Ferrets are common in the Mackenzie, particularly where rabbit numbers are high. They are usually found between 1500-1750m although they have been spotted at 1731m in the project area – the highest know record of a ferret.
While rabbits are their main diet, when there is a sudden reduction in rabbit numbers, hungry ferrets look for other food, like native birds, lizards, wētā, even rodents. They also threaten the farming industry as, similar to possums, they can carry bovine tuberculosis (TB).
Larger and stockier than stoats, ferrets are the largest mustelid found in New Zealand and were introduced from Europe. They have played a role in the decline of native birds like kakī, kiwi, whio and tūtiriwhatu/banded dotterel.
Ferrets are mainly nocturnal, with an average home range in the Mackenzie Basin of 150ha depending on food supply. Males can range up to 288ha and females 111ha. They breed in spring and can have up to 12 young.
Photo Tom Smits, Ryan Hagerty via Wikimedia Commons