Wichita — Although it's hard to get an exact number, some of the 24 rare black-footed ferrets reintroduced to western Kansas last December have survived and reproduced.
Wildlife volunteers tried to count the ferrets last week, a task made difficult by the ferrets' habit of being reclusive and being spotted only briefly at night.
At least four of the ferrets reproduced, wildlife volunteers said.
"The results have been superb," said Ron Klataske, executive director of Audubon of Kansas. Klataske is hopeful that a third to half of the ferrets released in December survived.
Volunteers captured one of the ferret young on Thursday night and checked his health before giving him a microchip and releasing him.
"He was chattering at us and barking at us. He was feisty," said Samantha Wisely, assistant biology professor at Kansas State University. "The moms are more mellow. They were captive-raised and have seen people before. It was really nice to see a wild-born acting up and not wanting to be around people. He was doing his thing."
The young ferret is probably from the first litter of ferrets born in Kansas in more than 50 years.
Black-footed ferrets were believed to be extinct until 1981, when a small colony was found near Meeteetse, Wyo. Since then, the endangered species has been reintroduced in several Plains states.
Federal wildlife officials hope to establish 10 self-sustaining populations across the nation by 2010, with 1,500 breeding adult ferrets. They plan to release an additional 30 ferrets on the same Logan County land in October.
The ferrets live in prairie dog holes and prey on prairie dogs.