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Do Ferrets Eat Prairie Dogs?

With the various conservation efforts to save the black-footed ferret getting a large amount of publicity recently, we have seen more and more questions from people relating to the black-footed ferret as well as domesticated ferrets in general.

More recently, we have seen a large number of people asking if ferrets eat prairie dogs over the last couple of months just to general curiosity about the diet of ferrets as well as due to worrying about a lack of potential food for black-footed ferrets due to plague ravaging the prairie dog population in many areas.

Due to seeing so many people reaching out about ferrets eating prairie dogs, we wanted to publish our own dedicated article on the topic.

Now, we will be mainly focusing on wild black-footed ferrets rather than domesticated pet ferrets for the bulk of the rest of our article. That said though, the majority of the information in our article below is also relevant to domestic ferrets too.

Keep in mind that it is generally discouraged for people to try and feed wild ferrets as it can discourage their natural hunting and cause them to form a bond with humans.

Due to their endangered classification, there are multiple conservation efforts that care for black-footed ferrets and ensure that they have plenty of food that meets their obligate carnivore needs.

Do Ferrets Eat Prairie Dogs?

Black-footed ferrets do eat prairie dogs with the bulk of the diet of a wild black-footed ferret being made up of prairie dogs too.

If you have access to prairie dogs then domesticated ferrets will usually eat their meat without issue too but some ferrets can be particular with their regular food and may not take to new food types.

It is estimated that prairie dogs make up around ninety percent of the average black-footed ferret’s diet in the wild with some black-footed ferret colonies having even more of their diet based on eating prairie dogs.

This is why the plagues wiping out huge numbers of prairie dogs are more than just a problem for the prairie dogs but also have a knock-on effect for the already endangered black-footed ferret as well as a number of other predators.

In addition to eating prairie dogs, the black-footed ferret also relies on the prairie dog population to dig their holes that the ferrets will use as shelter from the elements too.

The declining prairie dog population has added additional strain on the black-footed ferret population but the plagues affecting prairie dogs seem to have been brought under control now so we hope things stabilize soon.

How Many Prairie Dogs Do Black-Footed Ferrets Eat?

It is estimated that the average adult black-footed ferret will eat around one hundred prairie dogs each year.

This will fluctuate on the specific colony of black-footed ferrets though as different groups will adjust their diet depending on the local wildlife but all black-footed ferret colonies do rely on prairie dogs as their primary food source.

Many people misunderstand just how delicate the prairie dog population actually is due to female prairie dogs only having a single one hour window per year to breed.

They then tend to have a litter of three to eight pups but around half will not make it through their first year so the recent prairie dog plagues and black-footed ferrets eating so many prairie dogs each year has really taken their toll on prairie dogs.

This is why some black-footed ferret colonies are starting to eat other food sources but some black-footed ferret colonies are in remote locations where there are minimal viable food sources available for them due to being obligate carnivores.

This means that they can only eat meat-based foods and they have to have a delicate balance of fat and protein with minimal carbohydrates.

Do Black-Footed Ferrets Only Eat Prairie Dogs?

Due to a number of problems with the prairie dog population, black-footed ferrets have started to eat larger numbers of other food sources. The most common alternative food sources for black-footed ferrets include squirrels, mice, rats, rabbits, and birds eggs.

This creates additional problems with an already delicate ecosystem and with the black-footed ferret not having evolved to hunt some of the new animals they are having to eat, it adds additional pressure to the struggling black-footed ferret population.

As we mentioned above though, the population of prairie dogs is slowly starting to increase again and helping to stabilize the risk to the black-footed ferret too.

In addition to this, the improving population of prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets returning to use them as their primary food source has also helped to remove pressure from some rare ground-nesting birds that were having problems with black-footed ferrets eating their eggs too. Overall, the ecosystem does seem to be on the mend as wild black-footed ferrets start to eat prairie dogs again.


That brings our article going over if ferrets can eat prairie dogs to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you understand how the black-footed ferret population is based on a very delicate ecosystem that has had a number of issues recently due to the prairie dog population being ravaged by plague. Thankfully though, there are strong signs of things slowly returning to normal and both the prairie dog and black-footed ferret populations starting to bounce back.