1996 32¢ Black-footed Ferret
Issue Date: October 2, 1996
City: San Diego, CA
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
A charming and inquisitive animal, the black-footed ferret is the rarest mammal in North America. At one time it ranged throughout the North American plains; ten short years ago it hovered on the brink of extinction.
The survival of the ferret depends on prairie dogs. Not only are these animals food for the ferret, but once the prairie dog has been consumed, its abandoned burrow provides shelter. Prairie dogs live in large communities known as “dog towns,” which are found in the grasslands east of the Rocky Mountains – also prime grazing land for cattle. As a result, ranchers who saw the rodent as competition reduced the prairie dog to less than 5% of its original population. Not surprisingly, with the destruction of prairie dog communities, the black-footed ferret population began to rapidly decline. By 1986 only 18 were known to exist. In a desperate attempt to save the population, these 18 were trapped and placed in a captive-breeding station in Wheatland, Wyoming.
Although a tough animal and ferocious fighter, the ferret is very susceptible to disease, requiring the breeding station to be kept immaculately clean. But the hard work has paid off. In 1991 the population was back up to 200 and the first successful reintroduction into the wild was completed.