What is Canada doing?

The black-footed ferrets' historical range once stretched into Canada, but the last wild ferret was seen in the early 1900's. With the recent re-introduction of ferrets into Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan, there is renewed hope.

This section contains an audio slideshow from a Parks Canada employee on the future for the Grasslands ferrets, as well as an interview with the curator of mammals at the Toronto Zoo where they breed ferrets for re-introduction.

Pat Fargey and Grasslands National Park

Introducing black-footed ferrets back into part of their historical range in Saskatchewan is not an easy task, but it's one Parks Canada undertook with enthusiasm and passion.

Pat Fargey, a Species at Risk expert with Parks Canada, says that working to bring the ferrets back to Canada has been a "truly humbling experience."

"It has been a group effort," says Fargey. "From when it all began back in 2004, we knew that we were working together for something special."

Because the ferrets were only introduced into Grasslands National Park in October 2009, he cautions that it is still too soon to tell if the species will survive and flourish.

"We have to wait and see," says Fargey. "That's all we can do."

Interview with Maria Franke

Maria Franke is the curator of mammals at the Toronto Zoo in Canada, which has been working with black-footed ferrets since 1992. Since then, over 375 kits have been born for use in the United States re-introduction program.

The ferret breeding area is located beyond the limits of public view, as it is under strict quarantine. Franke says that this allows them the strictest control over the ferrets' environment.

"We want to eliminate any and all risks to the ferrets," says Franke. "However, that is not possible. So, we try to minimize their risks, so that they can ultimately survive in the wild."

With the opening of the Grasslands National Park re-introduction site in Saskatchewan, the Toronto Zoo is working closely with Parks Canada and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor and maintain the new Canadian ferret population.

Their work is very important, especially in the next couple of years, when conservationists will know how well the ferrets are adapting to their new Canadian home. Franke says that the USFWS are being extremely helpful, and their experiences with numerous introductions has been invaluable.

"We are leaning heavily on them, and we should all work together" says Franke.

"When it's a man-made cause, man should step in to help."