Black-Footed Ferret

Black-Footed Ferret
Black-Footed Ferret
George Anderson/Arizona Game and Fish Department/Associated Press

This little-known species lives in the tunnels of the black-tailed prairie dog and feeds on them as well as other small mammals and ground-nesting birds.

It tends to hunt at night, killing its prey with a single bite at the base of the skull.


Its own predators are primarily owls and other predatory birds.

Since its favorite prey, the black-tailed prairie dog, has been exterminated in many areas, the once-common black-footed ferret has become extremely rare.

It was considered extinct in the wild by 1987 and has since been reintroduced in several areas.


Animal Facts

Name: Black-Footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes)

Family: Mustelidae (Mustelids)


Range: Southwestern Canada to Arizona, Oklahoma, and northwestern Texas

Habitat: Prairie

Diet: Prairie dogs, mice, ground squirrels, and other small animals

Head and Body Length: 15 to 18 inches (38 to 45 cm)

Tail Length: 5 to 6 inches (12.5 to 15 cm)

Weight: about 1 pound (0.5 kg)

Life Cycle: Mating in spring; gestation 42 to 45 days, three to five young born

Description: Yellowish-buff fur; pale underparts; white forehead, muzzle, and throat; black mask around eyes; short, rounded ears; long neck; long body; short legs; black feet

Conservation Status: Extinct in the Wild

Major Threat: Loss of food source

What Can I Do?: Visit the Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team for information on how you can help.