Ferret

Alert

Have you seen Ferret?

Be on the lookout for Ferret and report it to Biosecurity Queensland. Early detection and reporting are the key elements in controlling Ferret.

Call us on 13 25 23.

Native to Europe from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, ferrets are slender-bodied, carnivorous mammals. The ferret is a descendant of the polecat and a member of the mustelid family, which includes stoats, weasels, badgers, skunks, otters and minks.

Ferrets have naturalised in many places, including New Zealand, Morocco, and parts of the USA. They are associated with declines in native wildlife populations in New Zealand. Up to 150,000 ferrets are kept as pets in Australia. However, ferrets are prohibited as pets in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

The ferret is a prohibited invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name

Mustela furo, M. putorius

Similar species

  • Steppe polecat, black-footed ferret

Description

  • Small, carnivorous mammal with body 20-45cm long, tail 7-15cm long, weight up to 2.7kg.
  • Body is long and slinky.
  • Legs are short.
  • Face is pointed, with 34 teeth, including large canines.
  • Paws have 5 non-retractable claws.
  • Coat ranges from albino to cream, sand, ginger, brown, and dark brown with cream underbelly.

Habitat

  • Inhabits temperate climates, and prolonged exposure to temperatures over 29°C can cause heat-related health problems.
  • Prefers forested and semi-forested areas near water sources, including grassland, scrub, riverbeds and pasture.
  • Also inhabits farmland, wide hedge banks, marshes, rubbish tips, sea cliffs, sand dunes and, occasionally, urban areas.

Distribution in Queensland

  • Anecdotal evidence suggests a small population of feral ferrets may exist near Inglewood in southern Queensland.
  • Occasional sightings of lone ferrets have also been reported from parts of north Queensland.
  • A naturalised Queensland population has never been confirmed.

Life cycle

  • Life expectancy 2-4 years in wild, 6-10 years in captivity.
  • Sexually mature at 6 months of age.
  • Breeds once a year.
  • Average of 4-8 kits per litter, but can have up to 12 kits.
  • Young are independent at 3 months.

Affected animals

Native birds, including the kakapo, black stilts and royal albatrosses, poultry, and transmits disease in stock and humans.

Impacts

Environmental

  • Eats native species.

Economic

  • Transmits disease to stock and humans.
  • Eats chickens and eggs.

Social

  • Can inflict painful bites that require medical treatment.

Natural enemies

  • Birds of prey such as hawks, owls and large carnivorous mammals in the wild.
  • Susceptible to several viral and parasitic diseases, such as canine distemper.

Control measures

  • Early detection is essential for preventing pest establishment. If you have seen or are in possession of a ferret please contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Legal requirements

  • Ferret is a prohibited invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be kept, moved, fed, given away or sold without a permit.
  • The Act requires that all sightings to be reported to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours.
  • By law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risk of Ferret escaping until they receive advice from an authorised officer.

More information