Wednesday marked the start of the ferrets' next chapter in Arizona. The USFWS released 25 animals on a private ranch, in the hopes of establishing a second self-sustaining population in the southwestern state. Conservationists are also using the site to test bait spiked with a vaccine for the plague.
And although a vaccine would be a boon, the most important factor to the ferret's future is a healthy prairie dog population. "The single, most feasible action that would benefit black-footed ferret recovery is to improve prairie dog conservation," said Pete Gober, a Black-footed Ferret Recovery Coordinator with the Fish and Wildlife Service, in a December 2013 statement. Arizona's newest ferret residents are in luck - the ranch "is sprawling grassland with a thriving population of prairie dogs," as the Tucson Sentinel puts it.