I asked him what
he would do if he had his hand on the keys to things—the authority and the
thing is to find ferrets," he answered. "I think they are there. The
dogs are not a bad idea, but mostly we need bodies. One man can't do it. I
don't mean there have to be a lot of full-time employees, a big budget. There
are ways we could get help—other agencies, maybe some graduate students,
volunteers who would put in some time. I talked to officials from the Navaho
reservation in Arizona. They're interested in ferrets and they may have
some—nobody has ever really looked there. The Navahos might put some time into
looking for them. If we turned up some ferrets I don't think it would be hard
to make arrangements to protect them, either on federal or private
trying captive breeding again?"
"I'm not so
sure about that now. Sometimes I say that if I found a ferret the best thing I
could do for it is not tell anyone, but that's easy to take out of context.
What I mean is, I think the first priority is to find out a lot more than we
know now about the natural history of the animal, the reproductive,
territorial, predatory requirements, how the litters disperse, what would make
a reasonable sanctuary area. I think good, continuing field observations are
what we need most. Then we would stand a much better chance of breeding animals
in the lab and transplanting young ones back into the wild."
According to the
Washington administrators, the main ferret man, now that Hillman is gone, is
Maurice Anderson, a veteran wildlife biologist who is an endangered-species
specialist assigned to a branch office of the Fish and Wildlife Service in
Pierre, S. Dak. Anderson is responsible for filing reports, providing public
information and sitting in on meetings about a variety of scarce species found
in the northern Great Plains. As part of that job he was appointed to the
Ferret Recovery Team, but he makes no claim about having special expertise with
the species. "I've picked up Con Hillman's papers," says Anderson,
"and I'll go on filing ferret reports, if there are any."
you do if, say, tomorrow you got what sounded like a very good report?"
"I'd try to
arrange to get out of the office and go look," says Anderson, a
soft-spoken, low-key, commonsensical man. "If there were good signs maybe I
could get the dogs and check them out."
The two Labradors
are in effect the last full-time federal ferret staffers.
"If they did
check out, if you actually found a ferret—what then?"
wouldn't be a lot I could do immediately. We don't have funds or personnel for
research. I'd go through the chain of command. What happened would be a
Washington decision. I suppose."