Creature Feature: Al the Ferret

Al is a well-socialized and very playful ferret who lives off exhibit in our education holding room. He is one of four ferrets here and is used for programs and birthday parties. Al was born in June 2005 and was originally purchased by someone from a pet store. He was given to the museum in January 2006 because the original owner could not care for him anymore.

Al got his name from the fact that he is an albino ferret, which is why he is completely white! Having albinism means that there is a partial or total lack of melanin pigment in the eyes, skin and hair of an individual. In a broad sense, melanin is all versions of “black” and “brown” color, and serves as pigment in plants and animals. This means that Al doesn’t have any dark colors on his body, so he instead has white hair, red eyes and a pink nose. Albinism is a condition that is inherited from an individual’s parents, the same way that we end up with brown hair or blue eyes. It can affect fish, reptiles, birds, amphibians and mammals (including humans).

Ferrets are carnivores, so their diet in the wild consists strictly of meat. The black-footed ferret was classified as endangered in 1967 due to a severe decline in prairie dog populations, their main food source, which humans were trying to eradicate at the time. Black-footed ferrets are the only native ferret species to North America, with the other two species being the European polecat and the Siberian polecat. Much like the history of red wolves, there were 18 remaining black-footed ferrets taken into captivity between 1985 and 1987 which were used to start a breeding and re-introduction program for the species. The origin of the domesticated ferret that is in abundance today is believed to be from the European species.

Domesticated ferrets are thought by many to be an entertaining and easy household pet. Although their silly antics can be amusing, these energetic animals require a lot of space and exercise that people sometimes realize is more than they can provide after purchasing them. Our ferrets are fortunate in that they can all run around together in large playpens every day with a virtually endless supply of toys and enrichment items to occupy them. Below is a couple of pictures of Al as he explores the holding room!

The information in this post was found at www.blackfootedferret.org/facts-history, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albinism and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanin

1 response to Creature Feature: Al the Ferret

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    Katy says:

    Al is the cutest! I sure could have used this post several months ago when I was asked what it meant to be an Albino.

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