Colorado-Utah Black-Footed Ferret Project
The Colorado/Utah black-footed ferret recovery program is a cooperative effort between state and federal agencies in Colorado and Utah. The long term goal is to develop and maintain a self sustaining population of black-footed ferrets within both Colorado and Utah.
The recovery program began in 1998 with the arrival of 19 ferrets to Colorado. The ferrets were placed in large outdoor pens for pre-conditioning and breeding. Pre-conditioning is a “training” program that prepares black-footed ferrets for life in the wild. Ferrets are held in large pens (70 feet by 70 feet) that are built directly over prairie dog towns so that each pen has actual burrows. Using this design, ferrets can live in as natural an environment as possible for 30 to 60 days before being released into the wild. During that time, ferrets live in the burrows and are fed live prairie dogs. Research has shown that pre-conditioned ferrets have a much higher survival rate after release into the wild than non pre-conditioned ferrets.
A breeding program was initiated in 1999 and continued until 2003. During that time, a total of 134 kits were born and 73 of those survived to be released into the wild.
The first release of black-footed ferrets into the wild took place in 1999 when 72 were released into Coyote Basin, Utah, southeast of Vernal. The first release of ferrets into the wild in Colorado took place in 2001, when 43 ferrets were released into Wolf Creek, Colorado, northeast of Rangely.
From 1999 to the present, a total of 255 ferrets have been released into Utah and 189 ferrets have been released in Colorado. Reproduction was confirmed in Coyote Basin in the fall of 2000 and Wolf Creek’s first confirmation of a wild born kit took place in October of 2005.
Click here to view the Black-footed ferret photo gallery