Photo Ark: Black-Footed Ferret

Photo Ark: Black-Footed Ferret

The Animal Behind the Mask: America’s Black-Footed Ferret


4 - 9


Biology, Conservation, Geography

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Photographs by
Photo Ark

The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is a small, mostly nocturnal mammal. As its name suggests, it has black feet with a matching face mask and tail tip. Black-footed ferrets prey on prairie dogs. This manages prairie dog populations and helps maintain ecological balance.

Black-footed ferrets once roamed all over the Great Plains of North America. But their numbers plummeted to the point they were thought extinct in 1980. The next year, however, a small group of black-footed ferrets was discovered in the U.S. state of Wyoming. A capture and breeding program was started soon after to help the species survive. Although they are still listed as endangered, black-footed ferret numbers are growing thanks to these breeding programs.

Despite these programs’ successes, black-footed ferrets are having trouble finding homes in the Great Plains. Farming breaks up the land and takes space the ferrets and their food, prairie dogs, need.

Today they can be found in U.S. states such as Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, and North Dakota, as well as Canada and Mexico.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Corinne Rucker, National Geographic Society
Sara Nachtigal, Ph.D., Educurious
Hanna Jaramillo, M.S. Ed., Educurious
Latia White, Ed.D., Inclusive Innovation Researcher, Global Inclusive Learning Design Reviewer
Rights Clearance
Jean Cantu, National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Patrick Cavanagh, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Last Updated

April 8, 2024

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