Ferret relations: The Black-Footed Ferret and the European Mink


We’ve been looking at the relations of ferrets this month. This week is the turn of the Black-Footed Ferret and the European Mink. Let’s make a start.

The Black-Footed Ferret

Black-Footed ferrets or American polecats are a similar size to their European and Steppe cousins. However, they are have a longer, smaller slender body. So in a
way, they’re more representative in the shape and the proportions of
something like a stoat. But they are bigger as an animal, so they’re much more slender. They have shorter, more triangular ears that are wider at the base. Their muzzles are a little bit shorter too.

The black-footed ferret has a very, very dark brown top like you’d see in a
European polecat. And as it comes down the side, it moves into a creamy colour. Their legs are black again, like the Steppe and European Polecat cousins and the ear tips are black. The black-footed ferret have fur covering the bottom of their paws and their claws. I think that might be to protect their paws from the heat and the sand?

Another name for black-footed ferrets is prairie dog hunters. And that is because 90% or so of their diet is actually made up of prairie dog.

Black-footed ferrets, unlike their European and their Steppe cousins, are on the scale of endangerment. And actually at one point, during the late 1970s, they were labelled as extinct until two years later a very small population was discovered in the wild. From that they were able to take some into a captive breeding program and then reintroduce them to the wild. They are still therefore classed as endangered. Which is why there are many of the US states of America where it is illegal to own a ferret because if any of the ferrets got out, they could mate and reproduce with the black-footed ferret which would produce a hybridisation. This would be disastrous for the fate of the black-footed species of ferret confined to America, often called the American polecat.

The European Mink

The European Mink is a wild animal. The major difference between the mink and ferrets is that a mink is semi-aquatic, so you will find a little bit more
webbing between the paws to enable them to swim a little bit more. They have a thicker, more dense fur, especially in the winter, which is obviously what is prized.

And the European mink, while the majority of their fur is brown, have a small amount of white just above the mouth and just above the lips. That is indicative of a European mink. They have slightly wider faces, but they don’t have specifically evolved jaws as with some of the other relations. They have a long body. They also have quite a long tail which can be almost half the length of the body.

The dietary requirements of the European Mink are slightly different from others. It will feed more on the amphibian creatures such as voles, fish, frogs, toads and insects.

Check out this week’s video to go with the blog!

More to explore

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