Nollaig sent me this on Friday, in honor of ferretblogging:
Black-footed ferrets were considered extinct until a few survivors were found in Wyoming in 1981. Since then a successful captive breeding and reintroduction effort raised hopes that the highly endangered ferret will recover. But that recovery is now threatened by the U.S. Forest Service’s proposal to kill prairie dogs, ferrets’ primary food source.
Because they depend on prairie dogs for food, ferrets can only survive in large prairie dog colonies. Unfortunately, these colonies sometimes result in conflicts with cattle ranchers when they spread onto adjacent ranches on private land. As a result, last fall the government applied poison to nearly 6,800 acres within the Buffalo Gap National Grassland in South Dakota. Because non-lethal management options for the control of prairie dogs are available and because the Buffalo Gap National Grassland is critical to reintroduction of the black-footed ferret, several conservation organizations filed suit to stop the poisoning. Under the terms of a settlement, further poisoning was prohibited until completion of an environmental impact statement and long-term solution for management of prairie dog colonies.
The Forest Service recently released its draft environmental impact statement and is seeking public comments on three alternatives for prairie dog management. Unfortunately, all of the alternatives have drawbacks and two call for expanded killing of prairie dogs, which would eliminate ferret recovery options in several areas and destroy the best remaining ferret habitat on the planet.
The Conservation Action Network linked above suggests a letter that can be copied and sent expressing the importance of preserving prairie dogs in areas where the ferrets are still recovering. I just sent one off, and hope that, if you enjoy the pictures of my little squirrels each week, you’ll do the same.