The Black Footed Ferret is of similar build and look as the present domesticated ferret. There is however no evidence suggesting that the domesticated ferret, which we all know and love, originated from this particular member of the mastelids family.
They are so similar to today’s pet ferrets that it is easy to be fascinated by them. Here is some information that I have found on these wonderful creatures…
Photograph by Paul Marinari, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. License: Public Domain.
The Black Footed Ferret is one of the most endangered mammal species in the world. They live in North America and are part of the mastelids family (This family also includes skunks, badgers, weasels, polecats, stoats, wolverines and the European domesticated ferret – which can be purchased in pet stores or at breeders). Scientists are uncertain as to how long these ferrets have been present in North America but they estimate it to be around 100,000 years.
This ferret is about 18 to 24 inches long, including a 5 to 6 inch tail. Males are slightly larger than the females. The Black footed ferret can weigh from 1.5 to 2.5 pounds.
These gorgeous animals are very well adapted to living in a prairie environment with their coat colours very effectively blending in with their surroundings. They have very recognisable features including a black face mask, black feet and a black tip on their tails. The rest of their coats are very short and sleek, with a yellowish colour which is lighter on their bellies. They also have nearly white patches on their throat, head and muzzle.
Over time they have developed very short legs which are perfect for digging. They also have noticeably large eyes and ears which suggest that their eyesight and hearing are very good. However, as with so many mammals in this family, their sense of smell is their most developed sense. This allows them to find prey in small dark holes in the ground.
Loss of habitat and the Killing of the prairie dog (it's main source of food) is the main reason why this ferret is fighting for its survival.
Once, the Black Footed Ferret habitats included grasslands in 12 Northern American states, 2 Canadian provinces and even possibly some parts of Northern Mexico. In present times this has been cut down to a mere 2%. This is mainly due to Human takeover of land for commercial purposes (People can be really selfish sometimes! Poor animals need to put up with so much human nonsense!).
Throughout history this animal has proven to be very elusive. In the 1960’s there was only one known colony of these mammals and they were studied up to their mysterious disappearance in 1974. This made scientists believe that the Black Footed Ferret had become extinct or was living in such small populations that eventually disease and environmental circumstances would wipe them out.
In 1981 a ranch dog killed one of these ferret's. This renewed search efforts and a group of 130 ferrets was found in Meeteetse, Wyoming in 1984 was discovered fuelling hope that these animals have a change of survival.
Tragically, disease broke out and nearly killed the whole population; the last remaining 18 ferrets were taken in into captivity between 1985 and 1987. This was done as a last resort in order to give these animals a chance of survival.
At this time the Black Footed Ferret was one of the rarest mammals on Earth!
In 1987 a captive breeding program was established and. In 2010 scientists hope to have 1500 ferrets reintroduced back into the wild, with 30 breeding adults in each population (they are aiming for 10 established populations).
If this goal is met this beautiful creature could be downgraded from endangered to threatened status.
Hopefully it all works out well…
Here is a cute little video that I found on YouTube. If you want to find out more on the Black-Footed Ferret then...Click Here