Not terribly long ago, the black-footed ferret vanished from the wild. Today, experts are making plans to return this endangered species to the same site where humans once thought we had seen the very last of this iconic prairie creature.
On the early morning of November 2, 1985 I watched a pickup truck crest the ridge of a dusty Wyoming two-track ranch road and disappear over the horizon. Inside it was what I thought at the time might be the last black-footed ferret ever to live in the wild. I was dead tired, having been up for the past week trying to catch that ferret, spending nights of driving laps around prairie dog colonies – the habitat and food source of black-footed ferrets – peering out to the end of the beam of a strong spotlight to find her. It was the end of a tumultuous fall, one that had been filled with bitter accusations and petty politics, and I was really too worn down to be much more than philosophical about her departure. There was no fanfare, no media presence—nothing that would have marked the day as remarkable. Even though it might have been the day that a species went extinct in the wild. More: Experts Prepare to Welcome Black-footed Ferrets Back to Wyoming