General description

Largest of the three mustelid species in New Zealand, usually 48 - 56 cm long including tail. Males weigh 1-2kg,up to twice as much as a female 600-900gm. Stocky build with body colour varying from white through light brown to black. Tail is a uniform colour and the guard hairs make it look bushy. Ferrets can swim well but do not climb trees like stoats.

Found in pastoral habitats, roadsides, scrubland, forest margins, dunes and coastal grassland.

Litters of 2 to 17 kits born October/November. Kits move away to new territories at approximately 3 months old and reach sexual maturity at approximately 8-12 months. Life span of 2 to 4 years. Large home ranges depending on habitat - males 30-120ha and females 12-100ha.

Feed mainly on small mammals (rabbits, rodents, possums) but will also take adult kiwi, weka, black stilts, yellow-eyed penguin chicks, and hole nesting native birds. They eat both fresh and scavenged prey. Other native species at risk include brown teal, shearwaters, dotterel, fairy tern, little blue penguin, skinks, kauri snails and native frogs. Ferrets are also known to act as vectors of bovine Tb.

Site management

Monitor to detect any reinvasion.

Recommended approaches

1. Use a DOC 250 trap baited with fresh or dried rabbit meat, or an egg. Place traps alongside tracks, buildings or fences.

Caution: when using any herbicide or pesticide PLEASE READ THE LABEL THOROUGHLY to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

Similar species

Mustela erminea

Mustela nivalis vulgaris

RPMS status

Animal Pest - Whole Region
ferret - Main species image