Black Footed Ferret

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by NMandry
Last updated 6 years ago


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Black Footed Ferret

BehaviorsBlack footed ferrets are solitary, and live in vacant prarie dog burrows. They are nocturnal, coming out at night to go from burrow to burrow hunting for their favorite prey, prairie dogs. They spend up to 21 hours underground. They make a variety of vocalizations: chatters, chuckles, barks and hisses.The young are playful and can be seen above ground dancing .Litter size is 3-4 babies, called kits, and they are born blind and helpless. they will stay underground until they are about 2 months old

Food Chain 90% of the black footed ferret's diet is made up of prarie dogs. A single ferret eats around 100 prairie dogs a year, or about one every 3 days. It takes 100 to 150 cres of prairie dog colony to support one ferret. Ferrets also eat ground squirrels, small rodents, rabbits and birds. Predators to the ferret include coyotes, badgers, owls, hawks, and golden eagles.

Population There were once tens of thousands of black footed ferrets across the Great Plains, living where the prairie dog colonies were, making their homes in vacant prairie dog holes. By the 1960's they were on the brink of extinction, as prarie dog colonies were decimated. In 1986, they were virtually extinct in the wild, with only 18 remaining. These 18 were captured and used to start a captive breeding program. They have been reintroduced to 20 locations , and as of 2103, there are about 500 in the wild.3,000 in the wild are needed for the species to be considered fully recovered.


What's being done?~Captive breeding~Reintroduction into the wild~Relocation of prairie dog populations to protected areas~Eliminate fleas that carry sylvatic plague

AdaptationsNocturnal The Black Footed Ferret is a nocturnal animal, and it is underground up to 21 hours a day! It hunts at night, making it hard to be spotted by predators, and easier to catch its prey off-guard.Body ShapeIts narrow body serves well when hunting for prairie dogs through underground burrows, or moving through tunnels where it spends most of the daytime. Sharp Claws and Teeth The ferret's long claws and sharp teeth not only help it hunt, but also to defend its home, family, and itself.ColorThe black footed ferret's fur is colored to blend in with the dry prairie surroundings.

By Mrs. Mandry

Characteristics (Physical Features)Black footed ferrets are mammals. The fur is tan on their body, with black legs and feet, a black tip on the tail and a black "mask" around their eyes. They have a long thin body, 4 short legs with large front paws and claws, and large rounded ears. Black footed ferrets are about 6 inches tall and 18-24 inches long, including a 5-6 inch tail. They weigh 1.5-2.5 pounds.

Habitat Black footed ferrets live in vacant prairie dog burrows, and were once found across the Great Plains in short grass and mixed grass arid prarie lands from southern Canada south to the northern Mexico. Today, they have be reintroduced into 20 locations in 8 states: Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Arizona, Colrado, Untah and Kansas.

The Black Footed Ferret is an endangered species in North America. It is a member of the weasel family.

ThreatsHabitat LossBlack footed ferrets need prarie dog colonies for food and shelter. As more prarie land is lost to agriculture and human use, there is less and less area for these animals.Food LossPrarie dogs, the majority of the black footed ferret's diet, are killed in huge numbers by ranchers and farmers who see them as pests. Sylvatic plague can also wipe out entire prarie dog colonies, leaving the ferrets without a food supplyDiseaseSylvatic plague can quickly kill an entire prairie dog colony and also infect black footed ferrets that eat infected prairie dogs.


Video of young ferret dancingvideo by David Jachowski of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Video of kids helping with ferret release


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