Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park to Host Ferret Festival

September 19, 2011, 9:19 am

Learn more about the black-footed ferrets at Badlands National Park's Ferret Festival this weekend. 

The park will commemorate the rediscovery of black-footed ferrets in the wild with a Ferret Festival from September 24-26, 2011. Activities will include a prairie puppet show, a live ferret with informal talks, scientific lectures, a ferret exhibit, children's activities, prairie walks, and an evening slide presentation. These are all included in the park admission fee.

A ceremonial release of several captive ferrets back to the wild is planned for the evening of Friday, September 23. Night spotlighting to view ferrets in their natural habitat will be offered on a reservation system.

Early settlers to the North American prairie encountered black-footed ferrets as a component of the Western Great Plains ecosystem. At that time, ferrets thrived in areas like the Badlands where their primary food source—the prairie dog—was plentiful. With such a specific diet, black-footed ferrets became susceptible to any hardship that befell the prairie dog colonies. Populations at Badlands National Park are due to years of efforts by park biologists, and scientists from neighboring agencies and partners. The breeding and release program has been successful in the Badlands and in other protected areas such as Wind Cave National Park.

Ferret Festival Schedule of Events

Saturday, Sept. 24

Prairie puppet show and other Junior Ranger activities for the kids.

Live ferret on display at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.

1 p.m., Ben Reifel Visitor Center Theater
Panel Discussions with people responsible for the recovery of the black-footed ferret.

7 p.m., Ben Reifel Visitor Center Theater
Special Screening of "Return of the Prairie Bandit," a documentary on the re-introduction of black-footed ferrets to Grasslands National Park in Canada.

Sunday, Sept. 25

Prairie puppet show and other Junior Ranger activities for the kids

Live ferret on display at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center

1 - 5 p.m., Ben Reifel Visitor Center Theater
Symposium on the Science of Ferret Recovery (Genetic bottlenecks, captive, breeding, and sylvatic plague)

7 p.m., Ben Reifel Visitor Center Theater
Presentation and book signing by nature photographer Michael Forsberg, featuing "The Great Plains," his new beautiful new book celebrating America's grasslands

9:30 p.m. to midnight
Guided public spotlighting for ferrets by reservation only

Monday, Sept. 26

1 - 5 p.m., Ben Reifel Visitor Center Theater
Featured Speakers on ferret reintroduction at Wind Cave National Park, Turner Ranches and Tribal Lands, and The Nature Conservancy's conservation efforts in western South Dakota

7 p.m., Ben Reifel Visitor Center Theater
Noted author, bison rancher and falconer Dan O'Brien will give a presentation on prairie conservation

9:30 p.m. to Midnight
Guided public spotlighting for ferrets by reservation only

For ferret spotlighting advance reservations or for more information, call (605) 433-5281. On Saturday and Sunday, please inquire at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center information desk or call (605) 433-5241. For more information about the festival, visit nps.gov/badl.

The event is made possible through funding and cooperation from World Wildlife Fund, Badlands Natural History Association, Prairie Dog Coalition, Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team, Nature Conservancy, Prairie Wildlife Research, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service.

Image: Black-footed ferret. Source: NPS photo by Dan Foster.