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Soviets Offer Siberan Ferrets To Help Breed Black-footed Ferrets

March 2, 1987

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) _ The director of a Soviet zoo has offered to lend six Siberian ferrets to wildlife officials trying to save North America’s nearly extinct black-footed ferrets.

Seventeen black-footed ferrets taken from a prairie dog colony near Meeteetse in west-central Wyoming are believed to be the only ones of their kind left on the continent. For about a year, wildlife biologists have been trying to breed them in captivity, without success.

Last week the director of the Moscow Zoo offered, through the New York Zoological Society, to lend Siberian ferrets for use in the breeding program.

The Siberian ferret is considered the black-footed ferret’s closest relative and looks much like it.

″I’m delighted that our Russian friends are going to help us,″ James Doherty, curator of the Zoological Society’s Bronx Zoo, told the Casper Star- Tribune.

″I contacted the director of the Moscow Zoo more than a year ago because of our interest in acquiring some more Siberian ferrets. He didn’t have any at that time. It’s awfully nice that they have kept us in mind.″

Doherty said he checked with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and then cabled Dr. Vladimir Spitsin to accept his offer.

Because of their close relation to black-footed ferrets, Siberian ferrets have been used for tests designed to enhance captive breeding. Several years ago the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave the state Game and Fish Department two Siberian ferrets, and last year four more were donated from zoos in the United States and Canada.

These six Siberian ferrets are the only ones known to be in North America, according to state officials, but their species is by no means near extinction.

″There are significant numbers both in the wild and in captivity in the Soviet Union,″ said Dr. Ulysses Seal, a Minneapolis biochemist who is helping Wyoming officials with the captive breeding project.

Doherty said if permits for the Siberian ferrets can be obtained two males and four females will be flown to New York and then on to Laramie as soon as possible.

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