The black footed ferret is the only ferret known to be from North America. At one time there were some 1 million to 6 million that lived across the Great Plains. However in 1979 this species was declared to be officially extinct, after the last known colony had died five years earlier. Sadly this was the end of their story on this planet or so it was thought.

But then one day late in September, 1981 in what seemed to be an accidental event in Meeteetse, Wyoming, Lucille Hogg's dog brought home a dead black footed ferret and the extinct species was literally brought back from the grave. A search was made that found an empty prairie dog complex inhabited by the last few dozen Black footed ferrets on earth.

Wildlife officials decided to take a hands off approach and just guard the ferrets. This approach worked well and in just 2 years, their population doubled from 61 to 129 ferrets. However because this population had been so isolated, it's genetic diversity had become diminished up to 60 percent. So when the Sylvatic plague hit the population in 1985 it almost wiped the ferret out again. In a desperate attempt to save the ferrets, officials dusted the burrow with the insecticide Carbaryl to kill off the plague carrying fleas but the population was still reduced by 22 percent.

It was after this, that wildlife officials removed 11 adults and 2 litters to try to breed them in captivity in order to save the species. This approach turned out to be very successful and has provided a model on how to save other endangered animals. Before the captive bred ferrets are returned to the wild, they spend 30 days in what is known as "ferret boot camp" in order to acclimate them to the wild. Doing this has increased their survival by 10 percent.

Today in just 30 years from their rediscovery, the Black Footed ferret has reached a population of around 1,000 with four self-sustaining populations in South Dakota, Arizona and Wyoming. All thanks due to Lucille Hogg and her dog and countless and very dedicated conservationists across the country.

Photo: Kimberly Tamkun

Responses to "Black footed ferret brought back from Extinction"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh, how cool! Seems the marker has been newly placed and the ferret is not too sure of it! Welcome back and prayers of protection on the winds for you.

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