Black-footed Ferret Recovery and Reintroduction Program Analysis

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has entered into a cooperative agreement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to conduct an analysis and assessment of the Black-footed ferret (BFF) recovery and reintroduction program.  The overarching goal of this analysis is to recognize challenges, identify potential solutions, and quickly implement action items related to the recovery of the endangered BFF.

The primary objectives of this analysis are to:

  1. Assess the current status and impact of the USFWS BFF recovery program
  2. Identify primary challenges to program success and develop a series of action steps needed to overcome these challenges
  3. Prepare an action plan with recommended future directions

This analysis will not only look at the biological aspects of BFF recovery and reintroduction but also program administration, education/outreach, marketing, development, and communications. These aspects are critical for successful species recovery.

For additional information about black-footed ferrets and the history of Federal, State, Tribal and other organizational efforts in ferret recovery and reintroduction, please refer to the Resources and Reports section below.

Statement of Work

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) will focus on four key issue-areas which are directly related to the ultimate success for BFF recovery throughout its historic range. These issue-areas include: 1) Disease; 2) Reintroduction; 3) Managed Care; and 4) Overall administration of the program and resultant outreach/communication/engagement challenges and opportunities. The primary target audiences include Federal and State agencies, non-governmental conservation organizations, decision makers, and the general public. 

AZA staff will be the lead for this project and will be supplemented with key subject matter experts from Federal/State agencies, Native American tribes, AZA institutional members, academia, and conservation organizations.  

To accomplish the stated objectives in this proposal, a series of 2-3 day virtual workshops will be conducted over the course of 2021 to assess current program status and identify priority actions related to each of the four issue-areas identified above. 

Organizing Committee

An organizing committee made up of members from AZA and the US Fish and Wildlife Service will work with Steering Committees to facilitate workshops for each of the issue-areas.  The committee is currently made up of: 

US Fish and Wildlife Service
Pete Gober, Black-footed Ferret Recovery Coordinator
Kimberly Fraser, Outreach Specialist

Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Steve Olson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Project Supervisor
Shelly Grow, Vice President of Conservation and Science, Project Supervisor

Steering Committees

In addition, steering committees have been established for the respective issues-area related to this analysis.  The composition of those steering committees is as follows:

Managed Care Steering Committee
Chair: Paul Marinari, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
Della Garelle, USFWS National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center
Klaus Peter Koepfli, Mason School of Conservation/George Mason University
Rachel Santymire, Georgia State University
Robyn Bortner, USFWS National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center

Reintroduction Steering Committee
Chair: Travis Livieri, Prairie Wildlife Research
Dean Biggins, Emeritus, USGS Fort Collins Science Center
Tina Jackson, Colorado Parks & Wildlife Department
Tyler Tretten, USFWS National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center

Disease Steering Committee
Chair: Tonie Rocke, US Geological Survey
Dan Tripp, Colorado Parks & Wildlife Department
David Eads, USGS Fort Collins Science Center
John Hughes, USFWS National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center
Kristy Bly, World Wildlife Fund

Administration and Outreach Steering Committee
Chair: Steve Olson, Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Gail Keirn, APHIS Wildlife Services
Gloria Tom, Navajo Nation
Jason Suckow, APHIS Wildlife Services
John Emmerich, BFF Friends
Ken Morgan, Colorado Parks & Wildlife Department
Kimberly Fraser, USFWS National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center
Pete Gober, USFWS National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center

Resources and Reports

Introductory Resources for the BFF Analysis

Black-footed Ferret 5-Year Review (2020)
Species Status Assessment Report for the Black-footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes) (2019)
Recovery Plan for the Black-Footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes) (2013)

Black-footed ferret Recovery Program Analysis and Action Plan (1996)

Black Footed Ferret Disease Workshops

A link to the reading room can be found here

A link to the recorded webinars can be found here

Black Footed Ferret Reintroduction Workshops

A link to the reading room can be found here

A link to the recorded webinars can be found here.

Black Footed Ferret Managed Care Workshops

A link to the reading room can be found here.

A link to the recorded webinars can be found here.

Analysis Timeline

Virtual workshops will take place throughout 2021. A report will be produced from each workshop, posted online, and also sent to our BFF distribution list. A final report with priority findings and recommendations will be sent to USFWS and stakeholders in January 2022. To join the BFF distribution list or to submit comments and questions about the reports and workshops, please fill out the Contact Form below.

NOTE:  As with all workshops, there is always the possibility of overlooking key participants and stakeholders.  We apologize in advance for any oversight.  Since all workshops will be virtual in nature, there will be some limitations as far as open microphones.  Most participants will be in listen only mode but will be able to submit questions through the Zoom chat function.

Tentative Workshop Timeline for 2021 

Disease Workshop: February 26; March 5 and March 12, 2021.

Reintroduction Workshop:  June 4th, June 11th and June 25th, 2021.

Managed Care Workshop:  August 19, August 23, and August 27, 2021.

Administration/Outreach Workshop: TBD but tentatively looking at a virtual workshop on Outreach in mid-December 2021.  For the Administration workshop, we are hoping for an in-person meeting in early January 2022.

Final wrap-up workshop: TBD but tentatively looking at late January - early February 2022.

BFF Recovery Program Contact Form

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