A Federally Endangered Black-footed Ferret on the Plains Photo Credit: Kerry Hargrove (iStock).

A black-footed ferret. Photo Credit: Kerry Hargrove (iStock).

Members of some Colorado prairie dog colonies should be worried about a new killer that's coming to town.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, a number of black-footed ferrets are being released into multiple prairie dog colonies around the state. Also called the polecat or the prairie dog hunter, approximately 90 percent of a black-footed ferret's diet consists of prairie dogs.

One spot the ferrets are being released is on the Walker Ranch in Pueblo County, which made the news days ago when a ferret from the ranch was found in a nearby garage.

While a tiny creature in a garage might not seem like a big deal, the black-footed ferret is actually the rarest mammal in North America, with only about 600 in existence on the entire planet.

This scarcity is a key reason why the release of more ferrets onto Walker Ranch is significant. Five ferrets were released at the location on November 19.

On November 17, 15 ferrets were released at another property called May Ranch, near Lamar. This established an entirely new colony.

With the species already thought to be extinct twice, rediscovered in 1981, these reintroduction efforts are crucial to reestablishing the species in the wild. Loss of habitat and disease has had a major impact on the species by limiting the availability of key food sources.

The black-footed ferret species was first reintroduced to Colorado in 2001, north of Rangely. Though that colony has since collapsed following a plague outbreak in 2010, less than 10 other sites now exist around the state.

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Director of Content and Operations

Spencer McKee is OutThere Colorado's Director of Content and Operations. In his spare time, Spencer loves to hike, rock climb, and trail run. He's on a mission to summit all 58 of Colorado's fourteeners and has already climbed more than half.


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