March 9, 2016

Volunteers needed to spotlight endangered black-footed ferrets

Survey results shine light on recovery effort in Aubrey Valley

SELIGMAN, Ariz. – The Arizona Game and Fish Department is seeking volunteers to assist with spotlighting efforts to help document the population of endangered black-footed ferrets in Aubrey Valley near Seligman. As part of the recovery effort, the department has scheduled two spring spotlighting projects – March 24-26 and April 21-24. The spotlighting method involves using high-powered lights to locate and identify black-footed ferrets. Their eyeshine is reflected by the spotlight and helps surveyors with identifying and locating these elusive, nocturnal carnivores.

“Volunteers play a vital role,” said Jeff Pebworth, terrestrial wildlife program manager for the department’s regional office in Kingman. ”We don’t have the personnel to fully staff these events, and the program’s continued success depends on people remaining involved.” Volunteers must have the ability to stay attentive from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. while spotlighting for black-footed ferrets and use, or learn how to use, a Global Positioning System (GPS). Volunteers can sign up by e-mailing -- with “spring spotlighting” in the subject line – by March 18 for next month’s project and by April 15 for the later opportunity. Space is limited.

Volunteers are reminded to include their full name, a contact phone number, month(s) and night(s) available to spotlight, and full names of others who also will be attending (a parent or guardian must accompany any youth under 18). Volunteers also should note any equipment they can bring, such as GPS, clipboard, headlamp, pen, binoculars, walkie-talkies, compass, cordless rechargeable spotlight, backpack or 4X4 vehicle.

The department also conducts two spotlighting projects in the fall. A total of 37 individual black-footed ferrets were captured in 2015, slightly down from 49 the previous year.

A possible reason for the decline could have been lower numbers of prairie dogs, the primary food source of black-footed ferrets. Still, more than 250 volunteers totaled 2,364 spotlighting hours over the course of the spring and fall projects.

“This is an opportunity to see the amount of effort involved with this reintroduction, not to mention the chance to see an animal few others have ever seen in the wild,” Pebworth said.

For more information about the black-footed ferret recovery effort, visit the department’s website at and click on “Nongame and Endangered Wildlife.”