In southern England, near Stonehenge, a string of ferret thefts has aggravated and confused ferret owners for the past two years. Writes the Wall Street Journal:
Across rural England, thieves-often with balaclavas, Mr. Bradley [an English ferret owner] says-have struck at night, carrying off their writhing contraband in pillowcases. "They leave everything of value and just take the ferrets," says Mr. Bradley, puzzled.
Ferrets are popular pets in rural England, often used to keep rabbits from digging up gardens and even preventing damage to Stonehenge. Thefts aren't unheard of, but have been occurring with unusual frequency lately, and nobody is quite sure why.
Some ferret enthusiasts say thieves sell animals for clandestine drug research, Mr. Jenkins says. Others speculate they go to the illicit pet trade. Many suspect the involvement of organized-crime rings.
The suggested reasons are certainly worrisome; in neither the illegal pet trade nor the pharmaceutical industry would the ferrets be treated particularly well. Oddly, the black market price for ferrets isn't particularly high; ferrets are legal pets in England, and "the animals' commercial value still is scarcely more than the two shillings and a pint of beer," says an English ferret owner.
The ferret owners aren't taking chances, turning to microchipping and high-tech surveillance and security systems to keep their ferrets safe. But the exact reason for the uptick in ferret theft remains unknown.