Lassen Volcanic National Park With its rivers and waterfalls, lakes and wetlands, springs, geysers, and caves, all rimmed with rocky seacoasts, sandy beaches, corals, and deltas, North America's 5.8 billion acres boast an amazing abundance and diversity of wildlife and wild lands. Unfortunately, many of them—like the black-footed ferret, its prairie dog prey, and their grassland habitat—are highly endangered.

The National Zoo—the nation's zoo—exhibits many North American species.

Live the life of a wild wolf in Yellowstone—play WolfQuest.

Black-footed Ferret Conservation

black-footed ferret kitsThe National Zoo's Conservation and Research Center (CRC), in Front Royal, Virginia, has been breeding endangered black-footed ferrets for 20 years to bring them back from the brink of extinction. This year, 21 ferrets were bred at CRC, and several gave birth to litters. One kit was was born on our web cam on June 20. The kit was the result of artificial insemination.

In fact, the father died nine years ago! Semen was collected a couple of years earlier, frozen, and stored in the Zoo’s Black-Footed Ferret Genome Resource Bank, a repository of frozen semen from the most valuable males. In species that have short life spans like the black-footed ferret, the use of cryopreserved, or frozen, sperm extends an individual’s reproductive life. The bank’s contents help maintain and even enhance genetic diversity by infusing new genes into the population. A genetically healthy and diverse population has a greater chance of survival in the wild. The bank also serves as insurance against catastrophes in the wild populations, such as a disease outbreak.

Successful inseminations with frozen semen are extremely rare—until now only three black-footed ferret kits have been born from this method. Another kit was born at CRC the next day, also as a result of insemination with semen that had been collected and frozen in the 1990s.

Ferret cam update: Georgia and her male kit, Peanut, which many people have enjoyed watching on the web cam since June, are now at a facility in Colorado that is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Georgia is being prepared for release into the wild. Peanut, who is at the age when a young male would go his separate way in the wild, is extremely genetically valuable and will join the breeding program. The ferret now on the cam is named Tilly.

Visitors to the Zoo can see a black-footed ferret in the Zoo's Small Mammal House.

Learn more about black-footed ferret conservation.

link to North America Photo Gallery | link toHelp with cam

Can’t see any animals?
The animal in this exhibit may have moved out of view. FONZ volunteers operate some cams, but most of our cams show a fixed view.

Watching a black-footed ferret: You are viewing the nest box of a black-footed ferret at the Zoo's Conservation and Research Center, where ferrets are bred to be saved from extinction. The mother and kit that were on view this summer have left (see update above). On October 3, a ferret named Tilly made her home here. She is free to leave the nest box, so if she is not on view, tune in later. She will likely be artificially inseminated in 2009. Ferrets, which once ranged across the Great Plains and are now one of the world's rarest mammals, are more active at night—don't be surprised if the ferret on camera is asleep.
Recovery of the endangered black-footed ferret | Black-footed ferret facts

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Sea Lion Pups at the Zoo

Our youngest marine mammals are two female California sea lion pups that went on exhibit in Beaver Valley in 2006. They were rescued as newborns in June 2005 on separate beaches in California, and were raised at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California. link tomore

Sam, a bald eagle at the ZooSam and Tioga are the Stars of the Bald Eagle Refuge

A cooperative effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the National Zoo led to the creation of the Bald Eagle Refuge in the Zoo's Beaver Valley. Bald eagles in the lower 48 states nearly went extinct in the mid-20th century. In the 1960s and '70s, they were given protection under endangered species laws. Thanks to the ban on certain pesticides, protected habitats, and hand-rearing and releasing eagles into the wild, they now number more than 10,000 and are no longer considered endangered.

Come visit these majestic birds in their open-air Zoo habitat and find out more about their incredible comeback after being on the endangered species list. link toSaving Our Symbol

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