“If you go down to the woods today......”

by Sandie McHugh

During the 2009 Christmas holidays Geof and I went walking in the fields and woods near our home: it was sunny but cold with snow and ice on the ground. In the woods we saw three young men with a Harris Hawk and a ferret. One of these men we knew as Daniel, a local family.

They explained that the ferret being held was the brother of a female ferret, who had been put down a rabbit hole and had not reappeared. The missing ferret was wearing a brand new tracker collar and they were using the male ferret to try and locate his sister, but he was reluctant to go down the hole so eventually they put him back in his mobile box.

We continued with our walk and then a bit later, we saw them making their way back to Paul's house. Daniel, the owner of the ferrets, was very angry and upset that he still hadn't retrieved her but they needed to take the Harris Hawk back to get some food.

Geof and I walked back through the woods and looked in the area where Daniel and his friends had been. The ferret was now above ground (with no collar) and looked very forlorn and sorry for herself, although she disappeared down a hole when we approached she did keep popping up to look at us. Eventually Geof was able to get her to come towards him so I started back off for home so I could phone Daniel.

About 10 minutes after arriving home I opened the door to Geof with the ferret in his arms. She had allowed him to carry her from the woods to our house about 1.5 miles away.

The ferret now had great fun exploring our kitchen and later our other downstairs rooms. She really appreciated the central heating radiator and we supposed that she had become very cold whilst in the woods. She was playful and enjoyed contact with us, climbing over us and never attempting to bite. She refused the small bit of food and drink we offered instead moving around looking into and under anything and everything; she seemed to enjoy the sound of her feet on the laminate floor!

What's in here then - This is exciting!

Eventually I was able to establish contact with Daniel and the ferret was collected. The owner was overjoyed to see her again; when she heard his voice she seemed to go and greet him. We all assume that she had got stuck down the hole with the collar but later managed to free herself, leaving the collar behind. When she re-emerged above ground, there was no one there and she must have thought she had been abandoned.

Home.... The three young men went back to the woods although by now it was very dark, to try and retrieve the tracking collar. They wanted to do this whilst it was still emitting a signal. We later learnt that by using the tracker home control and pickaxes, they managed to locate the collar and dig down to retrieve it.

They were very grateful to us for rescuing the ferret and although we said we enjoyed it and were glad to be of help, they insisted on giving us a bottle of wine which we later enjoyed!!

(First published in NFWS News - #87 May 2010)