Timeline

1851: The black-footed ferret is described by John James Audubon and the Reverend John Bachmann. No one will report seeing a ferret again for another 26 years.

1950s: Recovered black-footed ferret specimens becoming very rare. Many believe the ferret to be extinct.

1964: A wild ferret population is found in Mellette County, South Dakota. They are considered perhaps the last black-footed ferrets in the world.

1967: The first endangered species list was created for the United States. Black-footed ferrets listed as endangered.

1972: Nine ferrets from the Mellette population are captured and taken to Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. It is hoped that these ferrets will produce kits; no kits survive.

1973: The Endangered Species Act is passed.

1974: Last wild ferret in Mellette County dead.

1978: A Black-footed Ferret Recovery Plan is approved by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

1979: The last black-footed ferret at Patuxent dies. The black-footed ferret is believed to be extinct.

1981: September 26th — A ranch dog named Shep brings a dead black-footed ferret to his owners, John and Lucille Hogg. Wildlife officials are notified. Meeteetse, Wyoming becomes the birthplace of black-footed ferret recovery.

October 29th — A live black-footed ferret is spotted near Meeteetse, Wyoming. Conservationists and researchers begin an intensive search to study the wild ferrets.

1984: The Meeteetse population peaks to 129 black-footed ferrets.

1985: Researchers discover fleas positive for sylvatic plague at Meeteetse.

After much debate, biologists decide to capture some black-footed ferrets due to declining population. The six animals captured all die from canine distemper virus. Trapping of additional animals begins. The fate of the species will rest with captive breeding.

1986: The IUCN -World Conservation Union’s Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG) conducts a workshop to develop a recovery plan for captive breeding and reintroduction of black-footed ferrets.

A captive breeding program is initiated by the Wyoming Game & Fish Department and the US Fish & Wildlife Service. The first attempts to breed ferrets from the Meeteetse population in captivity are unsuccessful; 0 kits produced.

1987: The last known ferret is captured at Meeteetse in February. Trapping efforts from 1985-87 result in 18 (11 male.7 female) black-footed ferrets surviving for captive breeding purposes. The black-footed ferret is considered the rarest mammal on earth. The Meeteetse population dies out.

Two litters of ferret kits are born at Sybille Wildlife Research Center. This is the first time black-footed ferret kits born in captivity survive! This brings the total number of black-footed ferrets in captivity to 25.

1988: The National Zoological Park’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska join the captive breeding program.

A revised “Black-footed Ferret Recovery Plan” is approved by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

1989: 72 ferret kits are born at Sybille and six at SCBI. The total ferret population is 120.

1990: Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colorado joins the captive breeding program.

1991: First reintroduction of black-footed ferrets. 49 ferrets released in Shirley Basin, Wyoming.

A Species Survival Plan® (SSP) is developed in cooperation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to manage the genetic and demographic needs of the captive ferret population.

Louisville Zoological Gardens in Kentucky and The Phoenix Zoo in Arizona join the captive breeding program.

1992: Two litters of wild-born kits are reported in Shirley Basin—the first known kits born in the wild since the Meeteetse population was lost.

The Toronto Zoo in Canada joins the captive breeding program.

1994: The Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana and Badlands National Park in South Dakota receive ferrets for reintroduction.

An outbreak of plague spreads throughout the Shirley Basin release site and further reintroductions are postponed. A total of 228 ferrets were released in Shirley Basin from 1991-1994.

1995: The US Fish & Wildlife Services assumes responsibility for managing the Sybille, Wyoming breeding facility and renames it the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center.

1996: The US Fish & Wildlife Service establishes a Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team (BFFRIT) to help guide recovery efforts. The BFFRIT includes representatives from federal and state governments, Native American tribes, zoos, private landowners and non-profit organizations.

The South Dakota ferret reintroduction effort expands onto the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands at a location called Conata Basin.

Aubrey Valley, Arizona becomes the newest reintroduction site.

1997: A new reintroduction effort begins on the Fort Belknap Reservation, Montana.

1998: The captive breeding program experiences its best year ever with a record 452 ferrets born and 339 surviving to weaning.

The number of ferrets available for reintroduction exceeds all previous years with approximately 210 kits released to the wild in Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota.

Perhaps the most important milestone in 1998 is the fact that for the first time since 1987 there were more ferrets in the wild than in captivity.

1999: Black-footed ferrets reintroduced to Coyote Basin, Utah.

2000: Black-footed ferrets reintroduced to Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation, South Dakota.

2001: Three new reintroduction sites join the program: BLM 40-Complex in Montana, Wolf Creek area in Colorado, and Janos Biosphere Reserve in Mexico.

Ground-breaking for the new National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado occurs. Site will eventually become a captive breeding and preconditioning facility to replace the Sybille Canyon location.

2004: Black-footed ferrets reintroduced on the Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota.

2005: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s new National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in northern Colorado is completed.

2006: Lower Brule Reservation in South Dakota becomes a reintroduction site.

2007: Three new re-introduction sites begin: Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, Espee Ranch in Arizona and Smoky Hill in Kansas.

2008: Reintroductions occur on the Northern Cheyenne Tribe Reservation in Montana and at the Turner Endangered Species Fund’s Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico.

First kits born to males that had been deceased nine years using thawed cryopreserved sperm to artificially inseminate two females.

Plague outbreak in Conata Basin causes a reduction of approximately 10,700 acres of prairie dogs.

2009: Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan, Canada becomes the newest reintroduction site.

2011: 30th Anniversary of Rediscovery

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