We investigated postbreeding resource selection by adult black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) on a 452-ha black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) colony in the Conata Basin of South Dakota during 2007–2008. We used resource selection functions (RSFs) to evaluate relationships between numbers of ferret locations and numbers of prairie dog burrow openings (total or active), distances to colony edges, and connectivity of patches of burrow openings. In both years ferrets selected areas near edges of the prairie dog colony where active burrow openings were abundant. In the interior of the colony ferrets selected areas with low abundance of active burrow openings. At times, prairie dog productivity (i.e., pup abundance) might be greatest at colony edges often characterized by grasses; ferrets are likely to select areas where refuge and vulnerable prey are abundant. Ferrets could have used interior areas with few active burrow openings as corridors between edge areas with many active burrow openings. Also, in areas with few active burrow openings ferrets spend more time aboveground during movements and, thus, are likely to be more easily detected. These results complement previous studies demonstrating importance of refuge and prey in fine-scale resource selection by ferrets and provide insight into factors that might influence edge effects on ferret space use. Conservation and restoration of colonies with areas with high densities of burrow openings and prairie dogs, and corridors between such areas, are needed for continued recovery of the black-footed ferret. RSFs could complement coarse-scale habitat evaluations by providing finer-scale assessments of habitat for the black-footed ferret.
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Vol. 92 • No. 4