Black-footed ferrets (Mustela nigripes) apparently were extirpated from all native habitats by 1987, and their repatriation requires a combination of captive breeding, reintroductions, and translocations among sites. Improvements in survival rates of released ferrets have resulted from experience in quasi-natural environments during their rearing. Reestablishment of a self-sustaining wild population by 1999 provided the 1st opportunity to initiate new populations by translocating wild-born individuals. Using radiotelemetry, we compared behaviors and survival of 18 translocated wild-born ferrets and 18 pen-experienced captive-born ferrets after their release into a prairie dog colony not occupied previously by ferrets. Translocated wild-born ferrets moved significantly less and had significantly higher short-term survival rates than their captive-born counterparts. Using mark–recapture methods, we also assessed potential impacts to the established donor population of removing 37% of its estimated annual production of kits. Annual survival rates for 30 ferret kits remaining at the donor subcomplex were higher than rates for 54 ferret kits at the control subcomplex (unmanipulated) for males ( 82%) and females ( 32%). Minimum survival of translocated kits did not differ significantly from survival of those at the control subcomplex. Direct translocation of young, wild-born ferrets from site to site appears to be an efficient method to establish new populations.
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Vol. 92 • No. 4