Black ferret in Colorado garage
PUEBLO, Colo. – Colorado homeowner Reese Nettles was shocked on November 8 when he was out in his garage lifting weights and noticed a skunk poking out from under his table saw.
It’s been a day and a half since the garage door was mistakenly opened overnight.
“He looked like if you put your hand down, he’d run right up to you,” Nettles said.
Perhaps another homeowner’s response was to want to get the creature out, but Nettles closed his garage door to make sure the ferret didn’t get out. He thought it must be a neighbor’s pet, but he snapped a picture of it and sent it to his friend Kris Gard, who works for Colorado Parks and Wildlife at Cheyenne Mountain State Park.
“He identified it as a black-footed ferret and told me they were endangered and extremely rare,” Nettles told The Pueblo Chieftain, part of the USA TODAY Network. “It was so silly, we couldn’t believe it ourselves.”
The rarest mammal in North America
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the creature Nettles found in his garage is the rarest mammal in North America. There are only 605 black-footed ferrets in the world, 304 of which are in captivity.
Since 2013, more than 120 black-footed ferrets have been released at Walker Ranch in Pueblo West, Colorado. Bill Vogrin, public information officer for Colorado Parks and Southeast Regional Wildlife, said the goal is to restore endangered species.
Nettles and his wife Debbie live near the ranch.
“If I guess, we’re five or six miles away from where these little guys are released,” said Nettles, adding that he was surprised that nocturnal hunters nearby did not find the footed ferrets. Black went to his garage before he arrived.
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Why did the weasel leave the farm?
Biologist Ed Schmal of Colorado Parks and Wildlife said officers received only one other report of a black-footed ferret leaving the farm. But they had never heard of a ferret entering a garage or similar structure.
“This is extremely rare,” Schmal said. “The black-footed ferret is nocturnal and extremely shy… We don’t know exactly why this black-footed ferret left the colony.”
Schmal added that the ranch’s black-footed ferrets are put in dog burrows in the pasture, but they don’t always stay put.
“Sometimes they scramble across the colony to find the right home. This one may have been pushed out by other ferrets and it was looking for a new home,” Schmal said.
Another possible scenario is that the ferret was chasing prey like rats when it ran into the garage and decided to seek shelter, Vogrin said.
Take the ferret back home
Whatever the reason the ferret left, the goal is to bring the animal back to the farm.
With the help of Gard and another friend, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Deputy Jon Grein, Nettles coaxed the ferret into a box.
“As soon as we got the ferret in the box, other wildlife officers showed up,” Nettles said.
Since every ferret that is raised for release has a microchip inserted between its shoulder blades, Pikes Peak Humane Society Humane Officer Stephanie Dominguez responded with a portable scanner – this This confirmed the ferret was one of nine ferrets released on the farm for two weeks. formerly.
Without the microchip, the ferret could be a wild-born one, which would be an exciting discovery.
Photos of the ferret were sent to US Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, who determined that the ferret that hit the garage appeared healthy and could be returned. herds of prairie dogs for re-release.
“We are delighted that it looks healthy, is not hungry or sick, and we can bring it back to the colony,” said Schmal.
Government officials have invested much time and effort in monitoring colonies and distributing plague vaccines in hopes of protecting black-footed ferrets and prairie dogs, which are the main source of food and shelter for the ferrets. they.
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As he pondered his time with the rare creature, Nettles thought, “What are the odds?”
“It was a really fun experience,” he said. “I think there are only 605 [black-footed ferrets] in the world and have one in my garage – that’s really cool. “
Contribution: Wyatte Grantham-Philips, USA TODAY
Follow Tracy Harmon on Twitter: @tracywumps.