Wild Again

Wild Again: The Struggle to Save the Black-Footed Ferret

David Jachowski
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt5hjhkw
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  • Book Info
    Wild Again
    Book Description:

    This engaging personal account of one of America's most contested wildlife conservation campaigns has as its central character the black-footed ferret. Once feared extinct, and still one of North America's rarest mammals, the black-footed ferret exemplifies the ecological, social, and political challenges of conservation in the West, including the risks involved with intensive captive breeding and reintroduction to natural habitat.David Jachowski draws on more than a decade of experience working to save the ferret. His unique perspective and informative anecdotes reveal the scientific and human aspects of conservation as well as the immense dedication required to protect a species on the edge of extinction.By telling one story of conservation biology in practice-its routine work, triumphs, challenges, and inevitable conflicts-this book gives readers a greater understanding of the conservation ethic that emerged on the Great Plains as part of one of the most remarkable recovery efforts in the history of the Endangered Species Act.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95816-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Prologue
    (pp. vii-x)

    For better or worse, this is a book about black-footed ferret conservation that was written for everyone. It is not intended to be a comprehensive, technical review of every aspect of efforts to recover the blackfooted ferret from the brink of extinction, something a scholar would buy for their bookshelf but rarely use. This book is meant to be taken from the shelf to engage you, to be passed on, bent, folded and dogeared. Take it on that next road trip to the Great Plains. Open it at a campground in Badlands National Park. Take it to the U.S.—Mexican...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Pleistocene to Anthropocene
    (pp. 1-13)

    The true West is defined not by time zones, but by geology, soil, and water. By grasses and sedges, wildlife and openness. Driving west across South Dakota on Interstate 90, as I cross the Missouri River at Chamberlain, the land changes from flat agricultural fields to rolling native prairies. Irrigated, domesticated green gives way to cattle pasture that remains a natural brown on pitches and breaks too steep to plow. I breathe deeply to take in the smell of grasslands. Despite spending an entire day in them driving up from Kansas City, I finally feel the sense of entering into...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Decline toward Extinction
    (pp. 14-26)

    During summers when I was young boy, I would go with my father to his office. In the early morning, the building was filled with scientists crossing paths as they either headed into the field or started their day of typing on computers. Barely knowing how to type, I volunteered to work in the field with Rob Hinz. Rob was a pastor at a local church on the weekends and trapped meadow voles for scientist James Nichols during the week. Fifty years old, with a round belly and balding hair, Rob always wore three layers of heavy cotton shirts, even...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Rediscovery
    (pp. 27-41)

    By the early 1980s, 412 preserved black-footed ferret specimens were known to exist in museums, and Elaine Anderson tried to hunt down each one. She eventually created a map of dots showing the collection points of specimens that dated back to the 1880s. The map she came up with roughly tracked the extent of the known range of three prairie dog species (the Gunnison’s, white-tailed, and black-tailed), bounded by Texas and Northern Mexico to the south and by Montana and southern Saskatchewan to the north. The black-footed ferret was a uniquely North American species.

    Even prior to the loss of...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Captive Breeding
    (pp. 42-65)

    US Route 191 crisscrosses the Rockies in a nearly straight line, heading north from the Mexico border at Douglas, Arizona. It is a 1,905-mile span of asphalt that passes through Arizona, Utah, and Wyoming before stopping at the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park, then starting up again at the west entrance of Yellowstone in Montana and finishing at the Montana—Canadian border. The last town of consequence before the border is Malta, located where north—south Route 191 intersects east—west US Route 2 just below the 48th parallel. An intersection of consequence because the similarly impressive Route 2...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Fall
    (pp. 66-77)

    It takes eight minutes for sunlight to reach the Earth, for a photon in a wave of light to travel 93 million miles and bounce off this planet. Distances in central Montana can be similarly hard to fathom, horizons measured by flat views so clear that novices always underestimate the time and distance between landmarks. Stark waves of land where, unlike the railroad town of Malta, there are no grain bins or silos in sight. Just three-strand barbed wire fence on old cedar posts and open range. Homesteads tucked into draws out of the wind, separated by intervals that would...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Winter
    (pp. 78-94)

