Moving Back Home Together:

Rarest Native Animals Find Haven on Tribal Lands

by Nate Schweber

FORT BELKNAP AGENCY, Mont. — In the employee directory of the Fort Belknap Reservation, Bronc Speak Thunder’s title is buffalo wrangler.

In 2012, Mr. Speak Thunder drove a livestock trailer in a convoy from Yellowstone National Park that returned genetically pure bison to tribal land in northeastern Montana for the first time in 140 years. Mr. Speak Thunder, 32, is one of a growing number of younger Native Americans who are helping to restore native animals to tribal lands across the Northern Great Plains, in the Dakotas, Montana and parts of Nebraska.

They include people like Robert Goodman, an Oglala Lakota Sioux, who moved away from his reservation in the early 2000s and earned a degree in wildlife management. When he graduated in 2005, he could not find work in that field, so he took a job in construction in Rapid City, S.D…

(read more: NY Times)

photographs by Jonathan Proctor/Defenders of Wildlife

Rare Ferret Needs More Land to Survive the Plague

by

The black-footed ferret is one of the most endangered mammals in North America, but new research suggests that these charismatic critters can persist if conservationists think big enough.

Decades of human persecution (e.g., poisoning) of the ferret’s favorite prey, prairie dogs, and severe outbreaks of plague and distemper led to its extinction in the wild in 1987.

Since then, thousands of captive-raised ferrets have been released across North America, and at least four wild populations have been successfully reestablished.

However, a new factor threatens to undermine these hard-fought conservation gains: the continued eastward spread of the exotic bacterial disease plague, which is a quick and efficient killer of prairie dogs, and is caused by the same microbe that is implicated in the Black Death pandemics of the Middle Ages…

(read more: Futurity)

photos: USFWS Mountain Prairie/Flickr

Hope on the Prairie: The Black-Footed Ferret Returns to Colorado

by Matt Moorhead, TNC

In many respects, hope defines our work at The Nature Conservancy.  In turn, our work fuels that hope.T ake, for instance, my recent experience helping reintroduce black-footed ferrets to their historic home on eastern Colorado’s prairie.

It’s likely that ferrets have been absent from eastern Colorado for more than 100 years.Entirely dependent on prairie dogs for survival, ferrets were largely the unintended victim of widespread prairie dog extermination campaigns and introduced diseases. By 1980, the species was believed to be extinct, lost before it had ever really been understood or appreciated.

But, in 1981, the first glimmer of hope faintly appeared in Meeteetse, Wyoming when a single remnant population was discovered by a rancher who reported it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Rampant disease forced their removal from the wild, but a captive breeding program began with the last 18 surviving individuals. 

At six facilities around the country, biologists carefully breed the ferrets to maximize genetic diversity.Training programs put young ferrets through prairie dog hunting “boot camps;” if they learn to hunt, they’ll be eligible for release.  The breeding and training programs have been successful; hundreds of ferrets are now available for release, awaiting appropriate habitats and the elusive welcome mat for an endangered species…

(read more: The Nature Conservancy)

photos: Steve Kettler, Chris Pague, and Matt Moorhead

Black-footed ferrets from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo begin life in the Colorado wild

by Matt Steiner

A tiny black-footed male ferret with a curious look and a twitching nose emerged from his carrier shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday at a ranch west of Pueblo.

The ferret, who was born and raised at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, hesitantly looked around at the wide, dusty expanse that was about to become his new home. He finally decided the coast was clear and dived into the prairie dog hole just inches from the carrier.

"There he goes," someone chimed in from a group of zoo employees and volunteers that gathered around the carrier to see the endangered animal introduced into the wild.

The ferret was among about 35 ferrets getting a chance for new life Wednesday at Walker Ranch near U.S. 50 outside of Pueblo. More than 30 people, including zoo officials, media members, state parks and wildlife officials and U.S. Fish and Wildlife conservationists, joined the Walker family for the historic event…

(read more: The Gazette)

photos: The Gazette, Christian Murdock

Saving the Endangered Black-footed Ferret
In 1979, black-footed ferrets were declared extinct. Then, on September 26, 1981, a sheep dog in Wyoming (called Shep), brought one home, effectively rediscovering the species.  Since then, the population has grown from 18 individuals to more than 800 in the wild, bred and reintroduced with the help of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More than 40 black-footed ferret kits were born at SCBI Front Royal this year. 
Smithsonian’s National Zoo - Ferret Recovery ProgramPhoto by Chris Crowe, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Saving the Endangered Black-footed Ferret

In 1979, black-footed ferrets were declared extinct. Then, on September 26, 1981, a sheep dog in Wyoming (called Shep), brought one home, effectively rediscovering the species.

