‘Don’t be fooled by those eyes. This little animal is wild and will ferociously defend itself when it feels threatened’
One of the United States’ most endangered animals was found making a new home inside a Colorado garage.
The black-footed ferret popped its head out between a planting pot and garden hose in the Pueblo West home a short distance from a nearby colony of the extremely rare mammals.
多于 120 black-footed ferrets have been released by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) on the Walker Ranch since 2013 as part of a conservation program to restore the mammal’s population in North America.
Black-footed ferrets were twice thought to be extinct before a small population of eight were found in Wyoming in 1981. All of the 600 remaining today are descended from those eight ferrets.
They are the only ferret species native to North America, and since 2013 the CPW has been releasing ferrets across Colorado to rebuild the population.
Nine ferrets were released on a 1,600-acre colony of prairie dogs, their main food source, at the ranch in late October. 不久之后, Colorado Parks and Wildlife received a call from Gary Walker saying one had turned up in his garage. It was confirmed to be one of those nine by a microchip implanted on its back.
“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.”
It is only the second time a black-footed ferret has left the colony at Walker Ranch, and the first that has attempted to establish a colony of its own in a garage.
“This is extremely rare,” Mr 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.”
The homeowner coaxed the shy but aggressive ferret into a box until CPW officers Cassidy English and Travis Sauder arrived to return it to the wild.
The pair hiked deep into the ranch in the middle of the night to release the black-footed ferret into a prairie dog burrow.
“Don’t be fooled by those eyes,” CPW said in a tweet showing video of the release. “This little animal is wild and will ferociously defend itself when it feels threatened, as @COParksWildlife officers found out during the release.”