Black-footed Ferret Closeup

Black-footed Ferret ready for relocation to the wild, National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center, Colorado

I stumbled upon this image during a recent hard drive treasure hunt. In 2006, I was working on my Prairie Thunder book and asked for permission from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to photograph at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center north of Fort Collins. At the time, there were no ferrets in the wild on the Colorado plains. There still aren’t. In fact, there is only one ferret living in the wild in the state – he’s up around Dinosaur in the northwest corner. There are around 800 or so wild ferrets in North America and only one prairie dog complex larger than 10,000 acres remains. It seems unlikely that their status as North America’s most endangered mammal will change anytime soon.

While photographing the ferrets, I forgot about all of those serious conservation concerns for a couple of hours and just enjoyed these gregarious, playful, beautiful animals. It’s still a highlight of my conservation work. As I was preparing the leave, the ferrets I had been photographing were trapped in preparation for relocation to priairie dog complexes from Chihuahua, Mexico to Shirley Basin, WY.

5 thoughts on “Black-footed Ferret Closeup

  1. Nice shot, Dave! Do you have any more details you can share or point me towards on the lonely ferret up by Dinosaur? That’s a new one on me, and I’m always trying to add to my Dinosaur knowledge for my river guide work.

    1. Hey Jackson thanks. All but one ferret plagued out and he’s near Vermillion Creek. So, he’s not in Dinosaur Park, but all of that country is part of the Dinosaur complex. I’ll let you know if I learn more. I’d love to talk to you about floating the Green through Gates of Lodore, that would be a great trip for Marla and me!

  2. Hello,
    I am wondering if there are any other species of small weasel that live on the Eastern Plains of Colorado? I saw a very distinct weasel run across my street on my way home a bit ago, and I’d like to know what he was. I’m used to seeing Kangaroo Rats, Prairie Dogs, rabbits of all variety, Burrowing Owls, but this was most defiantly a weasel. Approximately 10″ long with a 2″ tail and light colored. I appreciate any insight you might have.

    1. Hi Emily,
      Thanks for the question – it always gets my heart racing to think about how much things would change if a new black-footed ferret population was discovered. All of the BFF’s in existence today came from Meteetsee, WY and were bred from 7 individuals. A new discovery would open up the genetic bottleneck and go a long way towards saving the species – which isn’t even close to being out of the woods because the large prairie dog complexes have disappeared.

      The key questions are: 1. Did you see the weasel near an area with a large prairie dog population? 2. Was it yellowish brown in color? (could be cream colored) 3. More importantly, did he have a black “mask” on his face? 4. What time of day was it? I realize that you only saw the animal briefly and it’s tough to look for specific markings. Ferrets are mostly nocturnal and eat prairie dogs almost exclusively. It’s likely that you saw a long-tailed weasel, but I’ve talked to the US Fish and Wildlife Service about this type of possible sighting, and they are very serious about checking them out. If you answered yes to 1 and 3, I’d say we need to take a very serious look and I would love to talk to you about it further. By the way, where do you live (general area)?

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