    By October, winter had come hard and fast. It froze the water remaining in the bottom of the Army surplus water trailer, meaning the end of running water for the season. I could no longer fill up the hundredgallon trailer from an old cattle well a mile up the road, drive back to camp, and park uphill to gravity-feed into the camper trailer’s tanks. Though it was too alkaline for drinking, the water was fine for washing. Yet from then on, showers would be much less frequent, done by the cupful with water stored in plastic jugs in the warmth...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Spring
    (pp. 95-110)

    Spring thaws came slowly, with teases of above-freezing temperatures that cleared the ground of snow and defrosted the first inch of soil but choked off travel far from camp for fear of rains and muddy roads. In a switch in activity patterns from the summer, details on male ferrets began to take over my field notes as they became more active above ground than the females. Throughout the winter, the four females resided within their well-established territories, recovering body fat and muscle lost from the taxing litter-rearing period. By contrast, beginning in late December and continuing on through April, each...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Summer
    (pp. 111-118)

    Mathematical predictive models suggest that approximately 763 prairie dogs are needed to provide enough prey for one female ferret for an entire year. This calculation is based on ferret energy requirements that include not only the needs of the female, but the needs of her average annual litter of 3.3 kits, the male that overlaps her territory half of the time (because he likely has another mate on the side), and other prairie dog predators (that is, raptors, badgers, and coyotes) on her patch of ground. To maintain a population of thirty breeding females, the magical minimum number of ferrets...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Chihuahua
    (pp. 119-140)

    Walking into the basement of Mike Lockhart’s house in Laramie, Wyoming, can give you the wrong first impression. Framed photographs of black-footed ferrets, swift foxes, polar bears, and brown bears line wood-paneled walls telling of his travels on the prairies, time spent as a biologist in Alaska, and role in ferret recovery. But they are intermixed with calendar photos of scantily clad women in orange and blue bikinis, staged photos of cheerleaders smiling at a camera in support of the Denver Broncos football team. I tried to avoid staring at the photos while Mike showed me to the couch where...

  13. CHAPTER 10 Conata Basin
    (pp. 141-177)

    It was one o’clock in the morning, but there was still a steady stream of headlights as cars traveled down to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation from Rapid City.

    “Heading home from the bars or on liquor runs,” Travis said. “Pine Ridge is dry as a bone.”

    Upon arriving in Conata Basin, adjacent to the seldom-visited South Unit of Badlands National Park, spotlighters are told not to stop. Never pull up next to a stopped car or pick up a late-night wanderer. A veteran ferret wrangler in the area, Travis took the extra precaution of being armed.

    I was in the...

  14. CHAPTER 11 Plague
    (pp. 178-193)

    At dawn on the eighteenth of June, it was already 80 degrees and likely to get over 100 degrees by noon. To beat the heat, we gathered at the U.S. Forest Service office parking lot each morning at six. Carl, a federal biologist stationed in Wall, and I waited until twenty after, and left without Jenny.

    Jenny had just graduated from college and moved west to live with her dad, who was a trapper for the State of South Dakota. She worked with us as a duster during the day, and in the evenings drew all the young men to...

  15. CHAPTER 12 Kansas
    (pp. 194-208)

    Mike Lockhart and I were finishing a tour of Texas, stopping in Marathon before heading up through the panhandle to visit some ranchers Mike knew through someone, somehow, who said they might have some prairie dogs left on their land. The next week I was down in Arizona, visiting a large ranch just south of the rim of the Grand Canyon. We were continuing our tour of states where plague hadn’t completely decimated (or had at least left remnant) prairie dog populations—hunting for even small pockets of prairie dogs in remote corners of Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico that...

  16. Epilogue
    (pp. 209-214)

    It is October and I return to UL Bend. It’s the time of year when you wear insulated bib overalls and your hunter’s cap into the field for the day and leave your beer in a cooler outside, without ice. You come back to camp after a day’s work and the beer is the perfect temperature, going down easy as you grill dinner and drink can after can. I pull out my notebook and put pen to paper:

    Plump prairie dogs nibbling at nothing and digging at roots.

    A hard day’s work on four-wheeler and foot, mapping the boundaries of...

  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 215-216)
  18. Further Readings
    (pp. 217-234)
  19. Index
    (pp. 235-242)