The US Fish and Wildlife Service are in threat of the plague which is spreading among the already endangered black-footed ferrets.
At the UL Bend Wildlife Refuge in central Montana, “glorified gumball machine” was loaded up on the drone to fire out vaccine-infused peanut butter M&Ms to help these creatures.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are using drones to give out candy covered in vaccines among the black-footed ferret. The federal agency hopes to stop the spread of a disease which reduced ferrets populations and endangered other species.
With the help of drones which can shoot out M&M candies in three different directions at once, USFWS plans to vaccinate ferrets and prairie dogs.
Randy Machett, a USFWS biologist, said: “We dropped the vaccine out of a bag while walking around, but that’s very hard to do over thousands of acres.”
Machett said “Spraying burrows with insecticide to kill the fleas is also labor intensive and not a long-term solution. So we are working with private contractors to develop equipment to drop the vaccine uniformly across an area, rather than one hog getting to eat a big pile of them.”
By attaching a “glorified gumball machine” to a drone, USFWS employees can use GPS navigation to drop vaccines every 30 feet (9 meters). The vaccine itself was created with a modified fish bait machine that smears M&Ms in vaccine-filled peanut butter.
According to Machett, prairie dogs find this vaccine “delicious.”
Both prairie dogs and ferrets are endangered species. The black-footed ferrets already had gone extinct once in the 1980s, but because of breeding captivity, there are now about 300 more in the US.
“It is the fastest, cheapest way to distribute the vaccine,” Machett said. “We are hopeful this oral vaccine will be used to mitigate plague sites and treat tens of thousands of acres each year.”