The Black-footed ferrets are very efficient predators and they depend on Prairie Dogs for food. Around 90% of the Black-Footed ferrets diet is made up of prairie dogs. The ferrets also depend on prairie dogs to build them shelters/ homes and underground tunnels called burrows (which the prairie dogs build for themselves, but then the ferrets come in and take over).
As their names suggest, prairie dogs use prairie and grassland habitat which spans across the mid-west to the Western United States. They are seen by many to be the key indicator of how healthy a prairie and grassland habitat is. This is because many other animals, as well as the Black-Footed ferret, live in prairie dog burrows. These include snakes, lizards, burrowing owls, mice and insects.
There are five species of prairie dogs in North America. The Gunnison’s prairie dog is the only one found in Arizona. The black-tailed prairie dog used to be found in south eastern Arizona, however it was killed of by humans in the early 1900’s (poor thing).
The Gunnison’s prairie dogs usually live in the Plains Grassland and Great Basin Grassland in Arizona, south of the Colorado River and north of the Mogollon Plateau. The main vegetation found in these areas are the blue grama, mixed with galleta grass, Indian rice grass and also some other grasses.
The Black-Footed ferret is one of the most endangered species of animals in the world. Without prairie dogs the future of this wonderful animal is uncertain.
There are around seventeen Black-Footed ferret reintroduction sites existing in the Western United States and Mexico. These are all to be found on prairie dog colonies, Arizona is the only site that has Gunnison’s prairie dogs.
The Black-Footed ferret habitat is dependent on the prairie dog. The prairie dogs habitat doubles as the Black-Footed ferret’s habitat. It is important to look after the prairie dog if we want the Black-Footed ferret to survive for many generations to come.
Here is a very interesting video about the Black-Footed ferret which has been put together by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.