By MIKE CORN
RUSSELL SPRINGS -- An errant black-footed ferret has been found more than 4 miles away from the largest of the two reintroduction sites in Logan County.
The wayward animal was found on land owned by Calvin and Jay Haverfield, the two sons of Larry and Bette Haverfield, where most of the reintroduced black-footed ferrets have been released and where the largest population of the animals exists in Kansas. Ferrets also were reintroduced on land owned by the Nature Conservancy.
The discovery was made last week during a routine spring survey of ferrets at the two reintroduction sites. The expanded search, at the behest of ferret specialist Travis Livieri, was made when a larger-than-normal number of volunteers showed up for the survey.
The ferret, thought to be a male, apparently traveled the almost 4 miles to the northwest of the Haverfield-Barnhardt reintroduction site.
Its travels, most likely, were driven by either food or sex.
The gleeful discovery is being met with some trepidation because both prairie dogs and ferrets aren't universally embraced by everyone in Logan County.
But it's an example of how successful the reintroduction program actually has been, Livieri said.
"He was excited about that," Livieri said of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Dan Mulhern's reaction to the off-site discovery.
The idea of a ferret striking out on its own isn't that unusual, he said, and is most typical for males.
And there's little cause for concern, Livieri said.
"If a landowner only has 10 acres of prairie dogs, a ferret might stop up there and use it, but he's going to move on."
Jay and Calvin Haverfield have a larger prairie dog town that could support one or more ferrets, Livieri said.
Larry Haverfield said the site has perhaps 800 acres with prairie dogs.
It wasn't large enough for a reintroduction project, Livieri said, but it would be big enough for a "satellite population."
Without the larger expanses of prairie dogs to support the ferrets, Livieri said the small towns would serve as little more than stepping stones.
When ferrets turn up on land where they aren't welcome, Mulhern said the agency will trap them and move them to another site where they're welcome.
That was part of the original agreement to release ferrets in the Logan County area.