U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Journal of Mammalogy, 92(4):705–709, 2011; DOI: 10.1644/10-MAMM-S-140.1


Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes; hereafter, ferret) were formerly widespread in central North America. Their populations decreased throughout the last century to near extinction by the late 1970s as a result of extermination of prairie dogs (their main prey) and the spread of disease (Biggins and Godbey 1995; Biggins et al. 1998). In 1973 the ferret was the least known endangered mammal in the United States because of its nocturnal, semifossorial habits and the few known populations (Erickson 1973). In 1981 a small population was discovered in a complex of white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus) colonies near Meeteetse, Wyoming. During 1983 and 1984 we used radiotelemetry to collect information on areas of activity for ferrets in this population. Our overall objective was to develop data on ferret activity and spatial use among sex and age groups. The Meeteetse population of ferrets was decimated by canine distemper (Morbillivirus) and plague (Yersinia pestis) in 1985 (Forrest et al. 1988), and 18 individuals were brought into captivity, forming the foundation for a captive-breeding program. We present data on sequential areas of activity (using minimum convex polygons) during 1983–1984 for Meeteetse ferrets monitored intensively for short periods of time between August and December. We compare the sizes of activity areas and shifts in centers of activity for male and female and adult and juvenile ferrets.