Fourteen black-footed ferrets were released Friday on the Lazy BV and Pitchfork Ranches, outside Meeteetse, Wyoming. This cohort is the third and final group of ferrets released on the historical landscape as part of the black-footed ferret reintroduction efforts. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the owners of two ranches have released a total of 64 ferrets since 2016 on the location they were rediscovered in 1981.
The reintroduced ferrets took well to the land over the past two years, and surveys last year showed the mammals reproducing in the wild. These 14 ferrets are the last planned release to help a self-sustaining population.
“We’ve had natural reproduction in Meeteetse, which is heartening and exciting since reproduction usually doesn’t happen this quickly,” said Zack Walker, Game and Fish nongame supervisor. “We will continue to carefully monitor the population and expect to continue to see growth.”
Game and Fish is currently doing eyeshine surveys in both Meeteetse and Shirley Basin, another historic ferret location, to estimate the state’s population. The objective is to maintain at least 35 individuals at the Meeteetse recovery site. During the survey, any young wild ferrets that are captured will be vaccinated for distemper and plague.
Walker says as the years continue, the Meeteetse ferrets will remain an important population. “If numbers start to get low, we will release more to help bolster the population,” he said.
Black-footed ferrets are one of the most endangered mammals in North America, but have successfully been reintroduced to the wild thanks to captive breeding efforts.