Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Fine-scale habitat use of reintroduced black-footed ferrets on prairie dog colonies in New Mexico

October 10, 2012

Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) are among the most endangered animals in North America. Reintroductions of captive-born ferrets onto prairie dog (Cynomys spp.) colonies are crucial to the conservation of the species. In September 2007, captive-born ferrets were released on a black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) colony at the Vermejo Park Ranch, New Mexico. Ferret kits experimentally released in areas of comparatively low and high prairie dog burrow densities were located via spotlight surveys. Some maturing ferret kits were subsequently translocated to areas of low and high burrow densities on nearby prairie dog colonies. For 2 months, fine-scale habitat use was quantified by mapping all burrow openings within a 30-m radius of each ferret location. Spatial statistics accounted for autocorrelation in the burrow densities in areas used by ferrets. It was hypothesized that ferrets would select areas of high burrow densities within colonies; however, burrow densities in areas used by ferrets were generally similar to the available burrow densities. Because ferrets used areas with burrow densities similar to densities available at the colony level and because of the potential energetic benefits for ferrets using areas with high burrow densities, releasing ferrets on colonies with high burrow densities might increase reintroduction success.

Publication Year 2012
Title Fine-scale habitat use of reintroduced black-footed ferrets on prairie dog colonies in New Mexico
DOI 10.3398/064.072.0211
Authors Jennifer G. Chipault, Dean E. Biggins, James K. Detling, Dustin H. Long, Robin M. Reich
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Western North American Naturalist
Index ID 70040258
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center