AZ Game and Fish Department Black-footed Ferret Spotlighting
**Stan often gives extra credit for attending this event! (No promises though...)
It will soon be that wonderful time of year again for ferret spotlighting. The Black-footed Ferret Project will be hosting a large fall spotlighting event October 21st - October 25th. Spotlighting will begin on Thursday night October 21st and conclude on Tuesday morning October 26th. Fall events are held to assess the ferret population going into winter and to trap dispersing kits. The ferret population is usually at its highest during the fall event. Besides ferrets, other animals that could be observed during spotlighting include foxes, badgers, coyotes, owls, hawks, porcupines, skunks, and antelope.
We set a number of records during the spring event in March. We had the most ferrets caught in an event (54) and caught in a single night (17); we had the most volunteers in one night and the highest number of total volunteers for an event. We also had our second highest trap success (48%). There were 13 recaptures from previous events (all from 2009 except one from 2007), 29 brand new ferrets, 11 recaps from that event (only 8 ferrets were recaptured, but three of them were caught 3 times!), and there was an additional new ferret but we were unable to insert a PIT-tag, so he wasn't counted in our population. The number of individual ferrets caught was 42.
Spotlighting events are held in the Aubrey Valley to determine ferret population estimates, long-term survival rates, and kit production. If you are interested in attending the October event, please sign up early, as space is limited and people had to be turned away last event. If you sign up for spotlighting and are then unable to attend after registering, even if it is the night of, please make sure to contact us as soon as you can, so your space can be filled. Email is checked at 6:00PM and someone remains at the field house until 9:00PM each spotlighting night, so please make sure to contact us via the information listed at the end of this email.
TO SIGN UP:
- Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> with "October Spotlighting" in subject
- Indicate what night(s) you will be attending and who else (first and last name) will
be attending with you
- Please indicate if you will be able to use your own vehicle, and the vehicle capacity (4x4 vehicle preferred but not required)
- List any of the following equipment that you will be bringing: GPS, clipboard, flashlight, backpack (to carry 30 pound battery), walkie talkies, compass, spotlight (that can plug into a cigarette lighter), and a cordless rechargeable spotlight
- Please RSVP at your earliest convenience by October 15th, as space is limited and weekend nights tend to fill up first
Requirements for Spotlighting:
- Ability to stay attentive from sunset to sunrise while spotlighting for black-footed ferrets
- Ability to carry up to 30 pounds while backpack spotlighting for two-hour durations
- Ability to use or learn how to use a GPS unit
Please arrive at Pica Camp gate (mile marker 123) at 9:00PM.
Please arrive at the Field House at 8:00PM. Directions will follow in a confirmation e-mail.
GEAR - As gear can be a limiting factor for the number of people that may attend, if you have any of the following, please bring it for your use:
Headlamp or flashlight (these will not be provided)
Pen (to record data)
Compass (to record direction that trap is set)
Appropriate clothing (see below)
If you are able to bring a high clearance vehicle (preferably 4x4) it is greatly appreciated, as it frees up vehicle space for others and allows greater coverage of the Aubrey Valley. Mileage is tax deductible.
Background information on the Black-footed Ferret Project:
What is the background of this project?
The black-footed ferret is North America's only native ferret. At one time thought to be extinct, the black-footed ferret is now listed as an endangered species. Black-footed ferrets live in large prairie dog towns, prey on prairie dogs and reside in their burrows.
What is the purpose of spotlighting?
Spotlighting allows us to monitor our population of black-footed ferrets and to select the best areas for future releases.
The nights of October 21st- October 25th. After training, spotlighting will begin and continue until approximately 6:00AM.
How many nights am I needed?
You can volunteer for one night or for the entire duration of the event.
Skills and abilities?
Those assigned to vehicles will drive a set route throughout the night spotlighting for eyeshine. Those backpack spotlighting will carry a 30-pound battery and a trap by backpack while walking a couple of miles to spotlight for black-footed ferrets. Volunteers will be personally responsible for setting and checking traps, and recording locations using a GPS unit. Backpack spotlighters will switch out with truck spotlighters throughout the night.
What is involved?
Spotlighting involves the use of high-powered lights to locate and identify black-footed ferrets. Eyeshine is reflected by the spotlight and aids surveyors with identifying and locating an animal. Once a ferret is located, the spotlighting team will set a trap in the burrow where the ferret was located. The team setting the trap will also continue to check the trap approximately every hour or until the animal is caught.
What happens once a black-footed ferret is trapped?
Upon capture, a spotlighting team will leave their route and deliver the ferret to a trailer parked along route 66. This will allow the team a once in a lifetime opportunity to view a ferret up close while biologists process the animal. The ferret's health will be assessed (vitals monitored) and the ferret will then have a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag inserted subcutaneously. Once the ferret has been processed, the team will return to their route and release the ferret in the same burrow where it was trapped.
What to bring?
Most importantly, dress appropriately for the time of year. Multiple layers are best, as March nights can be cold, but you will warm up while backpack spotlighting. Raingear is highly recommended as you never know what the weather will be in the valley. Also, be sure to bring plenty of snacks and water. Snacking throughout the night will help you to stay awake.
Where to stay?
Seligman has several reasonably priced motels, including the Aztec Motel (928) 422-3055, and the Canyon Lodge (928) 422-3255. There are also several other motels in Seligman and it is possible to camp throughout the Aubrey Valley. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide camping gear.
To sign up for the spotlighting event or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me via the information below (email preferred)! Also, please forward this to anyone that is interested in volunteering.
Thank you for your interest.
Black-footed Ferret Project
Arizona Game and Fish Department
PO Box 397
Seligman, Arizona 86337