Black-footed Ferret
Name: Black-footed Ferret
Scientific name: Mustela nigripes
Range: Was once found throughout the easternand southern Rockies and the Great Plains. Some animals have been reintroducedinto the wild in Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana.
Habitat: Short and mid-grass prairiesof the Great Plains. Black-footed ferrets frequently live in abandonedprairie dog burrows, and they are the only ferret native to North America.
Status: Considered to be among the most endangeredmammals in North America
Diet in the wild: Primarily prairie dogs (90percent), although they also will eat mice and other small animals, anoccasional reptile, and 
even insects
Diet in the zoo: Carnivore diet; he eats processedmeat product and some whole prey (but not prairie dogs!)
Location in the zoo: Texas Twister Buildingin the Texas Wild! Exhibit 

Physical description: 
  • Body length: 18 to 24 inches, including a 5 to6-inch tail
  • Weight: 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds
  • Color: Black face mask, black feet, black-tippedtail; short, sleek fur; yellow-buff color - lighter on belly, and nearlywhite on forehead, muzzle and throat
  • Short legs, large front paws
  • Claws are developed for digging
  • Large ears and eyes

General information:

The black-footed ferret is a nocturnal creature,and is therefore rarely seen. His peak hours of activity are around dusk.His level of activity is reduced in winter. They sometimes will stay inan underground burrow for as long as a week, and spend about 99 percentof their time underground. 

It is believed that mating occurs in Aprilor May and there is a six-week gestation period. A typical litter is threeor four babies, which are born blind and helpless. They develop quickly,however, and by September, they are nearly full grown. The male is notinvolved with the care and feeding of the offspring, even though he maylive in the same burrow. 

Special anatomical, physiologicalor behavioral adaptations:

The black-footed ferret has large eyes andears, which suggests it has keen sight and hearing. Since it hunts preyunderground in the dark, it is believed that smell is probably the mostimportant of the senses.

The large skull of the ferret, along with strongjaws and teeth, are adapted for eating meat. 

Comments about the Black-footed Ferret of the FortWorth Zoo:

There are two black-footed ferrets at the FortWorth Zoo, one male and one female, although only the male is on exhibit.He was born at the Louisville, Ky. Zoo as part of the Species SurvivalPlan. After a stay there, he went to the National Black-footed Ferret Conservatory,which is part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Program. While there, hewas a breeder, then retired to the Fort Worth Zoo.

Personal Observations:

Although I went to the Texas Wild! Exhibitin the Fort Worth Zoo, it was a bright sunny day, and the black-footedferret was nowhere to be found! His living quarters were sparse and grassy,with an underground pen that had a heat lamp in it. It is possible theferret was inside, but I could not see him. 

I found it ironic that the prairie dogs livedright next door to the ferret. I wonder how frustrating that was for himeach night, to see the prairie dogs, but not be able to get to them!

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