Fall has finally made its way down to the South. The cooler temperatures are always welcome after a long hot summer. Fall also means the veterinary clinic slows down a little, and I get to go on a vacation. Sometimes I am lucky enough to go on a “working vacation” to help out with the endangered black-footed ferrets up in South Dakota.
It is always a thrill to work with an endangered species. Every fall there is a “survey” of the black-footed ferrets in the wild. In addition to getting an accurate estimate of how many black-footed ferrets are alive in the area, it is also the time of the year to capture the adult ferrets for vaccine boosters and to capture the kits of the year to vaccinate, microchip, and collect hair and saliva samples for DNA testing. Blood samples are often collected, and sometimes even fecal samples are collected. All of this happens during the night, so it usually means going out at 8 p.m., working all night long, and coming back around 8 a.m.
Unfortunately I was unable to help out this year, so I was able to pursue a favorite hobby of mine. I really enjoy wildlife photography, so I headed up to the Canadian Rockies to check out the four-legged wildlife in four different national parks (Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks).
I was able to observe and photograph numerous animals, such as elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, coyotes, squirrels, a red fox, and a grizzly bear. Needless to say it is quite the adrenaline rush when you see a grizzly bear in the wild! Fortunately I had my bear spray with me and was able to get just close enough to take a few photos of the big guy before he went into an area with thick willows.
It is always an extra bonus to see wild members of the “ferret family,” such as mink, otters, skunks, martens, fishers, badgers and wolverines. I was able to find a skunk in Kootenay NP and a marten in Jasper NP. There were even several wild rabbits just south of Banff NP.