The elusive, nocturnal black-footed ferret has established a foothold in Aubrey Valley, but the Arizona Game and Fish Department needs volunteers to help monitor the endangered animal’s uphill climb.
Game and Fish will be conducting a spotlighting effort from March 5-9 and still has several openings for wildlife enthusiasts wishing 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, “but a lot of that credit falls on those who have donated their time to help.”
Pebworth acknowledges that those volunteers 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.
Those wishing to volunteer, or needing more information, should e-mail azferret@ azgfd.gov by Feb. 23 with “March 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, 4x4 vehicle (please list passenger capacity), compass, spotlight (that can plug into a cigarette lighter), or a cordless rechargeable spotlight.
It can be cool during the March event, 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.”