--Captive-bred black-footed ferrets to be released near Pueblo--

October 29, 2013, Colorado Springs, CO – Captive-bred black-footed ferrets will be released into the wild in Colorado tomorrow for the first time in more than ten years. The release is made possible by new legislation allowing this endangered species to be reintroduced on private land. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s participation in the black-footed ferret captive breeding program is bringing the species closer to a sustainable future on Colorado prairie lands.

Dr. Della Garelle, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s Director of Conservation and the Species Survival Plan Chair for the international black-footed ferret breeding team, is excited about the future of the species.

“Tomorrow, the number of black-footed ferrets living free in Colorado will grow from zero to 35,” Garelle said. “Thanks to captive-breeding efforts by Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and four other institutions, the black-footed ferret population has been brought back from brink of extinction. Currently, there are at least 500 in the wild.”

There will be a second wild release in Colorado in the coming weeks to further increase the species’ wild numbers and distribute the population widely over the release site.

“We are excited that black-footed ferrets born in Colorado can now be released in Colorado,” Garelle said. “This release was made possible because of legislation passed in our State’s Capitol early this spring.”

A 1999 Colorado law, which was put into effect in 2002, requires legislative approval before any endangered species are introduced or reintroduced in the state. The recently completed Black-footed Ferret Programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement (SHA) has created the opportunity for private land owners to participate in the recovery of black-footed ferrets on Colorado prairie lands. Wednesday’s release will take place on private land near Pueblo, Colorado owned by Gary and Georgia Walker, who are the first enrollees in this new SHA. The Walker ranch will be the 21st site, spanning 12 states, where black-footed ferrets have been reintroduced since 1991.

About Black-footed Ferrets The black-footed ferret was once considered the most endangered mammal in North America. Three decades ago, it was believed to be extinct. In 1981, a cattle dog named Shep found a black-footed ferret on the prairie land of Meeteetse, Wyoming and presented it to his owner – which led to the exciting discovery of a living black-footed ferret population. To safeguard the species from imminent extinction, the last 18 known black-footed ferrets were rescued between 1985 and 1987. In 1986, Wyoming Game and Fish initiated the first captive-breeding program for black-footed ferrets.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo made the decision to invest and join the black-footed ferret recovery effort in 1990. A breeding facility was built on Zoo grounds. Though not visible to the public, the facility is helping bring a species back from near extinction.

To learn more about the black-footed ferret recovery program visit: http://www.blackfootedferret.org/.

About Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society was founded in 1926. Today, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, America’s ONLY mountain zoo, offers comprehensive education programs, exciting conservation efforts and truly fantastic animal experiences. It is Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s hope that guests fall in love with animals and nature, and take action to protect them. Of the 224 zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of just nine operating without tax support. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo depends on admissions, membership dues and donations for funding.

For further information or unique press opportunities, contact:

Erica Meyer
Phone: 719.633.9925 ext. 140 
Email: emeyer@cmzoo.org

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