This year’s Denver Zoological Foundation Conservation Award was presented on November 10 to USGS scientist Dean Biggins for his enduring work with black-footed ferrets. Since 1981, when a remnant population of 46 adult ferrets was discovered in Meeteetse, Wyoming, Dr. Biggins has been involved in nearly every facet of ensuring the survival of these endangered animals. In 1985, when the wild population was threatened by distemper and plague, he helped remove the last 18 remaining ferrets from the wild to establish a captive breeding program. Later, he led an effort to develop standards for evaluating potential reintroduction sites for ferrets. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Dr. Biggins studied Siberian polecats (a close relative of the black-footed ferret) to better understand comparative behaviors and ecology of the ferret subgenus. Throughout the 1990s, he and his colleagues developed and tested rearing strategies for ferrets destined for release, resulting in a 10-fold increase in post-release survival rates. Today, wild free-ranging populations in 6 states contain a total of at least 150 adults, and the captive population is maintained at about 250 breeding adults. Dr. Biggins currently is conducting research on plague, a disease considered to be one of the most serious impediments to black-footed ferret recovery.
For more information contact: Dean Biggins