Feral ferret

Mustela furo


Photo credit: ©GBNNSS
Mustela furo
  • The native habitat of Mustela furo (ferrets) is forested and semi-forested areas near water sources. In Europe they are found in dune systems with large rabbit populations. Den sites can be found in gorse, dense scrub, rabbit holes, buildings, rubbish piles, and haybarns

  • Mustela furo are the domesticated form of the European polecat (Mustela putorius). Both species are not indigenous to Ireland.
  • Ferrets follow the typical body form of the mustelidae family in that they have an elongated slender body. The colouration of the domestic ferret can vary considerably with season and between individuals. Albino/white, brown and grey/dark (wild European polecat colours) forms are known.
  • The wild polecat type is seen more commonly in populations that have been wild for several generations. The face is often decorated with a dark mask in the form of cheek patches and bands.

Origin and Distribution:
  • They have been introduced to control rabbits and rodents in Britain and other parts of the world.
  • They were also introduced to New Zealand and Britain for fur farms where they have escaped and formed wild populations.
  • Ferrets are increasingly becoming a household pet and in some instances have escaped or were released.

  • This species can have a detrimental effect on bird populations especially on off shore islands. It is also feared that ferrets can have a high impact on the breeding success of rarer bird species such as corncrake.

How did it get here?
  • The exact date of introduction is not known. It is believed that ferrets may have originally been brought to Ireland to help control rabbit numbers.
  • It is also possible that the populations around the border counties are escapees from fur farms. Ferrets are also a popular pet species and escape from captivity of this type cannot be ruled out

Is it found in Ireland or Northern Ireland?
  • It is found in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
  • More information can be seen on NBDC and NBN Atlas NI.

You can help by reporting any sightings:

Static Distribution Map as of December 2019 - Courtesy of CEDaR

Prevent Spread
  • Do not introduce ferrets to the wild as pest control
  • Ensure that pets are well housed and secure.
  • Re-home unwanted pets responsibly.
  • Report all sightings.
Invasive Species Ireland

Invasive Species Ireland