‘Rarest mammal in North America’: Black-footed ferret found in garage

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PUEBLO WEST, Colo. (KDVR) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers say an extremely rare black-footed ferret made a surprise appearance in a homeowners’ garage on Monday.

The ferret was found in the garage near the Walker Ranch, northwest of Denver, which is where CPW said they have been releasing black-footed ferrets on a prairie dog colony for what they said is a major conservation effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners to restore the rarest mammal in North America.

“This is extremely rare,” CPW conservation biologist Ed Schmal said. “Black-footed ferrets are nocturnal and extremely shy. For some reason, this one left the colony and was seeking shelter. We’re just glad it appeared healthy, not starving or sick, and we were able to capture it and return it to the colony.”

CPW said that since 2013, more than 120 black-footed ferrets have been released on the Walker Ranch by CPW biologists, who have invested extensive time and effort to monitor the colonies and distribute plague vaccine in hopes of protecting the black-footed ferrets and the prairie dogs, which is their primary source of food and shelter.

The ferret was reported to CPW on Monday night from a homeowner who lives near Walker Ranch. The homeowner said the ferret was in the garage, according to CPW.

CPW said that by the time officers Cassidy English and Travis Sauder arrived to the home, the homeowner had coaxed the ferret into a box.

English and Sauder quickly contacted CPW terrestrial biologists to confirm they, indeed, were holding an endangered black-footed ferret and to decide what to do with it, according to CPW.

CPW said that each black-footed ferret raised for release has a passive, integrated transponder microchip, which is a common internal microchip that contains identifying information that can be read with a scanning device.

Next CPW said English and Sauder contacted the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region and an officer responded with a portable scanner. The scanner was then able to confirm the ferret was one of the nine recently released.

CPW said photos of the ferret were sent to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services biologists who determined the ferret appeared healthy and could be taken back onto the prairie dog colony and re-released.

“We don’t know exactly why this black-footed ferret left the colony,” said Ed Schmal, CPW conservation biologist. “We put them into prairie dog burrows but they may not stay. Sometimes they scramble around the colony to find the right home. This one might have gotten pushed out by other ferrets and it went looking for a new home. We really don’t know.”

Schmal said CPW has only received one other report of a black-footed ferret leaving the ranch, but has never heard of a ferret entering a garage or similar structure.

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