California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Ferrets - Native Carnivores

Introduction Table of Content Ferret Bibliography Population Estimates
Ferret Survey Biology and Uses Ferrets in the Wild World Distribution
California's Concerns Native Carnivores Other Mustelidae Tables


Twenty native species of terrestrial carnivores are listed as occurring in California (species list). Most of these are relatively small carnivores, typically weighing less than 15 pounds (7 kg) when adult, which is the weight of a large domestic cat. Some of the larger carnivores, like raccoons, bobcats, and badgers, are that small, as well. Table 1 gives a comparison of weights of various carnivores.

The following species accounts are separated into two categories, based on whether the species are typically smaller or larger than 15 pounds when adult. For each species, there are links to life history information, including species accounts from the Wildlife Habitat Relationships System series "California's Wildlife."  "CalPhoto" is a link to a photograph in the University of California, Berkeley, Digital Library Project. Refer to the following links to special state and federal status designations listed in these accounts:
State: Threatened species | Fully Protected Mammals | protected furbearing mammals, § 460, CCR | Mammal Species of Special Concern
Federal: Endangered species.


Of California's 12 small native carnivore species, six are specially protected by state statutes as threatened species, fully protected mammals, or protected furbearing mammals, or in one case under federal statute, as an endangered species. One species and two subspecies of small, furbearing mammals are considered by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to be species of special concern. Additionally, one subspecies of kit fox became extinct a century ago.

Kit fox, Vulpes macrotis (links to discussions of alternative species nomenclature; i.e., V. macrotis or V. velox)

Red fox, Vulpes vulpes

Gray fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus - CalPhoto

Island fox, or Island gray fox, Urocyon littoralis - Photo | State status: "Threatened"

Ringtail, Bassariscus astutus - CalPhoto | Photo of a young ringtail | State status: "Fully Protected Mammal"
Other names: ring-tailed cat, miner's cat, North American cacomistle

American marten, or American pine marten, Martes americana - CalPhoto | State status: protected furbearing mammal

Fisher, Martes pennanti - Photo | State status: "Species of Special Concern" and protected furbearing mammal

Ermine, or short-tailed weasel, Mustela erminea - Photo

Long-tailed weasel, Mustela frenata - CalPhoto

American mink (Mustela vison) - CalPhoto

  • California's Wildlife: American Mink

  • The American mink, as a domestic animal, is raised in captivity for fur and has been selectively bred for a wide variety of pelt colors.

    • Genetics of Mink Coat Color - B.L. Trenholm, New.Brunswick. Dep. of Agriculture and Rural Development

    • Mink that are "raised in captivity for breeding or other useful purposes shall be deemed domestic animals." - United States Code, Title 7 - Agriculture, Chapter 17, Section 433

    • Domestic mink as a lab animal and as a pet animal

Western spotted skunk, Spilogale gracilis - CalPhoto

Striped skunkMephitis mephitis - CalPhoto


Of the eight species of larger terrestrial carnivores in the state, five may be hunted or trapped under nongame and furbearing mammal regulations.  Two others, mountain lions and river otters, receive special state protection. One subspecies of mountain lion and one subspecies of river otter are considered to be species of special concern.  The wolverine is a state-listed threatened species, the wild status of which is uncertain. Two other large carnivores that were part of California's fauna in the early 1800s have become extinct, the gray wolf, Canis lupus, and the grizzly bear, Ursus arctos (CalPhoto).

Additional online reference sources: