The Black-footed Ferret goes ‘wild’

This blog is written by guest blogger Tiffany Huggins.

The only known species of ferret native to North America, the Black-footed Ferret was virtually extinct by the early 20th century. Its entire population vanished from Canada. In the United States, this species was assumed to be gone forever until the early 1980’s. In 1981, a Black-footed Ferret was found in Wyoming and from there researchers tracked 18 more ferrets in the wild and initiated a strategy to breed and reintroduced them back to parts of Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Image of a Black-footed Ferret

Photo of a Image of a Black-footed Ferret. Flickr Photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie (CC BY 2.0)

The male Black-footed Ferret usually weighs approximately 950 to 1,100 grams and is slightly larger than females. The Black-footed Ferret is distinguishable by a dark brown mask around its eyes and its dark brown feet and tail tip. In the wilds, they live for three years but can survive up to seven years in captivity.

The species is nocturnal, meaning it is primary active at nights. Their diet is made up mostly of Prairie Dogs, however they also eat birds, eggs, other small mammals and rodents.

Conservation efforts to save the species is ongoing, with a number of individuals and organizations working together. Among them are the Toronto Zoo, Parks Canada, US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Calgary Zoo. Toronto Zoo has been involved in the recovery program since 1992 and in October 2009, they were able to release 34 ferrets back on Canadian soil at Grasslands National Park. Since this first re-introduction, there has been frequent monitoring sessions to examine threats to the population and to monitor how the population is doing.

How you can help

You can contribute to the Toronto Zoo’s Black-footed Ferret Conservation Recovery Program by:

  • Choosing to adopt a Black-footed ferret. For information, please visit the zoo’s website here.
  • Get a firsthand understanding of Black-footed ferret by visiting the Toronto Zoo, see the animal and learn more about this endangered species and others at the facility.
  • Be an advocate. Share the information you’ve learnt with your family and friends.

To learn more on the Black-footed Ferret, check out our Know Our Species page for the full story and more facts on this fascinating species! 

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