ferret Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Newborn black-footed ferrets at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in 2014.

The Phoenix Zoo has helped to breed more than 500 black-footed ferrets over the past 30 years.

Exciting news from the Phoenix Zoo: Residents Sedona and Jarvis are parents—27 times over!

Some of the zoo’s newest inhabitants are three litters of black-footed ferret kits. Once thought to be extinct in the wild, the black-footed ferret has returned to its native habitat through reintroduction efforts facilitated by state, federal, tribal, and nongovernmental wildlife conservation partners.

The zoo is caring for 27 black-footed ferret kits, and officials say it’s the most successful breeding season in 20 years. The first litter was born in May and the last in June.

Big Year for Ferrets

“It has certainly been a banner year for ferret kits at the Conservation Center,” Dr. Tara Harris, director of conservation and science at the Phoenix Zoo, said in a statement.

The Phoenix Zoo is one of six facilities worldwide breeding black-footed ferrets for release to the wild. The species is considered one of North America’s most endangered.

“Many of these kits will likely go to release sites in North America designated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Black-footed Ferret Recovery Program, while others may stay here at the Phoenix Zoo or go to one of the other five breeding centers for participation in the managed breeding program,” said Harris. “We are hopeful that the kits produced at the Phoenix Zoo will be valuable contributors to the recovery of their species.”

Thirty Years in the Making

The zoo has produced over 500 black-footed ferrets in 30 years of involvement with the breeding program, with many released into the wild in prairie grasslands in Arizona and other parts of their native range.

To celebrate a very successful breeding season, the zoo is asking for your help to name three of the female kits.

Zoo staff and volunteers have narrowed down the name selection to three categories:

  • Arizona towns: Strawberry, Payson, and Bisbee
  • Marvel Universe characters: Wanda, Scarlet, and Agatha
  • Desert plants: Saguaro, Cholla and Prickly Pear

Voting is open until Friday, Aug. 13! Pick your favorite of the three categories by visiting the Phoenix Zoo’s website.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.