It’s been an active few days on Tacoma Weekly’s mink and ferret beat.
Like weasels and ermine, mink and ferrets are among the 69 members of the mustelidae family. “Mustelidae,” as you likely know, is Latin for “You have to change their cages often if you want to live in the same house with them.”
Both are big in the animal rights movement – mink in the fur industry, and ferrets in the lab animal arena.
Nursing staff at Franke Tobey Jones thought they were dealing with a frightened pet ferret when a slinky critter dashed through the front doors.
“We open the front doors to the main entrance in the summer,” said registered nurse Deborah Buttorff. “It just ran in there. It ran all the way to the health care center.”
Quick on their feet, the nurses moved to contain it.
“We got it into a bathroom,” Buttorff said. “We just kind of guided it. Then the maintenance man helped me guide it into a garbage bucket.”
Buttorff called her friend Charlie Rice and asked him to rush right over with a cat carrier and a can of cat food.
“We managed to guide it into the carrier, and it immediately started to eat,” Buttorff said. “It was very scared. Very scared. And lost. And vulnerable.”
Rice did not share those tender feelings on the drive from Point Defiance to the Humane Society at 2608 Center Street.
“He bared his teeth and made some terrible noises,” said Rice, a retired editor at The News Tribune.
Rice’s former job explains the unpleasant newspaper incident at the Humane Society, said executive director Kathleen Olson.
“We put a piece of newspaper in its cage, and it screamed and tore it up,” said Deborah Johnson, who works the front desk. “It smelled terrible. He was trying to chew his way out of the cage.”
They thought they were dealing with a ticked-off rare black ferret until a staff member saw it after he smelled it.
“It’s a mink,” he declared.
That explained everything.
Long ago, there was a mink farm at Point Defiance, Olson said. The critters occasionally escaped and survived. There’s quite a colony of wild mink out there now, she said. One of them busted into the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s puffin exhibit last October and killed five of the birds.
Returning it to the wild was the right thing to do. But there was a hitch. It would not be good if anyone saw a Humane Society van stopping by the park and releasing a critter. If someone posted it online without getting the story, it could spiral into viral, though unfounded, outrage.
“I’ll take it out,” the mink identifier volunteered.
“I’ll pay you mileage,” Olson replied.
And the mink went home, tired and furious.
• Ferrets skip intubation training
Madigan Army Medical Center has discontinued using ferrets to train medical personnel how to intubate an infant in respiratory distress. It now uses a simulator instead of the live animals.
Teaching hospitals have used anesthetized ferrets for the training, not because their sharp teeth, pointed faces and long, strong bodies are so like a baby’s, but because their windpipes are about the same size as a newborn’s.
PETA campaigned for the switch, marshalling 60,000 e-mails from supporters, including doctors and military personnel. In a statement, PETA noted that “Department of Defense guidelines… require that non-animal training methods be used when available,” and that most military hospitals use the simulators instead of the anesthetized ferrets.
Justin Goodman, director of PETA’s Laboratory Investigations Department, said, “PETA applauds Madigan's leadership for its compassionate, medically sound decision to use superior modern simulation tools instead of shoving tubes down ferrets' throats. Using animals to teach human anatomy is like trying to get from Seattle to New York using a map of France. Both patients and trainees will benefit from Madigan's new advanced, effective, and humane intubation training curriculum."