Persistance Pays Off

by Patrick Smith

A phone call came in early February from a lady who wanted two jills as a birthday present for her husband, who I happened to know. I had two albino jills, Natalie and Claire, who seemed to be exactly what she was looking for and I asked her to come and see them.

She came with her father-in-law and two children and they all fell in love with the two girls. I asked the usual questions about housing, feeding and facilities for exercise and all sounded very satisfactory. Both the ferrets were already spayed.

The following Monday I received a call after lunch from the lady who had bought the ferrets to say that they had taken them out rabbiting the previous Saturday morning and had lost one of them in a large burrow of about fifty holes, on a very steep, grassy hill. She didn't know what to do, so I said I would come out and see if I could help.

I rang a friend and we loaded a couple of polecats, collars, locators, a probe, spade and a wire trap and off we went to the village where they lived, about three miles away. We then followed her car for another four miles to where they had been ferreting and climbed the hill to the burrow.

I asked why they hadn't used collars, and she said her husband didn't believe in them as they might get snagged. I told her that we never put a ferret down a hole any more without one, and had never had problems.

So, collars taped, checked with the locator and one polecat hob and one silver hob (no. 1 ferreting gang) were put in one each end of the burrow.

We heard and saw nothing for a couple of minutes, so on went the locators and we soon had one ferret constant on the box and only two feet down. Out with the spade and we started digging, taking care to cut the turf out neatly, and sure enough there was the ferret with a rabbit up a dead end. A few more minutes and another rabbit was caught in similar fashion.

The lady we were trying to help seemed rather surprised that in a few minutes we had two rabbits and not laid a net. She was beginning to see the advantages of using a locator and collars.

We stayed until just before dark with no sign of the missing ferret, so I baited the trap with some rabbit liver, set it and went home. The chap who now owned the ferrets went to the trap each morning at 7 a.m. and again before going to bed, his wife went up some afternoons and I went out as well, all to no avail for a week.

Something was taking the bait, although the trap was not sprung.

Meanwhile, within seventy-two hours of seeing our locator working, they had ordered, paid for and received their own collars and locator. He phoned me to say he was going up to try out his remaining ferret with his newly acquired collar next day, that being the fifteenth since losing his ferret. No luck on that trip.

The next day on trying yet again, there she was in the trap, a trifle slimmer but otherwise none the worse for wear. All were overjoyed, including me, but it was experience learned the hard way.

(First published in NFWS News - #53 Summer 2000)