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By GCN Staff

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Can drones save the black-footed ferret?

Can drones save the black-footed ferret?

The Fish and Wildlife Service could soon be using drones to drop vaccine-coated food pellets to black-footed ferrets in Montana.

Listed as an endangered species since 1967, the black-footed ferret is and considered one of North America’s rarest mammals, and the Fish and Wildlife Service has been working to help the population recover.

After considering various methods of distributing a vaccine to the sylvatic plague, which affects the ferrets and prairie dogs, the ferrets’ primary food, FWS biologist Randy Machett realized that an unmanned aerial system dropping vaccine-laced bait could treat an acre in less than a minute.  Drones offer “potentially the most efficient, effective, cost-conscious and environmentally friendly method of application,” according to the environmental assessment.

Machett told The Guardian that a “glorified gumball machine” could be attached to a drone, which would use GPS to shoot out vaccines at 30-ft intervals, potentially treating 200 acres in an hour.

Most of the feedback during a public comment period was “highly supportive” of the plan, Manchett said. He hopes the drone-delivered vaccine plan will be approved by FWS and be operational by September, he added.

Posted by GCN Staff on Jul 14, 2016 at 8:53 AM


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