The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department and Fort Collins Museum of Discovery will host Governor John Hickenlooper as he signs HB14-1267 on Saturday, May 17, at 11 a.m. The bill authorizes local governments to reintroduce endangered black-footed ferrets to their property. The public is invited to the brief signing ceremony at the Museum, 408 Mason Court, Fort Collins. Representative Randy Fischer and Senator Matt Jones sponsored the bill which provides an opportunity for the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department to pursue reintroduction of black-footed ferrets to Soapstone Prairie Natural Area. State Senator John Kefalas, State Senator Matt Jones, State Representative Randy Fischer, and State Representative Joann Ginal as well as Mayor Karen Weitkunat plan on attending the signing ceremony. Soapstone Prairie encompasses 28 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. A reintroduction of black-footed ferrets by the City of Fort Collins would be the first-ever by a municipality.
The City has been working 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 the City-owned Meadow Springs Ranch. Prairie dog populations (black-footed ferrets’ main food source) at these sites are managed to support a possible reintroduction. With state approval in place through HB14-1267, endangered black-footed ferrets could be present at Soapstone Prairie as early as this fall.
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 the natural area is a test location for a new vaccine to control plague.
The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is located at 408 Mason Court in Fort Collins. The museum is home to two black-footed ferrets who reside in the shortgrass prairie diorama, part of the Natural Areas exhibit in the lobby.
To learn more about black-footed ferrets and their recovery see http://blackfootedferret.org
To learn more about the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department see http://www.fcgov.com/naturalareas/
To learn more about the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, see http://www.fcmod.org/