(Meeteetse, Wyo.) - “This is what good people do, they work together to make the world better. When we release these little critters out here, the world is going to be a little bit better,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service right before the black-footed ferrets were released at a ranch in Meeteetse.
Today, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and the USFWS marked a huge victory in the road to recovery for the black-footed ferret.
The agencies released 35 black-footed ferrets on the Lazy BV and Pitchfork ranches in Meeteetse, where they were rediscovered in 1981 — 35 years after they were thought to be extinct.
When driving up to the Meeteetse School earlier, it was evident where the festivities were to take place. The streets were lined with pick-up trucks, WGFD, USFWS, and other marked agency vehicles. The event at the school featured speeches by landowners and wildlife managers, a documentary trailer and event a song written for the black-footed ferrets.
“I am actually very happy with the turnout at the Meeteetse School. It looked like the community was there. It was really cool,” said Zack Walker, non-game supervisor for WGFD.
Following the ceremony, three black USFWS vehicles arrived with the ferrets. People tried to view the ferrets hidden in tubes and bedding in individual cages. The masses then piled into school buses for the long drive out to the ranch for the official release.
Photo: One of the 35 black-footed ferrets that was released today.
The crowd of approximately 165 people gathered around for the initial release of the first two black-footed ferrets back into the region. The WGFD and USFWS both gave short speeches.
“I guess it has been about 35 years since I have been to almost this exact place. These little critters were running around out there wild and they are going back today,” said Scott Talbott, director of WGFD.
The large crowd then followed the wildlife officials to the first release site. The media and spectators stood behind red flags to give the animals space. The crowd held their breath as they slowly opened the cages, but nothing happened right away.
“The ferrets were a little bit shy, a little bit nervous about coming out to their new home, but they are nocturnal so it’s not unexpected,” said Walker.
Photo: Officials prepare to release the first black-footed ferret.
After a few minutes and some coaxing by wildlife managers, the black-footed ferrets retreated to their new homes.
Moving forward, the WGFD will monitor the animals regularly. According to Walker, they will come to the ranch on a monthly basis to conduct nocturnal surveys.
“This is only possible with a lot of partnerships, especially with the land owners. We couldn’t do it without them. All kinds of people have come together to get this done,” Walker added.
Feature Photo: The crowd heads to the site to release the first black-footed ferret in Meeteetse.
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