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Black-Footed Ferrets

The black-footed ferret is one of the most endangered mammals in North America.

Fewer than 500 adults live in the wild and only 3 populations are considered valuable. Ferrets rely almost exclusively upon healthy prairie dog populations, they live only in prairie dog burrows, and more than 90% of their diet is prairie dogs.

Starting in 1991, captive-born ferrets began to be reintroduced into the wild at 18 sites in 10 geographic areas, including the U.L. Bend National Wildlife Refuge (located within the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge) and on Bureau of Land Management lands in Phillips County, Montana. Unfortunately, the U.L. Bend/CMR site is one of Montana best hopes for long-term persistence of ferrets in the state, but it contains too few prairie dogs to support a ferret population over the long term.

In 2013, the reintroduction site received an additional 20 captive-bred ferrets to boost the population, and the nearby Fort Belknap Indian Reservation also reintroduced 32 ferrets on tribal lands.

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Prairie dog photo by Dave Shumway

OUR NEXT STEPS

We are working to enhance the Reserve's prairie dog populations so that they link to the refuge, one of our direct neighbors to the south. By doing so, we hope to provide a sustainable food source for the ferret population and encourage ferrets to expand their range. Learn more about prairie dog restoration work.