To aid ferrets, vaccine treats planned for prairie dogs
Saturday, 18 March 2017 (AP) — Feeding peanut butter kibbles to millions of prairie dogs — by flinging the treats from four-wheelers and dropping them from drones — could be the next big thing to help a spunky little weasel that almost went extinct. The up to 2-foot-long weasel feeds almost exclusively on prairie dogs, rodents that live in vast colonies regularly decimated by plague outbreaks. Biologists are increasingly optimistic that feeding plague vaccine to prairie dogs can improve the ferrets' success rate. Starting this fall, they hope to ramp up recent plague vaccination experiments to cover as much as 40 square miles of prairie dog colonies in several states in the West. A U.S. Department of Agriculture supply depot in Pocatello, Idaho, that also makes rodent poison for farmers will manufacture the pellets. Habitat loss to farming and poisoning by ranchers also has taken a toll on prairie dogs — and by extension the black-footed ferret, which lives in the rodents' burrows.