Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Endangered Species Thursday: Mustela nigripes

(If you're looking for Sancho, go to the post directly below this one.)

Over at her blog, Kristy is recruiting folks to participate in NaBloPoMo, a dealie where bloggers agree to post every day for the month of November. Like I said over at Kristy's -- you want me to commit to doing something every single day? Heck, I quit my last job because they expected the same thing. But it looks enticing over there, and I just might do it. We'll see.

Even if I can't commit to doing something every day, maybe I can do it one day per week. And so I'm ushering in Endangered Species Thursday. I like animals, and I'm interested in the environment, and the recent giant otter fixations on this blog have reminded me that this is a problem. It won't be all charismatic fauna all the time, though. Plants, algae, and all sorts ecologically critical critters are becoming endangered. So I'll be writing about them.

Which means I need all you commenters and lurkers (and I know you're here these days) to send me tips. Click on the e-mail link on the right and send me interesting stuff I should be reading or writing about. It doesn't have to be just endangered species, either. But please, no penis embiggening schemes. I get enough of those from other sources.

For today, I want to draw from Mustelidae, the family of creatures that has graced this blog since September. Otherwise known as the weasel family, it includes such luminaries as otters, wolverines, martens, minks, badgers, and today's subject, which is the rarest mammal in North America. No, not a Democrat with a spine, though arguably those are the second rarest.

It's the Black-Footed Ferret.

These guys have been listed for more than 25 years, and yet they remain grievously endangered. A big part of the problem is the continued poisoning of its principal prey by ranchers, which is this creature:

Photo by Trailhead. No, really!

The prairie dog. Yes, I know it's cute, but everyone's gotta eat. And ferrets are cute too:

Photo by and courtesy of Trisha M Shears

Black-footed ferrets were once completely extinct in the wild, and the only populations existed in captivity. They have since been re-released, and as late as August of this year, were deemed to be making a comeback, with 223 ferrets existing in Wyoming. All of those animals were descended from seven ferrets bred in captivity. Supportive ranchers were instrumental to the success of the ferret in Wyoming.

But this past June, prospects for the ferrets -- and the prairie dogs -- elsewhere darkened:

The U.S. Forest Service today released its draft plan that may drastically increase the poisoning of prairie dog colonies this fall throughout the Buffalo Gap and Fort Pierre National Grasslands in South Dakota and the Oglala National Grassland in Nebraska. Widespread poisoning could kill tens of thousands of prairie dogs, which would jeopardize the continued recovery of the critically imperiled black-footed ferret, the most endangered mammal in North America. The plan would also harm other wildlife that depend on prairie dogs for food or prairie dog burrows for shelter, including rare species such as swift foxes, burrowing owls and ferruginous hawks.

Great. There's always something.

You can "adopt" a black-footed ferret here. Read about and support the National Zoo's ferret research here.

And finally, this is an entertaining, informative video, and contains some of that mustelid playfulness a few of us have come to enjoy:

I'll be keeping an eye on these guys.


Anonymous said...

Hi Trailhead,

It’s like a post just for me! Did you watch other ferret videos after the one about the Black Footed Ferret? They are smarter than people realize. By the way our domesticated ferrets came from the Black Footed Ferret. I think they should stop selling them at PetCo. People abuse them more than cats! Plus they are delicate so one has to be careful. They are just not for little kids in my opinion. Great video! They remind me of my little boogers. Zsa Zsa, my little girl, died a year and a half before my most recent Rascal use to love people food! If I brought take out home she was like RIGHT THERE! “GIMME GIMME GIMME!!” Before I even sat down I always use to fix her a little plate (I used one of those plates you put espresso cups on.) Rascal later only ate the meat and chicken noodle (his favorite) baby food that I had to warm up. He would wait by the fridge then by the stove. He knew the process. They are just so darn smart thought. People don’t understand and I remember when Rascal finally passed away at 7.5 people were telling me to Grow up. I would have drank myself to death if Mr. Tootinheimer and I hadn’t have met and he insisted on going home with me. When I saw that Sancho show I wasn’t right for 2 days and I felt the most for Carolina. People need to realize that this planet was not just made for us, just because we are the ones who make computers n such. Again one of my fantasies would be to own a lot of land and any endangered animal would be welcome to stay there.

I love that video thought. Look at those little noses! Make me want to boop them!


Anonymous said...

Oh Here is Mr. Tootinheimer's Mug Shot when he was at Paws.


Trailhead said...

I thought you might like this one, Toots. I'd like to have a ferret, but I agree that they probably don't belong with kids, so I'll be waiting for awhile.

Beautiful kitty, by the way. Reminds me of a video I need to post later on.

Kristy said...

Cute little buggers, ain't they? I know--Black Footed Ferret Manor. Huh? Why should meerkats get all the good marketing?

Seriously, I'll be checking back to see what you have for your next installment. I'm sure it will be educational!