in Logan County, Kansas. Once feared extinct, a small number were discovered in Wyoming in 1981.  They were re-introduced to TNC's Smoky Valley Ranch in 2007.
Black-footed ferret in Logan County, Kansas. Once feared extinct, a small number were discovered in Wyoming in 1981. They were re-introduced to TNC's Smoky Valley Ranch in 2007. © Bob Gress


Saving Black-footed Ferrets

Wyoming ranch owners conserve a home for the nation’s most endangered mammal.

Lander, WY

When John and Lucille Hogg’s dog brought home what looked like some kind of weasel 38 years ago, little did they know it would open a new chapter for the most endangered mammal in the country: the black-footed ferret. Now, the Hogg family has taken an important step in the successful return of the ferrets to the wild by placing a 2,354-acre conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy on their Lazy BV Ranch near Meeteetse.

In 1981, it was believed there were no black-footed ferrets left in the wild, so the discovery on the Hogg’s ranch came as quite a surprise. Bringing the story full circle, in 2016, thirty-five ferrets were reintroduced to the Lazy BV and neighboring Pitchfork Ranch, which already had conservation easements in place. Since then, another thirty-seven ferrets have been released on the ranches and biologists documented six wild-born kits from a minimum of three litters at the release site.

The Lazy BV was purchased by the family in 1918 and Allen and his wife Kris are now the third generation to steward the land. For them, a conservation easement just makes sense.

“We really agree with the idea of conservation, keeping this land in ranching and good for wildlife,” said Allen Hogg. “We also want to our son to be able to inherit the place and the payment for the easement will help make that possible.”

TNC Land Strategies Director Jim Luchsinger had high praise for the Hogg’s perseverance, “The Hoggs deserve our appreciation for sticking with us throughout a very long process. This project meant a great deal to me personally. I was thrilled to hear that ferrets were rediscovered in 1981, I witnessed their return in 2016, and today I had the opportunity to help the Hogg family protect their ancestral home.”

Besides the ferret, the easement conserves habitat for several dozen other species designated of “greatest conservation need” by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. These include greater sage-grouse, grizzly bears and Yellowstone cutthroat trout. It also protects important big game winter range and stretches of the upper Greybull River and Rawhide Creek.

This Lazy BV is now part of approximately 27,000 acres of land under easements in the Greybull River-Cottonwood Creek region. As with the others, it will protect the agricultural character of the area and prevent degradation of important streams and wetlands.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.