One of North America’s Rarest Mammals Released into State Park by Colorado Wildlife Officials

by Megan Molseed
(Getty Images/NurPhoto / Contributor)

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials have announced some big news for a very rare animal species. This comes with the release of one of the rarest North American mammals onto a prairie dog colony in Colorado. This particular colony is located near John Martin State Park.

According to the reports, experts introduced 30 of the extremely rare black-footed ferrets earlier this week. And, they immediately settled into the prairie dog colony. Experts made this major move to help the ferrets continue to thrive in the wild. It also works well in balancing out the prairie dog population.

Experts Are Releasing the Rare North American Mammals to Feast on Area Prairie Dogs

The prairie dog colony in which experts are releasing the black-footed ferrets is located on the Southern Planes Preserve in Lamar, Colorado. This area boasts around 44,000 acres of wildlife. The black-footed ferret species is officially classified as being threatened, officials note. The ones let loose in the preserve were raised in a breeding facility by experts. These newly-wild animals come from the United Forest Service Fish and Wildlife.

According to officials speaking out on this exciting event, the release of the 30 black-footed ferrets is a “big day for wildlife conservation.”

The National Park Service says that prairie dogs make up an estimated 90 percent of the black-footed ferret’s diet. consequently, a robust prairie dog colony is crucial to the survival of these small predators. Good news for the ferrets now residing within this 44,000-acre Southern Planes Preserve. These ferrets will have a healthy source of food for quite a long time! Additionally, reports note that one ferret will feast on one prairie dog every three days. That means one ferret feeds on around 100 prairie-residing animals a year.

Doing the math, this means the colony of the rare North American mammals could feed on as many as 3,650 prairie dogs in this preserve. As a result of the release of these 30 black-footed ferrets.

The Prairie Dogs Almost Immediately Sensed A New Danger Was Headed Their Way

According to officials at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the resident prairie dogs sensed the presence of the new predator almost immediately. Some of the animals even sounded an alarm to warn the others. However, this did not sway the ferrets in the slightest, the officials note. The black-footed ferrets were “quick to spot their prey.”

This is the eighth placement of black-footed ferrets in Colorado’s Eastern Plains region, park officials note. A wonderful move considering it wasn’t all that long ago that these ferrets were so rare that many experts thought them to be extinct. Things changed fast, however, when in 1981 a small colony of the animals was discovered on a Wyoming ranch. Experts immediately began breeding as well as reintroduction efforts following this discovery. The Nature Conservancy notes that by 2021 the black-footed ferret numbers in the wild stood at around 300.