How M&Ms and drones are saving these cute little guys
Yeah we know. Drones might be the most 2016 gadget ever - a kind of shorthand for how tech-savvy one can be - but despite being everywhere and often kind of redundant, it turns out some are being used for greater good. This is the case with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) who plan to use drones to stage emergency drop-offs of vaccines to black-footed ferrets in the USA's Great Plains. The adorable little critters (way cuter than your garden variety pet ferret, right?) are one of the rarest mammals in North America - with some estimating that just 300 of them live in the wild - so you can see why animal conservationists are so worried about them.
With so little in the wild, you can imagine how hard it would be to track one of these fellas down. Apparently, black-footed ferrets are super susceptible to a virus called the Sylvatic plague, which is primarily spread by their main food source: the prairie dog. So this is where the chocolate M&Ms come in. The FWS have hatched a plan vaccinate the ferrets by proxy; via the prairie dog. They plan to mix the vaccine with peanut butter, coat the M&Ms with it, then use drones to drop them off at night (when nocturnal prairie dogs are active). And according to a FWS biologist, prairie dogs are just like humans when it comes to M&Ms - they simply adore them.
In case you were wondering, it's not the first time they've had to hatch a conservation plan like this to spread vaccines to the ferret. Last time, they spread it by hand, which proved obviously difficult given the vast terrain of the Great Plains, which stretches across 1.3 million square kilometres of America and Canada. So you can see why low-flying drones would be that much more efficient, not to mention effective. They plan to start spreading the M&Ms in northeastern Montana by September. On look at this cute little ferret's face, and you can see why.
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