September 26, 2011 is a very significant day for animal conservation.  This coming Monday marks the 30th Anniversary of Black-footed Ferrets being rediscovered in the wild.  This Sunday, at ZooAmerica, we will be having our own celebration to mark the occasion!

In 1979, biologists considered the black-footed ferret to be extinct.  Then, in 1981, a ranch dog in Wyoming brought a dead ferret home to his owners.  The ranchers took the carcass to a taxidermist who identified it as a black-footed ferret.  The taxidermist contacted wildlife authorities who then surveyed the area to discover the last remaining population of ferrets.  The remaining ferrets were brought into captivity to attempt to breed them for future release.  Over 7,000 kits have been born at breeding facilities since the rediscovery and 1,000 black-footed ferrets are estimated to now live in the wild. 

A black-footed ferret being released into the wild. Photo Credit: K. Tamkun/USFWS

ZooAmerica houses 2 male black-footed ferrets that were given to us from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, VA.  Both of the ferrets are retired breeders.  The ferrets are rotated on exhibit because black-footed ferrets are solitary animals.  Be sure to look for one of our ferrets (either Godzilla or Yum!) when you visit the Great Southwest building in the zoo.

When you come to the zoo on Sunday, there will be many opportunities to learn more about the black-footed ferrets.  We will have enrichment activities for both of our ferrets at 10:30am and 2:30pm.  This is a great opportunity for guests to see natural behaviors of these animals, provoked by items we introduce (different scents, animal fur or snakeskins, insects, etc).  There will also be 2 presentations in our education room about the efforts put forth by many scientists to successfully breed this animal.  There will be craft areas and an informational table where you can see and touch artifacts from the ferrets, along with getting a close-up look at a domestic ferret- a cousin of the black-footed ferret.  Besides learning about these fascinating weasels, guests will have the opportunity to help the effort by donating money to the Black-footed Ferret Species Survival Plan which helps to fund captive breeding and field research. 

A sleepy captive bred ferret kit. Photo credit: K. Tamkun/USFWS

The staff at ZooAmerica is excited for this special event- we hope you can join us on Sunday to support black-footed ferret conservation!  Remember to bring your best friend with you for a special admission coupon: http://www.zooamerica.com/pdf/black_footed_ferret_day_coupon.pdf

The characteristic ferret dance- we often see this on exhibit when they get excited! Photo Credit: M. Lockhart/USFWS

For more information about black-footed ferrets, check out http://www.blackfootedferret.org/.