Rare black-footed ferrets settle into the Black Hills
HOT SPRINGS S.D. – Wind Cave National Park got some furry new occupants last Thursday; 29 black-footed ferrets were released into their new home.
The ferrets were raised at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in northern Colorado. These new additions will add to the park’s already estimated ferret population of 18-20 animals.
Black-footed ferrets are considered one of the rarest animals in North America. Thought to be extinct in 1981 a population was discovered on a Wyoming ranch. Since then the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has worked hard to bring the population back from near extinction and reintroduced them across the west.
“Our goal is to augment the population and enhance the genetics of the black-footed ferret population that has existed in the park since the original 2007 reintroduction,” said Park Superintendent Vidal Dávila. “Wind Cave National Park has a long history of reintroducing animals, beginning in 1913 with 14 bison.”
Crews will be performing spotlight surveys to monitor the newly released ferrets. They will also capture the existing natural population of ferrets to implant them for microchips for identification, check for fleas, and vaccinate for canine distemper and plague. After treating the ferrets, they will then be released back into the wild.