Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Wildlife Management


Research involving the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) and black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) was conducted during 1968 and 1969. Eighteen prairie dog burrows were excavated in 1968 and 1969. Burrow systems ranged from 13 to 109 feet long and 3 to 14 feet deep. Fifteen of the burrows exhibited dome-shaped entrances leading to a gradually descending passageway which made an abrupt vertical ascent to a crater-shaped entrance. Nest chambers were found in 6 burrows. Earthen plugs created by prairie dogs in burrows after ferret departure ranged from 9 to 33 feet long. Eighty-two ferret scats were recovered. Animal remains found in ferret scats were mouse (86 percent) and prairie dog (14 percent). Mouse remains occurred in 32 percent of scats in 1968 on a town which had four young ferrets and 9 percent in 1969 with one young ferret on the town. Rabbit hair was recovered from the intestine of one roadkilled ferret. Although prairie dog activity appeared to peak at 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. during the last two weeks of July, least variation among counts occurred in midafternoon. Counts throughout the summer of 1969 indicated optimum censusing conditions existed on a still, overcast afternoon within a temperature range of 74 to 76°F. Five to 41 counts were required to detect changes of 10 percent in population weith a probability of 0.95 under these optimum conditions. The number of prairie dogs on a town with five ferrets in 1968 and two in 1969 decreased 16 percent from 1968 to 1969 while counts on three other town increased 19, 42, and 28 percent. One ferret was reported seen one morning in 1968 on the town the increased 28 percent. The town decreasing in prairie dog population differed significantly (P<0.01) in population change from the others. Prairie dogs were observed creating curved trough-like formations on their mounds that could be confused with earthen trenches created by ferrets. Unlike the prairie dog troughs, ferret trenches were usually straight and often extended off the burrow mound. Two ferrets were captured with snares and three were live trapped for ear marking by notches and tags; live trapping proved more convenient. Both markings were readily observable at a distance of 30 yards with aid of 7x50 binoculars.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Prairie dogs


Includes bibliographical references (pages 33)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


No Copyright - Non-Commercial Use Only