Unformatted text preview: ILDLIFE ./ Habitat loss has cut wild black-footed ferret numbers to approximately
700. A reintroduced population of about 250 lives in Conata Basin. u l Ferret Warning The stealthy black—footed ferret
lives and dies with the prairie
dog. And a plan to poison dog
colonies could put many of
the ferrets on a starvation diet.
Nearly extinct 25 years ago, the
ferret lives in prairie dog bur-
rows and at night preys on the
rodents—its main food source.
Unfortunately, ranchers have
no love for black—tailed prairie
dogs, which eat the grass that
feeds cattle. After six years of
low rainfall in South Dakota’s
Buffalo Gap National Grassland,
where 30,000 cattle graze in a
year, a few ranchers want help.
The US. Forest Service is con-
sidering a plan that could allow
prairie dog poisoning in the
Basin, home to the largest
group of black-footed ferrets,
which have made a fragile
recovery after loss of habitat
dropped numbers to near zero.
"We don’t intend to jeopardize
the ferret population," says Don
Bright of the Forest Service,
who will announce the decision
October 1. Conservationists say
any action that shrinks prairie
dog habitat will harm ferrets—
one of America’s most endan-
gered mammals. —Tom O’Neill PHOTO: JOEL SAHTORE; MAP DATA: JONATHAN PROCTOH, DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE ...
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- Fall '08