Captive breeding is increasingly being used to create supplies of endangered animals for release into natural habitats, but rearing strategies vary and debates arise over which methods are most efficient. We assessed postrelease behaviors and survival of three groups of black-footed ferrets, each with different prerelease experience. Eighteen ferret kits ???60 days of age were moved with their dams from cages to 80-m2 outdoor pens with prairie dog burrows. These animals were compared to animals reared in standard cages (n = 72), some of which were given experience killing prairie dogs (n = 32). Ferrets were released onto white-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys leucurus) colonies in Wyoming, USA, in fall, 1992. Radio-tagged cage-reared ferrets made longer nightly moves and dispersed further from release sites than their pen-reared counterparts. The band return rate was 4-fold higher for pen-reared animals than for cage-reared animals during surveys conducted about 1 month after release. We recommend routine use of quasi-natural outdoor pens for prerelease conditioning of black-footed ferrets.
Additional publication details
Influence of prerelease experience on reintroduced black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes)