Once thought extinct, black-footed ferrets rebound

AP News
Posted: Sep 25, 2011 11:01 AM
Once thought extinct, black-footed ferrets rebound

The only ferret species native to North America is well on its way to recovery since biologists concluded the creatures went extinct in 1979.

Thirty years ago this month, a ranch dog named Shep killed a black-footed ferret near Meeteetse (me-TEET'-see) in northwest Wyoming.

Shep's owner found the dead ferret. Word got out and it didn't take long for biologists to find about 100 black-footed ferrets living on a nearby ranch.

A federal captive breeding program has helped to re-establish about 1,000 black-footed ferrets in eight Western states, Canada and Mexico.

Black-footed ferrets are predators that prey exclusively on prairie dogs. Ranchers continue to aggressively poison and shoot prairie dogs on their land. Plague outbreaks also have taken a severe toll on prairie dogs over the past century.