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32c Black-footed Ferret single

National Postal Museum

22c Black-footed Ferret single

National Postal Museum

Black footed ferret kits summer 2015

National Zoo
The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) has been a leader in black-footed ferret conservation since a small population of this solitary, nocturnal carnivore was discovered in 1981. SCBI received offspring from the species’ surviving 18 individuals and was the first institution to breed black-footed ferrets outside of Wyoming. Faced with a genetic bottleneck, SCBI scientists mitigated threats to the survival of the species by using semen that had been cryopreserved for 10 to 20 years to artificially inseminate live female ferrets. Learn more:

Lambchop's 7 Black-footed Ferret Kits

National Zoo
It's black-footed ferret whelping season at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia! The average size for a litter is three to four kits, but litters can have up to 10 kits.

The Black-Footed Ferret Ambassador Program

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Program introducing students to conservation genetics and population bottlenecks. A teacher's guide, slideshow, and a visit from the National Zoo's Ambassador ferret is included. For Grade 7. Advanced booking and fee required.

Ferret and Millet, from the series Seihō's Masterworks

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Help Name the National Zoo’s Baby Black-Footed Ferret

Smithsonian Magazine

With a face every mother surely would love, one of the Zoo’s newest black-footed ferrets, born April 15 to mother Jambalaya and father Lido at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Campas in Front Royal, Virginia, was given a name by readers in an online poll.

Find out the winning name at the Around the Mall blog

Today, the six-month-old spends her time playing with the web camera, though the keepers describe her as shy. Because of her outstanding genetic makeup, she’ll become one of the Zoo’s breeding ferrets, a progenitor of multiple youngsters (possibly up to 12), who will eventually be released into the wild to restore natural populations. and the Zoo partnered to bring readers the opportunity to select from four symbolic names chosen by the animal’s keepers, including Meeteetse, where the last population was found, as well as Rosebud, Shirley and Cheyenne, locations in South Dakota and Wyoming where black-footed ferrets bred in captivity are released back into the wild.

More than half-a-million black-footed ferrets once roamed across the Great Plains, from Canada to Mexico. But during the 20th century, the population was decimated after a misguided management plan rapidly killed off of the black-footed ferret’s primary food source, the prairie dog. Disease and predation furthered their decline and by the mid-1980s, the species was thought to be extinct. In 1981, however, a small population of 24 was found in Wyoming and researchers decided to round up the remaining few and bring them into captivity.

Less than 30 years later, the black-footed ferret recovery is a scientific success story. Researchers have slowly made strides in breeding the creatures through both natural and artificial means—in 2010 alone, a whopping 50 ferrets were born at the Zoo’s Front Royal facility.

In total, 670 ferrets have been bred at the Zoo, with more than 220 successfully released after graduating from “ferret boot camp,” an arduous survival-training course in Colorado where they learn to deal with the elements and survive in the wild. The wild population now stands at 1,000.

You can watch antics of the young female on the Ferretcam.

Here are the four names that were considered for the ferret.

Meeteetse: The last known population of 24 wild ferrets was found at Meeteetse, Wyoming.

Rosebud: The Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, is one of the wild-release sites for ferrets bred in captivity.

Shirley: Shirley Basin, Wyoming, is another one of these sites.

Cheyenne: The Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota, is yet another release site.

Voting is now closed.

Image by Mehgan Murphy / National Zoo, SI. The National Zoo's newest black-footed ferrets were born on April 15, 2011. (original image)

Image by Lawrence Layman, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. and the National Zoo have partnered to bring readers the opportunity to name the black-footed ferrets. (original image)

Image by Mehgan Murphy / National Zoo, SI. More than half-a-million black-footed ferrets once roamed across the Great Plains. The loss of its primary food source, disease and predation declined the population and in the mid-1980s, the species was thought to be extinct. (original image)

Image by Mehgan Murphy / National Zoo, SI. Researchers have slowly made strides in breeding the black-footed ferrets through both natural and artificial means. In 2010 alone, a whopping 50 ferrets were born at the National Zoo's Front Royal facility. (original image)

Image by Mehgan Murphy / National Zoo, SI. In total, 670 ferrets have been bred at the National Zoo, with more than 220 successfully released after graduating from "ferret boot camp." (original image)

Image by Mehgan Murphy / National Zoo, SI. The four names Zookeepers have chosen and are open to voting are Meeteetse, Rosebud, Shirley and Cheyenne. Submit your vote by noon of Friday, November 4. (original image)

Black Footed Ferrets

National Zoo

Black-footed Ferret ZivaDee Gives Birth to One Kit at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

National Zoo
April 29—2019, Black footed-ferret kits are born with white hair, but by the time they are 3 weeks old they start to develop a "facemask," black feet and a black-tipped tail.

