PUEBLO COUNTY — Southern Colorado is part of the comeback for the endangered Black Footed Ferret.
"We're doing everything we can to give them a fighting chance out here," said Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Conservation Biologist, Ed Schmal, "There's a lot of threats, but these guys are resilient, they're strong and we have full faith, eventually, someday we'll have a wild producing population."
U.S. Fish and Wildlife, along with Colorado Parks and Wildlife are releasing ferrets back to the wild in west Pueblo County in November.
Around 40 years ago the native mammal to North America was believed extinct. Then a small population was discovered in Wyoming. Endangered species programs, including the one at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, banded together in breeding programs to bring Black-Footed Ferrets back to healthy numbers.
Ferrets bred in captivity are kept at a distance from humans to avoid domestication. When mature they go to transition centers where they live in large outdoor enclosures that simulate life in the wild.
"We make sure they learn those skills to help them improve their survival in the wild," said Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Black Footed Ferret Field Conservation Coordinator, Jeff Baughman.
When ready they get released to locations where there are large prairie dog populations because that is their natural prey.
The prairie of Pueblo County is one of the locations determined to be a good place to expand the Black Footed Ferret population. There have been previous releases here. Predators and disease shrink the numbers. Additional releases strengthen the population. The latest release was five male kits recently pushed out on their own by their mothers.