Essay about The Endangered Black-Footed Feret

Submitted By rhook913
Words: 1538
Pages: 7

The Endangered Black-Footed Ferret Although the black-footed ferret has been an endangered species since the 1970’s and was once even thought to be extinct, we have made wonderful strides in an effort to save their species. Through successful captive breeding, preconditioning, and the reintroduction of this species into the wild, the black-footed ferret will one day no longer be endangered. The black-footed ferret, scientific name: Mustela nigripes, is a member of the weasel family. Although it is often mistaken for the domestic ferret, the black-footed ferret is a different species. Black-footed ferrets can range anywhere from around 18 to 24 inches in length, including their 5 to 6 inch tail, and they can weigh up to two and a half pounds. Their fur is a pale yellow-buff color that is much lighter on their bellies, foreheads, and throats. One main recognizable feature of the black-footed ferret is their black facemask, black feet, and black tipped tail (fws.gov). The primary habitat of the black-footed ferret is the short and mixed grass prairies that make up the Great Plains. Although they can run about five to seven miles per hour, they spend most of their time underground. In fact, they actually spend 90 percent of their time underground, however when they do surface it is usually night time because they are nocturnal creatures. Because their diet consists of 90 percent prairie dog, which they kill by suffocation with a bite to the neck, the black-footed ferret eats, sleeps, and raises their young underground in prairie dog burrows (blackfootedferret.org) Most scientists believe that the black-footed ferret arrived in North America over 100,000 years ago. Their skeleton bones have been found in prehistoric Indian campsites and scientific evidence suggests that their body parts, skins, and furs were likely used in prehistoric Indian ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. They may have also been sacred to the Indian. Along with the rise of European Settlements in North America came the plow. Once the potential of the prairie’s soil was known, mass amounts of plowing began to destroy the black-footed ferrets’ habitat. Even worse than the destruction of their habitat, however, was the destruction of their primary food source. Because of the belief that prairie dogs compete with livestock for food, in the 1900’s an effort to eradicate the prairie dog went underway and large poisoning campaigns dramatically reduced the prairie dog population (blackfootedferret.org). Although many people believed the black-footed ferret to be extinct, in 1964 a wild ferret population was discovered in Mellette County, South Dakota. Several of the ferrets were captured and taken to a research center in an attempt to study them and hopefully breed more. Eventually however, the last of the wild population died and in 1979 the last captive breeding subject died as well (blackfootedferret.org).
At this point all hope seemed lost and it was commonly accepted that the black-footed ferret was extinct. Fortunately, in 1981 conservationists were given a second chance and another wild population of black-footed ferrets was discovered near Meeteetse, Wyoming. Due to the previous instance where the captive ferrets died, there was some opposition to the idea of capturing these subjects to implement captive breeding.
Captive breeding is the process of breeding animals in a controlled environment like a wildlife reserve or a conservation facility. Since black-footed ferrets breed seasonally, the facilities begin checking both males and females for reproductive readiness in January. The female is usually pregnant for about 42 days and gives birth in the months of May and June. The average litter of “kits” (baby ferrets) is about three to four. When the mother gives birth, the kits are born blind and helpless and remain in that state for about 70 days. Normally in the wild the mother would bring the kits hunting around this time and within a…