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WGFD looks at potential ferret expansion

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper – In an early June conference call amongst the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, commissioners approved a proposal to introduce black-footed ferrets to a second area in Wyoming.
    Beginning in 1991 releases of black-footed ferrets continued through 1994 in the Shirley Basin and were expanded in the years from 2005 to 2007. The current area available for experimental introduction includes all land east and south of the North Platte River in Carbon, Natrona and Albany counties.
    “The ferret reintroduction effort in the Shirley Basin has been quite successful, and the white-tailed prairie dog population has also been expanding and continues to expand,” said project lead Bob Oakleaf of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Lander office.
    However, Oakleaf says he’s concerned about having all the eggs in one basket, in case of a catastrophic event like plague. “We’ve been looking for another area for a population removed from the main population,” he told the commissioners.
    Prairie dog complexes have recently been discovered in Albany County that could be used to start a new population of ferrets. “We’re looking at several complexes; the one over which we’ve been in preliminary discussions with landowners is about three townships in area, mostly on private land with some sections of BLM mixed in.”
    Oakleaf said the primary site is south of the Laramie River in Albany County, and that one of the ranches has a conservation easement with the Wyoming Stockgrowers Agricultural Land Trust.
    Preliminary contacts have been made with landowners in the area on the potential new reintroduction areas. WGFD Deputy Director John Emerich said through preliminary discussions with landowners the project has been supported to this point.
    Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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