Emma Locke shows off Katrina, a five-year-old ferret who was reportedly taken from Big Red's Barn on Sunday. KAYE THORNBRUGH/Press
Staff Writer | January 22, 2021 1:00 AM
COEUR d’ALENE — After a whirlwind investigation, the case of a missing ferret that took social media by storm is closed — for now.
Around 5 p.m. on Sunday, an employee at indoor petting zoo Big Red’s Barn noticed that a member of the menagerie was missing. Katrina, a 5-year-old ferret, had disappeared from her enclosure.
Security footage from about 3:30 p.m. showed a man pluck Katrina from the ferret enclosure, slip her into his coat pocket and take her outside to his vehicle, which had no plates. He was accompanied by two women.
Owner Jeannene Christ contacted police, then took to social media. In a Facebook post, she asked whoever had taken Katrina to return her. She included information about Katrina’s diet and medical needs, in the hopes that whoever had her would take care of her.
Within minutes, more than 60 people had shared the post. That number kept climbing.
“We were blown away,” Christ said.
An employee at a local pet supply store soon reached out with a lead. About an hour after Katrina disappeared, a man and two women reportedly entered the store, looking to buy supplies for a ferret they said came from a rescue.
The group used a store rewards card when they made their purchase, which helped police identify them.
Christ said she appreciated the hard work put in by deputies with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office.
“They didn’t downplay it as ‘just a ferret,’” she said.
After identifying the man in the footage, police reportedly contacted him and arranged to meet at the state line on Monday night. Christ accompanied them and spoke with the man’s adult daughter, who was with him when Katrina was taken.
The woman reportedly apologized and said she hadn’t realized her father had a ferret with him until they were driving way.
Christ said the experience rattled her employees, many of whom are high schoolers working their first jobs.
“You hurt a lot of kids,” Christ told the man’s daughter.
At first, Christ was reluctant to pursue charges, uncomfortable with the thought of holding that kind of power over another person’s life.
“I did not sleep that night,” Christ said. “In my heart, I didn’t think I was letting them off. I thought there was remorse.”
Upon reflection, however, Christ said she believed the family returned Katrina because they’d been caught, not because it was the right thing to do.
“There was no way out,” she said. “What else were they going to say?”
Christ ultimately changed her mind. She said she’s at peace with her decision to pursue charges against the man who took Katrina.
“I feel like a weight has been lifted,” she said.
The ordeal lasted about 30 hours, though it felt longer for Christ. Katrina, meanwhile, is acting like she never left home.
“She’s awesome,” Christ said. “She took a little adventure and she probably slept through most of it.”
Though the experience opened her eyes to dangers she’d never considered, Christ said it won’t change how Big Red’s Barn operates. She doesn’t intend to alter the ferret enclosure to make it less accessible, beyond already-existing plans for a new space.
“We’ll be a bit on edge,” she said. “We won’t be as comfy-dozy for a while. I hope we can get back to that.”