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The Feeding Habits of the Black-Footed Ferret

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The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is a lean and lengthy mammal that is part of the weasel family. The independent ferrets hail from North America, but only roam freely through a handful of specific spots, which include Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana. Where food is concerned, black-footed ferrets are true carnivores.

Black-Footed Ferrets and Endangerment

Black-footed ferrets have "endangered" status as of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species' 2008 analysis. The categorization is a result of the species' markedly limited and low numbers. One of the main factors behind black-footed ferrets' endangered status involves their primary dietary staple -- prairie dogs. Since prairie dogs have been largely destroyed due to their reputations as nuisances to farming sites, these ferrets have suffered, too, as a result of the decreased sustenance. Prairie dogs are often seen as nuisances by farmers because of their penchants for feeding on grass for cattle.

Black-Footed Ferret Basic Diet

Prairie dogs are a major component of the black-footed ferret diet, and actually constitute 90 percent of it, according to the Defenders of Wildlife organization. Although prairie dogs are their dining preference, they do sometimes consume other creatures -- think gophers, tiny reptiles, voles, birds, mice, ground squirrels and rabbits. Black-footed ferrets also occasionally eat eggs as well.

Hunting Style

Black-footed ferrets go after prairie dogs from within the comforts of the latter's burrows, while the prey animals are sound asleep. For the most part, black-footed ferrets hunt during the night hours. They are believed to acquire just as much sustenance as they require for that specific time, and they do not stash away food for later consumption.


Black-footed ferrets are carnivores that take in somewhere in the range of 50 to 70 grams of flesh on a daily basis, notes Animal Diversity Web of the University of Michigan. These ferrets possessive powerful teeth and jaws, both of which make meat consumption a pretty easy task.


Although black-footed ferrets are capable predators in their own right, they are prey to some other animals. Some of the animals that regularly prey on these ferrets include coyotes, golden eagles, owls, bobcats and foxes, to name a few.