PUEBLO WEST, Colo. (CBS4) – A homeowner in Pueblo West got quite the surprise when the rarest mammal in North America found its way into his garage. The black-footed ferret made its way into the garage near the sprawling Walker Ranch, that’s where Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have been releasing ferrets at a prairie dog colony.
The homeowner managed to coax the ferret into a box and then called CPW. When CPW Officers Cassidy English and Travis Sauder got to the home Monday evening, they got in touch with CPW terrestrial biologists who confirmed they did indeed have an endangered black-footed ferret.
The next step was having a person from the Humane Society of Pikes Peak come to the home with a chip reader. All of the ferrets released on Walker Ranch are chipped and that scan confirmed, the ferret was one of nine recently released.
At that point, the officers sent photos of the ferret to U.S. Fish and Wildlife where biologists determined the runway was healthy and could go back to the colony. The officers hiked to the prairie dog colony in the dark, opened the box and watched as the ferret scurried into a burrow.
“We don’t know exactly why this black-footed ferret left the colony,” Ed Schmal, CPW conservation biologist in a news release. “We put them into prairie dog burrows but they may not stay. Sometimes they scramble around the colony to find the right home. This one might have gotten pushed out by other ferrets and it went looking for a new home. We really don’t know.”
This is only the second time CPW has heard of a ferret leaving the ranch and the first time one has entered a garage.
“This is extremely rare,” Schmal said. “Black-footed ferrets are nocturnal and extremely shy. For some reason, this one left the colony and was seeking 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.”
CPW has released more than 120 black-footed ferrets on the Walker Ranch since 2013. Biologists are carefully monitoring the colonies, even distributing plague vaccine in hopes of keeping the ferrets and prairie dogs healthy. Prairie dogs are the primary food source for the ferrets.