Nine black-footed ferrets were released into the wild recently, the latest success story in a remarkable conservation recovery. The release was part of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s efforts to bolster the endangered species’ non-captive population.
The nine ferrets were born at the Toronto Zoo in conjunction with its black-footed ferret conservation recovery program. The National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center equipped the animals for survival in the wild through a “pre-conditioning” phase lasting 30 days, a simulation of the prairie environment and food supply. After the ferrets successfully completed the trial, they were introduced into their new natural habitats.
“Release day is just the start of the journey for the land managers and the ferrets,” said CPW Species Conservation Coordinator Tina Jackson.
“We’re doing something good for the planet,” said Kimberly Fraser, Outreach Specialist for the NBFFCC. “It’s an honor and a privilege. We’re giving those ferrets the best chance they’ve got out there.”
These three reintroduction locations on Soapstone Natural Area and Meadow Springs Ranch were chosen for Tuesday’s release because of their robust prairie dog colonies and the strong public and private landowner partnerships with CPW. The City of Fort Collins has been an instrumental partner in the ferret conservation effort.
Jackson gave credit to the landowners willing to support black-footed ferrets on their property for their crucial, unique role in the conservation effort.
“It’s the sort of thing you dream about being involved with,” said Jackson. “It’s due to the amazing partnerships and people. We’re super proud Colorado is a big part of the recovery.”
After the ferrets are released, CPW monitors the species and manages their environment with the ultimate goal of a self-sustaining wild population.
Long thought extinct, black-footed ferrets were rediscovered in Wyoming in 1981. Through painstaking wildlife care and science, CPW began reintroduction efforts of North America’s only native ferret species in 2001. More than 500 have now been released into the Colorado wild.