Hi, folks. It's been many months since we've had a chance to
post. I'll attempt to tackle some general info, specific
questions, news from our 4, and a bit of wildlife stuff.
A few weeks ago actually saw a female fisher or a marten around
here, a very rare happening. Wound up having to report it to the
state. First person said, "That's impossible." but when he
realized my background put me on to one of the field people who
would know better. He did. When he'd asked me all the needed
questions to be sure that I knew what I'd seen and why I couldn't
tell which of the two it was (Head and underbelly hidden from
view, coloration in the overlap dark brown.) he told me that not
long ago he got a fisher in one of his black bear tagging traps.
The fisher was caught so close to the border of N.J. that it was
almost in PA, but it had been tagged for study in upstate New
York. How's that for a stroll?
Black footed ferrets doing well. A lot of the old ones (about 8
years) have lympho. Breeding options have been improved by
lighting controls and looks like a good year for kits. If all
goes well with various forms and negotiations Canada will get
some of the off-spring within a few years, maybe even next year.
The narrow gene pool is turning out to be their worst problem.
Report have come in of other colonies. They have varied from
coyotes to prairie dogs to weasels, to reports that tightly fit
BFFs which so far have come from miners who refuse to say more or
they'll lose work. It's a shame, not only because of the serious
inbreeding among captive animals, but because colonies can be
wiped out in a few scant weeks by canine distemper and other
illnesses or by illnesses which crash the "dogs" for instance
Re: hot cars. That was a real problem when we dealt with lympho
and insulinoma in the past. We used blue ice or water ice in a
SOLID container ane well wrapped in a towel and kept the critter
with it in a carry cage when possible. During the hotest weather
the ice went on my thighs (Can you say "uncomfort- able"?)
covered by a towel with a nearby bottle of water with ice in it
to rub on head and tummy for major cooling. Ask vet's advice
when an animal has a respitory disease since too much cooling can
sometimes also be bad then.
Re: Ferret life spans. Typical is 7 -10 years , but specialists
like Liz Hillyer (The person who figured out that ferrets should
have Brewers Yeast daily to get enough chromium to reduce the
chance of insulinoma) are complaining that all the inbreeding
from suppliers is horridly reducing life spans. The chances of
encountering this are greater with specialized coat or body
types. As was reported by a member from Colorado running a
ferret rescue they were seeing lives of only 4 to 5 years from
that breeder. The bad press has had an effect, and the breeder is
now bringing in some Swedish stock to refresh the bloodlines.
The oldest ferrets we know of were 14. (Would the person who
reported a Canadian small breeder mentioning such ages please see
if the person is GETTING those ages and let us know who it is and
how to contact if so?) The most recent 14 year old we know of
was a convenience male who was neutered as a kit. There was once
debate on whether being convenience (neutered as a kit) reduced
life spans. From numbers
collected personally, seen here, and from asking specialists who
have worked with hundreds the consensus seems to be that being
convenience may have no effect, but inbreeding is promoting
cancers, deformities, and heart disease. One of our's is a
"charity case"who is absolutely adorable with us now but must be
kept from strangers. There is no reason to asuume that the
following are associated genetically since they could be
separate. The breeder was trying for fancy color ferrets with
short faces and got a short face, alright plus the rest of
Achondoplasic Dwarfism. Poor Ruffie has a long body, flat face,
and short legs, etc. The only part of the syndrome that she does
not have yet is slipped discs. Her lower legs and arms are
deformed from uneven growth and have very restricted motion --
she can not even wash her face. Her ears have limited motion.
She is often in pain and has to be massaged each day. Her second
problem is intellectual retardation. This causes abberant
behaviors and makes her likely (virtually always) to panic with
strangers, with us if we don't smell like ourselves such as when
we are ill, etc. Then she canine bites. The bruises are usually
worse than the punctures by the way. She has several medical
problems with her nose as well. Yet, you will never find a
ferret who loves her people more (Oh, let me kiss you. Yes. Yes.
I love you. and other sweet behavior) or is more attractive. She
has -- bar none-- the thickest, softest (almost no guard hairs
and pelage like a kit), longest fur (2" to 3"depending on season
furI've seen and her face looks like a malamute puppy except for
the slanted eyes.
The person who asked about a ferret with a white streak on head
and a few white toes could be seeing another genetic variant
found in many mammals including some mustelids. It's only real
problem if I recall correctly (Can't find my source right now.)
is deafness or partial deafness. We have one who seems to have
it who can not hear low sounds.
Re: training. Praise and other positive training work better
than any other training techniques. When you need adverse
training for nipping or biting ferrets HATE the smell of
toothpaste even more than that of bitter apple, bitter lime, of
sour grapes. They are able to ingest small amounts if that
happens without any worse problems than trying to gag it up, but
perhaps some brands may be dangerous and have not been tried so
you are best just having it smelled in case you try a brand which
has something unsafe about it. Praise for going in the pot can
even get them to the point of climbing in just to show off.
(Accidents can still happen.)
Don't be surprised that words work. Ferrets can put together
words and subject- verb-object sentences. Fritter once overheard
me say to Hjalmar, "Hjalmar, you stashed your fruitcake." She
got up and began to search HJALMAR"S stash places till she found
his cake on the third try.
Hjalmar is having some problems. He looks like he has Cushing's
Syndrome -- urethral infections, loose and wrinkled thin skin,
pot belly, baldness, etc., but ultra sound shows that the
adrenals are both slightly enlarged so that is not definite. He
unfortunately has the enlarged liver and heart also seen with
Cushings. (Also a large spleen but he's had that for 4 years so
it means nothing.) Given that he's 7 and both adrenal glands may
be working together on this, and he also has a probable mast cell
tumor right over the knuckle of a toe which could be creating
problems with histamine releases, and he has reduced nutrient
uptake from previous colitis so must get his zinc supplemnents
and have his pads treated with oil, and has possible mild
insulinoma (most of his life was before the chromium precaution
was known -- we will go with medicines. Unless a tumor shows up
later and he can tolerate surgery it's NOT an option.
Meltdown is carefully learning to be alpha ferret since Frit's
death. It does not come naturally to her so she really has to
work at it.
"Choppy (from 'Chopper from Helicopter for her circular tail
wagging and ability to climb anything to get anywhere) has had to
cope with us finally designing a gate she can't cross so she has
been moving and stacking (very unevenly and perilously)
small boxes so that she can climb on the desk, steal disc, turn
on the computer, move the mouse ball with her hands, hide under
the printer hood if we come in, etc. Otherwise her favorite game
is still to play dalek by lifting the edge of a light weight
plastic basin with her nose, crawling under, and then dashing
blindly around the room under it.
Smell behind your little guy's ears and you'll find very active
scent glands which they use when head rubbing (You're mine.) and
face washing. The sneezing done when face washing pushes out
extra musk. Their scent is VERY important for their self-
reliance and identity. One of our's had NO scent and suffered
greatly for it till we regularly put Deneuve perfume behind her
ears and on her butt.
plus Hjalmar, Meltdown, Ruffle, and Chopper
[Posted in FML issue 0259]