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Senator Wayne Allard releases a Black-footed into a large pen at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center which was officially opened Thursday October 13,2005. The animals were near extinction in 1986 with the last wild population numbering only 18. Over 5,000 have been bred in captivity since 1987 with over 2,000 being released back into the wild in 6 western states including Colorado. The Center is located on the prairie north of Wellington. (GEORGE KOCHANIEC, JR./ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS) **

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