Warmer Ferreting

by Max Abell

It's the beginning of September and we started ferreting again a few days ago; the weather was a bit hotter than we would have liked and there is still a lot of undergrowth around but hopefully that will die off as the winter kicks in.

We have noticed in recent years due to the climate getting warmer we have had to cut back the undergrowth with strimmers, etc., to get at the holes; sometimes even as late as Decemebr, which was unheard of year ago. We normally clear round the holes about a week before we intend to ferret a warren as this gives the rabbits the chance to settle back down again. The trouble with today's climate is we have to try and change with it.

The days of only going ferreting when there is an "R" in the month is not really followed anymore because if you are still ferreting in March and haven't caught any milky does or bolted any rabbit kits you have done well. We have seen young rabbit kits around as early as January, although the last winter of 2008/09 seemed to be the coldest and longest winter we have had for a few good years now. Thankfully it killed off all the undergrowth and flies, etc., like winters used to do in years gone by and sadly probably will never be seen again.

Humans are supposed to be the most intelligent animals on Earth; if this is true why are we destroying our own planet? Maybe the animals see us humans as pests because if it wasn't for our greed they would still have a planet with the climate for which it was intended.

Anyway, back to the ferreting. The rabbits bolted very well. We started with a smallish warren of about 15 holes, netted up and entered two very experienced working jills (Daisy and Lily). Within a minute, whoosh, the first rabbit of the season hit the net. What made it even better was that it bolted into one of the yellow polyester nets we made in the summer. Over about the next fifteen minutes we had got another four rabbits out of that warren.

We then moved onto a six holer and got two more, they also bolted near on straight away; the warrens went like clockwork. I wish all ferreting was this easy! We will start on the bigger hills later in the winter.

Some of the warrens on our rabbit permission are huge. We do a lot on the South Downs in Sussex and anyone reading this who knows the South Downs will know what we mean by huge warrens! We'll stick to the hedges and woods for now before braving the bigger ones.

Going back to the state of our climate, what is the answer? Landowners will still need the rabbits controlled so is the answer to start ferreting earlier or stop later? There are quite a few pest controllers and ferreters that ferret all year round with good results. I must admit summer ferreting is not for us, too many nettles, too much digging and far too hot, but please note that this is a personal opinion, we have absolutely nothing against anyone who chooses to ferret all year round, so please no ear-bashing from summer ferreters. we wish you every success.

Maybe the way this climate is going we might very soon be summer ferreters ourselves. What we are really afraid of and never want to see in our lifetimes are human-spread diseases like myxomatosis and Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (R.H.D.). To see a creature with a disease like myxomatosis is very sad: no animal deserves to die a horrid, lingering death like this.

Lets' hope our great leaders up in Westminster never allow any trial of a disease of this type in order to try and reduce the exploding rabbit population. All we can hope is that we get more colder winters like 2008/09 so we can continue to control rabbits the humane way, as we have for donkey's years with ferrets, nets, dogs and guns.

Anyway, I've got seven good, healthy rabbits in the freezer but now the big decision: pie or casserole?

We wish you all the best with your ferrets and thank you to all for supporting such a good cause as the NFWS.

First Published in NFWS News #86 January 2010

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