The props are all-terrain vehicles and a red drone that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service describes as an 18-pound, “750 mm umbrella style multi-rotor copter in an X8 (coaxial) configuration.” It’s a fairly small contraption that looks closer to a flying model airplane than an armed drone over the mountains of Pakistan.
The ATVs and drones are being tested for use in firing blue, peanut-butter-flavored pellets that are the size of a gumball. The bait is laced with plague vaccine, and Fish and Wildlife says 60 to 90 percent of the prairie dogs gobbled it up in recent trials in Montana, Colorado and South Dakota. “These tests clearly indicated that these new mechanized vaccine delivery methods are practical, efficient and affordable,” the agency said in a statement.
More tests are scheduled for next summer, and Fish and Wildlife says this first-of-its-kind effort is worth it. A healthy population of black-footed ferrets — North America’s most endangered species — signals a healthy ecosystem, according to the agency.
For an even deeper look at the project, you can click on this link to see 12 minutes of B-roll put together by the World Wildlife Fund, one partner in the effort.
If those videos don’t quench your thirst for black-footed ferret footage, Fish and Wildlife also hosts a webcam of a ferret named Two-bit, who lives at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery in Colorado. A word of warning: The ferrets are nocturnal, so there’s not a lot of daytime action. At 10:30 a.m. Eastern on Monday, Two-bit was asleep.