This is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill ferret. Today we will talk about the Black-Footed Ferret, which is sometimes known as a polecat. Polecat is a common name for these small mammals, and various species are found in North America, Europe and Asia. The Black-Footed Ferret is the species found in North America.
These ferrets are very similar in appearance to the pets you know. That’s because the pets you may be familiar with are derived (come from) from a European species of ferret, not the ferret we are discussing here. All ferrets have long bodies, rounded ears, and move quickly in a hopping, bounding way. They have tan bodies, short black legs and black feet. Their front claws are long for digging, and they have a black tip on their tails, and a black mask on their faces.
Typically, the Black-Footed Ferret does not come out during the day. He prefers to stay in his burrow coming out at night to hunt his dinner. Ninety percent of his food consists of prairie dogs, which he will hunt while they are asleep in their burrows. Sounds a bit cruel, but these two mammals depend on one another, and the reason for the decline of the Black-Footed Ferret is closely tied to the prairie dog population.
Back in the first half of the 20th century, farmers poisoned prairie dogs. It was believed that the prairie dog burrows damaged cropland and when the numbers of the prairie dogs dropped, due to these poisonings, so did the Black-Footed Ferret. Since one Black-Footed Ferret will eat approximately 100 prairie dogs in a year there were not enough prairie dogs to sustain the population.
Photo & Info Credit: http://www.defenders.org/black-footed-ferret/basic-facts
This is a range map of where the Black-Footed Ferret lives.
By the 1970s, it was believed that the Black-Footed Ferret had become extinct.
Photograph courtesy Jeff Vanuga/Corbis
Then in 1981, a wild population was discovered. In 1986, the 18 Black-Footed Ferrets that remained were captured and a breeding program was initiated. Today, the ferret population is doing much better. Thanks to the intervention of some very concerned humans, there are now approximately 500 Black-Footed Ferrets in the wild and 300 living in breeding facilities. The breeding facilities exist to continue the work of reintroducing this wonderful little mammal to the wild. There are several locations where this reintroduction is occurring. New ferret homes are being established in the US, Canada and Mexico.
Photo credit: www.blackfootedferret.org
I have a wonderful video for you to watch. You will see some of the dedicated people who are working to insure the existence of the Black-Footed Ferret, and the work that they are doing to make sure they do not become extinct. Since I could not embed this video into my blog, you will have to click on the below link and it will take you to YouTube, but it is worth it! Come right back after you view the video!
If you would like to learn more about the Black-Footed Ferret, you can visit these websites:
Although, they are still considered endangered, the Black-Footed Ferret has a chance to gain a foothold on the prairie once again. Let’s hope that he will do just that.
My sincere thanks to the Arizona Game and Fish Department (www.azgfd.org) for the important work they have done and continue to do to insure the return of the Black-Footed Ferret to the wild. Also, thanks, as always to Arkive.org for some of the pictures and their wonderful information.
I do hope you come by again next week. Please share my blog with your children because it is important for them to understand the importance of the responsibility we have to protect our environment and the wildlife in it.
Jeanne E. Rogers,
Award Winning Author of The Sword of Demelza
A middle grade fantasy where endangered animals heroes roam the pages!