Ferret close-up

Our newest species made its grand premiere on Thursday, September 17.  Now on exhibit in the Great Southwest Building is a small, 2 1/2 pound Black-footed Ferret, also known as a BFF.

This is a very important animal to us since black-footed ferrets were believed to be extinct in 1979.  In 1981, a Wyoming sheepdog brought a black-footed ferret back to his owners and they turned it over to the Fish and Wildlife Service since they were unsure of what it was.  They recognized it and began a search for any remaining ferrets.  They located 120 in Meeteetsee, Wyoming.  Due to disease, within a short period of time, only 18 remained in the wild.  In attempts to save the species, they brought all 18 into captivity to begin a breeding program.  Now there are multiple breeding programs all over the country and many ferrets have been released into the wild.  Currently, there are about 1,000 ferrets living in the wild because of captive breeding programs.  Approximately half of all kits born in captivity are released.  The other half is taken into the breeding program to guarantee the program’s continued success and genetic diversity and the future of the species.

Ferret coming out of hole

ZooAmerica has two male ferrets living at the zoo, Godzilla and Joker, but you will not see them both at the same time.  Black-footed ferrets tend to be stressed by other ferrets which can lead to health problems, so we rotate them on exhibit by themselves.  While one is on exhibit, the other one tends to be in the back taking a nap! 

Ferret peering out of prairie dog hole

When you come to visit the ferrets, you will notice that their exhibit looks like a prairie dog town.  That is because ferrets rely on prairie dogs for homes and food.  90% of their diet in the wild is prairie dogs.  One of the reasons for the population decline is because of the massive prairie dog poisoning out west.  Farmers tend to feel that prairie dogs are a nuisance to their croplands which is why so many were poisoned.  Without prairie dogs, the black-footed ferret was out of a home and a meal, so many began to die off. 

The efforts of Fish and Wildlife and many zoos and conservation centers have truly rescued the species from extinction.  We are proud to display these new animals to educate the public on the great strides they have made.