Can I Feed Wild Game Meat?
Author: Jason Raynor
NOTE: Be sure to check the current information from your local Ministry of Natural Resources to educate yourself about consuming wild game. I recently found out that in Ontario (where I live) it is inadvisable to eat the liver of Moose, Elk and Deer because of Chromium contamination in some areas (most likely due to mining in the area).
There are three primary concerns when deciding to feed non-commercially sourced meat. Parasites, disease and poisons. I will outline the general risks of each and how best to avoid them below:
In general, poisons are really only a concern if you are harvesting your wild game in an urban area where people often put out poison to control vermin species (such as squirrels, rats, mice, etc). In these areas, it is just too great a risk to consider using any vermin species you trap/kill to feed your ferrets. Therefore, if you live in an urban area, DO NOT FEED wild-caught vermin species.
If you live in the country or harvest these types of animals far enough away from an urban area or farm, you most likely will not have to deal with the risk of poison. In general, vermin species have personal territories of only a few acres. Therefore if you are farther than that from an urban area or farm, you should be fine.
Wild game can often carry many diseases we are not familiar with seeing in commercial-grade meat. Please make sure you educate yourself on the species you intend to hunt/feed and the diseases it can carry (check your local Ministry Of Natural Resources). Some diseases may not be a concern while others (such as Tularemia in rabbits) can be transmitted to humans as well as ferrets. The bottom line is: educate yourself first.
Pseudorabies / Aujeszky’s Disease is also a disease to be aware of and is found in feral or wild hogs. Some countries even have issues with it in domestic pork so check your country to see if this disease has been reported. For more information on Pseudorabies and a country list, please see HERE
Chronic Wasting Disease is a disease that affects all deer species. While current research shows that mink have resistance to CWD from deer, there have been no studies involving ferrets and probably never will be. It is something to be aware of and use your own judgement as to whether you want to use contaminated meat (I would not suggest it). Please see the map below for known outbreak locations
This is the big one. Most parasites in wild game meats can be easily dealt with via freezing the meat for 4 weeks or more. However, there is an exception to this rule. [EDITOR’s NOTE: there are actually a few exceptions. Please see our page on Raw Meat and Parasites for more details.]
One of the species of Trichinella (T.Nativa) has adapted to arctic and sub-arctic climates and can resist freezing (they have found cysts in bear meat that were still infectious after being frozen for two years). Therefore, if you are harvesting wild game species that are carnivores or omnivores (bears, foxes, rats, squirrels, raccoons, walruses, wild boar, feral pigs, etc) in these regions (arctic / sub-arctic), we strongly suggest you do not feed them to your ferrets.
T.Nativa can be found north of the 48th Parallel in countries where Trichinella is present (for example, the U.K. is north of the 48th Parallel but does not have Trichinella in the country). Please see the map below for an illustration of the 48th Parallel:
Feeding Meat From Wild Carnivores / Omnivores
While in most respects meat is meat when providing food for a carnivore such as a ferret. There are higher risks involved when feeding meat from other carnivore species (or omnivores).
Bioaccumulation of toxins that animals consume or are exposed to during their lives can be a concern.
For Example: small insects are exposed to a toxin (say a pesticide), insectivore eats thousands of insects, carnivore eats thousands of said insectivore, you then feed the meat from the carnivore to your ferret. Each time you move up the food chain the toxins are concentrated (possibility to toxic levels over time).
Carnivores and Omnivores (excluding rodents & birds) are also much more likely to carry parasites like trichinosis (see above) and many carnivores have a high amount of Vitamin A in their livers. High enough to possibly be toxic. In fact, the liver of a Polar Bear has enough Vitamin A to kill human beings who eat that organ.
So, in general, it is not ideal to feed meat from other carnivores/omnivores. That is not to say you can’t, just that there are risks involved and it definitely shouldn’t be the main staple in their diet. Some examples are: bear, raccoon, coyote, wolf, fox, wild/feral pigs, large predatory fish, etc.