ARIZONA NEWS

Endangered black-footed ferrets born at Phoenix Zoo’s conservation center

Aug 6, 2022, 6:30 AM

(Phoenix Zoo photo)...

(Phoenix Zoo photo)

(Phoenix Zoo photo)

PHOENIX — Twenty-one endangered black-footed ferrets were born at the Phoenix Zoo this breeding season in an effort to reintroduce the animals to the wild, the zoo and the Arthur L. and Elaine V. Johnson Conservation Center announced this week.

The Phoenix Zoo is working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Black-Footed Ferret Species Survival Plan as one of six facilities breeding the ferrets for release to the wild, according to a press release.

Black-footed ferrets are one of the most endangered species in North America at an estimated 300 wild-born or released animals.

There were as many as five million ferrets in the United States during the early 1900s, according to the Nature Conservancy. However, the sylvatic plague, extermination due to agriculture concerns and habitat loss have contributed to the population plummeting.

They were listed as endangered in 1967 and ruled extinct in 1979, but reintroduction efforts have contributed to their survival.

“We are thrilled to have another successful black-footed ferret breeding season and excited for these little kits to grow up and contribute to the recovery of their species,” Dr. Tara Harris, director of conservation and science at the Phoenix Zoo, said in a statement.

The Phoenix Zoo has produced over 500 black-footed ferrets over the last 30 years with the breeding program. many of which were introduced to the wild in Arizona prairies and grasslands, according to the release.

Thirteen kits (baby ferrets) born in Phoenix last year have been set in the wild in Colorado.

The young kits are being raised with their mothers in a specially designed dens.

“The ferret moms are doing a fantastic job of caring for the new kits,” Harris said. “The kits will stay with their mothers for the next few months. Some will likely be destined for release to the wild whereas others will be retained for the breeding program.”

The Johnson Conservation Center at the zoo also breeds cactus ferruginous pygmy-owls, narrow-headed gartersnakes and Chiricahua leopard frogs and other Arizona species of survival concern.

The Phoenix Zoo is asking the public for help naming a litter of four kits, which are one month old.

The name choices are:

• Kyoshi, Toph, Suki, and Azula (characters from Avatar the Last Air Bender)
• Freya, Eisa, Idunn, and Senua (Norse mythology names)
• Espeon, Umbreon, Flareon, and Jolteon (Pokémon characters)
• Maple, Acacia, Cedar, Willow

Voting runs through Aug. 16 and can be done on the zoo’s social media channels and zNews, the Zoo’s email newsletter.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

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Endangered black-footed ferrets born at Phoenix Zoo’s conservation center