Black Footed Ferret Press release 5/31/95; For Immediate release, general
DR. Gary Holowicki, [log in to unmask], Compuserve 75464,741, 602-968-1523,
Source document Follows:
The Humane Society of the United States
2100 L. St., NW, Washington, DC 20037
May 24, 1995
Ralph Morgenweck, Director
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
134 Union Blvd.
P.O. Box 25486
Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225
Dear Mr. Morgenweck:
On behalf of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and its 2.4
million members and constituents, I write to express my concern for the
welfare of the group of four- and five-year-old black-footed ferrets
scheduled for release into the wild in South Dakota and Wyoming next month.
The HSUS has strongly supported the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service's
(Service) efforts to recover endangered species, and has fought hard to
protect the Endangered Species Act. In our view, the red and gray wolf and
black-footed ferret reintroductions have provided the Service with some of
its greatest and most visible endangered species successes.
Nevertheless, we have recurring concerns about the humaneness of these
reintroduction programs. Many of our constituents have questioned whether
the stresses and risks faced by the reintroduced animals are ethically
justified by the principles of the endangered species recovery. Accordingly,
the HSUS has examined this issue in detail.
In that context, we must express our misgivings about the Service's plan to
release this group of older ferrets into the wild. It is our understanding
that last February these ferrets were removed by the Service from several
breeding facilities, at Pueblo, Colorado, and Sybille, Wyoming. Until that
time, these animals had spent their entire lives in small cages, with
considerable exposure to and handling by human caretakers.
The HSUS believes that these senescent animals are unreleasable, and to
release them into the wild under the guise of a scientific experiment would
be both inhuman and hypocritical. It has been reported to us that many of
these ferrets suffer serious physical ailments associated with old age,
including damaged teeth, partial blindness, life threatening coccidiosis,
and tumors; that few show either inclination or ability to hunt and kill
prarie dogs when given the opportunity; that all, as hand-reared,
habituated animals, are unwary; and that until late in their lives, none
was ever intended for or trained for release. Based on past experience
with black-footed ferret releases, it seems extremely unlikely that any of
these animals would survive as long as 24 hours. Moreover, their last
hours would be filled with confusion and fear.
The Service justifies the release of these animals as an experiment
designed to answer questions about monitoring technology, ferret behavior,
and the effectiveness of pre-release conditioning in older adult animals.
Because of the health and known behavior of these animals, however, we
consider it virtually certain that the pre-release conditioning will be
ineffective. Moreover, because these animals are senescent, their deaths
will tell the Service little about the potential effectiveness of
pre-release conditioning on healthy three-year-old adults, which might be
better release candidates. The short expected survival time of these
animals also makes it unlikely that they will provide data to answer the
other scientific questions being posed. In our view, this is a poorly
designed experiment that will kill many animals in a short period of time.
The HSUS believes that all those who hold wild animals captive have the
responsibility to ensure humane care for them to the end of their lives.
Even though these black-footed ferrets are no longer considered useful to
the captive breeding program, they nonetheless deserve to spend their last
days in comfort. If suitable care cannot be found, they deserve at least a
quick, humane death.
We urge you to review this release program. If useful to you, The HSUS would
be happy to offer its expertise in helping resolve this difficult issue.
Allen T. Rutberg, Ph.D.
Wildlife and Habitat Protection
cc: Mollie Beattie, Director, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
[Posted in FML issue 1211]