PUEBLO WEST, Colorado — The rarest mammal in North America made a surprise appearance inside a southern Colorado homeowners' garage this week.
An endangered and rare black-footed ferret was found inside a garage in Pueblo West on Monday, according to Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW).
After making the discovery, the homeowners were able to coax the ferret into a box and contact CPW.
The garage is located near the Walker Ranch south of U.S. Highway 50 where CPW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have been releasing black-footed ferrets on a prairie dog colony in an effort to restore the mammal.
> Above video: Black-footed ferrets get COVID-19 vaccine in February.
CPW said more than 120 black-footed ferrets have been released on the Walker Ranch since 2013.
Each black-footed ferret raised for release has a passive integrated transponder (PIT) microchip inserted between its shoulder blades. These internal microchips contain identifying information that can be read with a scanning device.
An officer from Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region was able to respond with a portable scanner that confirmed the ferret was one of nine ferrets recently released at a 1,600-acre prairie dog colony nearby.
After determining the garage-crashing ferret appeared healthy, officers took the box and hiked deep into the prairie colony and re-released the ferret into the wild.
CPW said it has only received one other report of a black-footed ferret leaving Walker Ranch, but it has never heard of a ferret entering a garage or similar structure.
"We don’t know exactly why this black-footed ferret left the colony," said CPW conservation biologist Ed Schmal. "We put them into prairie dog burrows but they may not stay. Sometimes they scramble around the colony to find the right home. This one might have gotten pushed out by other ferrets and it went looking for a new home. We really don’t know."
"This is extremely rare," Schmal said. "Black-footed ferrets are nocturnal and extremely shy. For some reason, this one left the colony and was seeking shelter. We’re just glad it appeared healthy, not starving or sick, and we were able to capture it and return it to the colony."
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