The black-footed ferret, found only in the Great Plains, is the one of the most endangered mammals in North America because its principal prey, the prairie dog, has been reduced to two percent of its original abundance. Few species have edged so close to extinction as the black-footed ferret and recovered. Once believed extinct, in 1981 a small population was discovered in Meeteetse, Wyoming. Today, captive breeding and reintroduction of ferrets has slowly rebuilt the population in the wild to around 500 animals. However, small prairie dog populations and plague continue to thwart the recovery of the ferret. Extraordinary restoration efforts are needed to save this species from sliding back to and over the precipice of extinction. The ferret also acts as an umbrella species for other prairie dog associates like the burrowing owl and mountain plover, making it all the more crucial to undertake initiatives on its behalf. WWF has been working to save the black-footed ferret and the prairie dog population upon which the ferrets depend.
Current Projects in Need of Support
- Improving semen freezing methods and expanding the Genome Resource Bank to increase artificial insemination efficiency.
- Understanding reproductive success in black-footed ferrets born in captivity and then released into nature.