In an effort to preserve the survival of a species, six of the nearly extinct black-footed ferret will travel Tuesday under strict sanitary controls to a pre-screened zoo for a new captive breeding program.
The tiny, weasel-like animals were among 34 kits born this spring at the Wyoming Game and Fish department's Sybille Canyon captive breeding facility. The 58 there are thought to be the only black-footed ferrets in the world."The ferrets are doing well, and we are at a situation now where we feel we have enough ferrets that we can split the Sybille colony," said Art Reese, chief of habitat and technical services at the game department.
The ferrets were nearly wiped out in late 1985 when an epidemic of canine distemper ran through their last known colony near Meeteetse. Biologists managed to save only 18 of the rare animals.
Some 17 zoos around the country answered the game department's call for captive breeding proposals, Reese said, but just three met stringent conditions the department imposed, which includes that the kits can't be put on display to visitors for fear of exposure to disease.
Following a tour of the zoos, the department selected Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb., and the National Zoo, just outside Washington, D.C., in Front Royal, Va. The first six kits are flying to Washington on Tuesday, and another eight will go to Nebraska next month.