Black-footed Ferret: Once dead and gone

At the Nature Conservancy‘s Smoky Valley Ranch in Logan County, you can explore the remote prairie. It’s a unique spot, not just for its Cretaceous formations, but for the wildlife that live here. It’s home to one of the state’s rarest mammals: the black-footed ferret.

Photo by J. Michael Lockhart/USFWS

One of the greatest threats to a prairie dog, other than people, is the black-footed ferret, who use the prairie dog as a food source. And as prairie dogs were much more common in the prairie before the 1900s, so were black-footed ferrets. They helped keep the populations in control, and helped create balance to the prairie ecosystem.

But by 1964, with the conversion of much of the native shortgrass prairie to cropland and with the prolonged and legally required (in 1901, a law mandated townships to forcibly eradicate prairie dogs) attacks on prairie dogs, the black-footed ferret was left with little to eat, began dying out, and was placed on the federal endangered species list.

In 1979, it was declared extinct. After the discovery of a small population in 1981 in Wyoming and after years of careful monitoring and after convincing some local landowners, in 2007, ten black-footed ferrets were reintroduced to the Smoky Valley Ranch by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This rare, nocturnal mammal has made a place for itself again on the prairies of western Kansas.

It was thanks to ranchers in the county who volunteered their land as habitat for the nocturnal creatures and the Nature Conservancy land, and the released ferrets have been raising wildborn kits. And in 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service released more ferrets in Logan County to help “jumpstart” the population.

First ferret released back into Kansas. Photo by Dan Mulhern/USFWS

First ferret released back into Kansas. Photo by Dan Mulhern/USFWS


Smoky Valley Ranch Long Loop | Garmin Adventures

One of the cool features about Garmin is that with their BaseCamp software, you can check out other trails and create “adventures” from the trails you’ve been on that include the photos taken with the GPS and all the waypoints. Publishing the adventure through BaseCamp means that others can download it and use the information.

Below is an example of the adventures – our trip through the shortgrass prairie and Cretaceous chalk formations at Smoky Valley Ranch: the answer to last week’s “Do you know where this is?“. It’s also a kind of preview for the book. We’ll be including detailed maps, made with Garmin GPS devices, that include important waypoints along the trail. What’s missing in the adventure that you’ll get in the book is the description of the area and the trail itself, but the map gets you halfway there.

Check it out and let us know what you think.

Smoky Valley Ranch Long Loop | Garmin Adventures.