A record number of volunteers assisted in the effort to document the population of endangered black-footed ferrets in Aubrey Valley, just west of Seligman. The Arizona Game and Fish Department partnered with 144 volunteers for the fall spotlighting effort from Sept. 27-Oct. 1 to count the elusive predators. Spotlighting from dusk-to-dawn is the method used to capture the animals and document the population.
The 57 individuals captured during the event brought the 2012 total to 110, just short of the record 116 counted in 2011. The effort did set a one-night record when 23 individual ferrets were trapped, breaking the previous mark of 22. The numbers remain good in Aubrey Valley considering the black-footed ferret once numbered just 18 in the world when captive breeding efforts began in 1985.
“The spring and fall spotlighting efforts were a bit earlier than we would like,” said Jennifer Cordova, a biologist with the recovery effort. “But, that’s the way it worked this year. We try and hold these efforts when predatory animals such as the black-footed ferret are most active; during a full moon. “We may do a small spotlighting effort in December because we don’t believe the slightly lower count is indicative of how the population is doing.”
Cordova credits the continued support of the public and the Heritage Fund in the recovery of the black-footed ferret. The Heritage Fund comes from a portion of Arizona Lottery ticket sales and provides the financial means for Game and Fish to be the lead agency with no cost to Arizona taxpayers. “The record number of volunteers is a testament to the interest in wildlife conservation efforts,” Cordova stated. “We would not be where we are today without their support.”
The numbers have Arizona meeting the original goals established for the recovery site, which boasts a self-sustaining population. “There is reason for optimism for the species, but there’s a long way to go,” Cordova said. “Continued support from the public will play a pivotal role. Volunteers are crucial in documentation of population trends throughout Aubrey Valley.”
The black-footed ferret crew will continue spotlighting efforts in the spring of 2013. For anyone interested in obtaining additional information, write to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (928) 422-0155. To receive current information from the Game and Fish Region 3 office in Kingman, search for Azgfd Kingman on Facebook.