Ferrets are mustelids, like stoats and weasels. They are bigger than stoats and weasels and are about the same size as a small cat. In other parts of the world ferrets are used to hunt rabbits and are kept as pets.
The ferrets in New Zealand are ferret-polecat hybrids. Tame ferrets were bred with polecats during the voyage to New Zealand so that they would be better at surviving in the wild. Unfortunately it worked! Now New Zealand has the world’s largest population of wild ferret-polecat hybrids!
The first five ferrets were brought to New Zealand in 1879 to get rid of rabbits. From 1882—1883 there were 32 shipments of ferrets from London to New Zealand with about 700 ferrets released. From 1884-1886 another 4000 ferrets and ferret-polecat hybrids were released in New Zealand.
Ferrets used to be kept as pets in New Zealand, but in 2002 a new law was passed, banning the sale, distribution and breeding of ferrets. There are only a few people in New Zealand who have a special permit which allows them to keep pet ferrets for hunting rabbits. You can find out more about one rabbiter who uses trained ferrets in his work here. His ferrets are called ‘Ferrety’ and ‘Boys’ and are trained to chase rabbits out from their burrows.
What can you do
- Purchase a humane ferret trap.
- Use our trapping best practice to ensure you get the best results.
- Sign up to our newsletter to keep abreast of the latest research on how to trap ferrets.
- Ferrets and Rabbits – and what history can teach us.
- Monitoring methods trialled in Whangamarino wetland.