Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Black Footed Ferret Shows Evidence of a Comeback

For the New Year I thought it would be encouraging to share a cute video of a species that has been teetering on the brink of extinction, but is now showing signs of survival, the black-footed ferret.

I just think it is so exciting and promising to know that with intervention and care we can save our domestic species.

Take a second to watch the video, guaranteed to make you smile, and give you hope.

Black-footed ferret "dancing": This is a video of a young black-footed ferret "dancing" or playing by a reflector placed by his burrow. Video by David Jachowski / US Fish and Wildlife Service
    One of the ferrets spotted west of Mobridge earlier this year. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe / Submitted photo

    To learn more

    Comments on the proposal must be submitted by Jan. 18.

    • By mail:
    Kimberly Tamkun
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center
    Box 190
    Wellington, CO 80549-0190

    • By fax: 970-897-2732
    • By

    Ferret facts

    The black-footed ferret is a nocturnal animal with telltale black feet, face mask and tail-tip. It’s the only ferret species native to North America and one of the rarest mammals on the continent. Females are called jills, males are hobs and their young are kits. Some other facts:
    • Scientific name: Mustela nigripes
    • Weight: Up to 2.5 pounds
    • Length: 18 to 24 inches
    • Average litter size: 3.5
    • Primary prey: Prairie dogs
    • Average lifespan of a wild ferret: 1-3 years
    • Of a captive ferret: 4-6 years
    Endangered black-footed ferrets have been spotted outside of special management areas in South Dakota, raising hopes among officials at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that a new wild colony has been found.
    Biologists working with the tribe photographed an adult ferret and two juveniles during a series of nighttime surveys in prairie dog towns west of Mobridge. The ferrets first were spotted Halloween night.
    Barry Betts, biologist for the tribe, thinks this is the first sighting of a wild black-footed ferret since a colony was discovered in Meeteetse, Wyo., three decades ago.
    “It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “I’ve been in the business for 40 years, and this is only the second time in my life that I’ve ever seen a black-footed ferret.”
    The Wyoming ferrets provided the genetic material for an ongoing captive breeding program that has brought the animal — one of the rarest mammals in North America — back from the brink of extinction.
    But Pete Gober, coordinator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s national ferret recovery program, said it’s unlikely, after searching all these years, to have found the remnants of a long-lost colony.
    “We’re always encouraged by the possibility, but none of those have ever panned out,” he said.
    There are six reintroduction sites in South Dakota, and Gober says the Standing Rock ferrets probably migrated north from a release site on the Cheyenne River Reservation.
    Betts, who said he has agreed to disagree with Gober on this point, said the tribe will trap some of the ferrets and check for chips implanted in some captive animals. They’ll also draw blood to see whether the ferrets are part of the same genetic pool as the Meteetsee clan.
    If they end up being a truly wild colony — something Gober stressed is unlikely — the implications would be enormous: A new source of genetic material to diversify the ferret’s genome, giving the species a better chance of adapting and surviving in the wild.
    “It would put more cards in your hand. ... The more diverse your genetic material is, the more likely you are able to respond to natural challenges,” Gober said.

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