Native Village
Youth and Education news
 Volume 3  February 2011

Black-footed Ferrets Find a New Home
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Montana:  Black-footed ferrets are among the most endangered animals in North America.  Fewer than 1,000 live in the wild. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe is helping bring the ferrets back from the brink.

Recently, Northern Cheyenne tribal member, biologists, and students  released thirteen black-footed ferret kits on their reservation. The kits had just arrived from the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado, which breeds them in captivity.

The Northern Cheyenne began reintroducing black-footed ferrets in 2008. This was the third group of kits set free near a prairie dog town. Ferrets feed on prairie dogs and live in prairie dog burrows. The decline of prairie dogs is one reason the ferrets have become endangered. 

As part of the release efforts, Tribal authorities have outlawed all prairie dog shootings and poisonings on 10,000 acres of land. Defenders of Wildlife has donated $10,000 to assist with these efforts.

There is one catch to releasing black-foot ferrets: sylvatic plague.  Sylvatic plague struck many of Northern Cheyenne’s prairie dog towns last year.  Prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets have no immunities to this exotic disease. But the tribe fought back by dusting prairie dog burrows to kill the fleas that carry plague.

It seemed to work, and now black-footed ferret restoration continues.

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