The Dog Who Fetched Dead Ferrets
Mustela nigripes, United States
A black-footed ferret at Walker Ranch, Colorado. Photo © Chris Pague / TNCOn September 26, 1981, a very good dog named Shep dropped a dead ferret on his master’s doorstep. Except this wasn’t just any ferret — it was a black-footed ferret, which scientists thought was already extinct.
Today, black-footed ferrets are a conservation success story, and most readers are probably familiar with these adorable masked mustelids that prey on prairie dogs. The species declined drastically in the mid 1900s, beset by fur trappers and a plague that killed off their main source of prey. By 1979, the last captive breeding program had failed, and scientists considered the species extinct.
That changed when Lucille Hogg saw the “present” that Shep had brought her. A lone colony of black-footed ferrets had managed to survive, undetected, in the tiny town of Meeteetse, Wyoming….
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