It wasn't so long ago that staff at the Museum had to
contemplate putting our specimens of Black-footed
Ferrets (BFFs) into the "extinct critters" cabinet alongside
Passenger Pigeons, Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, and Carolina
Parakeets. Never numerous, but widespread where there were
Dog colonies, the ferret's population nose-dived in the middle
of the 20th Century. A main contributor to the
devastation of BFF numbers was the severely reduced large colonies
of Prairie Dogs due to eradication and to plague
infestations. By the mid-1970's, a poster was put out with a
call to find a live ferret; the fear was they were all dead, and
headed for a page in the book of recent extinctions.
But due to a stroke of good fortune, a lone, last family of BFFs
was discovered near Meeteetse,
Wyoming in September 1981. Using the members of this one family
of ferrets, a multi-agency/conservation organization effort
recovery program was initiated that is headquartered in Wellington,
Colorado. Captive breeding facilities provide animals for
release sites in 8 states in the U.S. as well as in Mexico.
For more information on the program, visit the Black-footed
Ferret Recovery Program website.
DMNS has historical specimens of BFFs in our collections,
including some that may surprise residents of the Denver
metropolitan area. Once, the BFF occurred up and down the
Front Range: we have a specimen from Adams County dated to 1916,
and one from Park Hill (the Museum's neighborhood) in Denver dated
at 1912. BFFs need around 8,000 acres of Prairie Dogs to
establish a viable population, so there must have been large
colonies of Prairie Dogs here in the past.
USF&WS transferred two BFFs to the Museum; one of these,
above, may be seen on display in the North American Mammals
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