Your BFF is back! - Zoology Object of the Week (May 9, 2011)

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It wasn't so long ago that staff at the Museum had to contemplate putting our specimens of Black-footed Ferrets (BFFs) into the "extinct critters" cabinet alongside Passenger Pigeons, Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, and Carolina Parakeets.  Never numerous, but widespread where there were large Prairie Dog colonies, the ferret's population nose-dived in the middle of the 20th Century.  A main contributor to the devastation of BFF numbers was the severely reduced large colonies of Prairie Dogs due to eradication and to plague infestations.  By the mid-1970's, a poster was put out with a call to find a live ferret; the fear was they were all dead, and headed for a page in the book of recent extinctions.

But due to a stroke of good fortune, a lone, last family of BFFs was discovered near Meeteetse, Wyoming in September 1981. Using the members of this one family of ferrets, a multi-agency/conservation organization effort recovery program was initiated that is headquartered in Wellington, Colorado.  Captive breeding facilities provide animals for release sites in 8 states in the U.S. as well as in Mexico.  For more information on the program, visit the Black-footed Ferret Recovery Program website.

DMNS has historical specimens of BFFs in our collections, including some that may surprise residents of the Denver metropolitan area.  Once, the BFF occurred up and down the Front Range: we have a specimen from Adams County dated to 1916, and one from Park Hill (the Museum's neighborhood) in Denver dated at 1912.  BFFs need around 8,000 acres of Prairie Dogs to establish a viable population, so there must have been large colonies of Prairie Dogs here in the past.

Recently, the USF&WS transferred two BFFs to the Museum; one of these, above, may be seen on display in the North American Mammals Hall.

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