Endangered Species: Black-footed ferret

A Christiansburg Elementary Project
Submitted by Chris from Christiansburg Elementary School
Christiansburg, VA, U.S.A.

Black-footed ferret

Photo by Larry Shanks, USFWS

Why Study This Topic? What Was Already Known Search for Information Description of Plant or Animal Habitat Requirements
Adaptations Reasons for Endangerment Restoration Actions What Was Learned Conclusions from Research

Why Study This Topic?

  I wanted to study the Black-footed ferret , because it is a natural predator of the prairie. Its regular diet is the prairie dog. After eating its prey, often it will steal its home.
  The Black-footed ferret has a dark mask across its face, much like a raccoon. Its body is a light brown color, with only a few white marks across its chest. This color is slightly lighter than its head around its mask. The ferret gets its name from its dark feet.
  The Black-footed ferret's biggest threat is man.Since humans started moving toward the prairie for more land, the number of prairie dog colonies has decreased by 98%, because humans kill the ferrets inside.

What Was Already Known

  Before my search, I knew hardly anything about the Black-footed ferret. I learned a lot in my searches and studies. Before researching this ferret, I knew the it lived in prairies. I also knew it lived in the prairies in North America. Of course, I knew it had black feet, because of its name, the black footed ferret. I thought it might be a brownish color to blend in with the prairie floor, which it is. Once I saw the animal, I knew it had to be related to the weasel family because of its body structure and pionted snout.

Search for Information

  When I saw the Black-footed ferret my first thought was that I couldn't find any infomation about it. Sure enough, I couldn't even find the name ferret in books. Finally, when I got to the school website, there was a whole story written on the ferret. When everyone else went on and found bigger and better things, I stayed and recorded all the facts I needed.
  At the public library, there is a computerized card catalog. It took me a while to figure this out. I also had to get my library card renewed, so it was late before I checked out my books.

Description of Plant or Animal

  The Black-footed ferret has a slender body, like a weasel. In fact, it is part of the weasel family called mustelids.
  In 1979, the Black-footed ferret was thought to be extinct, until a group was found in Wyoming.
  Usually the adult Black footed ferret is 18 - 20 inches long, including its 5 - 6 inch tail. It is much smaller when its a juvenile.
  The attack stance for this ferret is sitting in weeds or a burrow with only its head sticking out. If you see this happening, this ferret is getting ready to kill something, maybe twice its size or bigger. With its fast snapping jaws, it can take down almost any animal.   Usually, the ferret will eat rabbits, gophers, other small animals, and sometimes even an elk. Despite all these foods filled with protein, its favorite snack is the prairie dog. This is also the easiest to catch for the ferret because it lives on prairie dog colonies. For shelter these animals even use the burrows of the prairie dog.

Habitat Requirements

  Black-footed ferrets are thought to be the most endangered animals in North America and maybe the world. The leading cause of their endangerment is man. Man alone kills five or more each day, and it people aren't killing this ferret, they are destroying its favorite source of food, the prairie dog. If people keep up this slaughter, these unique creatures could be gone within a month. Now, there are only a few hundred left in the wild.


  The Black-footed ferret uses several adaptations, including its camoflouged color, its speed, and its snapping jaw. Its color helps it blend with the prairie. Its speed helps it escape from its enemies, and its snapping jaw helps it kill prey twice its size.
  The ferret has many other animals to prey on, but not many predators. Its predators include the coyote, some kinds of cats, and its most despised enemies, the wolf and hawk. There always has to be a way for this ferret to escape. Its most potent defense is its scent gland under its tail. It also helps, if it is fast thinking enough, to use its claws and fast snapping jaws. If worst comes to worst, it can always use its super camoflouge.

Reasons for Endangerment

  Black-footed ferrets are thought to be the most endangered animals in North America and maybe the world. The leading cause of their endangerment is man. Man alone kills five or more each day. If people keep up this slaughter. these unique creatures could be gone within a month. There are only a few hundred left in the wild.

Restoration Actions

  The only thing being done for these animals is that scientists are breeding them in captivity. They are also just hoping nature will take its course. I am hoping by writing this report, other will find out how endangered the Black-footed ferret is and take steps to help it.

What Was Learned

  I learned a lot about the Black-footed ferret in my studies. For one thing, I definately found out there is a creature called the Black footed ferret. I didn't even know there was an animal called the Black-footed ferret before my studies. I also learned just how powerful camoflouge can be. In some of my resourses, it took me a while to see the ferret.
  I also learned that size doesn't matter in the wild. For example, a ferret which is fifteen inches long can take down an animal thirty inches tall.

Conclusions From Research

  People have to be aware that they are dealing with the most endangered species in North America. It is the rearest animal ever found on the prairies of America. The ferrets lost so much of their habitat through daily destruction that scientists are worried this species will soon become extinct.
I have confidence people will be able to save these unique and magestic creatures from extinction. Until I researched this ferret, the only experience I have had with a ferret was when I was at my friend Jeremy's house and found a small ferret in a cage in his basement, but that was a tame ferret. This report gave me an opportunity to learn a lot about an animal that needs human understanding and help to survive in the wild.


"http://www.bev.net/ces/TechnoZoo/prairie.html" Black-footed ferret

 Casey, Denise (1985). Black-footed Ferret, Dodd, Mead, and Company.

Johnson, Sylvia A. (1997). Ferrets, Carolrhoda Books, Inc. Minneapolis, Minnesota, pages 40-46.

Click here for more information on the Black-footed ferret!

left arrow Return to Mammals page.

If you would like to add to these Endangered Species
pages then email your contributions to Christiansburg Elementary

© copyright 1997 

Christiansburg Elementary
Last updated on March 9, 1998