After over 6,700 votes cast, the three black-footed ferret kits at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia have received their names.
The female kit received the name “Aster,” in honor of a purple flower that is native to the American Prairie. She was named through a public vote on the Zoo’s website. Smithsonian National Zoo Members voted for her brother’s name via an e-newsletter poll 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,” which is another native plant to the American prairie. SCBI carnivore keepers selected nine potential names that reflect black-footed ferrets’ significance as a distinctly North American species. Voting took place July 20 through July 25.
Black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct in the wild until September 24, 1981, when the last colony was rediscovered near Meeteetse, Wyoming. Eighteen black-footed ferrets were brought into human care by USFWS and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to prevent the species from going extinct. In 1988, SCBI was the first to receive offspring from those 18 and breed black-footed ferrets outside of Wyoming. Since their arrival in 1988, more than 1,000 black-footed ferrets have been born at SCBI, including 140 born via artificial insemination. More than 350 kits born at SCBI have gone into preconditioning programs for the chance to be released to the wild.
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