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The Zoo is open! Entry passes are required for all guests, including infants. Effective July 30, all visitors ages 2 and older are required to wear a mask in all indoor spaces at the Zoo, regardless of their vaccination status. Fully vaccinated visitors do not need to wear a mask in outdoor areas.

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Vote to Name the Black-footed Ferret Kits

Meet Aster, Swifty and Aspen!

After five days of voting and more than 6,700 votes cast, the three black-footed ferret kits at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia have received their names. The female kit was named “Aster,” in honor of a purple flower that is native to the American Prairie. Smithsonian National Zoo Members voted for her brother’s name and chose “Swifty” in honor of the swift fox. Players of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s mobile game, Zoo Guardians, chose the name Aspen for the second male kit. His name is short for “quaking aspen,” another plant native to the American prairie.

Black-footed ferrets, North America's only native ferret species, were once thought extinct. Now an endangered species, every birth is a significant achievement. Keepers selected the nine potential names, which paid tribute to the native plants and animals of the American prairie and reflect the black-footed ferret's significance as a distinctly North American species. Voting took place July 20-25, 2021.

What should she be named?

The results of this poll are not available.

Meet the Ferret Kits

Help Name The Male Kits

Play Zoo Guardians

Players of the Zoo’s mobile game can vote in-game to name one of the male kits! Zoo Guardians invites animal fans (ages 9 and up) to build their own virtual zoos, interact with animals through augmented reality, and learn what species need to thrive in human care and in the wild. After viewing the tutorial (reaching Level 2), users will gain access to the vote in their in-game mailbox. Download Zoo Guardians for free from the App Store or Google Play

Are you a Smithsonian National Zoo Member? Check your inbox!

Current members are invited to name one male kit through a poll in the July 20, 2021, member e-newsletter. Members help save species and get access to great benefits, such as naming an endangered ferret kit! Join today.

Black-footed Ferret Conservation

Black-footed ferrets once ranged across the western plains but were thought to be extinct until a small colony was found Sept. 26, 1981, near Meeteetse, Wyoming. This year marks the 40th anniversary of this discovery, when 18 black-footed ferrets were brought to zoos and breeding facilities to prevent the species from going extinct. In 1988, the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute was the first facility outside Wyoming to receive offspring.

More than 1,000 black-footed ferrets have been born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, including 140 born via artificial insemination. Depending on their genetic value and ability to hunt live prey, some kits remain in breeding facilities, while others are released into the wild. More than 350 of SCBI's kits have gone into ferret preconditioning programs, where they learn to live in burrows and demonstrate that they can successfully catch prey before being released into the wild.

Latest Ferret News

Check out the latest news about Potpie's kits.

Black-footed ferret

Black-footed ferrets are North America's only native ferret species. They were once thought to be extinct in the wild, but thanks to breeding and reintroduction programs, have made an incredible recovery!