The black-footed ferret population reintroduced to the wild in Arizona seems to be settling in nicely.
Recent counts by volunteers and Arizona Game and Fish Department personnel turned up 33 ferrets, with 24 of those wild-born and never previously trapped.
While this doesn't sound like much to get enthused about, it is when you consider that at one time the worldwide population for this animal was only 18, and that they were twice believed extinct.
"I'm excited about the numbers," said Jeff Pebworth, a Game and Fish Department wildlife program manager. "You think about this one spotlighting effort and compare it to where the ferrets once were and you can't help but be pleased."
Spotlighting is a procedure involving the use of high-powered lights to locate and identify the ferrets, as the nocturnal animals emerald-green eyes reflect in the night.
The next survey will be in October, and volunteers are welcome and appreciated.
"Volunteers have played a critical role in the reintroduction process since Day 1," Pebworth said. "Without their dedication, I'm not sure we'd have as good an understanding of where we stand in this reintroduction effort."
One of North America's most endangered mammals, it sounds as if black-footed ferrets are making themselves at home on the range.
-- Kelly Burgess
Photo courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish Department