What’s in store for 2012?
This year is already off to a fast and warm start! In February, we joined our partners at Turner Endangered Species Fund for some black-footed ferret work in New Mexico. Despite the intense drought, the ferrets are still hanging on there and hopefully the rains will come soon to that parched landscape. The majority of our conservation field work is in the Summer/Fall months and it gets pretty intense. Only the bare minimum of office work is accomplished then. We spend quite a bit of the Winter/Spring months in the office catching up on data analysis, report writing, publications, accounting, fundraising, grant writing, building our partnerships and setting things up for the Summer/Fall field season.
As the summer heats up so will the field work. In 2012, we will return to Kansas and help our partners there monitor the size and health of the prairie dog colonies that have black-footed ferrets on them. The black-footed ferret population has done well in Kansas thus far because of individual and conservation organization landowners. In August, we will begin our annual field work in Conata Basin/Badlands, South Dakota, a black-footed ferret site where PWR has worked since 2001 and for me, personally, since 1995. The Conata Basin/Badlands area is a combination of two federal land bases: Buffalo Gap National Grassland (US Forest Service land) and Badlands National Park (National Park Service land). Both of these agencies as well as a few other organizations are our partners in black-footed ferret recovery there.
In 2007, the black-footed ferret population in Conata Basin was the largest in the world and numbered more than 335 individuals. Then, in 2008, the area was struck by plague, a deadly disease that kills both prairie dogs and black-footed ferrets. Double whammy. Collectively, we pulled together to dust prairie dog burrows (to kill fleas that transmit plague) and vaccinate black-footed ferrets against the disease. We continue this two-pronged effort every year to battle this deadly disease. Our vaccination efforts for 2012 will begin in August and likely continue through December. It requires us to spotlight the prairie dog colonies at night, looking for the green eyeshine of nocturnal black-footed ferrets, and then trapping the ferret for a shot. Wow, that was really easy to type in one sentence but it is so much more difficult in reality. What does it take to vaccinate a black-footed ferret against plague? See our video blog for the answer.
In the coming months we also have screenings of the black-footed ferret documentary, “Return of the Prairie Bandit” scheduled. The first is coming up quickly at a domestic ferret event in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Ferret 500, and a few days later in Wisconsin at Fox Valley Technical College. Check our Facebook pages for details and updates on these and more upcoming screenings. On September 26, 2012 we celebrate International Black-Footed Ferret Day! Why international? Because black-footed ferret populations exist in three countries (US, Mexico and Canada).
So take some time to explore our updated website and please send us comments via email, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest! This year is shaping up to be another great one for black-footed ferrets and Prairie Wildlife Research. I hope you will support us in our great conservation work so that one day the prairie is no longer one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America!
For the ferrets,