Most successful season of endangered black-footed ferret kits at the phoenix zoo in 20 years

The Zoo is enlisting help from the public to name one of the litters!

The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation (ACNC)/Phoenix Zoo is caring for 27 black-footed ferret kits at the Zoo’s Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Conservation Center, making this the most successful breeding season in 20 years. The first litter was born in May and the last just in June.

“It has certainly been a banner year for ferret kits at the Conservation Center,” says Dr. Tara Harris, Director of Conservation and Science at the Phoenix Zoo.

The Zoo is one of six facilities worldwide breeding black-footed ferrets for release to the wild. The species is considered one of North America’s most endangered species. Once thought to be extinct in the wild, the black-footed ferret has returned to its native habitat through reintroduction efforts facilitated by state, federal, tribal and non-governmental wildlife conservation partners. The Zoo has produced over 500 black-footed ferrets in our 30 years of involvement with the breeding program, with many released into the wild in prairie grasslands in Arizona and other parts of their native range.

The six litters of kits at the Zoo are raised inside their specially designed nest boxes, tended by moms Mandolin, Lazuli, Ridley, Sedona, Vermillion and Yoshi, who are all doing a fantastic job caring for the little ones.

“Many of these kits will likely go to release sites in North America designated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Black-footed Ferret Recovery Program, while others may stay here at the Phoenix Zoo or go to one of the other five breeding centers for participation in the managed breeding program,” says Harris. “We are hopeful that the kits produced at the Phoenix Zoo will be valuable contributors to the recovery of their species.”

In celebration of the exciting milestone, the Zoo asked for help from the public to name Sedona’s (and dad, JARVIS’s) litter of three females, approximately two months old. Name suggestions were submitted by Zoo staff and volunteers and narrowed down by the Conservation Center staff who provide the kits’ daily care. The public was invited to vote for one of three groups of names:

  • Arizona towns: Strawberry, Payson, and Bisbee
  • Marvel Universe Characters: Wanda, Scarlet, and Agatha
  • Desert plants: Saguaro, Cholla, and Prickly Pear

Thank you to everyone who helped vote. In total, we received 2,436 votes and Arizona towns swept the competition with 61% of the votes!

The Johnson Conservation Center is an off-exhibit space at the Zoo reserved specifically for programs that support native species recovery and research. In addition to black-footed ferrets, the Phoenix Zoo also breeds cactus ferruginous pygmy-owls, narrow-headed gartersnakes and Chiricahua leopard frogs, among other species of conservation concern in Arizona. 

About the Arizona Center for Nature Conservation

The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation operates the Phoenix Zoo. The ACNC advances the stewardship and conservation of animals and their habitats while providing experiences that inspire people and motivate them to care for the natural world.

The Phoenix Zoo is the only zoo in the Valley accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is a non-profit zoological park, serving 1.4 million guests annually. The Zoo is home to more than 3,000 animals, many of which are endangered and threatened species. For information on upcoming events, exhibits and activities at the Phoenix Zoo, visit

Photos of Sedona and Jarvis's Litter