In present times we see many animal species getting endangered relatively fast. It is the same scenario when it comes to the black-footed ferret in North America.
This animal is the rarest mammal in North America. So biologists have decided to help save this creature by dropping peanut butter flavored vaccine-laced bait into their habitat, enabling these ferrets to fight the deadly plague that has hit them.
Biologists are not only helping these animals, but they are also helping their primary prey, the prairie dogs. Both the species are prone to the sylvatic plague, which is a non-native disease.
These animals having very little natural immunity also contributes to the fast spread. One infected prairie dog can ensure the devastation of thousands of animals within a few weeks.
Although black-footed ferrets are vaccinated against the plague before they are released into the wild, they live in prairie dog burrows and prey mostly on prairie dogs. Therefore these ferrets cannot survive without a sufficient supply of prairie dogs to satisfy their hunger. This is why biologists have taken action to get rid of this significant obstacle that stands in the way of the recovery of ferrets.
The researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center, and the University of Wisconsin came up with an oral vaccine to save prairie dogs from the sylvatic plague. The field trials started in 2012, where they distributed vaccine baits manually.
They did this on 50-acre test plots, and it was successful. To deliver the vaccine baits on a larger scale, they decided to use drones and all-terrain vehicles.
WF and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NWHC, Model Avionics, and Support XXL developed a great way to deliver the vaccine bait on a broader scale. Together, they designed three different methods that use either drones or all-terrain vehicles. The first one drops one bait at a time from the drone; the second one drops one bait at a time from an ATV, and then the third one drops three baits simultaneously from an ATV.
Both these methods were used to treat prairie dogs in more than 3,000 acres of land in Colorado and South Dakota. The drone and the ATV methods were found to be practical, affordable, and efficient. The researchers are still testing new delivery methods to deliver the vaccine baits and cover large areas effectively and efficiently.
Predators of the Black-Footed Ferret are coyotes, golden eagles, badgers, owls, and bobcats. While it’s common for little animals to have many predators, reintroduced ferrets are at a critical risk because animals raised in captivity typically lack some survival skills.
Black-footed ferrets are secretive, nocturnal, and solitary creatures. They are the only native species of ferrets native to North America. The domestic ferrets that you encounter in pet stores are of European origin and have been domesticated for decades.
Ferrets can be dangerous as germs can spread from bites and scratches. The wounds don’t even have to be deep or severe. They can spread rabies, especially if it is not vaccinated. Children are especially at risk from ferrets and their bites.
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