The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department, Fort Collins Utilities and several partners have received City Council approval and are reintroducing endangered black-footed ferrets to Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Meadow Springs Ranch. Everyone is invited to a ceremony celebrating the release, Wednesday, September 3, 4-7 p.m. at Soapstone Prairie’s south parking lot. Speeches in the south parking lot will be followed by a 1 mile hike to the release site. Participants will witness the first ferret release by a municipality from a viewing point about ¼ mile away. There will be very limited photography opportunities. Free, no registration is required, but a reminder and updates are available by signing up at https://engage.fcgov.com/d/na
Wednesday, September 3, Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, south parking lot
4-5 p.m. Open House: Enjoy educational displays by project partners, interactive activities, and snacks.
5 p.m. Remarks at the south parking lot picnic shelter.
5:30- 6:30 p.m. Hike to release site, 1 mile, mostly flat, natural surface trail.
6:30 p.m. Black-footed ferret release.
Dusk (approximately 7:30 p.m.)- Soapstone Prairie Natural Area closes
Speakers at 5 p.m. will include:
• Fort Collins Mayor, Karen Weitkunat
• State Representative, Randy Fischer
• Colorado Parks and Wildlife Assistant Director, Chad Bishop
• USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services State Director, Michael Yeary
• USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Acting State Conservationist, Maria Collazo
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director, Noreen Walsh
For endangered black-footed ferret health and safety:
• All attendees must stay on the trail. Ferrets will be released about a ¼ mile from the viewing point. Binoculars and a spotting scope will be available to borrow onsite and the public is welcome to bring their own.
• There will be very limited photography opportunities, so professional photographs will be posted, and available for download, on the City of Fort Collins Flickr website shortly after the release,
The Welcome Home release ceremony is subject to cancelation due to weather and road conditions. Soapstone Prairie is a remote natural area and access to the release site is via unimproved roads that become dangerous with moisture. The decision to cancel/hold the event will be made at 9 a.m. on September 3 and posted at fcgov.com/naturalareas
, and those signed up at https://engage.fcgov.com/d/na
will be notified via email.
Limited transportation from Soapstone Prairie’s south parking lot to the release site is available for those with disabilities. Call at least 1 week in advance to make arrangements with Zoe Whyman, Natural Areas Community Relations Manager, 970-221-6311 or endoeW1hbkBmY2dvdi5jb20=
Additional ferrets will be released at Soapstone Prairie and Utilities’ Meadow Springs Ranch in the coming weeks. These releases are not open to the public.
The Natural Areas Department is planning educational programming, including possible spotlighting opportunities (ferret viewing at night) for 2015.
Thank You Partners!
• Fort Collins Utilities
• Colorado Parks and Wildlife
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
• U.S.D.A. Animal Plant Health Inspection Service
• U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service
• Folsom Grazing Association (Soapstone Prairie grazing tenant)
• Natural Fort Grazing Association (Meadow Springs grazing tenant)
Soapstone Prairie encompasses 34 square miles of nearly pristine shortgrass prairie, about 25 miles north of Fort Collins. Soapstone Prairie’s management plan calls for enhancing the native ecosystem, including bringing back locally-extirpated species such as black-footed ferrets and bison. The adjacent Meadow Springs Ranch is a working cattle ranch owned by Utilities and serves as an integral part of the wastewater treatment process. The water reclamation facilities use an array of physical, biological and chemical processes to treat wastewater. Meadow Springs Ranch provides Utilities with the ability to recycle all biosolids produced by the wastewater treatment process. Biosolids are the removed solids treated to meet strict state and federal standards for organic and pathogen removal. Biosolids are applied on the ranch and private farmland to improve soil structure and water retention, and serve as a slow-release fertilizer.
The City worked in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife on plans to re-introduce black-footed ferrets at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Meadow Springs Ranch. Prairie dog populations (black-footed ferrets’ main food source) at these sites are managed to support a reintroduction. With state approval in place through HB14-1267, and City Council approval on August 19, the way is clear for the first ever release by a municipality.
Black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct until 1981 when a small population was discovered, giving hope for survival of the species. From this population, a captive breeding program (based just north of Fort Collins), has been successful. There are 21 reintroduction sites in eight states, Mexico and Canada. The biggest challenges to recovering black-footed ferrets are lack of suitable reintroduction sites and sylvatic plague. The City of Fort Collins is addressing both challenges by conserving and stewarding habitat at Soapstone Prairie and Meadow Springs Ranch and the sites are test locations for a new vaccine to control plague.
• Black-footed ferret ecology and recovery http://www.blackfootedferret.org
• Meadow Springs Ranch http://www.fcgov.com/utilities/what-we-do/wastewater/biosolids
• Plague http://www.blackfootedferret.org/disease
• Fort Collins Natural Areas’ Wildlife Management Guidelines http://www.fcgov.com/naturalareas/pdf/wildlife-management-guidelines.pdf