Extensive literature review and 48 mammal collections containing recent speciments of the endangered black-footed ferret (Musela nigripes) are used to characterize historic distribution of species. Specimens (n = 120) were measured from eight collections to characterize black-footed ferret morphology and variation. Twenty-one pleistocene and Holocene faunas in North America show ferrets dating back to 100,000 yr B.P. Recent specimens (n = 412) indicate close association with the prairie dog (Cynomys spp.) and suggest ferrets may have been less rare than previously thought. At least 103 (25%) of all specimens were taken by federal predator and rodent control agents, and males outnumber females in collections 2.04:1. Average and extreme measurement for external, cranial, and postcranial dimensions are tabulated. Ferrets show a high degree of sexual dimorphism, with discriminant analysis correctly classifying 95% of all specimens to sex. Ferrets also exhibit north-south clinal variation in size, but they do not appear to exhibit variation based on species of Cynomys associate. The taxonimic relationship among ferrets and close relatives is described.
Anderson, Elaine; Forrest, Steven C.; Clark, Tim W.; and Richardson, Louise
"Paleobiology, biogeography, and systematics of the black-footed ferret, Mustela nigripes (Audubon and Bachman), 1851,"
Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs: Vol. 8
, Article 3.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/gbnm/vol8/iss1/3