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Postrelease movements and survival of adult and young black-footed ferrets

January 1, 2006

A successful captive breeding program for highly endangered black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) has resulted in surplus animals that have been released at multiple sites since 1991. Because reproductive output of captive ferrets declines after several years, many adult ferrets must be removed from captive breeding facilities annually to keep total production high. Adults are routinely released, with young-of-the-year, on prairie dog (Cynomys spp.) colonies. We evaluated postrelease movements and survival rates for 94 radio-tagged young and adult ferrets. Radio-tagged adult ferrets made longer movements than young ferrets during the night of release and had significantly lower survival rates for the first 14 days. Coyotes (Canis latrans) caused the largest number of ferret losses. A larger data set of 623 ferrets represented adults and young that were individually marked with passive integrated transponders but were not radio tagged. Minimum survival rates, calculated primarily from ferrets detected during spotlight searches and identified with tag readers, again were significantly lower for adults than for young ferrets at 30 days postrelease (10.1 percent and 45.5 percent survival, respectively) and at 150 days postrelease (5.7 percent and 25.9 percent). Assessment of known survival time by using linear modeling demonstrated a significant interaction between age and sex, with greater disparity between adults and kits for females than for males. Postrelease survival of adult ferrets might be increased if animals were given earlier and longer exposure to the quasinatural environments of preconditioning pens. 

Publication Year 2006
Title Postrelease movements and survival of adult and young black-footed ferrets
Authors Dean E. Biggins, Jerry L. Godbey, Travis M. Livieri, Marc R. Matchett, Brent D. Bibles
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Index ID 70180912
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center