Conserving the Black-footed Ferret
Lincoln Park Zoo has been a key partner in the recovery of the black-footed ferret. Research by zoo scientists has produced insights for maintaining the reproductive health of this population, which stems from just seven founders.
Just 35 years ago, black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct. But the discovery of a last population near Meeteetse, Wyoming, jump-started a recovery program that has produced 9,600 black-footed ferrets and reintroduced nearly 5,000 of the predators back to the wild.
Lincoln Park Zoo has been a key partner in this recovery. Research by zoo scientists has produced insights for maintaining the reproductive health of the population, which stems from just seven founders.
Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology at Lincoln Park Zoo, has been involved in the black-footed ferret recovery program for more than 20 years. In that time, she has seen many successes, but also encountered new difficulties, including declining fertility rates in the ex situ population. To determine the cause of the population’s limited reproductive success, Santymire and her colleagues are comparing the health and reproductive traits of captive and wild populations in the hopes of one day seeing the species survive on its own. The information gathered from this research will help create management recommendations that will improve reproductive success in this endangered species.
One Health in Montana
Lincoln Park Zoo and Montana’s Northern Cheyenne Reservation have embarked on an ambitious community conservation partnership focusing on black-footed ferrets, one of the world’s rarest mammals.