, so when a man turned up and said he'd take the lot, I agreed. He then proceeded to take out a sack and started popping them in. I was horrified. To this day I have never forgiven myself for letting him take them. That ended my venture into breeding ferrets.

The rescue started about 15 years ago and is the only one on the Island apart from the RSPCA with whom I have a good relationship. At present I have 41 ferrets who call it home; the oldest darling being Tom. He was one of the first ferrets I took in and must be some 14 years old now; he just walks around in a very sedate manner. In his younger days he was a great favourite with the children at the Island shows

Another 4 I collected came with mange. They're about 5 years old now and when they moult they look like little pink pigs! Their fur has never been quite right, poor things, but being born in filthy conditions with much half way up their soaking wet cage didn't help.

If any ferrets are with me for more than a couple of weeks, I do not re-home them as I feel that this is their home. However, I do re-home the little ones; no ferret is ever turned away.

A few months ago I thought I'd change their "pens" and have some nice big ones put in, good idea?... no, the rascals have been playing me up ever since! I've had... I will not sleep with her... don't put me with him... in fact, we're so upset at having our homes pulled apart we're going to throw our feeding dishes into our toilet area... throw our bedding everywhere... and when we come out to play, we're going to see what other mischief we can get into, including tipping things on top of your head... so there!!!

I had bad hair days for at least a week and bad headaches to go with it. But I am pleased to say that now they have all settled down. I only got a bottle of disinfectant "thrown" at me yesterday!!

They love cleaning out time as it means they can run off with the brushes, tip over the water and hang onto the broom as I sweep up, although their favourite thing is hanging onto the hem of my skirt as I try to get on with the cleaning.

I cannot begin to imagine how much ferrets must have suffered being thrown into an old cage and just taken out to hunt. I find them intelligent, full of homour and fun; this is the reason why I take them to shows as people are always amazed at how they behave. If I'm feeling down, a play with them soon gets you laughing, far better than Prozac or a bottle of wine!

The ferrets come from all over the Island and as with all rescues I expect all the excuses have been heard before... we have broken up and I hate ferrets... my son has gone away, but the worst ones are those that "throw" them out like rubbish, they refuse to have them neutered so when they come into season and start to smell, out they go, or if not that they breed and breed them then cannot find homes for the kits... (I'll get off my soapbox now).

Like everyone esle, there are sad days when you can do no more for a ferret and that awful trip to the vet has to be made. You think to yourself, why do I do this? But then if no-one else bothered what would happen to these little rascals? So we keep going.

All the best from the IOW Ferret Rescue.

First Published in NFWS News #78 May 2007

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