Billings, Mont. • Snatched from the brink of extinction more than 30 years ago, black-footed ferrets have struggled to maintain their toehold across the Great Plains as disease and agriculture have taken a heavy toll.
Now a new recovery plan, released Monday by federal wildlife officials, aims to bolster populations of the highly endangered carnivores on a half-million acres in 12 states.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan would reintroduce ferrets in new areas while officials work more closely with private landowners to avoid a political backlash from agricultural interests.
If the effort works, black-tailed ferret numbers could grow to 3,000 animals in coming years, versus about 500 in the wild now, said the federal government's ferret recovery coordinator, Peter Gober.