Officials and supporters of the Henry Doorly Zoo can feel proud that during this, the 30th year of an effort to save endangered black-footed ferrets and reintroduce them into the wild, the facility was in at the very beginning of the recovery program.
It was 1981 when a Wyoming farm dog caught and killed one of the ferrets, a species thought extinct since 1979. That led to the discovery of a colony of 130 animals. The captive breeding program at Doorly and several other zoos began in 1988, and by the time the Omaha zoo ended its participation in the ongoing program about 10 years later, hundreds of the rare animals had been housed and bred successfully.
Today, the reintroduction program has established a wild population of about 1,000 ferrets in 19 colonies in eight Western states, Canada and Mexico. Every year, about 200 ferrets bred in captivity are conditioned and released into the wild. The relocation effort is proceeding smoothly, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates the recovery project.
The black-footed ferret is an endangered species recovery success, thanks to efforts by the Henry Doorly Zoo and other facilities across the country.