The Victorian Ferret Society was formed in December 1992 by Michael Curry a young man from Healesville, this first Society was named the Victorian Ferret & Ferreting Society and the early meetings were held in various member’s houses until the membership outgrew these venues. Alan Armstrong and his wife Clare had an open house on several occasions, as did Peter Sullivan, without their generous help it is doubtful that the Society would have survived.
Michael Curry remained President until the General Meeting in 1995, pressures of school work forced Michael to take a lesser role with the Society. Up until this time Michael had been trying to run the Society alone doing everything including the newsletter, with a friend acting as part time treasurer. At this meeting a full committee was formed for the first time including President David Monkhouse, Treasurer Jinty Gordon, Secretary Vicki Haywood and Social Events Co-Ordinator Peter Sullivan. A discussion took place which changed the name of the Society to the Victorian Ferret Society as more people were joining who kept ferrets as pets, previously most of the early members were hunters and most of the social events were field trips.
Ferret welfare was always a priority and getting the message across to new and potential members on how to feed and treat their ferrets was to the forefront and the various shows and other field days we attended. Very few Vets in those days had a good working knowledge of how to treat ferrets and even the RSPCA treated them as wild animals. Most were destroyed and when found as strays, as they had no facilities for their care, the Society took on this job and formed a group for ferret rescue, this group of members now numbering around ten people are scattered around the State and the suburbs. They pick up strays from the RSPCA and other animal shelters as well as from the general public who get the contact numbers from their local council and the animal shelters, this function began in 1995 and has been expanding ever since.
Ferreting is still a popular part of the Society’s calendar of events and many happy days have been spent by members in this pursuit, a great day out for all the family. The ferreting side of the Society has also helped land care groups and other environmental groups to reduce rabbit numbers. One of our major successes was the eradication of rabbits from Churchill Island a small island of heritage significance which is connected to Phillip Island by a small bridge. When we first went there we would catch up to 100 rabbits on a Sunday morning, that was in 1994, now their rangers who look after the island keep a watch for any new invaders across the bridge and deal with them as required. On one occasion a group of members spent a weekend on the sand dunes at Port Fairy, accommodation and BBQs were provided by the local council. The rabbits were a major problem to the mutton bird population as they shared the same burrows and kicked the eggs and the young birds around as they came and left past them. We only managed to catch just over one hundred on the weekend as the warrens were so deep and large. The calici virus has now done the job, I was there in March and did not see any rabbit signs at all.
In the early days the production of the newsletter was a major problem as very few members had access to a computer, during 1995 and 1996 this job was passed around the office bearers and committee members from month to month. Previously the newsletters had been few and far between causing us to lose members especially from country areas who could not attend our meetings. Even these were a problem as the venue changed so often, it was not until Jinty acquired for us the use of the scout hall in Birch Street, South Caulfield that membership began to stabilize and grow. The small special effort (raffle) we run at each meeting is usually enough to pay the hall rental and conserve the Society funds.
The types of events we have attended as a Society go from: the Royal Melbourne Show on at least 3 occasions, the Knox Pet Expo 4 times to my knowledge, the Seymour Expo 3 times, the Silvan Strawberry Festival once or twice, the Upper Yarra Draught Horse & Old Time Festival at least 7 times, the Carrum Gamefair once, the Berwick Show, Yarra Valley Expo several times and many more, as you can see a varied list. At these shows we usually display the ferrets and have ferret racing when there is room to do so, we also hand out flyers, seek new members and give verbal advice. These days can be very strenuous on the members, which is why we request as many members as possible attend these days which are usually enjoyable if there are enough people to spread the load, (many hands make light work). You always pick up more knowledge, as you will meet people who have been keeping and breeding ferrets all their lives with knowledge handed down from one generation to the other. Unfortunately, because of other commitments, I have attended very few shows over the past couple of years myself; I would like to praise the efforts of those who keep this work going. I do not wish to embarrass anyone by naming the stalwarts, they know who they are, many of these people are also members of our much expanded committee another example of many hands making light work, so the praise goes double for them.
I hope you enjoy this short effort, I thought it was time to note some of the events and people that have made this Society come to life. We have survived the first decade and grown stronger with the passing of time and we must keep the good work going on into the future.
Tom Lucas was born in Ireland just before WW2 and came to Australia with his wife Olivia in 1964.
Tom has been ferreting with a mate all over Victoria and New South Wales for the past 25 years, in the last week of February, 2003 they got 25 rabbits. At Skipton, near Ballarat, Tom and nine others got 250 rabbits in six hours. Tom’s ferrets wear a locator nowadays so he doesn’t have to dig so far to get a stuck ferret out. On a voluntary basis Tom does ferret rescues with our Society, picking them up from the RSPCA and various Councils, he then finds good homes for the strays.
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