Habitat preferences and intraspecific competition in black-footed ferrets

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Abstract

We used radio-telemetry data (28,560 positional fixes) collected on 153 black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) to (1) reexamine the assumed obligate relationship of these ferrets to prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.), (2) investigate habitat preferences of ferrets at a small scale (1 year (P = 0.048). Also, preference was stronger for wild-born young ferrets than for young captive-born ferrets released to augment the wild population (P = 0.040). This additional evidence for competition among ferrets, and for an advantage of prior residency, raises conservation concerns. The energetics-based model commonly used to predict ferret densities at reintroduction sites does not consider competition, which likely leads to overestimation of the densities of ferrets attainable in high-quality habitat. During sequential releases of ferrets, prior residency may handicap success of newcomers, even though the latter may have higher potential fitness. Although the manner of initial colonization of available habitat by blackfooted ferrets, and their subsequent competition for it, was suggestive of an ideal despotic distribution, we did not assess effects of prey density or burrow density on fitness.

Additional publication details

Publication type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Title Habitat preferences and intraspecific competition in black-footed ferrets
Year Published 2006
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 12 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title Recovery of the black-footed ferret: Progress and continuing challenges- Proceedings of the Symposium on the Status of the Black-footed Ferret and Its Habitat, Fort Collins, Colorado, January 28-29, 2004 (Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5293)
First page 129
Last page 140
Conference Title Symposium on the Status of the Black-footed Ferret and Its Habitat
Conference Location Fort Collins, CO
Conference Date January 28-29, 2004