American polecat, prairie dog hunter (en.)
Order — Carnivora.
Family — Mustelidae.
Genus — Mustela.
Species — Mustela nigripes.
The black-footed ferret was once found throughout the eastern and southern Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. It is currently found in Montana, South Dakota, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Chihuahua, Mexico.
The black-footed Ferret is found in short or middle grass prairies. It often makes its homes in abandoned prairie dog burrows.
Length: 38-50 cm.
Tail length: 11-13 cm.
Body is long.
Fur is yellowish-brown, with a blackish wash of furon its back.
Tail is black-tipped
Feet are black with long claws.
Black mask around eyes.
Ears are large, rounded on the side of its triangular head.
Muzzle, forehead and throat are white.
Nose is black.
Males are larger than females. The black-footed ferret is the only ferret native to North America.
The black-footed ferret eats prairie dogs. It slithers down prairie dog tunnels and kills the prairie dog with a quick bite to the back of the neck. If it can't find prairie dogs, it eats other small mammals like mice, gophers, and ground squirrels. It may also eat birds, eggs, and small reptiles.
Black-footed ferrets mate in spring, usually in March or April, and gestation (length of pregnancy) is 42 days. The average litter size is 3-4 kits, although they can have anywhere from 1-10 kits. Females whelp (give birth) in vacant prairie dog burrows. The female alone cares for the kits, which are born blind and helpless. The kits develop their markings around 21 days of age, and open their eyes around 35 days of age. They begin to come above ground about 70 days of age, and stay with their mother until fall.