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    Game and Fish seeks ferret-finding volunteers - Desert Rat - The Premier Hunting and Fishing Blog of the Southwest!

    Game and Fish seeks ferret-finding volunteers

    Game and Fish seeks ferret-finding volunteers
    Spotlighting effort to document recovery progress

    While the elusive, nocturnal, black-footed ferret has established a foothold in Aubrey Valley, the Arizona Game and Fish Department needs volunteers to help monitor progress in the recovery of the endangered animal.

    As part of this effort, Game and Fish will be conducting a spotlighting event from March 25-29 and needs volunteer wildlife enthusiasts to help find the small predators.

    “Since this program’s inception, volunteers have played a critical role in the recovery of this animal,” said Jeff Pebworth, wildlife program manager at the Game and Fish Kingman office. “We don’t have the personnel available 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.

    The reintroduction of these rare animals in Arizona was possible because of state’s Heritage Fund which, when matched with federal dollars, accounts for the project’s funding. This, along with the dedication of volunteers, has made Arizona’s reintroduction effort a model for other sites to emulate.

    Pebworth admitted that without the voter-approved initiative, which provides money through the Arizona Lottery, this effort would not have been possible.

    “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in Arizona,” Pebworth said. “We’re restoring an animal that was absent from the state for about 65 years. It’s gratifying to know we’ve reached a point with this reintroduction where the population has continued to improve.”

    Spotlighting is not easy, and Pebworth acknowledges that volunteers earn the right to brag about their participation 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, and they must 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 18.

    “This is a unique experience and provides volunteers with an opportunity to see the amount of effort involved with this reintroduction,” Pebworth said. “Not to mention the fact that people will have a chance to see an animal few others have ever encountered.”

    Those wishing to volunteer, or needing more information, should e-mail azferret@azgfd.gov by March 19 with “March Spotlighting” in the subject line. Individuals should indicate which night(s) they are available to help; include a first and last name, a contact number, and if anyone else will be attending with them.

    Additional information will be sent following contact, including meeting location and times.
    Volunteers should also note any of the following equipment they 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.

    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.”

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