Black-Footed Ferret !

The endangered black-footed ferret is a member of the weasel family. It has short legs with large front paws and claws developed for digging. Its large skull and strong jaw and teeth are adapted for eating meat.

Diet

Prairie dogs make up 90% of their diet. A ferret can eat over 100 prairie dogs in one year. They also eat ground squirrels, small rodents, rabbits and birds. But prairie dog colonies have been reduced to less than 5% of the area they originally occupied due to habitat destruction, poisoning, shooting, and exotic disease (sylvatic plaque) . The remaining colonies are relatively small and fragmented, and often separated by great distances. With the dramatic loss of prairie dogs came the loss of almost all black-footed ferrets as well. In fact, by 1986 only 18 black-footed ferrets remained.

Behavior

They eat, sleep and raise their young in prairie dog burrows, and spend about 90% of their time underground. They sleep during the day and hunt prairie dogs at night.

Recovery

Once thought to be extinct, a wild population of ferrets was discovered in

1981 in Wyoming. A few started a captive breeding effort that produced over 7,000 young. Six facilities now maintain separate,

intensively managed, captive ferret populations totaling around 290 animals.

Since 1991, over 2,600 ferrets have been reintroduced into the wild across the

western U.S. and Mexico, and Canada. Ferret numbers in the wild total about

1,000 individuals as of fall 2010, with perhaps half surviving to breed each

spring. Although highly successful so far, the ferret recovery program will not

be complete until larger numbers of ferrets exist in the wild and their populations

are sustainable.

Reproduction

Mating Season: March-April.
Gestation: 41-43 days. Kits are born in May-June.
Litter size: 3-4 kits average; ranges from 1-7 kits.
Kits are born blind and helpless and stay below ground until they are about 2 months old. At this time the female begins to take her young on hunting forays and separates the kits into different burrows. By October, the young are completely independent and will disperse to their own territories.