This year, LightHawk Volunteer Pilot Michael Baum of Los Altos, Calif., will make an interesting stop on his way to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. The pilot, who is a driving force behind the Aviators Model Code of Conduct and donates flights through LightHawk, will stop in Loveland, Colo., to load a pair of endangered black-footed ferrets into his TBM 700 airplane bound for Oshkosh.
The flight, arranged through LightHawk, a volunteer conservation aviation group based in the United States, will fly its passengers to the North Eastern Wisconsin (NEW) Zoo near Green Bay, Wis.
“These animals will play an important education and outreach role in their new home,” says Carmen Murach, Curator of Animals for the NEW Zoo.
“Transport by commercial airline is very stressful for wild animals,” explains Murach. “Airlines require that the animals arrive well in advance of their flights. They often spend significant amounts of time in non-temperature controlled, noisy cargo areas. There is just no way to explain to the animals that they are not in danger during this ordeal. The black-footed ferrets transported by Michael Baum will be spared frightening noises and uncomfortable conditions.”
The ferrets will travel in small plastic dog crates. No word on the in-flight snack.
Bringing the black-footed ferret population back from a startling low of 18 to a more sustainable number is not just good for the ferrets, it’s inextricably tied to restoring the American Prairie, according to Lighthawk officials. The black-footed ferret is considered a flagship species for the North American prairie. By helping these animals, a beneficial ripple extends to over 130 unique plants and animals, a lasting legacy for future generations.
Just as this is not Baum’s first trip to EAA AirVenture, this won’t be the first time he’s flown black-footed ferrets. In February 2012, Baum was joined by his teenage daughter, Kimberly, when he embarked on a wintery flight to move the endangered animals to a new home. (Read more about this flight here.)
“I wanted her to know what it felt like to do something good for the environment, and to learn about volunteering for LightHawk,” he says. “She loves animals, and she was fantastic in ensuring the ferrets’ safety and comfort during the flight.”
Baum is scheduled to arrive at Basler Flight Service at Wittman Regional Airport (OSH) on Saturday, July 27, with the pair of black-footed ferrets before they make their final transfer to the NEW Zoo.
Founded in 1979, LightHawk is a non-profit a network of 200 volunteer pilots. LightHawk works in partnership with over 250 conservation organizations each year, providing flights for scientific research, aerial photography and educational tours that serve to protect land, water and wildlife across North and Central America. For more information: Lighthawk.org