Feral ferret in HMB?


By on Mon, July 20, 2009

I think I saw a ferret on the coastal trail this morning near the Plover sanctuary. A handful of birds were quite unhappy with its presence.

So first, if it wasn’t a ferret, could it be something local and native? If memory serves, it looks a lot like what I’m pulling up on google.

If it was, considering they are an environmental threat, whom should I contact?


I’ve seen them poking their heads in and out of the dirt along the beach trail.  When I brought this up with a ranger, she said they weren’t uncommon.

Hi Chris,

I believe what you saw is probably a long tailed weasel. They are native to this area and have been seen frequently at Francis Beach at the west end of Kelly Ave in HMB. We have even seen weasel moms carrying their cubs around from one gopher hole to another in the camping area.

They are really cute to watch and can be quite bold. I believe that they dine primarily on the critters that run in tunnels underground, mainly gophers, moles and voles (field mice). But I wouldn’t be suprised to see them take bird eggs if they happened across one. I am one of the Plover Watch volunteers and I know that these weasels could get into one of the “exclosures” that we erect around plover nests to keep preditors out. But the weasels are very skinny and could get through the 2” x 4” fencing we use to exclude cats, foxes, owls and hawks, skunks, etc. No one has seen this happen as far as I know.

Ferrets are not native to this area and are very seldom seen.

I hope you enjoyed seeing one of our little weasel friends. They certainly help control the rodent population.

Dennis Paull

I regularly ride my bike on the Trail from the Harbor to HMB Beach.  I’ve seen these long critters leaping across the trail way ahead of me several times.  About 3 weeks ago I saw a pair near Frenchman’s Creek crossing and one waited until I got within about 25’ before it fled into the bush.  They were both red and the one I saw closely had a raccoon-like mask over some white on its face.  In photos I could find, the mask seems to only belong to the ferret.  On the other hand, the bodies were very long, more like the weasel.
Ty Wood

Thank you for correcting a common mistake in identity Mr. Paull.  Having been involved in domestic pet ferret issues for several years, I can tell you that we get reports of “feral ferrets” on a regular basis, only to find that they are native long tailed weasels.  On the very rare occasion that a pet ferret is found outside, it is usually emaciated, dehydrated and in desperate need of veterinary attention.

Bonnie Tormohlen/Director
California Domestic Ferret Educational Alliance