Since then, the population has grown from 18 individuals to more than 800 in the wild, bred and reintroduced with the help of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More than 40 black-footed ferret kits were born at SCBI Front Royal this year.

Smithsonian’s National Zoo - Ferret Recovery Program

Photo by Chris Crowe, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Endangered Black-footed Ferrets Enjoying a Bit of Freedom

Two of this year’s females are out in the pre-conditioning pens, before eventual release into the wild. Mom is with them to teach them how to be ferrets in the wild. She is an expert in killing prairie dogs and they will learn from her.

Biologists at the National BFF Conservation Center have been working hard to breed and release these critically endangered animals.

They were once thought to be extinct, then on Sept. 26th, 1981, a Wyoming ranch dog, named Shep, killed a BFF! Meeteetse Rancher John Hogg and family took the carcass to town and history was made by turning the conservation world upside down! BFFs were not extinct! Since 1985, many partners from State, Federal, Tribal and NGO agencies have participated in recovery efforts bringing ferrets back from the brink of extinction!

(read more: National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Ctr.)

THE COMEBACK KIDS:

The role of zoos in saving species from oblivion

AN INTERVIEW WITH MARKUS GUSSET

by Jeremy Hance

While many people may view zoos first and foremost as attractions, these institutions have a long history of supporting and instigating conservation work, including saving species from extinction that have vanished from their wild habitat. But such efforts require not just dedication and patience, but herculean organizational efforts. Enter, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), which works with zoos and aquariums to set up conservation programs and track endangered species in captivity.

“Most of the major international conservation organizations have moved away from species conservation in recent years, now focusing on issues such as poverty alleviation, global change, ecosystem services, etc. It is the role of zoos and aquariums to keep alive the flame of species conservation!” Markus Gusset, Conservation Officer with WAZA, told mongabay.com in a recent interview.

Gusset says that zoos and aquariums should be conservation centers first and businesses second. He points to a long history of zoos in saving species that have gone extinct in the wild, including five mammals and one bird that would not be around today without the protective efforts of modern zoos…

(read the interview: MongaBay)

_______________________________________________________

(images: T - Red Wolf, Seth Bynum /Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium; 2L - Przwalski’s Horse, Petra Kaczensky/International Takhi Group; 2R - California Condor, Mike Wallace/San Diego Zoo Global; 3 - Black-footed Ferret, USFWS; BL - Arabian Oryx, Tim Wacher; BR - European Bison, Mieczysław Hlawiczka)

Black-footed ferrets were considered extinct until a small population was discovered in Wyoming in 1981. This prompted the establishment of the Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Program, which bred these masked meat-eating mammals in captivity. In 1991 they began being reintroduced to the prairies of South Dakota, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Mexico, and Canada.
Source: http://blackfootedferret.org
Photo: Wendy Shattil & Bob Rozinski/Getty
(via: TakePart.org)

Black-footed ferrets were considered extinct until a small population was discovered in Wyoming in 1981. This prompted the establishment of the Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Program, which bred these masked meat-eating mammals in captivity. In 1991 they began being reintroduced to the prairies of South Dakota, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Mexico, and Canada.

Source: http://blackfootedferret.org

Photo: Wendy Shattil & Bob Rozinski/Getty

(via: TakePart.org)

This is why we do what we do - to put endangered black-footed ferrets back on the prairie! The Northern Cheyenne Native Prairie Conservation Program implemented a Wildlife Conservation Incentive Program on tribal lands. The Tribe and members agreed not to poison, shoot or irradiate prairie dogs, which has obvious benefits for BFFs who rely exclusively on prairie dogs for sustenance.
find out more: http://www.facebook.com/FerretCenter (via: National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center)
(photo: Lou Hanebury / WAPA)

This is why we do what we do - to put endangered black-footed ferrets back on the prairie!

The Northern Cheyenne Native Prairie Conservation Program implemented a Wildlife Conservation Incentive Program on tribal lands. The Tribe and members agreed not to poison, shoot or irradiate prairie dogs, which has obvious benefits for BFFs who rely exclusively on prairie dogs for sustenance.

find out more: http://www.facebook.com/FerretCenter

(via:
National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center)

(photo: Lou Hanebury / WAPA)