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Animals That Look Like Ferrets

At least annually, the Ferret Association Of Connecticut, the ferret rescue that I co-founded, will get an excited caller considering they’ve seen a “wild ferret” of their yard. There’s no such factor! But there are a LOT of ferret-like animals world wide. Depending on the place you reside, you would possibly come throughout certainly one of these lookalikes.

There are about 57 species of mustelids, the scientific classification that features ferrets. It’s no shock they get complicated! Let’s begin with a information to what’s — and isn’t — a member of the Mustelidae household tree.

What All Mustelids Have In Common

All mustelids are warm-blooded, carnivorous mammals with lengthy, tubular our bodies, quick legs and thick necks. Nearly all have well-developed anal scent glands. Indigenous weasels and their kinfolk dwell everywhere in the world besides in in Australia, Antarctica, Madagascar and a few ocean islands.

The mustelid household is thought for intelligence and being fierce predators, prepared to courageous animals a lot bigger and stronger. An early mammal, they started to evolve into as we speak’s species about 15 million years in the past. Overall, they’re a really profitable group.

Their sizes vary from the least weasel, as small as 5 inches lengthy and weighing solely a few ounces; to the South American big otter, which weighs as much as 75 kilos and is greater than 5 ft lengthy; to sea otters, not fairly as lengthy however as much as 100 kilos.

The Following Are Mustelids

  • Otters – river and sea
  • Badgers
  • Mink
  • Weasels
  • Martens
  • Fishers
  • Polecats
  • Wolverine
  • Ferret (the one home mustelid)

The Following Are NOT Mustelids

  • Mongoose, together with dwarf mongoose and meerkats. While in addition they have anal scent glands and are equally formed, the 34 members of the Herpestidae household are native to Africa, southern Asia and southern Europe.
  • Skunks! In latest years, they have been formally categorized as Mephitidae. Most of the 13 completely different species vary from Canada to the northern elements of South America. They, after all, have probably the most developed scent glands of all!
  • Civets (aka civet cats) and fossas (recognized from the “Madagascar” animated movies) are Viverrids of the household Viverridae. They are native to dense forests of Africa, Asia and a few islands.

Changing Terminology Can Cause Name Confusion

There’s numerous unfastened terminology between animals, largely courting again to the 1800s and 1900s earlier than trendy scientific classification and DNA testing. Therefore, you would possibly hear skunks additionally referred to as polecats. The black-footed ferret is definitely a sort of polecat, not a ferret. Short-tailed weasels could also be referred to as stoats and, of their white winter coat, ermine.

While a few of the polecat species are able to interbreeding, the one mustelid able to interbreeding with home ferrets are European polecats. They even share their scientific names, Mustela putorius (polecat) and Mustela putorius furo (home ferret).

Black-footed ferrets are an endangered species with only some hundred left within the wild. Conservation efforts have reintroduced them to only some areas of western U.S. prairie.

What Are People Seeing In Their Yard?

Most of the time, it’s a misplaced or deserted home ferret. Ferrets see people as their rescuer from a scary out of doors world and infrequently run proper as much as them. But some wildlife may be mistaken for ferrets.

It’s unlikely you’ll encounter the endangered black-footed ferret — they’re solely on western prairies the place they’ve been intentionally launched. If you prefer to the prospect to see one, the Arizona Game And Fish Department holds an annual spring and fall black-footed ferret depend the place volunteers are welcome. Email azferret@azgfd.gov for extra info.

Sea Otters

Sea otters are fairly a bit bigger than pet ferrets. Wild sea otters dwell within the Pacific Ocean.

Sea otters are a lot greater than ferrets and may be noticed off the western United States shoreline. They can come ashore, however choose to drift on their again within the swells. One nice method to see them is on a specialised wildlife boat tour, accessible from Monterey to Alaska. River otters will, as their identify suggests, be discovered alongside rivers and waterways. Also a lot greater than ferrets, the primary similarity you might discover is their love of play. YouTube movies present river otters sledding throughout snow or down riverbanks.


Badgers have a a lot rounder physique than the slinky ferret. This badger picture was taken on the Omaha Zoo.

Badgers have distinctly elongated snouts and a rounder, pudgier physique than most mustelids. Different subspecies of badgers dwell within the Americas, Europe, Africa, Japan and elements of Asia. All badgers dwell in burrows. People would possibly search out badgers, as their fur is utilized in high quality shaving brushes and so they’re part of Russian delicacies. In the United Kingdom, nonetheless, whereas they’re an iconic creature featured in tales and tales, they’re a provider of bovine tuberculosis and badger culls stay controversial.

Fishers And Wolverines

Fisher or wolverine? If both of those go to your property, keep indoors! These predators keep away from people however could chase rodents or small prey into outbuildings or woodpiles. Fishers have been reported to assault youngsters, and wolverines can take down a deer or lynx. Not animals to mess with!

The numerous weasel species are not often seen. Small and good, they keep away from large, lumbering people. If your house abuts woodlands, nonetheless, you would possibly discover one which’s fallen right into a pool or basement window properly. The Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory has hyperlinks to state-by-state rehabilitator lists.


Good tree-climbers, martens (together with the intently associated sable in Eastern Europe, Russia and northern China, and the Japanese Marten) incessantly have lighter fur beneath their chin of white, grey or yellow. In Central Europe, they’ve such a pesky inclination to munch on rubbery auto elements which you could purchase marten harm insurance coverage for vehicles!

The wild mustelid people mostly encounter are mink. There are two varieties: European (or Russian) and American mink. Despite the names, they aren’t intently associated. European mink are nearer to polecats and are an endangered animal.

American Minks

American mink are extensively farmed for fur manufacturing. An opportunistic, adaptable species, they have been launched by people to South America, England and Europe. Invariably, some escaped and in Europe they’re thought of invasive — pushing out natives like European mink and polecats. While related in measurement to a ferret, their pure shade is a deep, stable brown. (Ferrets have in a different way coloured guard hairs than their base coat, giving them a mottled look.) Mink typically have a white chin and/or a spot of white on their neck. If you see a mink that’s grey, silver or noticed, it’s in all probability a fur farm escapee.

While you would possibly discover animal sellers promoting mink or come throughout one rescued from a fur farm, these animals retain an excessive amount of wild intuition and are usually not appropriate as pets with out devoted, educated care. A allow or license could also be required to maintain one.

Mink are often seen in early summer season, when children go away their dens to ascertain their very own territories. They dwell close to water: You would possibly spot one alongside a shoreline, stream or pond. If you reside on a lake and put out meat or kibble for feral cats, don’t be stunned if a resourceful mink visits for a simple meal. One large distinction will likely be mink will snatch meals and race off — a misplaced ferret could attempt to comply with you indoors!

The mustelid household is gorgeous, various and widespread. If you’re lucky sufficient to see certainly one of these wild, great ferret family members, benefit from the privilege and respect the flexibility to maintain their solely home member as a part of your personal household.

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