How to stop 'The One That Got Away'

JOHN BURGESS, a working ferret man for more than 20 years, offers advice on how to stop rabbits escaping.

Ferreters like fishermen tell the story of 'the one that got away'. If we are aware of how escapes happen, losses can be reduced.

Perhaps the commonest cause of escapes are holes that have not been netted because they were not noticed. When netting a burrow, be patient and not in a hurry to get the ferrets to work. Care taken in setting nets pays dividends early in the season when grass and other vegetation is still growing strongly. It is easy to miss a hole so be careful - that is always one a rabbit will bolt from!

John Burgess - 5Kb

Before ferreting a burrow, net up all the adjacent burrows if you have enough nets, then there is a good chance that any escapers will be 'back netted' when they try to enter another burrow. You can never have too many nets and always have a spare one in your pocket.

When a rabbit is caught in a net, grab the rabbit and, at the same time, put your foot over the hole in case another tries to bolt. Dispatch the rabbit in the net and place the spare net that was in your pocket over the hole. Remove the dead rabbit from the net it was caught in and neatly fold the net and pocket it ready for the next one.

When you have to dig, because your ferret has got a rabbit 'backed up' in a dead end tunnel, be careful where your spade breaks through into the tunnel. The ferret may heve backed off from the rabbit and, as you lift your spade out, the rabbit may take the oppoortunity to bolt. Yes, it has happened to me! The rabbit may of course be tucked up tight in the tunnel. As you pull it out, be ready in case there is another in front of it that may try to bolt.

In situations like this, a companion is invaluable and good teamwork will improve the day's 'bag'.

If two rabbits bolt from the same hole, one immediately after the other, the first rabbit hits the net, which then purses up, holding the first rabbit but allowing the second to escape. Not much can be done about that but to hope that the escaper is 'back netted' at another hole. I remember two rabbits that bolted side by side being caught in the same net. Sometimes a crafty rabbit will creep out slowly, just pushing the net to one side, and then make a dash for freedom.

When setting nets, if the tunnel does not come out at too steep an angle, place the bottom ring and some of the net on the tunnel floor so the rabbit gets its feet caught up in the net. Place the peg so that the draw cord is tight, allowing the net to purse up quickly as soon as a rabbit hits it.

Finally, always be sure you have dispatched your rabbit. I have seen a supposedly dead rabbit get up and run away!

(From Ferrets First Issue no. 10 February/March 2003)

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