Black Footed Ferret An Animal That Needs Your Help Now

The facts about the black Footed Ferret.

Black Footed Ferret.

The Black-Footed Ferret is a non-invasive species. Unfortunately, because it is a member of the weasel family, it has been persecuted and overlooked. Considered by farmers to be egg thieves, they were killed on sight. These ferrets however are very attached to the prairie dog community. Prairie dogs are considered an invasive species and in the late 1900’s a national effort took place in order to reduce the number of prairie dogs and help preserve the grassland that they were destroying by their simple nature.

Prairie dogs live in vast communities with many burrows spread out over a wide area. They live in what is termed “prairie dog towns.” Thus, they can be quite detrimental to the environment and their breeding rate is much like that of rabbits. So you can imagine that their numbers can grow quickly.

So what does all this have to do with the black-footed ferret? The black-footed ferret feeds primarily on prairie dogs. These ferrets are fast and ferocious fighters when it comes to a meal. They will invade the burrow of a prairie dog, kill and eat it, and then live in the pre-dug burrow for a while. Thus, the loss of land inhabited by prairie dogs has contributed to the decline of the black-footed ferret.

After the national effort to staunch the prairie dog “problem” in the late 1900’s, it was discovered that the black-footed ferret was virtually extinct, and conservationists and members from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) were ready to place these adorable ferrets on the extinct animal list along with the Passenger Pigeon, the Tasmanian Tiger and the Dodo Bird to name a few. Luckily, before the conservationists did so, a population of about 100 ferrets was found on a private parcel of land in Wyoming. The black-footed ferret was place on the endangered species list in 1967. As you can imagine, this family of ferrets was closely monitored, and then another tragedy occurred.

Black-Footed Ferrets are susceptible to canine distemper, and that is what happened. An outbreak of distemper swept across the ferrets and all but 18 of them died. Conservationists then stepped in and began a breeding program to help bring the species back from the brink. Of the 18 survivors, only 7 of them were capable of breeding. But, the plan moved forward and in 1996, 35 ferrets were released into Aubrey Valley, Arizona.

The black-footed ferret is the only North American ferret. The cute pets that you might see are a European species that have been taken to several countries and bred specifically for the pet trade. Many devoted ferret lovers know about the black-footed ferret and strive to get the public to recognize all ferrets as lovely creatures to be admired.

A member of the mustelidae family, these creatures are known for their scent glands and the musky smell that they produce. These little critters have a tan body, a black mask covers their eyes and is surrounded by white before fanning out to the bodies’ tan color, and, of course, they have cute little black feet. They can be slightly bigger than a European ferret and reach 2 feet in length, including their 5 to 6 inch tails. They weigh about 2 and ½ pounds. Their mating habits make breeding these ferrets difficult. Females only allow males to mate with them for a 3 day window in spring. The stars truly have to be aligned for pregnancy to occur as these animals are solitary in the wild and only seek the company of the opposite sex once a year. The mother will then find a quiet burrow to have her kits. After a gestation period of 6 weeks, averages of 4 kits are born and cared for until they reach maturity. The black-footed ferret lives for about 3 to 5 years in the wild.

The hope of conservationists and ferret lovers everywhere is to eventually release enough ferrets to maintain a wild population and in the long run, to take the black-footed ferret off the endangered species list.

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