North America's rarest mammal is returning to the prairie!
Some of you might know that the rarest mammal in North America is the black-footed ferret. Once thought to be extinct, now the species has all the chances to return back to nature.
The black-footed ferret was discovered in 1851, but after that its population was gradually decreasing until 1979, when the animal was declared extinct. Scientists believe the main reason is sylvatic plague, a disease that appeared on the continent at the beginning of the 20th century. The disease is not native to North America and ferrets don’t have resistance against it.
Another possible reason is a decrease in the number of prairie dogs that constitute almost 90% of the black-footed ferrets’ diet.
The miraculous event happened in 1981 in Wyoming, when a ranch dog brought a corpse of a black-footed ferret. According to researchers, the remnant population consisted of several dozens of animals. Unfortunately by 1987 this tiny population had disappeared completely, but the United States Fish and Wildlife Service launched a special captive breeding program which aim was (and is) to reintroduce the species into the wild. For example, by 2008 the animals were returned to 8 western states and Mexico.
Now the future of these cute animals is not at all hopeless, though there are still some challenges and pitfalls.
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