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Veterinary Forum November 2009 (Vol 26, No 11)

Colorado and FWS protect black-footed ferret

    WELLINGTON, CO—The US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has implemented a black-footed ferret breeding program that releases trained, captive ferrets into their former native habitat. Unfortunately, the ferrets feed on prairie dogs, which are highly susceptible to plague. Plague can decimate an entire prairie dog population and eliminate the food supply to ferrets, thereby starving the small carnivores.

    A standard procedure used by the FWS is to dust prairie dog burrows with an insecticide known as Deltamethrin, which kills fleas and protects the prairie dogs from being bitten by the plague-carrying vector.

    Genesis Labs, a Colorado-based company, has received funding from the CDC to develop prairie dog bait that contains a systemic insecticide. The rodent eats the bait and is not harmed, but the insecticide is absorbed into the blood of the prairie dog. When fleas take a blood meal from the rodent, they are killed within a matter of minutes.

    The product is registered with the EPA and marketed as Kaput Rodent Flea Control Bait by Scimetrics, Ltd. Genesis and Scimetrics are also working with the Department of Defense and have developed a similar product to control sand flies in the Middle East. American troops serving there are often exposed to cutaneous leishmaniasis, which is spread by sand flies and the fat sand rat.

    Field testing with Kaput Rodent Flea Control Bait by the FWS began in 2009, and more research is scheduled for the spring and summer. Preliminary results show that the bait may assist in managing flea populations within prairie dog populations.

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