Join Game and Fish on a Ferret Finding Mission

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August 3rd, 2009

Volunteers critical in recovery effort

While the elusive, nocturnal black-footed ferret has established a foothold in Aubrey Valley, the Arizona Game and Fish Department needs volunteers to continue monitoring efforts of the endangered animal’s uphill climb.

Blackfooted FerretGame and Fish will be conducting a spotlighting effort from Oct. 1-5 and is seeking wildlife enthusiasts who wish to help find the small predators.

“Volunteers have played a critical role in this recovery effort,” said Jeff Pebworth, wildlife program manager at the Game and Fish Kingman office. “We don’t have the personnel to fully staff these efforts and the program’s continued success depends on people remaining involved.”

Twice thought to be extinct, a small population of black-footed ferrets was discovered in 1981. A mere 18 were left when captive breeding efforts began in 1985. In 1996, Arizona’s Aubrey Valley was selected as a reintroduction site.

“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in Arizona,” Pebworth said, “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently determined Aubrey Valley to be a successful black-footed recovery site. A lot of that credit falls on those who have donated their time to help.
Blackfooted Ferret
“However, it is critical we continue to closely monitor this population and the only way to do so is through these spotlighting efforts.”

Those who do volunteer, Pebworth explained, earn the right to brag about their participation and in the recovery of this animal.

Volunteers must be able to stay attentive from sunset to sunrise, be able to carry up to 30 pounds while backpack-spotlighting for two-hour durations. They must also be willing to learn how to use a Global Positioning System (GPS).

Individuals can volunteer for one or more dates. A parent or guardian must accompany any youth under the age of 18.

2 Blackfooted Ferret Kits in a burrow Those wishing to volunteer, or needing more information, should e-mail azferret@azgfd.gov by Sept. 21 with “October Spotlighting” in the subject line. Please indicate what night(s) you are available to help; include a first and last name, a contact number, and if anyone else will be attending with you.

Also, please list any of the following equipment you can bring: GPS, clipboard, backpack (to carry a 30-pound battery), headlamp, pen, compass, binoculars, walkie-talkies, 4×4 vehicle (please list passenger capacity), compass, spotlight (that can plug into a cigarette lighter), or a cordless rechargeable spotlight.

Weather in the Aubrey Valley can be unpredictable, so individuals need to dress appropriately.

“We’ve made progress,” Pebworth said, “but we’re a long way from recovery. It is critical we continue to document ferret numbers and understand how this population is holding up in the wild.”

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