Releasing Black-footed Ferrets into the Wild

National Zoo
During the first week of September 2014, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute scientists were doing what they do best: saving species. Staff released six more black-footed ferrets—once thought to be extinct in North America—into the Colorado prairie. SCBI supervisory biologist Warren Lynch and animal keeper Chris Crowe were on hand for the release, as was senior education specialist Laura Linn. The team also transported 32 ferrets from SCBI to the Ferret Conservation Center. Those 32 ferrets will be reintroduced onto North American prairies later this fall. SCBI breeds black-footed ferrets every year. SCBI senior curator Paul Marinari, who also keeps the studbook for the Black-Footed Ferret Species Survival Program, worked with Fish and Wildlife Service to determine, based on genetics, which ferrets would be released into the wild. #WeSaveSpecies

Black-Footed Ferrets Get a Second Chance at Life

Smithsonian Channel
These baby black-footed ferrets are nothing short of a miracle. After their population dipped to only 18 individuals, veterinarians embarked on an uphill battle to save the species from extinction. From: NATURE'S MATCHMAKER

How Feeding Prairie Dogs Peanut Butter Could Help Save Ferrets from the Plague

Smithsonian Magazine

The black-footed ferret is one of the most endangered mammals in North America — a status that is far better than most suspected in the 1970s. At that time, scientists figured that this attractively-masked member of the weasel family, which once lived all across the Great Plains, was extinct. But in 1981, a dog brought back a dead ferret to Lucille Hogg’s back porch in Meeteetse, Wyoming. Since then, conservationists have fought hard to bring back the ferret. 

The latest weapon in their arsenal is peanut butter. Or rather, plague-vaccine-bearing peanut butter eaten by prairie dogs, reports Ruffin Prevost for Yellowstone Gate

Zoos and preserves have been breeding black-footed ferrets and releasing new animals into the wild, but the newly-placed animals face danger in the form of plague caused by Yersinia pestis. Plague threatens the already precarious populations of black-footed ferrets because it can wiping out whole prairie dog towns, ferrets’ main form of prey. It can also kill them outright, after ferrets eat diseased prairie dogs or get bit by fleas carrying the bacteria.

“Right now, we have two tools in our toolbox to combat sylvatic plague,” says Travis Livieri of Prairie Wildlife Research, a non-profit that works to help black-footed ferrets, in an article from The Nature Conservancy. “We dust prairie dog burrows with an insecticide to kill the fleas, and we give black-footed ferrets a shot to vaccinate them. Both are effective, but we have to do it every year, and it’s costly.”

Prevost and other reporters recently visited the Pitchfork Ranch in Wyoming, where scientists are using peanut butter baits to dose the local prairie dog population with oral plague vaccines. By protecting the prairie dogs, a major carrier of the bacterium, they can protect the ferrets. Toni Rocke, of the University of Wisconsin and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, is one of the researchers working on the vaccine. The Pitchfork is one of 29 field sites around the country where they work.

“We have to make all the baits by hand, and I usually have one person making the vaccine and one person making the baits,” Rocke told Yellowstone Gate. Prevost writes:

She tested a range of flavors, but peanut butter proved to be the prairie dogs’ favorite. Rocke has now enlisted volunteers to help make the dice-sized bait cubes that are scattered across prairie dog habitat.

Another phase of trials will be needed to figure out how to best distribute the bait, which must be manufactured by automation on a much larger scale if it is to be effective beyond the 40-acre test sites where it is used now.

For more on why keeping prairie dogs relatively plague-free is good for the whole ecosystem, not black-footed ferrets alone, as well as the regulatory hurdles facing wildlife biologists working on this issue, read the rest of Prevost’s story

Dr. JoGayle Howard holds black-footed ferrets conceived through artificial insemination

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
JoGayle Howard was an american zoologist who specialized in the captive breeding of endangered species, such as pandas, clouded leopards, and black-footed ferrets. She worked at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C.

Dr. JoGayle Howard poses in a studio holding black-footed ferrets conceived through her work in artificial insemination of endangered species.
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