Black-footed ferrets have a variety of vocalizations, including chatters, chuckles, barks, and hisses.
Amazing Facts About the Black-Footed Ferret
- The endangered black-footed ferret is a member of the weasil family. It is the only ferret native to North America.
- It is roughly the size of a mink, and differs from the European polecat by the greater contrast between its dark limbs and pale body and the shorter length of its black tail-tip.
- These solitary animals live alone, and in May and June females give birth to litters of one to six kits that they raise alone.
- Kits are born blind and helpless and stay below ground until they are about 2 months old. At this age, the female begins to take her young on hunting forays and separates the kits into different burrows.
- Black-footed ferrets are nocturnal and primarily hunt for sleeping prairie dogs in their burrows.
- They are most active above ground from dusk to midnight and 4 a.m. to mid-morning. Above ground activity is greatest during late summer and early autumn when juveniles become independent.
- Climate generally does not limit black-footed ferret activity, but it may remain inactive inside burrows for up to 6 days at a time during winter.
- Up to 91% of the ferret’s diet is composed of prairie dogs which are essential to their survival, though they will sometimes eat squirrels, mice and other rodents.
- A ferret may eat more than 100 prairie dogs in one year.
- Black-footed ferrets once numbered in the tens of thousands, but widespread destruction of their habitat and exotic diseases in the 1900s brought them to the brink of extinction. Only 18 remained in 1986.
- The animals were once found on black-tailed prairie dog colonies across the Great Plains from southern Canada to northern Mexico, and on white-tailed and Gunnison’s prairie dog colonies across the intermountain west. By 1986, they were completely gone from the wild.
- Today, they have been reintroduced to 15 locations within their former range in Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Kansas and Chihuahua, Mexico.
- Ferret reintroduction efforts have been mixed. Populations need viable prairie dog towns to survive, but they also face threats from predators such as golden eagles, owls, and coyotes. Reintroduced animals lack survival skills so their mortality rate is high.
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- Type: Mammal
- Diet: Carnivore
- Lifespan: 3-4 years
- Size: Head and body 30-50cm, tail 11-13cm
- Habitat: Short grass and mixed grass prairie.
- Range: Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Kansas and Chihuahua, Mexico.
- Scientific name: Mustela nigripes