Ferrets, also known as ‘fitch’ or ‘polecats’, are the largest of a family of carnivorous mammals called Mustelids which includes weasels, otters, stoats, martens and mink.
Ferrets were introduced to New Zealand from Europe in the 1880s, along with stoats and weasels, to control rabbits that were breeding out of control. By 1900, ferrets were established in the wild and played a part in the decline of native birds like kiwi and weka, and the extinction of kakapo on the mainland.
In the 1980’s, some ferrets escaped or were set free from ferret farms, where they were farmed for their fur. This also contributed to the expansion of ferrets northward into some of New Zealand’s kiwi habitat.