Beaten to it

by Max Abell

What a mistake in my last article regarding the winters getting warmer! Not so sure now. This winter of 2009/10 was the longest and coldest I have known for many a year.

Hopefully my wish might come true for colder winters again so rabbits can continue to be controlled the humane way with ferrets etc. and not by yet more man-introduced vile diseases.

Well it's mid February now and we are still managing to get out and get a few bunnies without picking up any young or milky does. We got held up for about three weeks due to the snow so we had a lot to catch up on. There was also a lot of myxomatosis about in October to about late November but fortunately it seemed to clear up by the end of November

We did a largish warren a couple of weeks ago; it looked well used with clear holes, fresh diggings and rabbit droppings everywhere so we netted up what holes we could with purse nets and put a small trammel net around the bit of bramble that had some of the warren holes in it. We entered three very experienced jills, Tilly, May and Daisy, and stood back waiting for the action to start. Nothing. Two of the three jills surfaced a couple of times and went straight back down. This was very odd as the third jill hadn't surfaced at all which she would ahve, even if she had a rabbit up a dead end. Besides the other two would have bolted other rabbits that were in the warren by now anyway, but still nothing.

I looked over to my brother Ken and shrugged my shoulders, then he gave the signal to Demi his daughter to get the locator to see what was going on. However, as Demi walked on the the warren with the locator one of the jills, May, surfaced again so Demi boxed her back up.

Then when she went back to the warren all hell broke loose. There was a loud hissing and spitting coming from down one of the holes then all of a sudden, a stoat came flying out of the hole so fast it lifted off the floor, running up the bank cursing and spitting as it went past, thankfully clearing the warren and disappearing into a nearby wood. The stoat was closely followed out by Daisy and Tilly. They must have been trapped as they were all fluffed up and their tails were like bottle cleaning brushes.

They are very calm, well handled ferrets so Demi picked them up and we checked they were OK with no injuries and none the worse for their encounter, then boxed them back up with May.

Hence the reason why no rabbits were at home; the stoat had beaten us to it this time, but I think he got more than he bargained for when he met Daisy and Tilly!

That's ferreting for you - you win some, you lose some!!

Anyway, as usual, thanks for everyone who supports the NFWS and other ferret rescues that help look after this great little animal.

First Published in NFWS News #87 May 2010

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