Cute Critter in Colorado Garage Turns Out to be Endangered

Extremely rare black-footed ferret was returned to habitat
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 15, 2021 4:03 PM CST
Cute Critter in Colorado Garage Turns Out to be Endangered
File photo of a black-footed ferret peeking out of a prairie dog burrow.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

One of the rarest animals in North America turned up in a Colorado garage. Black-footed ferrets were once thought to be extinct until a colony was found in Wyoming in 1981, and scientists have been working on helping them thrive. They successfully cloned one earlier this year. They've also been trying to breed them in captivity and release them in the wild, and it was one of those critters that turned up in Reese Nettle’s garage in Pueblo. Nettles shut the garage door thinking he'd cornered a neighbor’s runaway pet, the Pueblo Chieftain reports. He also sent a pic of the critter to his friend Kris Gard, who happens to be a ranger at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Gard recognized it as an endangered species.

Gard suspected the cutie in the garage might be one of the ferrets US Fish and Wildlife had released at a nearby ranch in an effort to repopulate the area. A scan for a microchip showed it had indeed wandered away from its new home, past predatory birds, and into Nettles’ garage. After pausing reintroduction efforts because of COVID, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials started releasing animals into prairie dog colonies, including this one a couple weeks ago. Biologists lured the ferret into a box, and, per a press release from CPW, went on an after-dark hike back to a prairie dog colony on a private ranch and turned it loose again. Ed Schmal, a conservation biologist with CPW says it’s very rare to run across a black-footed ferret, especially in a suburban garage. "We're just glad it appeared healthy, not starving or sick, and we were able to capture it and return it to the colony," Schmal says. (More uplifting news stories.)

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