We studied ontogeny of predatory skills of growing black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) raised under different captive conditions. To test effects of maturation, experience, and cage enrichment on predatory behavior, we exposed 70 juvenile black-footed ferrets to different numbers of live hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) throughout development. Both maturation and experience increased the likelihood of a black-footed ferret making a successful kill. Black-footed ferrets exposed to greater environmental complexity (enriched cage, including encouragement of food-searching behaviors) also were more likely to kill than ferrets raised in a deprived environment. Behavioral studies of captive-raised black-footed ferrets can help refine current breeding techniques and ultimately enhance efforts to recover this endangered carnivore.
Additional publication details
Effects of experience and cage enrichment on predatory skills of black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes)