The Black-Footed Ferret

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Today, I received an email from Jenna Bowles, who is the head of distribution for The Futures Channel. They produce "micro-documentaries" that feature industries and professions that are both innovative and inspiring. One of their newly launched videos focuses on the endangered black-footed ferret recovery program. Basically, 25 years ago, a dog discovered one lone black-footed ferret in a hole -- the last one known to exist in the wild. Since then, the recovery effort has become one of the most successful conservation programs conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in recent history. The Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado has produced more than 5,500 ferrets in captivity.

In the movie, the biologists at the facility follow a sequence of stages aimed at returning the animals to their natural habitat.

"Our main task is to manage black-footed ferrets in captivity, prepare them for reintroduction and release them back into the wild," explains wildlife biologist Paul Marinari, who shows the breeding facilities and preconditioning pens.

One of the most critical elements of the conservation program is breeding healthy ferret offspring or "kits." The breeding rooms are quarantined environments because ferrets are very susceptible to diseases, including human influenza. Each room is filled with a series of tubes and cages that simulate the burrow and tunnel systems that ferrets use in the wild. It is here that the animals develop and learn to adapt to a life underground.

Once they're old enough, the young, naïve black-footed ferret kits are transferred to the outdoor "preconditioning" facility that simulates what it will be like for them to live out on the prairie.

"One of the most exciting things that we do here is prepare the animals for release," explains Marinari in the documentary. "They get to experience rain and dirt and wind and all the nighttime sounds in the North American prairie."

The micro-documentary, which features Marinari, shows two kits being released for the first time, and yes, they are cute.


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So cute I almost want to put one down my trousers.