The black-footed ferret is one of only three ferret species in the world and the only ferret species native to North America. Considered a flagship species for the North American prairie, the black-footed ferret is crucial to the 130 unique animals that depend on this ecosystem. The animal is completely dependent upon prairie dogs for survival – an animal that has faced significant decline due to conversion of prairie for agriculture, poisoning campaigns and disease. As a result, black-footed ferret populations were severely threatened throughout the 1900s and even considered extinct in the 1970s.
In 1981, black-footed ferrets were rediscovered in Wyoming. The Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Program was launched shortly thereafter and today approximately 1,000 individuals live in the wild. In 2011, the program celebrated 30 years since rediscovery. Through the Friends of Sunset Zoo, Sunset has provided funding to support a ferret reintroduction site in Western Kansas. Zoo friends have also traveled to this site to help with an annual count of wild populations.
Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Video Produced by Topeka Zoo
Check out this great video about the project featuring Sunset Zoo staff.