Saskatchewan seeks a different 'BFF': the black-footed ferret
Last seen in 1937, the species is now recovering from near-extinction
The ferret, which has a bandit-like mask and distinctive black paws, used to be common in many prairie habitats, including Saskatchewan's grasslands in the south-west corner of the province. It is the only species of ferret native to North America.
The last reliable sighting of the animal in Saskatchewan was recorded in 1937, according to Pat Fargey, a species at risk biologist at Grasslands National Park.
Although its range extended through the United States and into Mexico, by the 1970's it was believed the animal was extinct.
"It was kind of those diseases and encroachment upon their habitat that caused their decline," Marinari said. "But we've done quite well with captive breeding."
Marinari said there are now an estimated 6,500 black-footed ferrets, up from the 130 estimated in the early 1980s.
The goal is to reintroduce the animals to their natural settings. Marinari said there are a number of reintroduction sites in the United States and Mexico.
"What we try and do here is save the species," Marinari said. "Our ultimate goal is to recover the animal [and] get it back in the wild. And close the door on captive breeding."
In Canada, biologist Pat Fargey has been examining the viability of reintroducing the ferret to the grasslands.
"We believe that we now have a suitable home here for ferrets," Fargey told CBC News. He pointed out that the Grasslands National Park has a prairie dog population that would be a reliable source of food for the ferrets.
Fargey said consultations about the park's plan to bring in ferrets have been ongoing and should conclude later this summer.