There’s been a sighting of one of the rarest animals on the continent ― in a Colorado garage.
A threatened black-footed ferret. considered to be the rarest mammal in North America, made a “surprise appearance” in a Pueblo West homeowner’s garage on Monday, according to a Colorado Parks and WildlifePress release
While waiting for police to arrive on the scene, the unnamed homeowner phoned CPW and inquired about the furry visitor.
It is situated near Walker Ranch. CPW releases black-footed ferrets in a prairie colony to help restore their populations.
According to CPW’s release: “Since 2013, more than 120 black-footed ferrets have been released on the Walker Ranch by CPW biologists, who have invested extensive time and effort to monitor the colonies and distribute plague vaccine in hopes of protecting the black-footed ferrets and the prairie dogs, which is their primary source of food and shelter.”
By scanning the escaped ferret’s microchip, officers were able to determine it was one of nine black-footed ferrets recently released on the ranch.
With the blessing of the ranch owners, and after determining the animal was healthy, CPW officers took the box and “hiked deep into the prairie colony in the dark, opened the box and watched the ferret scurry into a prairie dog burrow,” CPW said.
“We don’t know exactly why this black-footed ferret left the colony,” said Ed Schmal, CPW conservation biologist. “We put them into prairie dog burrows but they may not stay. They may wander around looking for the perfect home, sometimes scurrying through the colony. It is possible that this one was pushed from the colony by another ferret and went on its search for a home. We really don’t know.”
Schmal reported that CPW only had one additional report from the ranch of a black-footed ferret escaping, but he hadn’t heard of any other animal entering a building like a garage.
“This is extremely rare,” he said. “Black-footed ferrets are nocturnal and extremely shy. This one fled the colony in search of shelter. We’re just glad it appeared healthy, not starving or sick, and we were able to capture it and return it to the colony.”
Prairie dogs are frequently considered pests and black-footed ferrets depend heavily on them for their food. Black-footed ferrets suffered a significant decline in their numbers after the extermination and killing of prairie dogs.