Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Black-Footed Ferret

The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is a carnivorous found in North America.  It is closely related to the steppe polecat from Russia.  They were thought to be extinct for a long time until few individuals were found and raised.  Now, is classified as endangered.

Physical Features
Black footed ferrets are small carnivores, reaching a length of 55 cm(24 inches).  They have very furry tails which measure 15 cm (6 inches).  They weigh about 1.2 kilograms and as the name suggests, they have black feet and short legs.  Like all the members of their family, black footed ferrets have elongated bodies.  Even though they white as the base color of their fur, their fur appears to be yellowish-brown as it darkens at the white darken at the tips.  The tip of their tail is black in color and they have a face mask-like outline around their eyes.

The black footed ferret is a carnivore like all ferrets.  They eat insects, lizards and other small invertebrates.  Their diet mainly consists of prairie dogs, eating about 100 per year.  They even prey on birds and small mammals.

Distribution and Habitat
The black footed ferret has greatly reduced in numbers.  It once was present in many parts of the United States of America and Canada.  But know, it is thought to be extinct in Canada and is present in three protected territories in USA.  They live in burrows.

Conservation Status
The black footed ferret was thought  to be extinct for sometime until, some scientists, in 1981 found a population of 131 individuals near a town named Meeteetse, Wyoming, USA.  The population which was discovered in Wyoming suddenly suffered a serious decline due to a rapidly spreading disease.  The Wyoming Game and Fish Department launched a project to capture the 12 remaining animals and start a breeding program to raise the population.  In, some time, they started releasing the populations back to the wild.  They also reintroduced 34 individuals to the Grassland National Parks in Canada.  Currently the population is more than 1,500 individuals.

Source of picture 1 

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