More Black-Footed Ferrets Call Wind Cave National Park Home

U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee Tom Allen and National Park Service ranger Mary Laycock prepare to release the black-footed ferret hiding in the black tube. NPS photo by Mike Laycock.

Another dozen black-footed ferrets now call Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota home, the result of plague preventing their release elsewhere in the West.

Park officials say the ferrets -- seven males and five females -- were bred in captivity at the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center in northern Colorado.

The park did not say where the 12 ferrets originally were proposed to be set free, but noted that outbreaks of sylvatic plague decimated those areas’ prairie dog
populations, the ferret’s main food source.

“We are happy to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help preserve this rare animal,” said park Superintendent Vidal Davila. “These animals will be a welcome addition to the park’s established ferret population.”

The park’s black-footed ferret population was estimated to be around 35-40 animals prior to this release. Considered one of the rarest land mammals in North America, these animals, members of the weasel family, typically only live two to three years in the wild. Forty-nine animals were set free in the park in 2007.