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Nighttime aboveground movements by prairie dogs on colonies inhabited by black-footed ferrets

January 1, 2010

We describe observations of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) emerging aboveground at night, apparently in response to wild-born and captive-born black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) in South Dakota and New Mexico, respectively. We also discuss other similar observations accumulated on black-tailed prairie dog colonies as well as observations of white-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys leucurus) making nighttime movements, apparently in response to pre-reintroduction ferrets in Wyoming. Our observations suggest that, in addition to documented daytime defenses against ferrets, prairie dogs reduce vulnerability to predation by ferrets by using evasive movements at night.