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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

October 1, 1998

Sue Moyer 970-243-2778
Diane Katzenberger 303-236-7917 ext 408


Black-footed Ferret Reintroduction Scheduled for Northwestern Colorado

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that a final rule will be published today in the Federal Register allowing endangered black-footed ferret kits and adults to be reintroduced in Colorado this fall under a nonessential experimental population designation. A non-essential experimental population is one whose loss would not likely affect overall survival of the species.

"One reason for pursuing the nonessential experimental designation is to provide greater latitude in managing the ferrets," said Ralph Morgenweck, Director of the Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. "It will allow the Service the opportunity to meet established black-footed ferret recovery objectives while allowing ongoing land uses."

The release site is located in Moffat County within the Bureau of Land Management’s Little Snake Resource Area, in the vicinity of the communities of Powder Wash and Maybell.

Twenty ferrets will be placed in acclimation pens this November allowing them to become accustomed to release-site conditions increasing their chances of survival. After about a year of pre-conditioning, the ferrets will be released into the wild.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes its many partners including Federal and state agencies, zoos, and private partners who have made significant contributions to the successful captive breeding of the black-footed ferret and reintroduction efforts," said Morgenweck. "With the continued support of the Bureau of Land Management as joint-partner in this effort, we continue to move closer to our recovery goals."

Management plans to guide the reintroduction were developed by local work groups that included representatives from State and Federal agencies; local governments; oil, gas, and mining industries; outdoor recreation; and ranching.

The black-footed ferret is an endangered species and there are no known wild populations other than those that have been reintroduced. Reintroduction of other nonessential experimental populations of black-footed ferrets have occurred in Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, and Arizona. To date, several hundred ferrets are believed to exist at these reintroduction sites.

The black-footed ferret, the most endangered mammal in North America, is a small weasel-like animal which once lived across the western United States in "towns" occupied by prairie dogs,

its main food source. The ferret declined for several reasons, including the conversion of its grassland habitat to farmland, large scale eradication of prairie dogs that were believed to compete for forage with domestic livestock, and the reduction of prairie dog populations by sylvatic plague, an introduced disease to which this species has little immunity. Studies show an estimated 98 percent of the prairie dog communities where ferrets once thrived have been eliminated.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprising more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

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