Nebraska Academy of Sciences


Date of this Version

Fall 10-24-2014


Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 34 (2014), pp. 46–48


Copyright 2014 Michael P. Gutzmer and Jeffrey C. Kelly


Since 1991, 19 specific black-footed ferret reintroduction projects have been conducted across 8 States, Canada, and Mexico. All five of the first ferret reintroductions (from 1991 to 1996) continue to be occupied by ferrets. The photographs of October 31 and November 1 are the first unequivocal documentation of black-footed ferrets on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Ferrets observed on Standing Rock may be dispersals from the nearby Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation to the south. The nearest re-introduction site for ferrets is approximately 20 miles away, in Whitehorse, South Dakota, and the observation of ferrets on Standing Rock could document ferrets dispersing from that reintroduction site. The dispersal ability of ferrets is poorly known, but black-footed ferrets will travel up to 11 miles (17 km) to seek prey (Forrest, et al 1985), which certainly suggests that dispersal from Cheyenne River is possible.

This documentation of black-footed ferrets on Standing Rock Indian Reservation warrants further efforts to develop plans to protect, conserve, and manage this rare species, which is currently under assault from habitat loss, disease, poisoning, and human encroachment. The Tribe is committed to a sustained effort to locate potentially isolated, extant populations of ferrets within their thousands of acres of prairie dog towns, the vast majority of which remains unsurveyed. Future management efforts must include not only necessary biological studies relating to the ferret presence, but also genetic testing to determine if located animals are part of reintroduction or relict populations. Finally, black-footed ferret management must also include plans to mitigate the effect of diseases that are afflicting ferret populations and their prey-base at this time.