Oklahoma's number one blog for natural and cultural history.


Inside the Treasure Box: Week One

Today begins an eleven-week blogging journey, a journey unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Stick with us, and we’ll take you behind the scenes for a first-hand look at the best of the best from each of our eleven collections. Curators and collection managers carefully chose the most significant and/or unique item from their collection, and one by one, we will reveal them to you. We hope you’re ready, because it’s going to be one exciting, international, world-record-breaking journey. Welcome to “Inside the Treasure Box”.

We’ve decided to kick off our new series with one of the rarest mammals in North America, straight from our mammalogy department. The black-footed ferret is an endangered species and was declared extinct in the wild in 1979 and again in 1986. However, the recovery of the species from a few individuals, that were discovered by chance thanks to a Wyoming rancher’s dog, resulted in successful captive breeding populations and reintroductions and recovery in several states.


"Historically, black-footed ferrets were found throughout the Great Plains, including Oklahoma, from Canada to northern Mexico," said Janet Braun, mammalogy staff curator. "Secretive and active only at night, they are extremely dependent on prairie dogs, both for food and burrows. Significant decrease in prairie dog colonies, conversion of grasslands to agriculture and disease contributed to the extinction of this species."


A close-up of the black feet for which the species is named

Today there are more than 1,000 individuals living in the wild in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Arizona. Only 5 specimens are known from Oklahoma, and as it is now extirpated (meaning it has disappeared from the area) in the state, this specimen is one of Oklahoma’s most rare mammal specimens in collections. This specimen was collected July 25, 1928 just one mile east of Norman.


Be sure to stay tuned for week two’s “big” reveal by following our blog and connecting with us on social media. By big, we mean one of the biggest in the world. You won’t want to miss this. What’s that, you say? You’re on the edge of your seat? Well, we’re not usually into making deals, but if blog receives 1,000 visits OR receives 10 new followers by Friday, Sept. 20 at 3 p.m., we may just be inclined to release a teaser. A “big” teaser.

Read Inside the Treasure Box: Week Two