Ferret Return Successful

Meeteetse – A rare mammal species was returned to Meeteetse this summer. Black Footed Ferrets were discovered there in 1981, when biologists thought they were extinct. Wyoming’s Game and Fish biologists are looking for the ferrets there now, to determine if they survived.
A ferret’s bark hasn’t been heard on the Pitchfork and Hogg ranches since the mid-eighties, when all of the remaining wild Black Footed Ferrets were trapped and put in breeding facilities. Only 18 ferrets were left.
Although ferrets were reintroduced to 24 other sites in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, it literally took a federal law, and years of research to bring the little predators back here this summer.
Wyoming Game and Fish researchers used an experimental vaccine loaded peanut butter bait to slow down the plague, which had wiped out the ferrets favorite food: prairie dogs.
And, the new federal 10J rule that protected ranchers and their neighbors from punishment cleared the legal hurdles, so ranchers Lenox Baker, and Alan Hogg could volunteer.
On July 27th, townspeople applauded their return, and the Hogg family got the honor of releasing the first ferret back on the land where they were discovered in 1981.
But, the 35 ferrets released here were just kits. They had never lived in the wild. Many ferrets die after reintroduction.
So, six Game and Fish Teams have been searching for the ferrets at night since last week. The ferrets are only active after dark, so it takes hours of driving, scanning the ground with a spotlight.
It was our team that spotted the blue green eye reflection, peering out of a prairie dog hole. And, the bold little predator kept looking out even after the team got closer. Wyoming’s non game mammal biologist Nichole Bjornlie and her husband Dan, who is a grizzly bear biologist, set the trap, and plugged nearby holes.
In less than an hour, the ferret was caught in the trap. The biologists marked it, and confirmed its identity by electronically scanning it.
Nichole Bjornlie explained, “Because these ferrets are all captive born they all have pit tags, which we use for unique identification.”
Bjornlie says they’ve found more than a dozen ferrets in one week, bringing the ecosystem full circle.
She commented, “This is a predator that has been missing from this ecosystem for quite awhile, so its really exciting to have it back here.”
And, Kristine Hogg was more than excited to see the ferrets back on the family ranch, 30 years after she last saw them here.
She said, “Two months ago, we turned them loose. And all I could think is, ‘I hope they make it. I hope they make it’. So to see one is awesome.”



 
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