Dec 2
Black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes)

Black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes)

Species: Black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting Fact: Once classified as Extinct in the Wild, the black-footed ferret is one of the world’s rarest mammals and the only ferret native to North America.

The black-footed ferret was once common throughout the Great Plains of western North America, but by 1987 it was extinct in the wild. Following reintroductions a number of wild populations now exist, however only three are considered self-sustaining. Found in prairies, this nocturnal ferret mostly preys on sleeping prairie dogs in their burrows.

A very large area of prairie (between 40 to 60 hectares) with a large population of prairie dogs is required to support a single black-footed ferret. Prairies have been modified for agriculture, and now less than two percent of the black-footed ferret’s habitat remains. In the mid 1900s prairie dogs were poisoned as they were thought to damage cropland, impacting black-footed ferret numbers significantly. Coupled with the impacts of disease, these threats led to the species apparent extinction in the 1970s. A last wild population was discovered in 1981, and the remaining 18 individuals were brought into captivity to prevent a ‘second’ extinction. A successful captive-breeding programme has been running ever since, and populations have now been reintroduced to 18 sites.

Find out more about the black-footed ferret on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

See images and videos of the black-footed ferret on the ARKive website.

Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Researcher

  • Mike (December 2nd, 2012 at 8:58 pm):


  • chei (December 6th, 2012 at 9:53 am):

    Why can’t people introduce the black-footed ferret to the large population of prairie dogs?

  • Rehmat (December 6th, 2012 at 10:26 pm):

    This lovely organism must be saved…

  • Higgington Post (February 22nd, 2013 at 11:57 am):

    This is lovely hmmm black foot ferret they must be protected