Meeteetse – A large crowd gathered for the second release of rare predators on ranches near Meeteetse Monday night.
Last year’s release made history: it was the first time Black Footed Ferrets were back on the land there since they were discovered in 1981, when the animals were thought to be extinct.
Even biologists who admire these creatures describe them as vicious. Why? Because they kill prey, prairie dogs, often bigger than they are.
One young female released on the Pitchfork Monday turned inside her tube in a flash, then tried bite the handler, who is trying to get her to go into the prairie dog hole.
35 Black Footed ferrets were released on the Pitchfork last year, on the 35th anniversary of their discovery on the neighboring Hogg ranch.
The Ranch Owner, John Hogg’s daughter, Julie Hogg said, “I will never forget the look on Larry LeFrenchie’s face, the taxidermist.”
In a 2006 interview John Hogg recalled, “He said oh My God, you’ve got a, you’ve got a ferret!”
At that time, most biologists believed they were extinct.
Meeteetse is a very conservative ranching community, and many people here are not happy about the 1995 reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone, but, the little predators don’t seem to be controversial.
WY Game and Fish Non-Game Supervisor Zack Walker pointed out, “Meeteetse’s special in that the ferrets were re-discovered here. There’s a lot of public support in this area.”
And, in other parts of Wyoming?
He said, “They just don’t see them. They only come out at night, they only eat prairie dogs, which a lot of people would like to see the prairie dogs get eaten.”
A group from the Smithsonian donated thousands of dollars this year, to keep the ferret food healthy.
Smithsonian Ferret Researcher Paul Marinari explained, “We provide support and materials to our partners here in Meeteetse, who are working in the field trying to protect the habitat the black footed ferrets need
The owner of the Pitchfork, Lenox Baker, has supported the reintroduction, and the prairie dog research that supported it for years.”
Baker told the crowd on his ranch Monday, “Those of you who are worried about the land, this is all on easement by the Nature Conservancy, and so nothing’s going to happen up here.”
54% of the animals were counted two months after the first reintroduction, which means they knew how to find and kill food and could survive.
Next month, researchers will try to find ferret kits, which means the ferrets were able to reproduce.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides the ferrets they’ve bred for the reintroductions. They say the young ferrets have to prove they can kill a prairie dog before they are released.
More than a dozen ferrets were released Monday.