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Winter Ecology of Black-footed Ferrets (Mustela nigripes) at Meeteetse, Wyoming

Louise Richardson, Tim W. Clark, Steven C. Forrest and Thomas M. Campbell III
The American Midland Naturalist
Vol. 117, No. 2 (Apr., 1987), pp. 225-239
DOI: 10.2307/2425964
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2425964
Page Count: 15
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Winter Ecology of Black-footed Ferrets (Mustela nigripes) at Meeteetse, Wyoming
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Abstract

Snow-tracking was used in winters from 1981-1984 to examine movements, spatial patterns, hunting behavior and sign characteristics of the only known population of black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) which is near Meeteetse, Wyoming. Nightly movements averaged 1406 m, increased from December to March, changed with temperature and breeding activity, and were nonlinear. Ferrets were active aboveground from -1 to -38 C and were inactive up to 6 nights and days. Activity areas for 3-8 nights ranged from 0.4-98.1 ha. Ferrets exhibited spatiotemporal separation and intrasexual territoriality. Ferrets selectively approached and urinated by mounded prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus) burrows, probably because they were prominent geographic features rather than preferred prey hibernaculae. Ferret activity was confined primarily to prairie dog colonies and prairie dogs were the major prey. Ferrets apparently cached prey. Diggings (0.6 per track route), urinations (0.7 per route) and markings (0.9 per route) were the most common ferret signs, and scats (0.1 per route) were least common. Digging and snow-trenching rates were highest in December, but markings in snow peaked in February, coinciding with breeding activity.

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