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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Influence of prerelease experience on reintroduced black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes)

Published source details

Biggins D.E., Vargas A., Godbey J.L. & Anderson S.H. (1999) Influence of prerelease experience on reintroduced black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes). Biological Conservation, 89, 121-129


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Captive rear in large enclosures prior to release Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A controlled study in 1992 in a grassland area in Wyoming, USA (Biggins et al. 1999) found that captive-bred black-footed ferrets Mustela nigripes raised in large enclosures dispersed smaller distances and moved less after release than did ferrets raised in small enclosures. Black-footed ferrets raised in large enclosures had a lower average maximum dispersal distance during the first three days post-release (1.7 km) and lower average cumulative movement over any three-day period post-release (8.2 km) than ferrets raised in small enclosures (maximum dispersal distance: 5.6 km; average cumulative movement: 21.1 km). Between September and October 1992, twenty-five 16.5–18-week-old captive-bred black-footed ferrets were radio-tagged and released into a 20,596-ha area. Eight ferrets were born in cages but raised in 80-m2 outdoor pens with prairie dog burrows and 17 were born and raised in indoor-1.5 m2 cages. All ferrets were fed live prairie dogs. Ferrets were followed in October–November 1992.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)

Provide live natural prey to captive mammals to foster hunting behaviour before release Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A controlled study in 1992 in a grassland area in Wyoming, USA (Biggins et al. 1999) found that captive-bred black-footed ferrets Mustela nigripes fed on live white-tailed prairie dogs Cynomys leucurus took longer to disperse after release but showed greater subsequent movements than did black-footed ferrets not fed with live prairie dogs. Results were not tested for statistical significance. Black-footed ferrets fed on live prairie dogs dispersed less on average during the first three days post-release (5.6 km) than did those with no experience with live prairie dogs (7.9 km). However, they had a greater average cumulative movement over any three-day period (21.2 km) than did those without live prairie dog experience (15.6 km). Between September and October 1992, twenty-nine 16.5–18-week-old captive-bred black-footed ferrets were radio-tagged and released into a 20,596-ha site. Seventeen ferrets had been fed live white-tailed prairie dogs weekly at 13–16 weeks and 12 had no experience with live prairie dogs. All ferrets were born and raised in indoor 1.5-m2 cages. Ferrets were radio-tracked in October-November 1992.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)