CES Series: Black-footed Ferret  LbNA # 10968

Placed DateSep 11 2004
LocationDivide, CO
Planted ByKristen    
Found By SKBrady Bunch
Last Found Jun 15 2013
Hike Distance?

Colorado's Endangered Species Series: THE BLACK-FOOTED FERRET

NEW CLUES as of 12 Aug 06

The rarest native mammal in the United States, the black-footed ferret is a short-legged, slender-bodied weasel. It measures just 1 1/2 feet (46 cm) nose to tail. This small carnivore once was widely distributed throughout the North American Great Plains from Alberta, Canada, south through the Rocky Mountains to the southwestern United States. The last wild black-footed ferrets were taken into captivity in 1987. Today, the ferrets have been reintroduced to a few limited areas in the state of Wyoming.

The black-footed ferret is a nocturnal prowler whose fate is closely tied to that of the prairie dog. The ferret eats ground squirrels, mice, birds, and insects. It lives in burrows dug by prairie dogs, which also are its primary prey. A colony of prairie dogs 100 to 148 acres in size is necessary to support one ferret.

Massive hunting and poisoning campaigns against the prairie dog, its main food source, caused the ferret to decline. The wholesale conversion of prairie to crop land further impacted the ferrets and their prey. The black-footed ferret was first officially recognized by the United States government as threatened in 1967 and was listed as endangered when the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was created in 1973.

After the black-footed ferret population was decimated by disease, biologists determined that the remaining wild ferrets were not a viable breeding population. The last 12 ferrets were captured and combined with 6 ferrets already in captivity to bring the world total to 18 ferrets, all in captivity, in 1987. Captive breeding has been successful. Sufficient numbers of prairie dogs were born to allow reintroduction to be attempted after just a few years.

In 1991, the first reintroduction of 49 juvenile ferrets was completed. Careful monitoring showed that 12 percent of these ferrets were able to survive the winter. The discovery of two wild-born litters was a particularly good sign. A second group of 90 captive-bred ferrets was released in 1992. Follow-up indicates that survival may be about 25 percent. The majority of ferrets are lost to predation by coyotes. The objective of the recovery effort is to establish ten geographically distinct free-ranging populations totaling 1500 ferrets by the year 2010.

This trail is called Horsethief Falls. From I-25, take US-24 west 18 miles to it’s intersection with CO 67 in Woodland Park. Take US 24/CO 67 south to Divide where the highways diverge. Turn left (south) on CO 67 and go about 9 miles to the summit of the pass. The parking area is on the left, the closed Waters Tunnel marks the spot. There is some parking on the right also.

One pace = each time your left foot hits the ground

Pace Calibration: At the parking lot, there is a sign with a map on it. Stand with your back to the map, facing the tunnel. It took me 20 paces to reach the mouth of the tunnel where there is a door locked with a chain and padlock.

Kids - Yes
Dogs - Yes
No restrooms or trash cans. Please pack out trash.

From the parking lot, follow the trail to the right (there is another trail that seems to kind of go over the top of the tunnel, that is not the one you want.)

These clues start at the falls and work back.

Follow the trail toward the falls. When you get to an intersection with two posts that have arrows, follow the trail that goes straight. You’ll pass a sign that says “Falls” and “Pancake Rock” with arrows on it – take the trail to the Falls. Enjoy a picnic listening to the sound of the splashing water.

To find the box, take the trail back the way you came, and pass that same sign that says “Falls” and “Pancake Rock”. Immediately after this sign, there’s a post with an arrow that points you back on the trail to the parking lot, take that trail back the way you came. When you reach the intersection with the two posts with arrows, here’s where your pace counting starts. From the INTERSECTION (not from the post), count 48 paces to a spot where there are a couple large rocks in the path, and you have to walk around them. From there, count 55 paces to a barbed wire fence on either side of you.

Just after the barbed wire fence, there's a boulder field in the trail. Standing on the boulder field, on your right, you'll see two dead trees that are standing, but leaning on each other at the top. One of them has strange bumps on it. From the tree with the bumps, take 12 paces down over the boulder field, where you'll see a smooth gray tree lying down on your right, it has been sawed off right where it meets the trail. Follow this tree to the other end, where it meets a standing tree with no needles. Right next to this tree are a group of large rocks. The letterbox is hidden behind the largest one, covered by small rocks, sticks, and natural debris.

Please email me when you find the box to let me know its status, as I will not get down there to check on it often. Thanks!