Unit 2 final

The Black Footed Ferret
Biology Unit Final Assessment- by
Earth Think, We Need Your Help!
My name is Michelle Geiszler, and I am an ecologist
studying various ecosystems to ensure that all
populations and species are still capable of survival.
I recently discovered that the Black footed ferret is
endangered! I have created a PowerPoint
presentation for you that will hopefully have you
considering how important this species is to the
environment, and without it, it’s ecosystem could
collapse! Please consider helping this amazing
species with its survival. Thank you for your time
and consideration. I hope you enjoy learning from
this presentation.
The Black Footed Ferret’s Ecosystem
The ecosystem that the Black footed ferret lives in is a
dry, grassland area underground in the burrows of
prairie dogs. This ecosystem has biotic and abiotic
components; an ecosystem needs both to sustain
itself. Biotic factors include primary producers,
herbivores, carnivores, such as the ferrets themselves,
omnivores, like the prairie dogs, and decomposers,
such as the insects that live in the dirt. Some abiotic
factors include the dry soil, the darkness of the burrow,
and the sunlight. Ecosystems are always changing, and
are never the same, but they should be able to sustain
themselves if nothing too dramatic happens.
Level of Organization
The Black footed ferret, the organism, lives in a population of other
ferrets within a short distance of each other. Their community
includes the Black footed ferrets, prairie dogs, and other small
rodents and insects. The Black footed ferret's ecosystem includes
themselves, their prey, (prairie dogs, mice, jack rabbits, voles, and
other small mammals) and their predators, (foxes, coyotes, owls,
and other large birds) and they interact with abiotic components,
such as dirt, sunlight, water, and rocks. Their Biome, is mostly dry
grassland/desert like areas, where there are many of the ferret's
prey that were mentioned earlier, as well as predators, but there
would be more of them. The Black footed ferret's Biosphere is all
of the ecosystems, except they don't reside in every ecosystem.
They live primarily in grassland areas, but it would include their
whole food web, as well as all of their residing locations, although
they only live wild in Central North America.
The Black footed ferret has an important role in its
ecosystem. First, sunlight gives energy to the plants,
giving us fruit, grass, etc… the plants feed the smaller
rodents, such as mice, gophers, and rabbits. Those
smaller animals are prey to the Black footed ferret, as
well as many other species. The Black footed ferret is
prey to animals such as owls, foxes, and coyotes.
Without the Black footed ferret this cycle would not be
balanced; there could be overpopulation for the prey
of the black footed ferret, and starvation for their
predators. This could lead to the destruction of the
Black footed ferret - Food Web
About the Food Web
As you can see, the Black footed ferret is involved in a
complex food web. This means that if the ferret was to
become extinct many different species from all food group
levels would suffer because of the loss. For instance, the
predators, the tertiary consumers, would suffer because they
would no longer have that source of food, which could put
them at risk. The ferret, the secondary consumer, would be
gone. The prey of the ferret, the primary consumers, could
become overpopulated and may exceed the carrying capacity,
which makes disease easier to spread. Also, the group at the
bottom of the demonstration, plants, insects, and other
animals, which are the producers and decomposers, would
suffer as well; they could become overpopulated or
overgrown, which would not be healthy for the other species
or the environment.
Black footed ferrets interact with both biotic and
abiotic factors. They hunt prairie dogs, mice,
squirrels, gophers, mountain cottontails, and voles.
They are also prey to many animals, such as coyotes,
birds, and foxes, which would mean that they are
interacting with their predators. The ferrets interact
with the dirt too, as they live in the burrows of
prairie dogs. They also have contact with rocks,
twigs, water, and oils.
Carrying Capacity
Right now there are approximately 1,000 wild Black footed ferrets so their
carrying capacity is not a concern, but some other species carrying
capacity can have a major effect on the ferrets. Here are two examples of
how serious keeping the population under the carrying capacity is:
1) In the 1900’s the carrying capacity of prairie dogs was exceeded. There
were about 5 billion prairie dogs in Central North America. When the
population of the prairie dogs was so high people put out poison to
control them, which started dramatically decreasing their population.
What they didn’t realize was the effect this would have on species such as
the Black footed ferret. Now, there are about 10 million prairie dogs, a
decrease of 98%, and the Black footed ferrets are in danger.
2) The desert areas where the Black footed ferrets live in are being
demolished to build housing developments and businesses. This would
cause a lower carrying capacity for the remaining species in that
ecosystem, which could cause some species to exceed the carrying
capacity. This could cause another disaster in the ecosystem, such as the
one previously listed.
