Environmental and prey-based factors underpinning variability in prairie dogs eaten by free-ranging black footed ferrets

Dierenfeld, E.S. ORCID: 0000-0001-7295-0740, Whitehouse-Tedd, K. ORCID: 0000-0003-0061-489X, Dermauw, V., Hanebury, L.R. and Biggins, D.E., 2021. Environmental and prey-based factors underpinning variability in prairie dogs eaten by free-ranging black footed ferrets. Ecosphere, 12 (1): e03316. ISSN 2150-8925

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The endangered black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripis) has been the focus of intensive captive breeding and reintroduction projects for several decades. To better understand nutritional provision during captivity, primary prey items (prairie dogs) of free-ranging black-footed ferret populations were sampled from 6 native habitat sites in Wyoming and Colorado over a one-year period. Morphometrics and nutritional analyses including proximate composition (water, crude fat, crude protein, ash), vitamins A and E, and select macro- and microminerals were conducted on black-tailed (BT, Cynomys ludovicianus, n=81) and white-tailed (WT, C. leucurus; n=58) prairie dogs. Stomach and intestinal contents were extracted and sampled separately from other carcass components. Multivariate linear modelling of data was used to determine the influence of environmental (season, site) and prey-based (species, age, sex) factors on prey nutritional composition. Seasonality impacted the nutrient profiles of prairie dogs as food for black footed ferrets, affecting carcass, stomach, and intestinal samples in most nutrients evaluated for both species. Carcass and subcutaneous fat concentrations were lowest in spring for both species compared with other seasons. Conversely, fat-soluble vitamin A in carcasses was highest in the spring for both species. Vitamin E was also highest in the spring for WT, but highest in the winter for BT,although no comparative winter data were available for the hibernating WT. Macronutrient composition did not differ between sexes for WT, but carcass fat was higher, hence protein lower, in female vs male BT. Age class and site-specific differences detected for some nutrients suggested possible underlying feeding ecology differences. Given the on-going concerns regarding ex-situ population sustainability.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Ecosphere
Creators: Dierenfeld, E.S., Whitehouse-Tedd, K., Dermauw, V., Hanebury, L.R. and Biggins, D.E.
Publisher: Ecological Society of America
Date: January 2021
Volume: 12
Number: 1
ISSN: 2150-8925
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 19 Aug 2020 07:53
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2022 13:04
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/40473

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