Help Needed to Document Endangered Black-Footed Ferret Numbers in Arizona

Help Needed to Document Endangered Black-Footed Ferret Numbers in Arizona
Help Needed to Document Endangered Black-Footed Ferret Numbers in Arizona
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Arizona Game and Fish Department

Arizona -( The Arizona Game and Fish Department is seeking dedicated volunteers to help document endangered black-footed ferret numbers.

As part of the black-footed ferret recovery effort, Game and Fish personnel will be conducting two fall spotlighting events, which is the method used to document the population of this elusive, nocturnal and endangered carnivore.

The dates of the two efforts are Sept. 24-28 and Oct. 22-26. Those wishing to assist can volunteer for one night or multiple nights. The efforts will be conducted at the black-footed ferret recovery area in Aubrey Valley, west of Seligman.

“Volunteers play a vital role,” said Jeff Pebworth, wildlife program manager for the department’s regional office in Kingman. “We don’t have the personnel to fully staff these events, 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. Only 18 were left when captive breeding efforts began in 1985. In 1996, Arizona’s Aubrey Valley was selected as a reintroduction site.

The last two spotlighting efforts revealed lower-than-expected numbers, which puts increased importance on the upcoming fall events.

“The numbers were lower, but we don’t know why,” Pebworth said. “We tested for plague, and all of those tests were negative. There’s a possibility the animals have expanded their range, or that good precipitation the last few years has the grass too tall to see the ferrets.

“These fall efforts follow the breeding season, so we’re hoping the count will rebound.”

Volunteers can witness the processing of the animals, which allows researchers to understand population, longevity and movement throughout the range.

Volunteers must be able to stay attentive from sunset to sunrise and be willing to learn how to use a Global
Positioning System (GPS). A parent or guardian must accompany any youth under 18.

“This is an opportunity to see the amount of effort involved with this reintroduction,” Pebworth said. “Not to mention the chance to see an animal few others have ever seen in the wild.”

Those wishing to volunteer, or needing more information, should e-mail [email protected] by Sept. 21 for the first  effort and by Oct. 19 for the later opportunity. Please write “Fall Spotlighting” with “September,” “October” or “Both” in the subject line. They also should indicate which night(s) they are available and include their full name, a contact phone number, and whether anyone will be attending with them.

Additional information will be sent following contact, including meeting location and times.

Volunteers also should note any of the following equipment they can bring: GPS, clipboard, headlamp, pen, binoculars, walkie-talkies, 4×4 vehicle (please list passenger capacity), compass, or a spotlight that is either rechargeable or plugs into a cigarette lighter.

The weather can be cool, so volunteers need to dress appropriately.

“It remains critical we continue to document ferret numbers and understand how this population is holding up in the wild,” Pebworth said. “Events such as this help direct us in regard to what needs to happen next.”