The Ferret

III.–RAT HUNTING.

 

When the word rat is mentioned in connection with the ferret, our

pacific scene is changed to one of war and bloodshed. The savage

instincts of the animal are then aroused, and the rat itself knows, when

it has caught the ferret’s scent, that its time has come. There are no

two animals more deadly enemies than these, the ferret being constructed

in such a way that it is best adapted to hunt the rat in the rat’s own

haunts. Wherever a rat can go a ferret can go, because the latter’s body

is as flexible as rubber, and it can squeeze itself up, draw itself

out, and flatten its limbs into a likeness of a New England buckwheat

cake, as if there wasn’t a bone in its body. The weasels, and nearly all

wild animals of this division, after killing the prey suck the blood,

eat the brain, leave the rest of the body untouched, and then proceed to

annihilate the next victim, repeating the operation. Here is where the

difference between the ferret and the other animals of its tribe comes

in, for it does not content itself with brain food and such ethereal

substances, but devours the whole carcass with a fine relish, not even

leaving the tail or the skin. It bolts the bones and everything else

thereto appertaining. It is rather an appalling experience for the first

time to hear the hungry ferret’s teeth go crunch, crunch, as they meet

in the neck of some fat rodent. This sound bears a resemblance to a

cowboy chewing radishes. A very hungry ferret would commence to devour

the rat before it had thoroughly made its exit into the sweet

subsequently. In using ferrets to clear a house of rats, they should be

allowed to nose through the building during the night with the same

freedom accorded a domestic animal. During the day they are kept in the

pen. The reason a ferret should be hunted with in the night is that it

sees better then, and that it is instinctively better fitted for

hunting. The rats also become more venturesome at this time. When the

ferrets are to be hunted with, feed them slightly, as feeding blunts

their hunting capabilities and makes them worthless. After a good feed a

ferret will sleep harder than any other domestic animal. Sometimes you

will find a ferret so hard asleep that you can take him up, shake him,

and then put him down again without waking him. If you are inexperienced

in the ways of the ferret, you will imagine you have a corpse on your

hands. But the corpse will in a short time open its eyes, shake itself,

wag its tail, and then trot around with the others. When a ferret sleeps

he will let his companions tramp all over his head and body without

allowing himself to be disturbed in the least. When they have been fed

too well they will sleep and be of no further use. If these over-fed

ferrets are in a pen and you put rats in for them to kill, they will not

wake up even if the rats crawl all over them, although the rodents are

scared into fits and are trying to get away with all their might and

main. A hungry ferret around a house will go scenting around as hunting

dogs do, to discover any trace or hiding-place of his natural prey. This

in itself is enough to drive all the rats to Jericho and make them stay

there as long as the ferrets are kept around, for the rodents have an

acute bodily fear of these prowling detectives. A ferret’s being bitten

by a rat happens only in extreme cases, but sometimes in cellars and

other places that are swarming with rats, ferrets that have first been

put in have to contend with great odds, and come out with some bruises.

_Therefore if even a good, old hunting ferret should be bitten by a rat,

he should not be used until the wound is perfectly healed again, even if

it should take two or three weeks._ The ferret is very peculiar in this

respect, and if this rule is not observed he may be spoiled as a hunter

forever afterwards. The ferrets hunt downward, and if put on the upper

or top floors in the evening they will turn up in the morning down in

the cellar driving the rats before them. They should be kept in a dry

place, and they rapidly get to know their pens, returning to them and

waiting to be put in when through hunting. With a moderate amount of

attention they will thrive and prosper in their work of extermination.


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