Loss of prarie dogs contributed to loss of black-footed ferrets

To the Editor:

I would like to clear up a few points concerning the discussion of the black-footed ferret in the article on endangered species in the Dec. 3 Daily Press.

First, the black-footed ferret was not killed in large numbers by poisons intended for prairie dogs. Of course, some ferrets were killed by direct poisoning, but it was the killing of the prairie dogs themselves in large numbers that led to the near extinction of the ferret. The black-footed ferret is totally dependent on prairie dogs and their vast systems of burrows for survival. It is estimated that there were between 100 million and 250 million acres of prairie dogs throughout the Great Plains and parts of the intermountain west in the early 1900s.

Presently, there are about 1.5 million acres of prairie dogs. With the loss of over 98 percent of the prairie dogs during the 20th Century, it is easy to see why the black-footed ferret is endangered.

Second, no ferrets have been released in BLM’s Little Snake Resource area. The only ferret releases in Colorado have taken place in BLM’s Wolf Creek Black-Footed Ferret Management Area where 134 ferrets have been re-introduced in the last three years. The Wolf Creek Management Area is located about 30 miles west of Maybell and is managed by the BLM’s White River Field Office in Meeker. BLM’s Little Snake Field Office also has a Black-Footed Ferret Management Area, but the prairie dog populations are not sufficient at this time to warrant reintroduction.

The Little Snake Field Office, however, operates and maintains a black-footed ferret breeding facility that has produced 134 animals since it’s inception in 1999.

Mike Albee,


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