COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Following its success in saving the black-footed ferret and the greenback cutthroat trout from extinction in Colorado, the state's Parks & Wildlife division is using that track record to increase numbers of the swift fox in Montana.
CPW recently captured 30 of the foxes from southeastern Colorado and transported them to Big Sky Country for release, where none of the animals exist.
"They've been gone from Montana and the Dakotas since the early 1900s," said Jonathan Reitz, a terrestrial biologist who heads the relocation program for CPW. "They were victims of the poisoning and hunting of wolves and coyotes. Disease and habitat destruction or fragmentation are factors, too."
The agency has set up cameras and scent markings in prairie dog towns -- common fox habitat -- to try and count how many swift foxes are in El Paso County; the count is conducted every five years.
One camera was installed last month in Cheyenne Mountain State Park, home to dozens of prairie dogs; skunk scent, which repels most other animals, actually attracts swift foxes.
"In El Paso County, we probably have 7 cameras," said April Estep, a CPW wildlife biologist. "They're spread out through all of eastern Colorado. Every county has between 5 and 10. The swift fox is no bigger than a house cat, but it's important in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. They do well here because less of their habitat is fragmented."
CPW plans a second round of fox relocations in the near future.
The black-footed ferret was believed to be extinct until a population was found in Wyoming 40 years ago. CPW has steadily worked to reestablish ferrets here; its status has improved from extinct to endangered.
The greenback cutthroat trout also was thought to be extinct until it was confirmed in Bear Creek in 2012. It is one of four native trout subspecies -- with two remaining and one likely extinct.
The three surviving species are listed as threatened.