Carrying capacity helps us see if a species population is
more than the ecosystem can handle, or if it’s able to
sustain itself. As long as there is balance with the
ecosystem’s population everything should be able to
sustain itself. As you just read, if a population is over its
carrying capacity there can be devastating results. If a
species was overpopulated, disease can spread easily and
there wouldn’t be enough food to sustain all of them, so
many of them wouldn’t survive. If a species is endangered,
some species below it in the food chain could become
overpopulated, and that could endanger more than just
themselves. Balance is something necessary in an
ecosystem. Without it, more species could become
endangered, or even extinct.
Population Timeline
In the 1920’s it is believed that the population of the Black footed ferret may
have reached 800,000 to 1,000,000. From the 1960’s-1994, the population had
dramatically decreased and the species was considered endangered. In 1974 the
wild population actually did die out and in 1979 the last Black footed ferret in
captivity died, at which time the species was considered extinct. In 1981 the
ferrets were rediscovered and were taken into captivity to increase their
population. In 1987 there were only 18 recorded in the wild, and from 19962004 the Black footed ferret was once again considered extinct in the wild. Now
there are nearly 1,000 wild Black footed ferrets, but who knows what could
happen. Another disease could spread through the species, they could continue
to be effected by the poison, and their habitats could continue to be destroyed,
which would result in their destruction as well. The graph shows that their
population was very unstable, and that they might have thought that they had
the population under control, but then it plummets, nearly causing them to
become extinct. Yes, the population continues to grow yearly now, but in the
1920’s there was estimated to be around 1 million! You can never take nature
for granted, which is why we have to continue being pro-active, and stop the
Black footed ferrets from facing extinction for a third time. Please consider what
you can do to help, before it’s too late.
Think About It…
• What would the long term effect be if the Black footed
ferrets became extinct?
• Each ferret eats over 100 prairie dogs a year, do you think
that their carrying capacity could be exceeded eventually
without them?
• What other species are we endangering by “taking care” of
overpopulated animals and destroying their habitats?
• When will we stop taking out forests, meadows, grasslands,
etc… to build more houses and buildings?
• How much are we doing without thinking about the
outcome of our decisions?
• Are we really helping nature as much as we think we are?
Causes of Endangerment
• The prairie dog’s population has dramatically
decreased, and since they make up nearly 91% of
the Black footed ferret’s diet, this is something
that shouldn’t be overlooked.
• The poisoning that is used to control the
population of the prairie dogs, whose population
should be higher, is killing off many of the ferrets.
• Also, the land where the ferrets live is being used
for construction and other purposes, instead of
letting the animals inhabit the area.
There are several ways that we could ensure the preservation of the
Black footed ferret.
• My first proposal, is that there should be a law against the use of
poison to control the prairie dogs. Since the prairie dogs are 91% of
the ferret’s diet, they are greatly impacted by the poison.
• Another proposal is that we preserve more desert areas for the ferrets
to live in. So much of their habitat is being demolished for building
purposes, and this isn’t benefiting the ferrets, or any other species
who live in that ecosystem. I know that you can’t reverse the building
process to give them more land, but you can preserve the land that is
still available.
• My last proposal for you is to find more locations where the ferrets
could live, if the land where they currently dwell is needed. Couldn’t
we build somewhere other than where prairie dogs and Black footed
ferrets inhabit? Or if that location must be used, rescue the ferrets
and let them continue to breed and populate in another area, such as a
rescue center or zoo until they can be relocated in the wild.
"Black Footed Ferret." Endangered Animals - Rare, Threatened and Endangered
Animals & Mammals. 25 Sept. 2005. Web. 04 Nov. 2011.
"Timeline." Blackfootedferret.org. Web. 04 Nov. 2011.
"Black-footed Ferret an Endangered Species." Endangered Species and Endangered
Animals at Bagheera. Web. 04 Nov. 2011. http://www.bagheera.com
"Petition to Classify 3 Reintroduced Black-footed Ferret (Mustela Nigripes)
Populations as Endangered." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home. Web. 04 Nov.
2011. http://www.fws.gov
"Black Footed Ferrets." Prairiewildlife.org. Web. 04 Nov. 2011.
World Wildlife Fund - Wildlife Conservation, Endangered Species Conservation.
Web. 04 Nov. 2011. http://www.worldwildlife.org
"Black-footed Ferret." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 04 Nov. 2011.
"Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Facts." Defenders of Wildlife - Protection of Endangered
Species, Imperiled Species, Habitats. Web. 04 Nov. 2011.

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