Considered one of the most endangered mammals in North America

The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/Phoenix Zoo is thrilled to announce our first litter of black-footed ferret kits for the year!

Six healthy ferret kits are being cared for by their mother, Mandolin, a first-time mom. The Phoenix Zoo is one of only six black-footed ferret breeding facilities in the world, and we are active participants in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Black-footed Ferret Species Survival Plan® program, which recommended the pairing that led to these kits.


The kits will be raised by Mandolin at the Zoo’s Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Conservation Center for the next few months.

In the fall, the SSP will determine which kits will stay at one of the six breeding facilities for future breeding and which will be released to one of several release sites in the wild. These decisions are based on a close examination of the genetics of the population in human care and population trends at each of the release sites.

If the kits are slated for release this fall, they will go to the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado, where they will be placed in a “soft release” enclosure. This enclosure mimics wild conditions, where the ferrets can be monitored to see if they exhibit behaviors necessary for survival in the wild. Once they pass that test, they will be sent to one of the release sites.

Some ferrets that stay in the breeding program may be released to the wild if the recovery team determines that they are needed there, and others are sent to release sites after they are past their reproductive prime, if they are sufficiently healthy and able to hunt successfully.

Over 400 black-footed ferrets have been born at the Phoenix Zoo since our program began, and about 100 of these have been released to sites in Arizona. We are very proud to continue our work with this endangered species and to share the black-footed ferret recovery story with our guests.