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Natural Areas Newsletter

Black-footed Ferrets

The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas and Utilities reintroduced endangered black-footed ferrets to Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, and Meadow Springs Ranch, their native home in September, 2014.

  • Photos of the release are here, on the City's Flickr website .
  • See a 3 minute video of the release on the City's YouTube Channel.

    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)

    Background

    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, the way became 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.

    Learn more