What Do Ferrets Eat?

What Do Ferrets Eat?
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What Do Ferrets Eat? Ferrets are small furry mammals with long tails and a pear-shaped physique. These organisms are popular, and some of them are even domesticated.

Ferrets are carnivores meaning they eat meat. Some of their delicacies include prairie dogs, possums, rabbits, amphibians, birds, bird eggs, rodents, and hedgehogs.

Table of Contents

What Do Ferrets Eat?

Type of Ferret Diet

Common/ Domestic Ferret

Carnivores (meaty diet)

Black-footed Ferret

Prairie dogs, small rodents, ground squirrels, birds, turtles, and rabbits.

Ferrets Diet by Types

2 types of ferrets exist, and this includes the common ferret and the black-footed ferret. More insight into these types of ferrets is as follows.

What Do Common/Domestic Ferrets Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Carnivora Mustelidae Mustela Mustela putorius furo

Domestic ferrets are primarily carnivores and must be fed with a meaty diet.

What Do Domesticated Ferrets Eat?

  • This type of ferret has been domesticated because of their varied fur colors and patterns.
  • Some of the typical fur hues they are notable for include chocolate, cinnamon, black sable, sable, silver, dark-eyed white, and albino.
  • The domestic ferret resembles its ancestor, the European polecat.
  • Common ferrets inhabit forested and semi-forested regions, especially those next to water bodies. Others are found in urban, suburban, and agricultural lands.

What Do Black-footed Ferrets Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Carnivora Mustelidae Mustela Mustela nigripes

This ferret is carnivorous, and its main delicacy, which accounts for 90% of its diet is the prairie dogs. They also eat small rodents, ground squirrels, turtles, birds, and rabbits.

What Do Black-Footed Ferrets Eat?

  • This ferret is native to the North American region from southern Canada all through to northern Mexico.
  • The black-footed ferret gets its name from the fact that it has black feet. Aside from their black feet, their fur is yellow and their underparts pale.
  • Their throats, muzzle, and foreheads are white. The black-footed ferrets can be found inhabiting the grassland prairies.

How do Ferrets Hunt?

When it comes to hunting, for ferrets, this is a dynamic process that is facilitated by unique adaptations.

How Do Ferrets Hunt?

  • One adaptation that enhances their skillful hunting is nocturnal activity. The fact that these organisms are active at night means that they can easily ambush their prey under cover of darkness.
  • Their body shape (long bodies) also comes in handy for hunting. Ferrets can easily navigate through tunnels and prairie dog holes in such of their prey.
  • Upon spotting their victim, they launch their attack.
  • Ferrets possess sensing abilities that further enhance their hunting skills. Their large eyes confirm their excellent vision, which is instrumental in their nocturnal hunting activities.
  • Their large and concave ears are also pivotal in their hunting quests, especially in helping them hear and further locate where their victims are and when they should attack.
  • Finally, their acute sense of scent is imperative to help them sniff out prey that could be hiding in the underground tunnels.

When Do Ferrets Eat?

Ferrets are nocturnal. Ferrets come out at night to hunt and eat prairie dogs and then retire to sleep.

How Often Do Ferrets Eat?

Ferrets are free feeders. This means they should have food and water readily available to them.

  • This eating behavior is attributed to the fact that they have a high metabolism and ferrets digest their food very quickly.
  • Hence, they will tend to feed very often during their awake time to realize their energy needs.
  • Older ferrets feed more frequently compared to the younger ones.
  • During winter, the black-footed ferret does not hibernate, but its activity slows down.
  • The implication from being active is that ferrets eat less often during the harsh cold weather and will cover up for their energy needs by utilizing their fat stores to get through the weather.

What Eats Ferrets?

In the wild, black-footed ferrets are vulnerable to becoming prey.

What Eats Ferrets? Bobcats

  • Some of the organisms that predate on ferrets include bobcats, eagles, hawks, badgers, and coyotes.
  • Other creatures that feed on wild ferrets are prairie rattlesnakes and falcons.
  • Domestic/common ferrets do not have natural predators, thanks to being tamed.
  • However, animals like hawks, large carnivorous mammals, and some owl species can hunt them if the opportunity avails itself.

Where Do Ferrets Fit in the Animal Food Chain?

Wild ferrets play an essential role in the animal food chain as both prey and predators.

Prairie Dogs

  • In their role as prey, they provide a good source of protein for organisms that feed on them, thus promoting their health and survival.
  • 90% of the black-footed ferret’s diet is made up of prairie dogs. By feeding on prairie dogs and other organisms, they help regulate their numbers, thus preventing their overpopulation in the food chain.

It is vital to note that domestic ferrets do not have a role in the animal food chain because they do not inhabit natural ecosystems.

Cite this article as: "What Do Ferrets Eat?," in Bio Explorer by Jack Kirsten, February 25, 2019, https://www.bioexplorer.net/what-do-ferrets-eat.html/.

Key References

  • “Facts About Ferrets | Live Science”. Accessed August 29, 2019. Link.
  • “ADW: Mustela putorius furo: INFORMATION”. Accessed August 29, 2019. Link.
  • “Black-Footed Ferret | Defenders of Wildlife”. Accessed August 29, 2019. Link.
  • “ADW: Mustela nigripes: INFORMATION”. Accessed August 29, 2019. Link.
What Do Ferrets Eat?
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