News & Media
Great Success with Endangered Ferret Breeding
PHOENIX ZOO HAVING GREAT SUCCESS WITH ENDANGERED FERRET BREEDING
So far in 2008, the Zoo is celebrating a very successful year of Black-footed ferret breeding. To date, 22 kits have been born and all surviving and thriving. The Phoenix Zoo has been involved in a successful breeding program for the endangered species since 1992, and has had more than 380 ferrets born in their on-site facility.
For reasons that are not clear to Zoo staff, the breeding program did not have any kits in 2007, so the Zoo is even more pleased that this year's efforts have been very productive. Usually, females breed in litters of 3-4 kits on average. This year, the Zoo's female ferrets are producing 5-6 kits per litter, with the most recent delivery of a litter of six kits on July 7, 2008.
For 15 years, the Phoenix Zoo has been involved in the efforts to bring back Black-footed ferret numbers in the wild, and is one of only five breeding facilities in North America. The Zoo was one of the earliest facilities to participate in the recovery program, and has released 85 ferrets that were born at the Zoo back into the wild.
The Black-footed ferret is native to western grasslands where it once roamed from Canada to Mexico. Habitat destruction and prairie dog predation eventually reduced the ferret's numbers to a small handful in the wild. By the 1960s, there was only one known wild population left; a small colony in South Dakota.
Another small colony was found in Wyoming in 1985, but an outbreak of plague and distemper killed all but 18 animals. Those remaining animals were brought into a captive breeding program through U.S. Fish and Wildlife that has since increased wild populations back up to around 600 animals.
Click here to read more about black-footed ferrets and the Phoenix Zoo's involvement.