Common Name: Black-Footed Ferret

Scientific Name: Mustela nigripes

 

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Mustelidae

Genus: Mustela

Species: M. nigripes

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An average black-footed ferret is about 18 to 24 inches long including a 5 to 6-inch tail. It weighs about 2.2 pounds and has a dark mask across its face. A black-footed ferret’s body is light brown with a few white marks across its chest. The characteristics of a black-footed ferret are that it has a long body that is about two feet in length and weighs 2 to 3 pounds.

 

It has a black-tipped tail and black feet with long claws. It has a black mask around its eyes; large rounded ears on the side of its triangular head; a white muzzle, forehead, throat and a black nose. Males are larger than females. A black-footed ferret gets around by walking. Its main food source is prairie dogs. Black-footed ferrets predators are coyotes, great-horned owls, golden eagles, prairie falcons, badgers, bobcats, and foxes.

 

The black-footed ferret is an important member of the Great Plains ecosystem, as a predator, it fulfills its role by keeping the prairie dog population in check. Any other animal cannot fill its role. The black-footed ferret is found in Canada, and in the U.S Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, South Dakota, along with the Colorado/Utah border, and in Chihuahua, Mexico.

 

There are about 100 black-footed ferrets in the U.S. and in Canada and the U.S. combined are about 750. Their population is shrinking. They are the most endangered mammal in the U.S. black-footed ferrets get killed by poachers for their fur. Black-footed ferrets play an important role in the food web by eating prairie dogs (this is so the population doesn’t get too large). The black-footed ferrets have many natural enemies these include badgers, bobcats, coyotes, rattlesnakes, owls, eagles, hawks, and of course, man.

 

What stood out the most when I was researching the black-footed ferret is that it’s the most endangered animal in the U.S. I learned that a black-footed ferret is hunted by a lot of animals and that their main food source is prairie dogs. I also learned that their breeding activity is in March and April. A baby ferret is called a “kit”. They give birth to about three to four kits, which are born blind. A kit weighs 5 to 9 grams and has a thin white hair coat that covers its body. A kits dark markings appear at about 3 weeks of age and they begin to open their eyes 35 days after birth.

 

Author: Stephen C.

Published: 02/2009

 

Sources- http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/black-footed_ferret.php http://neyture.info/teachered/endanger/reports/mammals/ferret/ferret.html#600, http://www.blackfootedferret.org/facts-repro.html,

 

Photo credit- http://i.treehugger.com/images/2007/10/24/black%20footed%20ferret.jpg