18 black-footed ferrets on historic recovery site

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The small mammal that was once thought to be extinct was rediscovered in Wyoming 41 years ago. Photo from Wyoming Game and Fish website.

Wyo4news Staff, [email protected] [PRESS RELEASE]

CHEYENNE, WYOMING — Eighteen black-footed ferrets were released last week on the historic recovery site near Meeteetse. Twelve male and six female captive-born ferrets were coaxed into burrows in their new wildlands home. The small mammal that was once thought to be extinct was rediscovered in Wyoming 41 years ago. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been working on its recovery since then.

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Game and Fish and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the black-footed ferrets on private land. Partnerships with landowners in Wyoming have been key to the species recovery efforts.

“The Lazy BV and Pitchfork ranches are dedicated to black-footed ferrets and their success,” said Zack Walker, Game and Fish nongame supervisor. “Much of what we’ve been able to accomplish for ferrets at the Meeteetse recovery site is due to their considerable support, of which we’re grateful and appreciative.”

Game and Fish works to maintain at least 35 individuals at the Meeteetse recovery site, a baseline set by the USFWS. The new ferrets were released to help maintain populations. 

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Walker reported that ferrets are doing well, observed during summer surveys. The department routinely looks for ferrets in the late summer with spotlight surveys. During the nighttime surveys, biologists search the ground around known burrows with high-powered spotlights, looking for the green glow of a ferret’s distinctive eyeshine. When they see it, they attempt to catch the ferret at the burrow. 

“We saw an increased number of female ferrets on the landscape this year which is why more males were released,” Walker said.

Walker said Game and Fish will continue to carefully monitor the population. One concern is plague —  a common disease that impacts prairie dogs, the main food source for black-footed ferrets, as well as the ferrets themselves. Any wildborn ferrets captured are vaccinated against the disease, as well as distemper.

To learn more about the remarkable recovery story of black-footed ferrets, visit the Game and Fish website.

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