black-footed ferret

An endangered black-footed ferret is seen inside a homeowner’s garage Monday in Pueblo West.

An endangered black-footed ferret — the rarest mammal in North America — was found inside a Pueblo West homeowner’s garage Monday, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The homeowner reported the ferret to Colorado Parks and Wildlife on Monday night after coaxing it into a box, wildlife officials said. Terrestrial biologists confirmed it was indeed a black-footed ferret.

A microchip implanted in the ferret revealed that it had recently been released on the nearby Walker Ranch as part of a conservation effort with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore the endangered species.

“This is extremely rare,” said conservation biologist Ed Schmal. “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.”

The ferret was one of nine released onto the ranch two weeks ago. This was the first time officials have released the ferrets onto the ranch since before the COVID-19 pandemic began, wildlife officials said.

Since 2013, over 120 black-footed ferrets have been released on the Walker Ranch, the location of a 1,600-acre prairie dog colony. Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists help to monitor the colonies and distribute plague vaccines to protect the ferrets and prairie dogs — their primary source of food and shelter.

After biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed the garage-crashing ferret appeared to be healthy and uninjured, wildlife officials returned the animal to the ranch.

“We don’t know exactly why this black-footed ferret left the colony,” Schmal said. “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.”

Schmal said Colorado Parks and Wildlife has only received one other report of a black-footed ferret leaving the ranch. This is the first instance of one of the ferrets entering a garage or similar structure.

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