(Mirror Daily, United) – It seems like drones will be used for a noble purpose because wild ferrets and prairie dogs are on the verge of extinction. Over the last few years, a deadly parasite has taken its toll on their population.
Officials from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) plan to use these drones to scatter a vaccine to cover a large area of the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge in Montana, where sylvatic plague has devastated the ferrets and prairie dogs numbers.
The vaccine will look like M&Ms, and it will contain peanut butter as well to have a more appealing exterior that will most likely attract the rodents. Sylvatic plague is a disease caused and spread by bacteria known as Yersinia pestis.
These bacteria are usually common among rodents and very hard to deal with. The vaccine will target prairie dogs because they represent the primary source of food for wild ferrets. If prairie dogs become extinct, their predators will most likely starve and die as well.
The ferret population has not been stabilized yet, so they need every possible resource to maintain their population. Wild ferrets and prairie dogs are listed under the Endangered Species Act. Prairie dogs are very useful for another reason because their predators often use their burrows for shelter.
According to Randy Machett, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, prairie dogs will most likely be attracted by the pleasing appearance of the vaccine. The black-footed ferret has been listed under the Endangered Species Act since 1967, and it is considered the rarest mammal in North America.
Based on the statistics, there were around 300 of specimens on the American continent at the end of last year. This number is very low considering the fact that many efforts have been made over the last two decades to reintroduce the black-footed ferret in 27 sites from Mexico to Canada.
Wildlife officials previously tried to use chemicals to eliminate the fleas from the dogs’ burrows, but the method proved to be ineffective because the parasites became resistant to the pesticide.
Also, they tried to spread the vaccine by hand, but trying to cover such a large area proved to be too challenging. Drones will be much more efficient, and they will do the job faster. If the trial proves to be successful in Montana, the project will be introduced in Arizona and Colorado as well.