Streetsboro Ferret Rescue aids unwanted and forgotten ferrets

Crystal Walko rescues ferrets from abusive homes and helps take care of ferrets from other ferret rescues. Photo by Megan Galehouse.

Laura Lofgren

Video by Brad Tansey

KentWired Video

var so = new SWFObject(‘’,’mpl’,’665′,’450′,’9′);





Obligatory carnivores. Territorial predators. Stinky if left unattended. Sneaky, squirmy furry mammals that can snuggle or snarl. Ferrets aren’t exactly the first choice for many people as a domesticated pet, but Crystal Walko disagrees. She’s become a fan of ferrets to the point of starting a rescue for the slinky creatures.

“They’re very playful. They’re fun. They’re loving. They’re very comical,” Walko said as she sat in the “ferret room” of her ranch-style house, located outside of Streesboro, Ohio.

Walko, who started Healing Hearts Ferret Rescue just after the first of this year, wasn’t exactly a huge fan of ferrets when her ex-husband wanted one.

“Believe it or not, I hated ferrets. I got bit when I was a teenager and wanted nothing to do with them,” she said.

After visiting a pet store and her husband continuously asking for one, Walko conceded two weeks later. It’s been nothing but tender loving care ever since.

The 34-year-old now has about 40 ferrets in a bright orange room dedicated solely to their needs. Along the far right wall, cages are stacked up for those ferrets who don’t get along with any of the others or who get along only with their cage mates. They each have fleece hammocks made specifically for them to sleep in, all of which have been donated to the rescue.

“They love to snuggle in fleece; soft, silky stuff,” Walko said.

The left-hand corner has been surrounded by black fencing to keep in the 20 or so ferrets that cuddle and play together every day. Animal beds, cat toys and litter boxes cover the floor while ferret after ferret sticks its nose between the wiring to check out the afternoon.

Ranging in age from 12 weeks to 8 years, Walko named every ferret and remembers each one.

Epstein, an 8 year old, lives in a cage along the wall, with only one eye.

“He had lymphoma,” Walko said. She explained it was behind his eye, slowly pushing it out of its socket. He had surgery to remove the cancer thanks to Walko.

“He’s doing great,” she said.

Adopting a Ferret

Interested in adopting a ferret from Healing Hearts Ferret Rescue?

E-mail Crystal at [email protected]

or [email protected]

and inquire about the adoption process.

And check out her Facebook page.

Walko said Healing Hearts is run strictly on donations and a supplementary eBay sales account she maintains, so upkeep can be hard. Bedding and veterinary bills add up quickly.

“Ferrets are susceptible to adrenal diseases, lymphoma cancer (and) lipoma. Those are the three big concerns,” Walko said.

Ferret specialists aren’t easy to come by in the area, so Walko has to drive either an hour and a half to Avon Lake or about an hour to Berea to see a veterinarian who can help her with the injuries and diseases the rescued ferrets come in with.

“It’s overwhelming sometimes, like when they’re sick and you just don’t know what to do,” she said. “There aren’t many knowledgeable vets on ferrets.”

One wouldn’t think ferrets need rescuing, but Walko said people usually tire of them rather quickly after purchasing one and realizing all the necessities the little mammals need.

“It’s shocking how many ferrets need rescued,” she said.

Walko explained ferrets need a constant food and water supply. They can be very stinky if not properly taken care of every day.

“That’s another reason why they’re surrendered a lot of the times,” Walko said of the constant cleaning. She cleans her ferrets’ litter boxes every day and lets them have two hours of play time out on the enclosed patio.

Volunteering in conjunction with The Last Chance Ferret Rescue in Cleveland in 2007, Walko also houses ferrets from the Northeastern, Ohio rescue.

“I am their intake coordinator,” Walko said. “People fill out surrender forms for various reasons.” Walko coordinates when ferrets can enter into either rescue and figures out what medical attention each ferret needs.

Walko has separate cages in her living room for newcomers to acclimate to.


They love to chew on shoes.

They spend 14 to 18 hours a day sleeping.

King Richard II issued a decree in 1384 allowing one of his clerks to hunt rabbits with ferrets and again in 1390 prohibiting the use of ferrets on Sunday.

Ferrets used to be used for hunting rabbits, rodent control, fur production, biomedical research and transporting: The ferret’s anatomy and willingness to run through dark tunnels make them ideal in transporting cables through long pipes. Oilmen in the North Sea, telephone companies, camera crews and people working on airline jets have used ferrets for this purpose.

— Susan A. Brown, D.V.M. Article titled History of the Ferret

“They’re quarantined before being introduced to the (ferret) room,” she said.

Healing Hearts Ferret Rescue turns no ferret away, no matter what illness or injury they have. Unfortunately, Walko said, there is a waiting list for incoming ferrets right now.

Walko wants people to educate themselves on the amount of time and dedication it takes to own a ferret before committing to ownership.

“If you have a desire to get any animal, make sure you do the research. If you don’t know what you’re getting into, they end up in a rescue,” she warned.

While some are snuggly and some are rambunctious, ferrets can make a great pet for people, Walko said. Healing Hearts Ferret Rescue, after rehabilitating the animals, offers them to those who can handle the responsibility of ferret ownership for a small fee that includes up-to-date shots. To help recoup costs, she charges $75 for the adoption of one ferret or $125 for two.

Cute, sly, fuzzy ferrets can be a great addition to a family if properly taken care of.

“If you’re sad, just play with a ferret and you’ll be laughing soon,” Walko said.

Contact Laura Lofgren at [email protected].