re: feral ferret sighting letter of July 20


Posted by on Thu, July 23, 2009

As a retired professional wildlife biologist who has visited every possible life zone in California over the last 50 years, I must say, I am continually amazed by people who turn in "sightings" of feral domestic ferrets.

Make no mistake, there has never been any documented discovery of a feral population of the domestic ferret in CA, nor any other continental state in the U.S. This was shown in a survey conducted by the California Dept of Fish and Game a number of years ago under the auspices of them Senior Biologist Ron Jurek.

Do domestic ferrets escape their owners? Certainly. But it is a huge step from escaping to surviving long enough to establish a viable feral population and one that has so far been insurmountable to the domestic ferret, which, by the way, has been inside California since at least the 1840’s.

You see, unlike the domestic cat (or dog or goat or pig), which can cooexist with others in a shared niche, the domestic ferret would first have to displace one of its cousins (Long-tailes Weasel, American Mink etal) to establish itself as an successful predator. Given the domesticity of the ferret in question and the loss of hunting skills that it has suffered over the 3000 plus years that it has been domesticated, statistically it is highly improbable that the necessary circumstances could occur to allow such a feral population to develop.

Thanks for this chance to comment,

Scott Sinclair

I have seen brightly colored red ferrets on the Coastside Trail twice in the last month, while riding my bike. I checked Google Images and found that they most closely resemble the Black-Footed Ferret. They have raccoon-like black and white markings on their faces, round ears perpendicular to their heads, and bodies like Pringles cans. I was startled and delighted to see them. I have heard the “rural legends” about them for some time and didn’t believe them until I saw them myself.

On two occasions I have clearly seen a ferret like animal run across highway 1. Once near Clipper Ridge and recently by Surfer’s beach. Both animals looked to me to be Long Tailed weasels.  But I am not a wildlife expert by any means.


Agreed that the ferret-like critters are probably long-tailed weasels, which are native to our area. Weasels look similar to ferrets and are often confused with them.

In addition to the site posted by Michael Watson, you can try this one, from Ferrets Anonymous: