These faces! How can something so cute be endangered?? And yet, sadly, they are.
Meet the black-footed ferret; one of the most endangered animals in North America. They are also native to the Great Plains region of the continent when most ferret species are not. For once, it’s not entirely human fault that these little guys mortality rate is so high. You see, black footed ferrets main source of prey are prairie dogs. Not only that, black footed ferrets take over the prairie dog burrows after eating them. They aren’t nicknamed the masked bandits for nothing! No prairie dogs, no black footed ferrets.
Humans have been wiping out grassland habitats to farm but besides habitat loss, the main killer is apex predators and disease. Owls, coyotes, and eagles love to eat prairie dogs. Again, no prairie dogs, no black footed ferrets. The prairie dogs and ferrets are also susceptible to disease. Sylvatic plague is the main culprit. This disease is transmitted by fleas and can wipe out an entire prairie dog colony which in turns wipes out the black footed ferrets when they eat them.
Currently there are about 370 individuals in the wild. There are numerous efforts to save these little guys. The people over at WWF have been trying to get vaccines out to prairie dogs by dropping peanut butter treats into their burrows via drones. They also vaccinate any black footed ferret in captivity before releasing them back into the wild. Other organizations making serious conservation efforts include: the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Defenders of Wildlife, zoos and even Native American tribes; helping to replenish their habitat and population.
As always, if you’re interested in contributing to saving this species, you can adopt a black footed ferret here.