Message Number: YG657 | New FHL Archives Search
From: Edward Lipinski
Date: 2001-03-03 22:54:00 UTC
Subject: Ferret reverse gear (?)

What's this "ferret scooting"?

The subject of ferret scooting is confusing to me as I read of it here.
Some refer to it as playing with a toy but don't specifically define the
motion of the ferret in this activity.

To some of us the term scooting refers to the motion of the ferret as it
backs up - or goes into reverse gear, (another daffy definition) - and is
typified in films I've seen of the black footed ferret (BFF) that, quite
like a nightcrawler fishing worm in the grass, keeps it rear end in its
hole so that it can retreat at the first sign of danger. Or if not
keeping at least its tail in its hole seems to know exactly where that
hole is behind him, even in the blackness of the night. To me it seems
as though the BFF has butt-eyes and/or sensors and can "see" exactly
where his retreat hole is.

Here at Ferrets North West near Seattle, we stake our ferrets out in the
ferret digging grounds, sometimes the entire day and into the night.
Seven metal stakes (vertical into the ground) restrict each of the
individual ferret's activity into a circular area the diameter of which
is the length of the leash line tied to the ferret's Figure 8,
English-made and escape-proof, leather cat harness.

Since ferrets are repeatedly harnessed to the same posts the repeated
digging by the ferrets results in little caverns and tunnels which are
frequently enlarged and lengthened by the second, third, fourth and so-on
ferrets that are harnessed to the same post at subsequent times. The
result is the shaping of tunnels much to the specific likes of the
various ferrets. And not surprising many of these domestic ferrets not
unlike their cousin, the BFF, display the same characteristic of
butt-eyed and tactile hole location by scooting into their holes at the
first sight of anything unusual, especially the overflight of the larger
sized birds. They seldom turn around and run into their tunnel
head-first but instead scoot butt first rearward into the security of
their hole. They turn around underground and shortly thereafter
cautiously peek out, exposing only the tip of their twitching noses,
presumably sniffing the air and perhaps curious at the rattle and cawing
of the big bird harriering crows, their feathered "watchdogs".

The term "scooting" may also mean to others the way a ferret can
"capture" a stuffed toy or a ball between its fore and hind paws and go
either direction all the while cupping the toy between the floor and
against its chest. This motion is quite like the excavation scooting
when the ferret pulls out of its tunnel backwards with a fresh pile of
dirt that he's scraped off the face of his tunnel. He'll draw it out
some 4 to 11 inches or so and go right back into the tunnel to excavate
some more dirt, over and over again..

The one thing I've learned if nothing else is the characteristic shape of
the tailings at the entrance of a ferret's
tunnel. It is quite unique and is a tell-tale sign that the tunnel or
den is currently occupied by a robust ferret.

The ferret's world out of doors, as you might expect, seems a lot
different than the indoor-kept and caged ferret. Perhaps we should give
the ferret more time in the out of doors, even if it means taking more
time out of our busy schedules to give the ferret his innate sense of
normalcy, both physical and mental. It seems we derive great joy from
our ferrets . . . why not return the favor and give him some little joy

Edw Lipinski, Founder of F.E.R.R.E.T.S. NW Foundation, a nonprofit
shelter and husbandry.