Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife and Fisheries Science


Twenty-one black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) were observed at six different locations in southwest South Dakota between April 1966, and September 1967. All observations were made on black-tailed prairie-dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) towns from 15 to 100 acres in size. Because of the proximity of towns inhabited by ferrets, it was possible that individual animals were observed in more than one location. Three litters of ferrets were studied. Young ferrets were most active during early morning and late evening hours. Ferrets remained as a group until early fall when dispersal evidently occurred. Young ferrets accepted live-tethered and dead prairie dogs, mice, cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus), and birds placed near their burrow. A trench-like structure formed by ferrets digging in prairie-dog burrows was a characteristic sign indicating that ferrets were present. Numerous plugged burrows formed by prairie dogs covering holes presently or recently occupied by ferrets may also be a sign. All evidence indicated that prairie dogs were the principal food. Adult ferrets were observed to bring up dead prairie dogs from their burrows and carry them to other burrows. Also, one adult ferret was observed capturing a live prairie dog above ground. A reduction in prairie-dog numbers was noted on towns inhabited by ferrets. Widespread use of sodium monofluoracetate (Compound 1080) presents a threat to ferrets. It has been shown that 1080-poisoned prairie dogs can cause secondary poisoning of domestic ferrets (Mustela putorius). Also, prairie-dog eradication reduces the ferret’s food supply.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Ferret, Black-footed



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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