The mantle of snow and ice over the Suffolk landscape was a sight fit for any Christmas card. Romantic rabbiters will tell tales of perfect ferreting weather ? cold, frosty and snow-filled days, where they can hear and feel the rumble of thumping rabbits reverberate through the subterranean pipes deep within the frozen earth. A realist, however, will paint a different picture. With wind chill factors plunging and constant sub-zero temperatures, respect must be paid to Mother Nature when you are working in such a potentially dangerous environment.
Simple things such as travelling are fraught with danger. At times, it is warmer in a freezer than beside a warren. Keeping warm and comfortable is essential. I don?t like ferreting in gloves, but my hands need protecting to stop them turning numb and to avoid the subsequent painful tingling when the blood starts circulating again.
Fighting the cold
My animals also require extra warmth. The ferrets travel in boxes filled with straw, so they arrive at the warrens in good order, ready for work. The dogs wear rugs to keep them warm in transit and after work, thus avoiding chills and muscle pulls. I have to keep an eye on the lurchers, as a stop/start day in freezing temperatures can cause injuries. Once at the warren, getting net pegs into the ground silently is nigh on impossible and when the net starts to freeze, it won?t operate efficiently. One of the biggest disadvantages of frozen ground is that it can transmit any movement via vibrations in its rock-solid substrate, informing the rabbits of the danger that lies above ground. Digging is a necessary evil if I am to get my ferrets and rabbits out.
Every ferret worked wears a ferret finder collar, but I am wary that freezing conditions sap a ferret finder battery of its power more quickly than usual, so I always carry a spare.
The cold isn?t all bad news. The sprinkling of snow tells me about any recent activity of the cunning coneys, though the tracks of a few rabbits can be deceptive. As the temperature plummets, the rabbits require extra energy to keep warm, so they must consume more food. Once they are underground in their warrens, the snow and ice melts away around the circumference of the holes.
Though the snow can hinder my rabbiting forays, I am always excited when it appears. There is something about ferreting in snow that has a magic ability to transform even the most serious of ferreters into a child ? or perhaps that?s just me.