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Habitat preferences and intraspecific competition in black-footed ferrets

January 1, 2006

We used radio-telemetry data (28,560 positional fixes) collected on 153 black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) to (1) reexamine the assumed obligate relationship of these ferrets to prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.), (2) investigate habitat preferences of ferrets at a small scale (1 year (P = 0.048). Also, preference was stronger for wild-born young ferrets than for young captive-born ferrets released to augment the wild population (P = 0.040). This additional evidence for competition among ferrets, and for an advantage of prior residency, raises conservation concerns. The energetics-based model commonly used to predict ferret densities at reintroduction sites does not consider competition, which likely leads to overestimation of the densities of ferrets attainable in high-quality habitat. During sequential releases of ferrets, prior residency may handicap success of newcomers, even though the latter may have higher potential fitness. Although the manner of initial colonization of available habitat by blackfooted ferrets, and their subsequent competition for it, was suggestive of an ideal despotic distribution, we did not assess effects of prey density or burrow density on fitness.

Publication Year 2006
Title Habitat preferences and intraspecific competition in black-footed ferrets
Authors Dean E. Biggins, Jerry L. Godbey, Marc R. Matchett, Travis M. Livieri
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70180909
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center