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Swift Foxes & Black-Footed Ferrets: Coming Home to the Great Plains

The plains of North America once ran dense with buffalo herds, which were wiped out in a few decades with the coming of European settlers. A similar fate befell other wild plains dwellers, including the swift fox and black-footed ferret, driven to near-extinction. By the mid-1980s, fewer than 20 black-footed ferrets remained, and today they are still North America’s rarest mammal. But just as bison are being returned to these native grasslands, so, too, are these foxes and ferrets, whose presence is essential in restoring a healthy ecosystem. After a 50-year absence, swift foxes were released in September onto the shortgrass prairie of Montana’s Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, bringing back a crucial force for balance. The smallest wild canine in North America, these house-cat-sized foxes help keep prey species like rabbits and prairie dogs in check. Kristy Bly, Senior Wildlife Conservation Biologist with WWF’s Northern Great Plains Program, discusses the return of these two imperiled plains species that are making a comeback with the restoration of crucial habitat, thanks to the efforts of many organizations dedicated to their recovery.


Originally presented October 29, 2020
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