In April 2005 I had the pleasure of meeting Travis Livieri and learning about the black-footed ferret (BFF) and the efforts of Prairie Wildlife Research (PWR) to reestablish this endangered mammal in the Great Plains of South Dakota. In the fall it was my privilege and pleasure to join Travis, graduate students, Fish & Wildlife employees and other volunteers who gathered to count, examine and study the ferrets living in the grasslands. As a domesticated ferret owner and rescue volunteer, disaster services volunteer and a doctoral student in Animal Science, I was quite familiar with research techniques, rescue and the domesticated counterpart of the BFF. I had never been involved with the rescue of an endangered species in the field, however. The opportunity to travel to a new place and work with both government and private sector people to help save this beautiful animal was an experience that awakened my heart to the wonders of this great land. Because of PWR I fell in love with the prairie and recommitted myself to improving the land. This is what PWR does. Reaching out to people a few at a time, it educates and involves people who never knew about the black-footed ferret and its plight to both the animal and the opportunities to make a difference in our world. People who didn’t understand now support the efforts and in groups to which I belong, I have seen large sums of money be raised to donate to this cause by people who have very little as individuals. The active breeding program at the National Zoo is now a frequently watched site. If not for the international efforts of PWR, my children and grandchildren - and all future generations - might never have known of the BFF except in books and pictures.
I first met Travis Livieri when I invited him to give a talk at the 2005 International Ferret Symposium. Since then, a mutually beneficial relationship has existed between the domestic and black-footed ferret communities. We get the opportunity to learn about and help this wild cousin of our pets. Travis and his very small team display an unparalleled dedication to saving the black-footed ferret. Through their efforts, and those of other determined researchers and volunteers, the BFF has gone from being thought extinct to having a firm toehold in our prairies. My most memorable experience was when I got to release a young female BFF into a conditioning pen at the BFF Conservation Center. Today she may be raising a litter of wild-born kits somewhere in the midst of our great prairies.
Prairie Wildlife Research does a fantastic job of stretching every dollar that is donated for maximum impact on the ground. I am amazed at the dedication of the PWR staff and volunteers. The work that they perform is arduous and makes a direct, hands-on impact on one of the most endangered mammals in North America.
2 yrs ago I went with the PWR crew to Conata Basin. We trapped and vaccinated black footed ferrets and captured some for relocation at other sites. Why this is a great non-profit? Your donations go directly to helping one of the rarest North American mammals--not on endless junk mailings and address labels!!