BILLINGS — State wildlife commissioners have approved the release of up to 20 black-footed ferrets in central Montana to prevent the loss of a struggling population of the highly-endangered prairie animal.
Montana wildlife administrator Kenneth McDonald said Thursday’s action will allow federal biologists to release the animals onto the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge by the weekend.
The refuge is home to one of two black-footed ferret populations in Montana.
Only three of the predators belonging to the weasel family were counted during an October survey at UL Bend.
McDonald says more than 200 have been released onto the refuge over the past two decades.
But they’ve struggled to take hold. Plague epidemics regularly kill the prairie dogs that ferrets eat.
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