2012 Year in Review
Prairie Wildlife Research is committed to on-the-ground conservation of wildlife. We demonstrated that in 2012 by working at 4 black-footed ferret recovery sites in South Dakota, Kansas and New Mexico. In February we spent time working with our partners at Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF) in New Mexico and helped them to assess the status of the black-footed ferret population there. We didn’t find as many black-footed ferrets as hoped, likely due to the severe drought, but prairie dog numbers rebounded in the summer and more black-footed ferrets were released by TESF in Fall 2012. Later that month we traveled to Toronto, Ontario to give a presentation at the "Grasslands In Crisis" symposium. It was a great audience and we were thrilled to see old friends and make several new ones, all working towards the goal of conserving grasslands and prairies.
True to our name, research is an important part of our conservation activities and we published 4 papers in peer-reviewed journals and one book chapter. Those publications covered various subjects such as black-footed ferret territory sizes, digging behaviors, habitat selection, aging techniques and general recovery progress. We continue to learn more about black-footed ferrets, prairie dogs and plague through our research, and that helps us do a better job!
The heat of the summer found us in western Kansas working with our partners Larry Haverfield and the US Fish & Wildlife Service. We spent two weeks mapping and counting prairie dogs to estimate the health of the prairie dog population there. This area is the site of a highly successful black-footed ferret reintroduction and it is all due to the private land partners. Look for the Kansas black-footed ferret story on the Emmy-award winning “Expeditions with Patrick McMillan” on PBS. If your local PBS does not carry “Expeditions with Patrick McMillan” then let them know about this wonderful conservation program!
Later in the summer our focus shifted, as it always does, to the black-footed ferret population in Conata Basin/Badlands, South Dakota. For the past 11 years we have spent countless hours on the ground, working with our partners, to conserve the black-footed ferret population. Things took a serious turn in 2008 when disease (plague) was discovered in the area and we took the lead in vaccinating the black-footed ferrets against this deadly disease. By the time our field work in Conata Basin/Badlands ended in November we captured and vaccinated nearly 100 black-footed ferrets and we hope to find and vaccinate even more in 2013.
Public outreach and presentations are an important part of what we do as well. We spoke at various places across North America in 2012 including Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin and Texas. The documentary “Return of the Prairie Bandit”, featuring our work in Canada, was awarded the Conservation Education Award by The Wildlife Society. Our website was also re-launched and featured exciting new products such as the “Black-Footed Ferret Junior Biologist Kit”. Another documentary, “Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild”, featured our work with ferrets in South Dakota along with stunning images by conservation photographer Michael Forsberg.
Looking ahead to 2013, our work vaccinating black-footed ferrets against plague in Conata Basin/Badlands in South Dakota is our highest priority. Plague continues to be a formidable enemy to both ferrets and prairie dogs and in 2012 noticeably affected the ferret population. As a result, we hope to increase our field crew and plague research capabilities in 2013. We also expect to continue work with several of our other partners in several states and hopefully gain some new ones as well. The most important partners we have are our supporters. We simply could not accomplish our important conservation activities without your support. Thank you!
For the ferrets,
Prairie Wildlife Research