Send to

Choose Destination
J Wildl Dis. 2014 Apr;50(2):340-3. doi: 10.7589/2013-03-048. Epub 2014 Feb 5.

Ectoparasites in black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) from the largest reintroduced population of the Conata Basin, South Dakota, USA.

Author information

1‚ÄČ Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607, USA.


The black-footed ferret, Mustela nigripes, is an endangered carnivore endemic to the grasslands of North America. We present the first investigation of ectoparasites associated with black-footed ferrets since reintroduction. We sampled more than 200 individuals from one of the largest and most successful reintroduced populations located in the Conata Basin of South Dakota, USA. We compared our findings with ectoparasite assemblages of sympatric carnivores and historic ferret records. We collected more than 1,000 ectoparasites consisting mainly of three flea and tick species, two of which were known historically from South Dakota. Despite our extensive sampling efforts, we did not detect any lice. This is notable because a putative host-specific louse, Neotrichodectes sp., was presumed to have gone extinct when black-footed ferrets were extirpated from the wild. The ectoparasite assemblage on black-footed ferrets comprised only generalist parasites, particularly those found on their prey such as prairie dogs (Cynomys sp.). Oropsylla hirsuta was the most abundant ectoparasite, representing 57% of all ectoparasites detected; a flea vector important in the persistence and transmission of plague. Black-footed ferrets like other endangered species undergo repeated parasite removal and vaccination efforts to facilitate population recovery, which may have unintentionally contributed to their depauperate ectoparasite community.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioOne
Loading ...
Support Center