Black-Footed Ferret

Description: The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is a member of the weasel family (Mustelidae), and its nearest relatives are weasels and minks. Black-footed ferrets have a black mask across the face, brownish head, black feet and legs, and a black tip on the tail.

Life History: Ferrets eat prairie dogs and live in prairie dog burrows. They typically hunt during the night. They have one litter of four to five young ("kits") each year, and the kits are dependent on their mother for the first four months.

Distribution: Ferrets were once found throughout the Great Plains, from Texas to southern Saskatchewan, Canada. Their range extended from the Rocky Mountains east through the Dakotas and south through Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Where prairie dogs were found, so were black-footed ferrets. Today, the black-footed ferret has been reintroduced into parts of their former range in Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, and Arizona. They are also found in Nebraska, Colorado, and Utah.

Status: The black-footed ferret is one of the most endangered mammals in the United States. Their population has declined largely due to habitat conversion for farming and due to efforts to eliminate prairie dogs. Black-footed ferrets were listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1967, several years prior to the Endangered Species Act of 1973. A captive breeding program was begun in 1985, and the first ferret reintroduction took place in 1991. Complete details can be found at the Black-footed Ferret Recovery Program.

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Resources on the Black-footed Ferret
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Description: This site provides the user with general information about the black-footed ferret in the United States, including illustrations such as line art and photographs.
Resource Type: Fact Sheets
Resource Format: URL
Publisher: United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)
ExpandBlack-Footed Ferret
ExpandBlack-footed Ferret Recovery Program
ExpandBlack-footed Ferrets in Texas
ExpandMammals of Kansas
ExpandNebraska Wildlife Species: Black-footed Ferret
ExpandSpecies Profile for Black-footed Ferret
ExpandWildlife Fact Sheets

Black-footed Ferret

Black-footed ferret
Black-footed Ferret
[Photo: Paul Marinari]

The photograph above is an adult black-footed ferret male at the outdoor pen at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center. The photograph below shows the first litter of 3 black-footed ferret kits born at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in 2005.

black-footed ferret kits
Black-footed Ferret Kits
[Photo: Paul Marinari]

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