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Factors Affecting Black-footed Ferret Populations within the Great Plains Region of North America: A Case Study

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  • The black-footed ferret is a meso-predator within the Great Plains region of North America. Before the 1900s, black-footed ferret populations were self-sustaining in large ecological patches throughout the geographical range of the Great Plains. During the 1900s, various factors such as the systematic extermination of prairie dogs (the primary food source for the black-footed ferrets), sylvatic plague, canine distemper, and shifts in land use practices lead to the rapid decline of black-footed ferret populations across North America. The black-footed ferret was considered extinct in 1979, but a small population was discovered in 1981 in a small town in Wyoming. The small population was quickly extracted from the wild and placed in various captive breeding programs to help conserve the species. This capstone report aims to analyze and discuss various social, environmental, and anthropogenic challenges that contribute to the decline of black-footed ferret populations. Incorporating data and information from peer-reviewed articles, personal interviews with professionals who directly work with black-footed ferret efforts, and various other resources will provide evidence to support the stance that black-footed ferrets will not go extinct because of the various management practices that aim to revitalize and bolster populations of this species.
  • KEYWORDS: Keywords: Black-footed Ferret; Canine Distemper Virus; Climate Change; Fertility Control; Genetic Diversity; Prairie dog Management; Prairie dog; Sylvatic Plague
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