Name: Katie Chapman species name: Black-footed ferret species scientific name: Mustela nigripes species nickname: bandit of the prairie Description:

Kingdom: Animalia

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Mustelidae

  • The black-footed ferret is a small mammal, weighing a mere one-and-a-half to tow-and-a-half pounds. An adult Ferret is 18 to 24 inches long, including a 5 to 6 inch tail, with males being slightly larger than females. It is a slender animal with a black face mask, black feet, and a black-tipped tail. (giving it its nickname “bandit of the Prairie”) The rest of its short, sleek fur is a yellowish-brown color.It has short front and rear legs with large front paws and claws that are developed for digging.
  • Although Black-footed Ferrets will eat mice and other small mammals, birds, and insects, their main source of food is prairie dogs. One Black-footed Ferret eats about 100 prairie dogs a year and cannot survive without access to large colonies of them.
dramatic-prairie-dog.jpg = Food

The Ferret’s mating season occurs in the spring during a three day period. A litter of three to five kits is normal. They are born in early summer after a six week gestation period. A black-footed ferret kit is about three-quarters grown by July when it first makes it way out of the burrow. Even after a kit has stopped nursing it depends on its mother for meals of meat. By late summer, the mother ferret starts to separate her kits in different burrows during the day and gathers them together at night to hunt. Eventually, a young ferret kit begins to hunt alone, and by September or October it is own its own.

Habitat: (10 points)

  • Home Range: Historically, southern Canada to northern Mexico. Short- and middle-grass prairies.
  • Black-footed ferrets can be found within Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Kansas and Chihuahua, Mexico.
  • Their species can usually be found on short-grass and mid-grass prairies in very close association with prairie dogs.
  • Black-footed ferrets nest inside of prairie dog burrows for shelter. And must have these in their habitat to survive.
  • Black-footed Ferrets are not known to migrate. Although they do move from and to different colonies of prairie dogs to feed and for shelter.
  • The black-footed ferret is activity is limited to the first few hours following sunrise during the daytime. The ferret does not hibernate, but in winter, the ferret is much less active. Ferrets can be inactive for periods of up to 6 nights and days, while remaining in a burrow the ferret obtains from deceased prairie dogs.
  • Black-footed ferrets always remain close to colonies of prairie dogs. Its predators include: owls, eagles, hawks, Coyotes, badgers, foxes, and Bobcats.

Problems: (10 points)

· The black-footed ferret was one of the original animals placed on the endangered species list in 1967. Loss of habitat and their susceptibility to disease and plague has contributed to their decline of numbers over the years.
· Loss of habitat is the primary reason why the black-footed ferret is an endangered species. Conversion of grasslands to agricultural uses has also caused decline in the black-footed ferret numbers. Also widespread prairie dog eradication programs have reduced its population. Diseases, including plague (affecting both the ferrets and their prairie dog prey), as well as poisoning and shooting, also remain as dangerous potential threats to the ferrets.

Solutions: (10 points)

· In 1981, the last remaining population of black-footed ferrets was discovered in Meeteetse, Wyoming on a privately-owned ranch. The USFWS intensive investigated and discovered a population of more than 100 ferrets. These animals were left on the ranch where they were closely monitored. Then a plague and canine distemper outbreak caused population numbers to drop to only 18 individuals. These last remaining ferrets were captured and a captive breeding program was started in many willing North American zoos. Only seven of the 18 individuals that remained were suitable for reproducing, so all of the ferrets used for reintroduction efforts today originate from these founding animals. The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) began reintroducing black-footed ferrets in the state in 1996 after 60 years without them. With the release of 35 animals, Aubrey Valley, outside of Seligman, Arizona, became the fourth reintroduction site in the United States. The primary goal of the Arizona reintroduction effort is to establish a free-ranging, self-sustaining population of black-footed ferrets in the Aubrey Valley Experimental Population Area (AVEPA).
· Thanks to the protection of the Endangered Species Act, America’s investment of over $30 million since 1981 and the hard work of many federal, tribal and state biologists, zoos and private landowners there are now more then 750 ferrets living in the wild across the West. But to be truly successful, ferrets will need several reintroduction sites, each with more than 10,000 acres of prairie dog colonies, and such areas are few. Until larger prairie dog colonies are restored, the ferret cannot be fully recovered.
· Plans been made to improve the environment of the species.

· The Phoenix Zoo houses the black-footed ferrets in an off exhibit building located in center of the zoo’s property. They have a breeding program.
· References: (5 points) .
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service: Species Profile by: author unknown.
  • Wikipedia
  • Smithsonian National Zoology Park
  • Arizona Game and Fish Department
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • Animal Info