Canadian Recovery of the Black-footed Ferret
© Toronto Zoo
To re-establish black-footed ferrets in Canada by means of reintroduction
The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is the only native ferret known to North America. Once thought to be extinct, it is now listed as one of North America's most endangered species. In the 1980s, the last remaining wild ferrets were brought into captivity to set up a breeding and reintroduction programme. Over 6,800 kits have been born in six facilities within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan. Toronto Zoo has been involved in the programme since 1992 and is the only Canadian facility breeding black-footed ferrets for release into the USA and Mexico.
In 2004, Toronto Zoo, in partnership with Parks Canada, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, private stakeholders and other organisations, established a joint Black-footed Ferret/Black-tailed Prairie Dog Canadian Recovery Team to look at reintroducing black-footed ferrets into Canada. In Canada, the black-footed ferret historically ranged from the western prairies, to the south of Calgary, Alberta, and south of Regina, Saskatchewan. It was listed as extirpated in Canada in 1978. The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), the ferrets' primary prey, has the largest Canadian distribution in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan.
Extensive analyses and planning were conducted and the first Canadian release occurred in Grasslands National Park on 2 October 2009. The site will be a small managed release site with the hope of expansion in the future. This exploratory reintroduction will involve frequent monitoring to mitigate threats and bolster the population with additional individuals when necessary.
WAZA Conservation Project 09017 is implemented by Parks Canada. Toronto Zoo and Calgary Zoo are the key Canadian organisations. Also involved in the captive breeding component are six institutions within the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan for black-footed ferrets: Toronto Zoo, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Louisville Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Phoenix Zoo and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center.
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© Toronto Zoo