Ferrets and their close relatives

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This week we’re talking about ferrets and their close relatives. We’ll look at the Mustelid family and other animals that fall into the same family.

First off, a ferret is NOT a rodent – another common misconception. The definition of a rodent is an animal that’s teeth will keep growing – that’s the major reason why rodents keep chewing on things, to stop their teeth getting too big. Ferrets don’t need to do that as they aren’t rodents. They’ll grow their teeth as babies but they’ll stop growing once the ferrets themselves are fully grown.

Mustelids

Ferrets are part of the Mustelid family. They’re part of the same family as weasels and stoats. Even now, I hear stories from rescue centres about very kind members of the public capturing and bringing in a stoat or a weasel thinking they’ve found a stray ferret! Weasels are much smaller than ferrets and they’re much more brown.

Weasels and stoats – what’s the difference? Well a weasel is weasily recognised and a stoat is stoatally different! 🥁

But seriously. Next in the family are otters. If you watch otters, they’re so similar in terms of mannerisms, although they’re much bigger than ferrets.

Then there’s the Pine Martin which is coming back into our UK wildlife. I try to share posts by the Vincent Wildlife Trust who do a lot of work with Pine Martins and bats. Give them a follow if you love wildlife!

The closest cousin to ferrets is the Polecat. In the UK there are lots of ferrets with Polecat colourings but they aren’t actually Polecats. However, you can cross breed EU polecats with ferrets and get what is known as an EU cross. But that’s definitely not something that should be done lightly. It can be very dangerous for your fingers, not to mention the licensing issues. Polecats are very much a wild animal and should be treated as such. There are laws on capturing and breeding from wild Polecats. So please, just don’t.

Mink are a close cousin of ferrets too but they’re sadly favoured for their fur. Again, you have to have a license to own Mink. They’re beautiful fluffy animals but they’re very much a wild animal who, like the otter, love their water. Mink are an invasive species.

Badgers are part of the slightly higher family. Wolverine are found in Australasia. Honey badgers and red pandas are also related (all part of the SUPERFAMILY Musteloidia).

Skunk, while related distantly to ferrets, have their own little branch of the family. They’re really popular pets in this country, believe it or not. Thankfully it’s illegal to de-scent a skunk – something I’m very grateful for because if you’re going to keep a skunk, you know the risks. I have friends who have a skunk as a pet and they’ve never been ‘skunked’. As long as they’re kept well and aren’t scared, they’re generally fine. However skunks are omnivores so you can feed them fruit and veg. And we all know by now – FERRETS ARE OBLIGATE CARNIVORES. That’s a huge difference between ferrets and skunk.

There’s a few of the family favourite animals related to ferrets – can you think of any more?

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