The Black-Footed Ferret (Mustela Nigripes) are an endangered species that inhabit the Northern Great Plains. They average out to be 2 pounds in weight and only 20 inches in length. There are only 370 of these grassland inhabitants left in the wild today.
While they were once thought to be extinct, the black-footed ferret is now making a comeback. Over the last thirty years, concerted efforts from many state and federal agencies, zoos, Native American tribes, conservation organizations, and private landowners have given black-footed ferrets a second chance for survival. Today, recovery efforts have helped restore the black-footed ferret population to nearly 300 animals across North America. Although great strides have been made to recover the black-footed ferret, habitat loss and disease remain key threats to this highly endangered species.
Black-footed ferrets are one of the most endangered mammals in North America and are the only ferret species native to the continent. Their recovery in the wild signifies the health of the grassland ecosystem, which they depend on to survive.
Habitat loss and non-native disease threaten the recovery of the black-footed ferret. The ferret is entirely dependent on the presence of prairie dogs and their colonies of food, shelter, and raising young. Without ample reintroduction sites and protection from the plague, full black-footed ferret recovery remains difficult.
Fifteen black-footed ferrets are being released into prairie dog colonies on the Fort Belknap Reservation in September 2015. Black-footed ferrets were first reintroduced on the Reservation in 1997, but an outbreak of sylvatic plague swept through the release sites in 1999 and decimated populations of ferrets and prairie dogs, the ferret’s main food item.
Since then, prairie dog populations have rebounded, new plague management tools are in place, and the Fort Belknap Fish and Wildlife Department, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, Defenders of Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are working together to return the masked bandit of the prairie to the Reservation. Fifty-two ferrets were released in 2013 and 2014.
What can you do? Many well-known conservationists are making big steps in saving this animal from extinction. The largest reason they are endangered is due to the vast shrink in their main prey: Prairie Dogs. One way you can help is by donating to organizations like WWF or even Zoo’s. Another way is to leave the wildlife wild. Don’t mess with prairie dogs habitats and in return the black-footed ferrets will take care of lunch for themselves.