Tuesday, September 26, 2006

this entry brought to you by the wisconsin alumni association

So, in my and the N's quest to morph ourselves into giant old smelly liberal carpoolers (the metro DC version of Marty and Bobbbi Culp or something!), we listen to NPR. Every morning. Mostly.

Occasionally, this pays off in large, exciting, and unexpected ways. This morning, the sad and emotional saga of the Black-Footed Ferret was spun on the air. The gist of it: Black-Footed Ferrets are in danger.

After a rebuilding program, courtesy the Save Our Black Footed Ferrets Foundation of the Greater Metro Denver Area*, the BFF** have come back from near extinction in recent years. The BFF's are the only native ferrets to this country, the rest of them (pets of girls who douse themselves in patchouli, my husbands ex-roommates***, etc) came over from Europe, probably resting around the necks of semi-blue-blooded German teens named Erskine.

Anyways, BFF's are maybe going to become extinct again, becaues ranchers are proposing legislation to kill off prairie dogs. BFFs eat prairie dogs. Actually, apparently, they are kind of assholes and rip prairie dogs to shreds, which is sad, but shit. Girl gotta eat.

Also, they interviewed a rancher who was all like: kill prarie dogs, there's no grass left! And grass is really good for the environment, since we're called a "grassland!" I'm just thinking of the environment, people! Also, maybe my cattle could graze.

This is all just rambling background for the best part of the story:

Apparently at this center in Colorado, when they raised baby BFF, they slowly introduced them to the outside world before releasing them into the wild. They would put them in large cages outdoors, and then train them to fear their natural predators.

Like badgers.

And to do this, they used something called the RoboBadger.

! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

I am pretty sure that Dave Barry has already touched on all this, but fuck it. I am so in love with the idea of RoboBadgers I can barely remain conscious.

Quote of the millenium:
"We had this thing called Robo-Badger. It was this mechanized badger that we would drive around the pens to try and scare the ferrets," says Marinari. "And, you know, when the ferrets started riding on the back of the badger, we kind of thought, 'Well, let’s move to something else…'" -- Official BFF Hero


aksdhusrhwh3583u5y593 e5qwe4aZ*ifggggrgaaaarrrrrswwoooooooonnnnn.

* I made this name up.
** hee hee.
*** this particular ferret was named Schmoopie, and Schmoops liked to pee in corners. So the roommates would sprinkle CAYENNE PEPPER on the CARPET in the corners because Schmoopie didn't like cayenne pepper. This would explain why the carpet in every corner of the house was orange and the entire place smelled like ferret piss, BO, gym socks, and jerk chicken.


etcetera said...

i also heard this segment during my morning commute and was equally amused by Marinari's dead-pan delivery of the demise of the RoboBadger. This needs tv coverage so we can get a visual.

brian miller said...

I have heard this comment about ferrets riding Robo-badger and how Robo-badger was a failure. Actually, Robo-badger was not used for training. Robo, and a swooping stuffed owl, were part of an experiment to test the innate and learned components in the development of anti-predator behavior in young Siberian ferrets. The young ferrets were exposed to the stationary, simulated predator to assess their response. They then had an aversive experience with the models, and we measured the difference in response the next time they saw the stationary model. In a nutshell, they showed an innate fear of the predators, but they learned and improved their escape response after one experience with the proedator. So as part of an experiment, Robo-badger was very successfull. We did not use him to train black-footed ferrets before release, and I never saw a ferret ride on his back. The experiments were done by Dean Biggins, Chris Wemmer, and myself. Perhaps at a later date, Paul put Robo in with some ferrets on a whim, but Robo was never part of a training regime. It makes a good story, but it's just not true. By the way, the Dave Barry article about Robo-badger was hilarious, and we sent him an autographed picture of the badger for a thank you.