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Black-footed Ferret

For #EndangeredSpeciesDay – North America’s rarest animal

The Black-footed Ferret is a rarity on the Great Plains and the only ferret native to North America. Once numerous, the small animals were harvested for the fur trade. That, coupled with a loss of habitat and disease, resulted in a declining population and it was eventually declared extinct in 1979.

Two years later, a small population of the animal was discovered on a private ranch in Wyoming and a captive breeding program was launched. Since then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been gradually releasing the Black-footed Ferret in eight states in what was once its native region.

It was introduced to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver, Colorado in October 2015 and by all accounts, the program has been successful.

Last month I was fortunate enough to spot one. An exciting – and humbling – encounter that served as a reminder of how careful we must be with our actions and how they affect the flora and fauna around us.

An endangered Black-footed Ferret keeps watch from his home on the Colorado plains.  (© Tony’s Takes)

An endangered Black-footed Ferret keeps watch from his home on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Black-footed Ferret pops tall to check things out

I reckon if you had a half dozen giddy photographers gathered around you furiously clicking their shutters, you probably would wonder what the heck was going on too.

This endangered little one has absolutely no idea how special he (or she) is. However, those of us that were privileged enough to spend a couple of hours with it will never forget the experience.

Once thought extinct, reintroduction efforts have seen some of these cute ones released into the wild and so far, the program has been quite successful. There are however only a few hundred in the wild so getting to see one is a rare and special event.

A Black Footed Ferret stands tall to look over the grass.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Black Footed Ferret stands tall to look over the grass. (© Tony’s Takes)

Posing endangered Black-footed Ferret

Capturing pictures of an endangered species is exciting. Capturing images of one very rarely seen and once considered extinct is nothing short of thrilling. The Black-footed Ferret is a rarity on the Great Plains and the only ferret native to North America.

Once numerous, the small animals were harvested for the fur trade. That, coupled with a loss of habitat and disease, resulted in a declining population and it was eventually declared extinct in 1979. Two years later, a small population of the animal was discovered on a private ranch in Wyoming and a captive breeding program was launched.

Since then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been gradually releasing the Black-footed Ferret in eight states in what was once its native region. It was introduced to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver, Colorado in October 2015 and by all accounts, the program has been successful. Since then I have tried and tried to spot one of the nocturnal creatures and had no luck but Sunday that changed.

A photographer friend of mine spotted one and this little one delighted us for more than three hours. It spent more than an hour staking out a Prairie Dog burrow hoping for a meal then began to move around, checking other burrows. Eventually it worked its way to a spot only 25 feet away. I snapped hundreds of pictures of it and have to say it was one of the most special wildlife encounters I have ever had.

An endangered Black-footed Ferret keeps close watch on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

An endangered Black-footed Ferret keeps close watch on the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)