1 Introduction</h5> Specialization is a strong predictor of extinction risk ( McKinney, 1997 ). Dietary specialists, in particular, can be especially susceptible to population declines and extinction ( Boyles and Storm, 2007 ). However, even for some of the most endangered and vulnerable species, quantitative assessments of diet and foraging ecology are lacking and the degree of dietary specialization is assumed even though such information can enhance conservation by improving prioritization of resources or effort, informing re-introduction programs, and guiding habitat management.</P>Black-footed ferrets ( Mustela nigripes ; hereafter ferrets) are widely regarded as both a habitat ( Eads et al., 2011 ) and dietary ( Powell et al., 1985 ) specialist of prairie dogs ( Cynomys spp.). Due to their obligate association with prairie dogs across their distributional range, the near extinction of ferrets has been principally linked with agricultural land conversion and associated prairie dog control efforts, and the arrival of an exotic bacterial disease, plague ( Lockhart et al. 2006 ). Since their reintroduction into the wild, research has revealed new insight into fundamental aspects of ferret biology, including life history strategies, population dynamics ( Grenier et al., 2007, 2009 ), and habitat selection ( Eads
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Jan 1, 2014
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