Black-footed Ferret

(Mustela nigripes)


Black-footed Ferret IUCN ENDANGERED (EN)


Facts about this animal

The Black-footed Ferret is a large weasel. It is very similar to the steppe polecat of eastern Europe and Asia. The head-body length is 40-46 cm, tail length is 13-15 cm. The body weight is 0.9-1.4 kg. Females are smaller. The head is relatively small, broad, with a black face-mask across the eyes. The muzzle and a spot above each eye are white. The ears are short, broad and low set. It has short and stout legs with black feet. The tail is short and black-tipped. The colour of the coat is yellowish-brown to buffy. The back and the belly are darker than the flanks and the throat is whitish. The winter coat is slightly paler. Gestation lasts 41-43 days and usually 3-4 babies are born. Up to 91% of its diet is composed of prairie dogs. The rest consists of rats, mice, squirrels, birds, rabbits and insects.

Did you know?
That the black-footed ferret is the most endangered mammal in North America? Loss of habitat due to conversion of grasslands to agricultural uses and prairie dog eradication prgrammes are the primary reason black-footed ferrets remain near the brink of extinction. Remaining habitat is less than 2 percent of what once existed and is heavily fragmented.


Name (Scientific) Mustela nigripes
Name (English) Black-footed Ferret
Name (French) Putois à pieds noirs
Name (German) Schwarzfußiltis
Name (Spanish) Turón de patas negras
CITES Status Appendix I
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Jessica De Smet



Range This species was extinct in the wild. Reintroduced in Arizona, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Colorado, and Chihuahua (Mexico), formerly found in Canada, the United States and Mexico
Habitat Arid, shortgrass prairies
Wild population Unknown, since 1991 over 200 ferrets have been released back into the wild (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 208 reported to ISIS

In the Zoo

Black-footed Ferret


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 79 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Why do zoos keep this animal

With the loss of 98 percent of prairie dog habitat, which black-footed ferrets depend upon, they neared total extinction in the 1980s. In 1985, only 18 ferrets remained. These were captured and brought into an ex situ conservation breeding programme in which wildlife authorities and zoos participated (AZA Species Survival Plan). Ferrets bred under this programme are returned to the wild where the conditions permit. The size of the current wild population is not exactly known, but probably there are now more than 600.


If well presented, black-footed ferrets, along with some other species like praire dogs and bisons, are good ambassadors for the endangered prairie ecosystem.