Happy National Ferret Day.

At Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, we're big fans of both black-footed ferrets and domestic ferrets.

This is Alfred. He's a domestic ferret here in our Loft at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.

This is Rouge, a black-footed ferret also on display in the Loft.

Even though they might physically look similar and sometimes share the same coloring, they actually have a lot of differences.

Domestic ferrets like Alfred are of European origin and have been domesticated for many years.

Black-footed ferrets are the only ferret native to North America and once thrived across grass prairies from Canada to Mexico.

Wild European ferrets are more opportunistic and tend to live in various dens whereas black-footed ferrets only live in the underground boroughs of prairie dogs.

Black-footed ferrets are nocturnal whereas domestic fears are crepuscular or active at dawn and dusk.

Black-footed ferrets, due to eating larger prey, have bigger canines versus the domestic ferret. Because black-footed ferrets eat large prey, they have a large range of motion in their jaw.

Black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct until the mid-1980s when only 18 ferrets remained. Their decline is due to habitat loss, the introduction of plague and the extermination of their main food source, prairie dogs.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has partnered with zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and other organizations to help breed release and monitor ferrets release back out into the wild.

Since 1991, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has bred 589 kits and are behind the scenes conservation center. About half of those have been reintroduced out into the wild and the other half remained for future breeding. The zoo has helped fund their long-term conservation projects including this black-footed ferret breed and release program.

Your support allows us to continue this important work which we're hopeful it'll help us celebrate the future of all kinds for many generations to come.

Happy National Ferret Day.

Updated on November 28, 2023

 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a big fan of ferrets, both domestic and especially black-footed. Black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct in the mid-1980s until an unlikely hero made the discovery — a ranch dog in Meeteetse, Wyoming. 

The zoo partners with other zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other organizations to breed, release and monitor black-footed ferrets to increase their population. We had the pleasure of visiting the zoo during the 2022 Black-Footed Ferret Rediscovery Day, which is celebrated every Sept. 26. At the zoo, we learned about the incredible work of their black-footed ferret program including meticulously controlled conditions to prepare for the animal’s annual breeding. The black-footed ferrets that participate in the Species Survival Plan live in a quiet, bio-safe area out of guests’ view. But visitors at the zoo can still see this cute, yet ruthless species in The Loft, home to black-footed ferret ambassador, Rouge. Rouge is a special part of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, helping to educate visitors on the importance of conservation.

Since 1991, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo successfully bred 589 black-footed ferret kits in its behind-the-scenes conservation center. Every visit to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is conservation in action. With 75 cents from each admission allocated to the Quarters for Conservation program, zoo guests help fund long-term conservation projects, including this black-footed ferret breed-and-release program. Since 2008, zoo guests have sent more than $4.5 million to conservation organizations through Quarters for Conservation.

We highlight the work happening to save the black-footed ferret in our new show, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild. Learn about the show including how to watch it here.

Check out more fun animal stories here.

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