Ferret Population Growing at Wind Cave National Park
Contact: Tom Farrell, 605-745-1130
Wind Cave National Park, S.D. – A year after the reintroduction of black-footed ferrets into Wind Cave National Park, the program is showing signs of success. Fourteen kits, baby ferrets, were trapped and released in the park’s primary reintroduction areas last week during four nights of surveying.
“We did not know how many we were going to find,” said park superintendent Vidal Davila. “It is exciting news to know kits were born from the forty-nine adults released in the park last summer and fall.”
A team comprised of National Park Service employees from Wind Cave, its regional and Washington offices, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked with a contractor from Prairie Wildlife Research, Inc. on the survey. They trapped, implanted a microchip for identification, drew blood, checked for fleas, and vaccinated each kit for canine distemper. The animals were then released back into the park.
“Crew members walked an average of 10 to 15 miles each night looking for ferrets in prairie dog towns. They worked from sunset to sunrise in some pretty difficult weather conditions to gather these numbers,” said Davila.
Considered one of the rarest mammals in North America, the reestablishment of a black-footed ferret population at Wind Cave is part of the National Park Service’s efforts to restore and maintain extirpated animal populations and their habitats. Before last year’s reintroduction, thirty years had passed since a ferret had been seen in the park.
Did You Know?
Winds caused by changes in barometric pressure are what give Wind Cave its name. These winds have been measured at the cave's walk-in entrance at over 70 mph. The winds at the natural entrance of the cave attracted the attention of Native Americans and early settlers.