Survival Training, Ferret Style

At one time, the black-footed ferret was one of the rarest animals in the world. They were native to the Great Plains, but thought to be extinct. Then in 1981, 18 ferrets were found and rounded up for their own safety. Captive breeding programs produced 7,000 ferrets since then. They are being introduced into the wild a few at a time, but first each has to go to "boot camp" to learn how to be a feral ferret. That training facility is the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center in Colorado.
Ferrets live in the Colorado facility until there’s an opening in one of the 48 outdoor pens, each about the size of a studio apartment. It’s a tough transition, says Paul Marinari of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manager of the center. “They have to deal with cold and bugs, rain, snow, dust, all things they don’t have to deal with inside.”

It has taken a few tries to get the training right. In the past, researchers swooped down on ferrets with stuffed raptors and sent in “robo-badgers” to boost the ferrets’ ability to defend themselves against common predators. But the most important part, Marinari says, involves live prey: “The more practice ferrets get going after prey, the better they do.”

Ferrets that have gone through the training are more likely to survive on their own than other ferrets. Link

(Image credit: Morgan Heim)

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That's a lotta banjos...

Would love to see this experiment with 7,000 teenagers. You know, right when they get to the "You can't tell me what to do! I'm an adult! So stay out of my room!" age.
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