Archived Articles : Heatstroke Warning

Horrid loss and Heartbreaking Experience for the whole family
by Ron Olney  

January the 18th was the worst day of my life. The television forecast the weather to be 42 degrees in Esperence. Merle was heading for Perth at 8am to take our boys to PMH in Perth for operations on their legs, and as she stepped onto the bus she turned to me and said "Look after my babbies, its going to be very hot today".  

Like a good husband I told her to look after the boys while she was gone and I would take care of the farm and all the animals. It turned out to be the worst thing I ever said.  

Eleven o'clock came and it was already 36 degrees. I had been around on the motorbike and checked all the water troughs for the stock, noticing as I went that all the sheep were parked together under the trees and thinking at the same time that that in itself was a little strange. I headed home with my 2 faithful dogs, one on the bike (Klem) and the other dog (Swifty), 2 weeks from whelping, wouldn't follow anymore and headed for the river to go home. On arrival home I noticed how hot Swifty was, I gave her a bath and then it hit me - THE FERRETS!!!  

Straight down to the Ferret Shed I went with a large bucket of water - "Everything was alright" and I wetted down the cages to reassure myself. "If I wet them down every half an hour everything will be fine".  

One thirty came around and it was absolute chaos. It was 46 degrees. Mad panic had set in. Although I continously splashed water into the cages, three of my girls had succumbed to the heat and passed on. The panic overtook me, and I raced up to the house, tears in my eyes (what a man!), I was all alone on the farm and I didn't know what to do or who to turn to. It came to me through the fog to ring my neighbors, and my sincerest thanks go to Barry, Jean, their daughter Sheila and her 2 children - Tenille and Reece, without their help all the Olney ferrets would have been lost.  

Six o'clock arrived and it was cooling to a mild 32 degrees. Knowing the worst had now passed, we began to count the dead. It was tragic, 29 young and 4 adults. Three had been badly dehydrated and Barry and Jean had bought them up to the house; it was only when I realised that Barry and Jean had been in control of the breeding and male cages, that I looked into the 3 carry cages in disbelief. Apollo (Poly) so gladly presented himself to me, Radar, Merle's favourite which she ranted and raved at me to keep when he was little, was very happy to see me. I couldn't bear to look in the other box. (Tragedy.) It was Scott's favourite, Blanche. I turned to Barry and asked "What about her babies?" He hadn't checked. I ran back down, knowing she had 7 babies. Opening the door, there were still noises coming from the nest box; there were three babies still alive - 2 male, one female. Taking them up to the house I had already named them; Apollo Prince, Apollo Duke and Apollo Princess.  

Coming to the back door, Barry was waiting for me saying "Ron, I'm afraid I have some more bad news". Not even thinking about the ferrets in the house, I walked in and saw Janet & Ross' baby "Tyson" severely dehydrated.  

Laying my 3 sick ferrets on wet blankets, without realising the shock this would cause their tiny bodies, I jumped into the car and raced straight off to the vets, only to be told that two may have a chance and one had no hope of making it. Two days later Apollo passed away, while Tyson and Radar had caught severe pneumonia (from being on the wet blanket).  

Nine days later we had to pluck up the courage to ring Janet & Ross to tell them that Tyson had lost his battle for life. This was a very sad day for Merle and I, even though Radar was still fighting on. By March 14th Radar had started to put on weight and began to get quite excited when a good looking girl passed by.  

The punchline to my story is, that after 34 years of having ferrets you cannot blame them for something that has gone wrong. Do what I am doing; have a good look in the mirror and work out what you did wrong and figure out how to prevent it happening again. If you think you are an expert, DON'T, because you will learn something new every day of your life.  


First Published in Issue 64 of Ferreting Around  
(May / June 1995)