Last Sunday, I was on the road again. Leaving my snow-covered yard behind and flying out to the Great Plains of Pierre, South Dakota.
I've been to South Dakota before, but the purpose of the trip was a first for me. Before Sunday, I'd only heard about the near-Herculean efforts to protect the black-footed ferret. Now, I can say that I've had the privilege to participate in the reintroduction of this remarkable species.
It wasn't too long ago that the black-footed ferret was on the brink of extinction. Now, people are beginning to use the "R-word" -- recovery. Some are even suggesting that delisting is within reach. This will require a continued commitment and effort, of course, but it's great to see a species come so far.
I was joined at the reintroduction by our ferret recovery coordinator Pete Gober, the South Dakota Endangered Species Project Leader Scott Larson, Wyoming Game and Fish deputy Director John Emmerich, and several tribal partners from the Lower Brule Reservation.
In total we released 20 ferrets into four different prairie dog towns. They're extremely vocal little animals, and it was surprisingly difficult to coax them from their transport tubes into a prairie dog burrow!
It was windy and brisk while we worked--it's South Dakota in November after all--but when the night came to a close, I was left with a warm feeling. It was easy to believe that we can find a secure place in the American landscape for Great Plains species like the prairie dog, the bison and the ferruginous hawk.
It's inspiring, important work, and it made me proud of our agency.
After releasing the ferrets to bring terror into the lives of prairie dogs throughout south-central South Dakota, I had the great fortune of a couple days off (more or less). I took the time to get outside and hunt pheasants, greater prairie chicken, and waterfowl.
All and all, it was couple of outstanding days. I went home with a full possession limit, and well over the possession limit on good memories.
During my time off, I stopped by to visit Sand Lake NWR and spend some time with the staff. What an incredible resource, all made possible by several generations of dedication by USFWS professionals and their partners.
After flying home, I spent a peaceful weekend with my wife, my rake, and the coat of leaves that had cropped up from underneath the melted snow.