Casper, WY – At the time, few realized the significance.
But 25 years ago today (Monday), a ranch dog in northwestern Wyoming brought home a black-footed ferret, proving that the
species wasn't extinct and setting of what some see as among the most effective species recovery efforts in the country.
It all started on September 25th, 1981, when Meeteetse (muh-TEET'-see) ranchers John and Lucille Hogg saw their dog Shep carrying a dead black-footed ferret. Wondering what the animal was,
the Hoggs took the ferret to a taxidermist, who called the state Game and Fish Department.
Researchers soon found a colony of ferrets -- some 129 of them living nearby. But an outbreak of canine distemper killed all but 18 before they could be captured for a captive breeding program.
Those 18 captured ferrets were the forefathers and foremothers of the first group released back into the wild in 1991 in Wyoming's Shirley Basin.
More releases have followed, and there now are more than 26-hundred wild ferrets in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Arizona.