As mentioned in this update, ferrets that are released into the wild need to know how to hunt live prey, particularly prairie dogs. We provide the live rats to start the preconditioning process for the kits.
Each year a group of keepers and scientists update the Black-footed Ferret SSP. Working together, they determine which ferrets should breed and which should be released into the wild. Adult ferrets are evaluated differently than kits.
For an adult ferret, the working group considers age and health. A black-footed ferret must be at least 3 years old if female, or 4 years old if male, to be considered for reintroduction. It’s important to the SSP to maintain the same amount of 1-, 2- and 3-year-old ferrets, because they make up the core of the breeding population in human care. The health of the ferret is considered next. All reintroduction candidates need to have good eyesight and teeth so they can be successful hunters.
For a kit to be considered a good candidate for reintroduction, it of course needs to be healthy, but the most important factor is kinship. Kits who have a lot of relatives in the breeding population, known as “high kinship,” are reintroduction candidates. Those with low kinship, or those who do not have many relatives, stay in human care for breeding. It’s important to keep a wide gene pool so this endangered species has the best chance for survival.
So where will this year’s Black-footed Ferret Cam stars be going? [Drumroll, please…]