Do Ferrets Eat Prairie Dogs? Ferret Food in The Wild

Ferrets are domestic pets. Among different ferret species, black-footed ferrets are often seen in their natural habitats. They are native to North America. However, you may wonder do ferrets eat prairie dogs as food intake for survival in the nature?

Black-footed ferrets depend on prey for their survival. They usually prey on small mammals like rabbits, birds, and mice. They also eat prairie dogs to survive in the wild.

Prairie dogs are also native to North America. So these ferrets usually prey on these animals and sustain the ecosystem.

Do Ferrets Eat Prairie Dogs?

Do Ferrets Eat Prairie Dogs

Ferrets are carnivorous animals, and their diet primarily consists of meat. They are natural hunters and their prey usually includes small mammals.

Ferret’s diet in the domestic environment is typically provided and monitored by their owners. But in the wild, ferrets need to depend on their prey to survive.

When a black-footed ferret comes across a prairie dog, potentially it tries to hunt it. Actually, they are also called prairie dog hunters. About 90% of their diet is about prairie dogs.

Black-footed ferrets are about 18 to 24 inches (46 to 61 centimeters) long and prairie dogs are about 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) long. So these ferrets can easily catch and eat them.

Ferrets need a large quantity of food to support their high metabolic rate. For this reason, they usually eat one prairie dog in three or four days. In a year, ferrets can eat up to 100 prairie dogs. To fulfill the remaining diet, ferrets eat mice, rats, rabbits, etc.

Can Ferret and Prairie Dog Both Survive Together in the Wild?

Both black-footed ferrets and prairie dogs are cousins to squirrels. But sometimes it hurts that one animal has to survive on other lives.

According to scientists, one ferret family needs 250 prairie dogs a year. So they would need access to more than 10,000 acres of prairie dog habitat.

However, the sad reality is that suitable habitats for these ferrets have significantly dwindled over the years. Today, only a few scattered patches of prairie dog colonies remain that could potentially meet this requirement.

This poses a serious threat to the survival of the black-footed ferret, a species highly dependent on prairie dogs for sustenance. But it’s not just the ferrets that are at risk; the existence of prairie dogs themselves is also in jeopardy.

The plight of prairie dogs extends beyond just ferret predation. They face threats from a variety of predators, including coyotes, bobcats, badgers, golden eagles, and prairie falcons. It’s a tough world out there for the prairie dog community, with dangers lurking around every corner.

But if that weren’t enough, there’s another formidable foe they must contend with: disease. The bubonic plague, a historical scourge that originated from rats aboard European ships in the 1800s, found its way to North America and wreaked havoc among wild mammal populations, including black-tailed prairie dogs in the northern Great Plains.

Due to habitat loss and human interference, prairie dog colonies have shrunk to less than 5% of their original range. Some humans have resorted to poisoning or shooting them, further exacerbating the problem.

In response to this crisis, Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation organization dedicated to protecting native species and their habitats, along with various conservation partners, took action.

Black-Footed Ferrets vs Domestic Ferrets: Diet Differences

Black-Footed Ferrets and Domestic Ferrets may look similar, but they have distinct differences in their diet preferences.

Both types of ferrets are typically carnivores. The domestic ferret, however, relies on commercially available ferret food that is formulated specifically for its nutritional requirements. This diet usually includes a mixture of high-quality meat, such as chicken or turkey, along with other essential nutrients and vitamins.

On the other hand, the diet of Black-Footed Ferrets in the wild primarily consists of prairie dogs. Prairie dogs make up the majority portion of their diet, while the remaining consists of other small rodents like ground squirrels and mice.

Black-Footed Ferrets are highly specialized predators of prairie dogs and rely on them as their main source of food.

Can Domestic Ferrets Eat Prairie Dogs?

When it comes to the diet of domestic ferrets, pet owners provide them with a balanced and nutritionally appropriate meal plan.

Feeding a domestic ferret a prairie dog would not provide them with the necessary nutrients they need to stay healthy and can potentially lead to nutritional deficiencies or gastrointestinal issues.

Domestic ferrets should not be given a diet of prairie dogs or any other live prey. Their nutritional needs are best met through commercially available ferret food.

On the contrary, black-Footed Ferrets have a specialized diet that primarily consists of prairie dogs. Everyone should respect and protect these endangered species by not interfering with their natural diet and habitat.

To ensure your domestic ferret receives optimal nutrition, feed them a commercially prepared ferret food that is specifically formulated to meet their nutritional requirements. These specialized ferret diets typically consist of high-quality animal-based proteins and fats, as well as essential vitamins and minerals.

Moreover, it is illegal to prey prairie dogs in the wild. You better skip this to avoid any legal case. 

Can Domestic Ferrets Live In The Wild?

The domestic ferret is a subspecies of the European polecat. While domestic ferrets have been bred in captivity for centuries, they are not able to survive in the wild as their domestication has led to significant changes in their behavior and physical attributes.

Domestic ferrets have been selectively bred for traits such as their docile temperament, petite size, and coat colors, which differ from their wild counterparts. These changes have made them ill-equipped to survive in a natural environment where they would have to compete for resources and defend themselves against predators.

In terms of behavior, domestic ferrets have lost many of the survival instincts that their wild ancestors possess. For example, they may lack hunting skills and struggle to locate food sources in the wild.

Furthermore, they have become reliant on humans for shelter, food, and companionship, and may not possess the necessary skills to establish their own territory or find suitable shelter.

Physically, domestic ferrets have also undergone changes that make them unsuited for life in the wild. Their size, shape, and fur patterns have been altered through selective breeding, which could hinder their ability to adapt to natural environments.

Moreover, their dependence on human care may have weakened their immune system, making them more susceptible to diseases and parasites that wild ferrets are better equipped to handle.

While it is technically possible for a domestic ferret to be released into the wild, it will be unethical and potentially harmful to the animal. Without the necessary skills and adaptations, domestic ferrets would likely struggle to survive and face numerous threats in their new environment.

It is always recommended to keep domestic ferrets as pets in a controlled and safe environment where their needs can be properly met. If any ferrets get out of their cages and escape into the environment, then you should contact local animal control. Upon catching the ferret, it will be given up for adoption.


Ferrets are natural hunters. So they eat prairie dogs in the wild. But it is not a common occurrence and not a part of their regular diet as domesticated pets.

However, the feeding behavior of ferrets can vary depending on factors such as their diet, habitat, and individual preferences.