Feral ferrets are suspected of killing five chickens in coop
FIVE chickens were killed in a coop at Jerbourg over the weekend in a suspected ferret attack.
Harriet Gowan found her birds with broken necks.
She thought it was a ferret attack because the animal would have had to be small to enter the coop.
News of the attack follows a public campaign in 2016 to report and catch feral ferrets which had been causing problems for smallholders and chicken owners.
Mrs Gowan said her family had owned the chickens for a year and had experienced no issues with predators before this weekend.
‘My six-year-old son and husband realised what had happened on Saturday when they went to feed them and we were all extremely upset – all the girls had names and we were all very fond of them,’ she said.
Mrs Gowan posted her story on Facebook and the reaction made her realise the problem was bigger in the island than she thought.
‘At this time of year when they are breeding, they are going to be moving around a lot too, so nowhere is going to be safe,’ she said.
‘We are going to do everything that we can to ferret-proof our chicken area and I will be advocating for feral ferrets to be listed on the Guernsey Pest Register, so that they are officially recognised as a pest and there is a plan to contain the feral population.’
If she catches a ferret in future, Mrs Gowan said she would deal with it humanely.
Geoff Le Gallez, who liaises with the States vet, has eight big cages placed around the island that he uses to catch ferrets and rehabilitate them.
The cages have a spring and the door drops down to ensure the animals are not stressed and feel comfortable until he can collect them.
Mr Le Gallez said this was the third year where he had seen a big problem and he has caught six ferrets in the last 12 months.
‘I’ve kept four and I’ve tamed them down, two unfortunately died.
‘I will only humanely dispose of them if I have to. Ferrets are part of my life so I don’t want to kill them, I’d rather tame them and give them to someone as a pet,’ he said.
Mr Le Gallez said he thought the main reason behind the feral ferret population was people letting them out into the wild.
He said islanders can protect livestock by keeping their eyes open and making sure there are no small holes for ferrets to squeeze through.
‘Be vigilant, a lot of the open pens I see the sides are wired in, but not the bottom.
‘Put them in a small shed and make sure there’s no small holes or anything. They are resilient and they will find a way if they need to,’ he said.
GSPCA manager Steve Byrne said he had seen a reduction in the number of feral ferrets but wanted to be told about any attacks such as the one on Friday.
‘Up until last year we have helped litters of young ferrets caught or found in the wild, but thankfully we had none during 2017.
‘The ferrets that are often found are those that have likely escaped and as most have no form of ID, we never find their owners,’ he said.
Mr Byrne said if islanders wanted to trap a ferret on their property, the best way is to place food in a shed or outhouse and close the door behind them before calling the GSPCA.
Staff are available to give information, or to report an attack, on 257261 or email email@example.com.