Black-footed ferrets, North America's rarest mammal, exposed in Colorado game | MCU Times

Black-footed ferrets, North America’s rarest mammal, exposed in Colorado game

LARAMER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) – The black-footed ferret is widely considered the most endangered animal in North America with less than 500 in the wild today.

On Friday, that number grew by a few as Colorado Parks and Wildlife put five ferrets out in the Larimer County prairie.

“I will admit that I still get goosebumps every now and then,” said Tina Jackson, a species conservation coordinator for CPW. “And part of it is that we thought they were extinct at some point.”

CPW is leading an indictment to reintroduce the ferrets to their native Colorado habitat.

In the 1970s, ferrets were long thought to be extinct from North America until a dog found one on a farm in rural Wyoming.

“It’s a great story,” Jackson said. “The ranch dog brought this animal back to the house, and the owners said, ‘What is this?'”

Wildlife officials were able to track the ferret to a small colony that was fast disappearing. They caught a handful to breed in captivity.

Fast forward to today and CPW celebrates its 500th ferret reintroduced into the wild.

It is unclear how many of them are still alive as the ferrets are extremely difficult to monitor.

“They are very secretive animals, so they are very difficult to monitor,” Jackson said. “They live underground, they come out at night – those are all tough things for us.”

Friday’s reintroduction took place in the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area near the border with Wyoming, where Fort Collins ecologists have seen success with the ferrets over the past few years.

“We’ve had wild-born kit reproduction there, so that means we’ve made reintroductions in that place, and there have been animals that have stuck and reproduced, and that’s what we’re after,” said wildlife ecologist Aran Meyer. . .

The ferrets feed primarily on prairie dogs and live in the same cave systems as their prey.

“As the prairie dogs go, so do the ferrets,” Meyer said.

CPW hopes to continue to reintroduce the ferrets throughout the state and restore at least a piece of Colorado’s former landscape.

“They’re here for a reason,” Jackson said. “This is a piece of the prairie landscape that should be out there.”

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