PUEBLO WEST — Homeowners Gary and Georgia Walker found a rare surprise Monday, a black-footed ferret who had wandered into their garage.
These ferrets are "nocturnal and extremely shy" according to Ed Schmal, a conservation biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. CPW officials don't know why he left his burrow and took up a brief residence in a garage, but the ferret "might have gotten pushed out by other ferrets and it went looking for a new home," said Schmal.
Black-footed ferrets are a highly endangered species, and they were once thought to be globally extinct, according to the World Wildlife Foundations.
Starting in 2013, CPW began releasing black-footed ferrests on the Walker Ranch. This effort is being made in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners to try and restore the population of the rarest mammal in North America.
So far 120 black-footed ferrets have been released, and CPW biologists have spent extensive time and effort to keep track of the fledgeling colonies on Walker Ranch. This includes distributing plague vaccines to to the animals and their prairie dog neighbors.
The efforts to reintroduce them to the wild were paused due to concerns about exposing the ferrets to COVID-19, but they recently resumed, and two weeks ago a group of nine ferrets were set free. They were released to a 1,600 acre prairie dog colony south of U.S. Highway 50.
On Monday, the escaped ferret was found, and the Walkers called CPW about the ferret in their garage. The homeowner took a little initiative, and when officials arrived they found the ferret had been coaxed into a box.
Cassidy English and Travis Sauder, the CPW officers who responded, contacted terrestrial biologists in the department and confirmed that it was a black-footed ferret.
All of the ferrets released contain microchips between their shoulder blades, and the Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region was able to confirm the ferret was one of the 9 recently released.
After USFWS officials determined the ferret was healthy, they were able to take it back to the prairie dog colony. Hopefully the other ferrets and prairie dogs will be nicer this time.
Schmal says this is a unique case, and that CPW has never heard of a ferret entering the garage or a similar structure.
If by some chance this happens to you, you can contact CPW and they will help return the ferret to its home.