M&M’s typically use the tagline “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands,” but here’s another one the brand may want to consider: “The preferred candy for saving endangered ferrets.” Actually, no, the first one probably has a better ring to it.
In an effort to help protect the already endangered black-footed ferret from being further decimated by a recent rash of sylvatic plague, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has devised a plan to use drones to spread vaccine-laden peanut butter-covered M&M’s across the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. Ironically enough, the M&Ms are intended not for the ferrets, but for the local prairie dog population since black-footed ferrets – North America’s only native ferret – need the prairie dogs for survival, invading their burrows and chowing down on them as a meal.
US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Randy Machett told The Guardian that prairie dogs find the M&M vaccines “delicious” – possibly even as delicious as a black-footed ferret finds sinking its teeth into some tasty prairie dog flesh. “We dropped the vaccine out of a bag while walking around, but that’s very hard to do over thousands of acres,” Machett explained. “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.”
It’s safe to say that, yes, outside of the free M&M’s, the prairie dogs are really getting screwed in this whole deal. But with only 300 black-footed ferrets left in the wild, the endangered species take priority.
Pending approval, the M&M-packed drone could be shooting out tiny candies from the air as soon as September 1. And if all goes well, similar drones could be launched in Arizona and Colorado thereafter. Prairie dogs, consider yourself warned.