Morning ambush attacks by black-footed ferrets on emerging prairie dogs

Ethology Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) often hunt at night, attacking normally diurnal prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) in underground burrow systems. While monitoring black-footed ferrets in South Dakota during morning daylight hours, we observed an adult female ferret ambush a black-tailed prairie dog (C. ludovicianus) emerging from a burrow. On a neighboring colony, we observed a second adult female ferret engaging in similar ambush behaviors on 12 occasions, although prey was not visible. We retrospectively assessed radio-telemetry data on white-tailed prairie dogs (C. leucurus) and a male and a female ferret to evaluate ferret activity in relation to timing of prairie dog emergence. Activity of radio-collared ferrets was high during the hourly period when prairie dogs first emerged and the following 2 hr, relative to later daylight hours. Such behavior is consistent with behaviors observed in South Dakota. Nighttime movements by ferrets might involve hunting but also reconnaissance of prey preparatory to morning ambush attacks.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Morning ambush attacks by black-footed ferrets on emerging prairie dogs
Series title Ethology Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1080/03949370.2010.510037
Volume 22
Issue 4
Year Published 2010
Language English
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 8 p
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Ethology Ecology and Evolution
First page 345
Last page 352
Country United States
State South Dakota
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional metadata about this publication, not found in other parts of the page is in this table