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The common ferret lives in Eurasia and belongs to the weasel family. This is one of the most typical species of the genus. Consider the external characteristics of the forest or black ferret, its subspecies, features of constitution and color. Where animals live, what way of life they support, from what enemies they defend themselves. Their behavior, nutrition in nature and reproduction.
What does a forest (black) ferret look like?
The body structure of the black ferret has features in common with the structure of all weasels. The ferret can produce hybrids with the steppe species and the mink, the same species was domesticated and called the ferret. Hybrid animals are capable of reproduction, which indicates their close relationship.
He has a long flexible body, due to short legs - squat. The animal is small, weight, depending on gender, varies greatly: males - 1-1.5 kg, females - 0.65-0.8 kg. Ferrets of the forest species, thanks to their narrow body, can make their way into holes, both of their own and of their food - mice and voles.
The coat of an adult animal is black-brown, almost black legs, belly, neck and chest, fluffy tail. On the muzzle there is a mask characteristic of ferrets. The forest species differs from the steppe species in the absence of a sharp transition from dark areas to lighter ones. It is to this species that the white and cream colored domestic ferrets (albinos) belong.
Variation in color is observed in subspecies, the differences are in different tones of the color characteristic of the species. In winter, the coat is generally darker than in summer. The fur of the black ferret is considered valuable, but, due to the general low number, the animal does not belong to the commercial species. The coat acquires a special splendor, length and shine in autumn and winter, protecting the animal from frost.
The legs of the black ferret are strong and agile, allowing the animal to run quickly, sneak up on prey, dig tunnels and burrows. The fingers have sharp claws. The neck is long, flexible, the head is small, oval, as if flattened from the sides. The ears are wide at the base, not long. The eyes are small, shiny, brown in color. Of the senses, ferrets rely most on the sense of smell, although they also have excellent vision and hearing.
The species has 7 subspecies: Western and Central Russian forest, Welsh, Scottish, Mediterranean, Carpathian. Domesticated subspecies - domestic ferret (furo).
Where do they live?
Wild black ferrets are common in Western Europe. There is a large population of predators in England, Russia, Karelia and Finland. There are populations of the species even in the forest areas of northwestern Africa.
Ferrets and ferrets were introduced to New Zealand to kill the breeding rats and mice. But over time, as is often the case, predators have become a threat to local herbivorous species. And ferrets are not very fond of farmers, because they hunt poultry.
Lifestyle and behavior
Black ferrets usually settle in small groves separated from each other by meadows and fields. They avoid large forest areas. They are found in floodplains of rivers and near water bodies. Animals can swim. They are not afraid of people and can live near villages and villages, sometimes going there to hunt for poultry and rabbits. Moreover, they are harmful, like all martens - they can eat one bird or animal, and simply strangle the rest.
The ferret has a sedentary lifestyle, they choose a certain territory and become attached to it. The territory of an individual is large, it can overlap with the territory of other ferrets. Marking its boundaries, animals put marks using a special secret secreted by the glands under the tail. This is a sign to relatives that the area is occupied. As a shelter, animals use heaps of branches, stumps, haystacks. They dig their own burrows in secluded places; they also use old burrows of foxes and badgers. If the animal is strongly disturbed, it abandons the old dwelling and finds a new one close to the old one.
The ferret is not a silent creature. When he is dissatisfied or annoyed, he makes a hiss, during a fight, screams and screams. In a good mood, the animal makes sounds that resemble a chicken cackle, when attacked or frightened - a short bark. Young individuals up to 1.5-2 months can “creak” loudly.
Forest ferrets live alone, finding a mate only during the mating period. Or they meet with relatives if they violate the territory, but then it comes to a fight.
Nutrition in the natural environment
Ferrets feed mainly on mice and voles. In summer, predators catch frogs, toads, young water rats, and wild birds. They hunt snakes, frogs, lizards and insects such as locusts. They can climb into hare holes and strangle hares.
They hunt birds, destroy nests located in the grass or in the bushes, eat eggs and live chicks. They dig in the ground, find worms, insects, catch caterpillars and grasshoppers. Fish is rarely caught, so it does not take up much space in the diet. They almost do not eat plant foods, fruits and berries, only if they feel that they need to replenish the body's reserves with vitamins and mineral components.
They hunt in the evening and at night, during the day they remain in burrows. They wait for the victim at the holes or are caught on the run. In summer, they often go hunting, eat the meat of the caught animals, and take the skins to the burrow, where they cover the floor of their dwelling.
In the fall, they try to accumulate a lot of fat in order to more easily endure the winter cold. In winter, when the weather is favorable, they also go hunting. Grouse and black grouse are pulled out from under the snow. During the hunger period, they can feed on carrion or the remains of human food.
Enemies in the wild
By nature, black ferrets are fearless and aggressive, they can fight back enemies that exceed them in size and weight. They move in long leaps, if necessary, they can jump into the water and swim. They do not climb trees, but at the moment of danger they are able to hide in hollows located not high from the ground.
Ferrets, although predators, are not very large. For this reason, wolves and foxes, lynxes can hunt them. Despite the fast running of ferrets, they do not always manage to escape from enemies, especially in open areas. Large birds of prey are also not averse to catching ferrets, during the day they are hunted by falcons and golden eagles, at night - by owls and owls. If forest ferrets approach human settlements, they can be caught by stray dogs. And people themselves can hunt fur-bearing animals, although this is prohibited.
The appearance of offspring
The breeding period for this species is long, from spring to autumn, slightly different depending on the climatic conditions in which the population lives. Females can produce offspring starting at 10-11 months. They can reproduce for up to 5-6 years. Females are caring and attentive to their children, in order to protect them from danger, when they are weaned, they close the entrance to the hole with dry grass. Males do not take any part in raising offspring, they are with the female only for the time of mating. Stable families are also not created, new couples are formed every year.
Pregnancy in the species lasts 39-42 days, the number of pups in the litter is 4-6. Newborn puppies are naked, blind, and therefore completely helpless. At a very early age, they depend on their mother. Females feed their young with milk, by the age of one month, when teeth begin to appear, they begin to accustom them to meat food. The brood stays with the female until autumn, less often until spring, then leaves the parental burrow and goes into independent life.
One year after birth, ferrets become sexually mature and are able to bear offspring themselves. They live in nature for 5-7 years, but this is only an approximate age, in fact, life expectancy depends on many factors: diseases, predators, weather and food availability.
Ferrets are found throughout Western and Central Europe. They do not belong to rare species, but they also do not have a large population. They lead a lifestyle that is inherent in all small predators of their family - they hunt rodents and small animals, raise young.