Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs


A vegetation inventory of current and historic black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes, BFF) habitat was completed in the 1983 growing season. White-tail prairie dog (Cynomys Leucurus) colonies near Meeteetse, Wyoming, provide the only known BFF habitat. Four other prairie dog complexes located in Wyoming, documented historic BFF habitat, were also inventoried. Prairie dog burrows occur in two of eight vegetation types present in the current BFF habitat study area. They are junegrass (Koeleria cristata) and sagebrush/junegrass (Artemisia tridentata/ K. cristata; maned for dominant species). In historic BFF habitat, prairie dog burrows occur in six vegetation types: birdfoot sagewort/western wheatgrass (Artemisia petadifida/Agropyron smithii), alkali sagebrush (Artemisia longiloba)/ mixed grass, Gardner saltbrush (Atriplex garneri)/ mixed grass, and thickspike wheatgrass-threadleaf sedge (Agropyron dasystachyum-Carex filifolia), mixed shrub/mixed grass, and Gardner saltbrush. Similarities among all five complexes are plant heights generally less than 66 cm, level to gently rolling topography, and severe disturbance due to historical grazing, vegetation manipulation, and other human-related activities. Of the vegetation parameters measured, only plant height appears to be important to white-tail prairie dog distribution. White-tail prairie dog colonies do not appear to depend on a particular vegetation type; consequently, vegetation type alone should not be used to identify BFF habitat.