Black-Footed Ferret Essay, Research Paper
The black-footed ferret is a slim, short-short legged animal that lives in dry prairies where prairie dogs are abundant. They are a member of the weasel family and are the rarest mammal in North America. Their natural habitat was the Great Plains from Texas to south central Canada. The black-footed ferret has a yellow-buff colored body and a dark brown on black face. It also has a black tipped tail and black legs. These features provide natural camouflage for the ferret. Its black mask-like face has given the ferret the nickname of bandit of the prairie. Black-footed ferrets average 18 – 24 inches long and weigh 2lbs. They have a life span of 2-3 years in the wild. Ferrets are mainly nocturnal and their main predators are owls, eagles, hawks, coyotes, badgers, and bobcats. The black-footed ferret depends on the prairie dog for survival. Not only is the prairie dog the main source of food for the black-footed ferret, the ferret modifies the burrows made by the prairie dog for its own shelter. Other than prairie dogs, black-footed ferrets feed on mice, ground squirrels, snakes, and ground-nesting birds.
The black footed ferret was put on the endangered species list in 1973. Rural development into agriculture land causes the destruction of prairie dog habitat, which in turn caused the destruction of habitat for the black-footed ferret since the ferret depends so heavily on the prairie dog. After its listing on the endangered species in 1973, biologist began searching for populations of the black-footed ferret. They did not find one until 1981 when a small population was found by a rancher in Wyoming. This led biologist to believe the black-footed ferret could be saved from extinction. One year after the discovery, though, the population experienced a rapid decline. The ferrets had contracted canine distemper, a disease that they have no immunity to. The population was moved out of the wild to captivity in 1987 in order to keep them alive. They recovered from the disease and in 1988 captive breeding of the ferrets was successful. In 1992, biologist reintroduced 49 ferrets in the wild. The goal is to have 1,500 free ranging ferrets in the wild by the year 2010. Biologists are not optimistic about the chances for survival in the wild since the prairie dog is not abundant in the ferret s habitat. Many states in the historic range of the ferret consider prairie dogs pest and require their eradication.