Mustela furo

Threats Status

Unwanted Organism

Common Name(s)





Ferrets occur generally in open habitat, including grassland, pasture, tussock and shrubland, but also duneland and swamps and in river valleys and near forest margins. They are omnivorous and mainly feed on birds and small mammals, lizards, frogs, eels and various invertebrates, and eggs. They are not very good climbers and only swim short distances.


Male ferrets undercoat is a creamy yellow colour. They have long black guard hairs that give the ferret a dark appearance. Their legs and tail appear darker than the body, and the lighter facial region has a dark mask around the eyes and across the nose.

Similar Species

Stoats may be mistaken for the other two species of Mustelidae in NZ: Weasel (Mustela nivalis vulgar) and Stoat (Mustela erminea)

Threat To Plants

Prey on rabbits, birds, rodents and invertebrates may also have secondary effects on the vegetation due to changes in ecosystem processes.


Throughout both main islands


Weight: 600g (female), 1200g(male); head to body length: 29-46cm

Year Introduced

1879 (Conwat River valley)

Reason For Introduction

Biological Control of rodents

Colonisation History

First introduced to New Zealand in the Conwat River valley in 1879. Thousand more were released in the years after from imports form Australia and Britain and from local breeding stations of the Department of Agriculture (till 1897) and private individuals (till 1912). First releases were concentrated in areas with mayor rabbit plague, mainly Canterbury, Marlborough, western Wairarapa Otago and Southland. By the beginning of the 19th century ferrets were widespread throughout both of the main islands. Due to increased recognition of their negative effects on the environment legal protection was removed by 1903.