October 3, 2011
In late September, Vicky Hilgers, Instructor of Biology on the Mulvane
Campus, and two Biology I students, Mel Bingham and Evan Bradley, volunteered
with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to survey a population of endangered Black
Footed Ferrets in Logan Co., KS.
Ferrets became extinct in Kansas in the 1950’s but were bred in captivity and released into the wild in Logan Co., KS about 5 years ago. Since then, the population is surveyed by spotting and live trapping the animals during the night. Each ferret caught is examined by a vet to assess health & age, be micro-chipped and be vaccinated against distemper and the plague. Each ferret is then returned to the location where it was trapped, and the site is marked with GPS.
The populations in Kansas have been highly successful, although controversial, as ferrets rely solely on prairie dogs for food, and landowners often want prairie dogs exterminated, thinking it will reduce losses to rangeland and livestock. Volunteer groups participate from such schools and agencies such as Kansas State University, KS Wildlife & Parks, KS Biological Survey, the Sedgwick Co. Zoo, as well as others. Many other wildlife species were observed also, such as badgers, swift fox, ferruginous hawks, burrowing owls, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes, jackrabbits and cottontails.
Surveying ran from Sept 19 – 29. During the time the Cowley College group volunteered, four ferrets were trapped and assessed each night.