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Use of multi-opening burrow systems by black-footed ferrets

October 10, 2012

Multi-opening burrow systems constructed by prairie dogs (Cynomys) ostensibly provide escape routes when prairie dogs are pursued by predators capable of entering the burrows, such as black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes), or by predators that can rapidly dig into the tunnels, such as American badgers (Taxidea taxus). Because badgers also prey on ferrets, ferrets might similarly benefit from multi-opening burrow systems. Using an air blower, white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus) burrow openings were tested for connectivity on plots occupied by black-footed ferrets and on randomly selected plots in Wyoming. Significantly more connected openings were found on ferret-occupied plots than on random plots. Connected openings might be due to modifications by ferrets in response to plugging by prairie dogs, due to selection by ferrets for complex systems with multiple openings that are already unobstructed, or simply due to ferrets lingering at kill sites that were multi-opening systems selected by their prairie dog prey.

Publication Year 2012
Title Use of multi-opening burrow systems by black-footed ferrets
DOI 10.3398/064.072.0202
Authors Dean E. Biggins
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Western North American Naturalist
Index ID 70003990
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center