Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species 18 – The Black-footed Ferret

Black-footed ferretDescription
Although endangered, this uber-cute little animal is part a huge success story. In the nineteen seventies, after declaring the prairie dog to be a pest, a national eradication plan was made which saw fit to exterminate as many prairie dogs as possible.
Prairie dogs just happen to be the diet of choice of the black-footed ferret.
Consequently, through lack of food, they died too, and in 1979 were declared extinct.

Two years later, on a ranch in Wyoming, a dog brought its owner a dead black-footed ferret.  An intensive search was launched to find more of them, and eventually a colony of circa one hundred ferrets was located on the ranch; where they were left and monitored.

Then, unfortunately, a canine distemper outbreak (morbillivirus) occurred causing population numbers to drop rapidly to eighteen. These eighteen survivors constituted the beginning of a conservation program which eventually brought about today’s population of approximately one thousand.

Perhaps not as exotic as some endangered species, nevertheless very endearing and interesting, this little creature has certainly had its fair share of hardship.

Prairie dog burrows
Nineteen black-footed ferret reintroduction sites have been established throughout the western United States and Mexico.
What they eat
Ninety per cent of the black-footed ferret’s diet is made up of prairie dogs, occasionally supplemented by rabbits, squirrels, small rodents and birds.
Insufficient reintroduction sites, natural predators (including various birds of prey, badgers and bobcats). Diseases: In the wild, they have little or no resistance to sylvatic plague.
Status: Endangered
Since 1991 thousands of black-footed ferrets (mustela nigripes) have been reintroduced into the wild. Notwithstanding, the species is still listed as endangered by the IUCN, due to the size and limitations of its populations. 

“Conservation is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution”
Aldo Leopold


4 thoughts on “Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species 18 – The Black-footed Ferret

  1. HI, Amelia. I’ve bookmarked this post. Years ago, I wrote a story called “Grampa’s Fussy Eat er” — a children’s story about the black-footed ferret. I used to read it to my students. I think I’ll hunt it up and maybe think about turning it into a new children’s book… Another gogeous creature feature! KUDOS.

    • Sounds like a great idea for a children’s book, Bette. Good luck with finding it again, and let me know what happens. I would love to read it when it’s done. They are such characters – they offer oodles of material. You could turn what you have already written into a whole adventure series involving these lovely creatures 🙂

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