By Matthew Brown
Federal wildlife officials have crafted a new plan to restore the highly endangered black-footed ferret that includes re-introducing the animal to more states.
The prairie dog-eating member of the weasel family was thought to be extinct until 1981, when a rancher found a solitary enclave of the animals in northwest Wyoming.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovery plan released Monday calls for boosting their numbers to about 3,000 animals. That's versus about 500 black-footed ferrets in the wild today.
The agency will work with private and public landowners to establish new populations across a 12-state historic range stretching from Texas to the Canadian border.
Past recovery efforts were hampered by resistance from the agriculture industry and disease that wiped out many prairie dog colonies that ferrets depend on.