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Ferret Captive Love Finally In Bloom

April 29, 1987

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) _ Love appears to have blossomed with the spring for captive black-footed ferrets that the Game and Fish Department has been trying to breed since last year.

Department of Habitat and Technical Services chief Art Reese said the ferrets began breeding on their own last week at the Sybille Wildlife Research Unit near Wheatland.

The ferrets were moved to the research center last year, and previous efforts to persuade the endangered mammals to breed there have been unsuccessful.

The ferrets are believed to be the last of the breed in North America and are the only remaining members of a colony which was almost wiped out last year by an epidemic of canine distemper.

Reese said three of the 11 captive female ferrets have bred naturally twice. He added that nine of the females have shown signs of estrus - the state when conception can occur - and five of the seven males appear to be interested in breeding.

But Reese said last year a mature female failed to become pregnant after breeding with a juvenile male. He added that not much is known yet about breeding ferrets in captivity.

Nonetheless, Reese said the biological odds of one of the ferrets getting pregnant have increased after last month’s introduction of a 4-year-old sexually mature male ferret.

″Repeat breedings are important in ferret reproductive biology, and the majority of the ferrets, both male and female, are displaying breeding,″ Reese said.

The department plans to allow the breeding process to continue naturally as much as possible, Reese said.

″To minimize stress to the animals, we are not going to intervene mechanically in pregnancy-checking the females during their presumed gestation period,″ said Reese. ″For the next six weeks the program waits with a degree of optimism that we might see a litter, but also with the realization that there are so many variables that may preclude pregnancy.″

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