BFF Infogram, 6/14/95 Per Larry Shanks of FWS:
From [log in to unmask]
(comments in parentheses are my personal thoughts).
Of the 14 BFF's released on 6/5, one was found dead from coyotes on
wed. 6/7, and over the weekend the rest of the 14 were killed by coyotes.
It is speculated that the previous week it was wet & rainy, but cleared on
the weekend, and somehow this might have delayed the kill off of the ferrets.
There were supposed to be another release of about 14 more elderly
Black Footed Ferrets on June 19th into the same area. That release is now
canceled. This raises the question of what to do with these ferrets..
There are 2 zoos that are currently requesting BFF's for exhibit,
that might be getting some of these ferrets. The zoos are Cornell &
Larry said ferrets that there aren't enough zoos for will also be
used for "research". (That vague term brings shudders to my mind).
He said the Living Care Proposal needs elaboration, it was never
totally ruled out.
He said that they had 4 goals in mind with the 6/5 release:
1. Can you take older animals & pre condition them to raise survival rate;
There was no survival to address this point.
2. Using radio telemetry with reduced intensity of signal.. Can we still
track them, will the battery last longer. Old levels lasted 30-45 days;
They learned that they could track, but the ferrets didn't live long enough
to see how long the batteries lasted. (Seems to me an Energizer Bunny
simulated type of test could be done without sacrificing ferrets!)
3. Testing spotlighting technique. They used radio tracking until the
collar falls off, then spotlighting at night to try & find survivors.
They simultaneously used spotlighting this time with the radio tracking.
They wanted to find if there was a ratio of how many ferrets are there
compared to ones spotted, I.E. Do we see only 1 out of 3, etc..
4. They were going to test "if we had established group on 5th, if there
was another release in the same area, would it cause a conflict. We would
like to add to the population but not cause a conflict ."
He said they obtained info on 2 of the 4 items.. "For this age group,
item 1 bombed." They obtained limited information on the spotlighting work.
(Point one was pointed out to the FWS that it would not work. Most
people with common sense could figure out that any animals that were born
in captivity and lived all their lives in cages with no need to avoid
predators, would have little to no chance of surviving in an environment
where the food source they depend on -prarie dogs-, is also a food source
for animals that in turn feed on the black footed ferrets, coyotes!). I
pointed out to Larry that I thought it was too bad the higher up's couldn't
figure this out, that they needed sufficient dead bodies in front of them
to prove the point. Even the United States Humane Society told them it
wouldn't work before they did it!
Future plans in the works:
In the they fall plan to release family units of mom & kits who are
whelped, but not a year old yet. Born April - may, release in Oct.
In 1996 they will have 80 4-5 yr. olds that will have to go on
exhibit, or be held in the captive program.. (This is hard to imagine with
the current and proposed budget cuts).
They still plan to release 3 yr. olds if / when possible..
Larry discussed the possibility of releasing Black Footed Ferrets in
the winter. He said it's felt that the coyotes are seen less in the
winter, thought no one yet knows why this is so. The area of release
becomes increasingly important since white tail prarie dogs hibernate
during the winter, but black tail prarie dogs don't.
Respectfully, Gary Holowicki
[Posted in FML issue 1226]