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The Black-Footed Ferret: On the Brink of Recovery?

Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB,volume 753)

Abstract

In an attempt to save the species from extinction, the last remaining 18 black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) were trapped up from the wild to initiate a captive breeding program. Nearly 30 years later more than 8,000 black-footed ferrets have been produced in captivity and approximately 4,100 animals have been reintroduced into 20 sites in eight US states (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana), Mexico and Canada. However, full recovery of the species has yet to be achieved, mainly due to limited viable habitat, disease and reduced fecundity. This chapter will highlight the advances in the black-footed ferret recovery program over the last 10 years including: (1) adaptive management techniques employed for the captive population; (2) development of new reintroduction sites and associated challenges facing wild black-footed ferrets; and (3) optimization of assisted reproductive techniques to secure the future of this rare species.

Keywords

  • Endangered species
  • Captive breeding
  • Black-footed ferrets
  • Assisted reproductive techniques
  • Inbreeding depression
  • Fecundity
  • Recovery

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the USFWS and members of the BFFRIT especially the partner institutions comprising the Black-footed Ferret SSP for continued support. We are indebted to Dr. Julie Kreeger for providing veterinary care to animals housed at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center from 1996 to 2012. The late Drs. JoGayle Howard, Elizabeth Williams and E. Tom Thorne will forever be an inspiration to all those working on the recovery of black-footed ferrets.

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Correspondence to Rachel M. Santymire M.D., Ph.D. .

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Santymire, R.M., Livieri, T.M., Branvold-Faber, H., Marinari, P.E. (2014). The Black-Footed Ferret: On the Brink of Recovery?. In: Holt, W., Brown, J., Comizzoli, P. (eds) Reproductive Sciences in Animal Conservation. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, vol 753. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-0820-2_7

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