This year, Michael Baum of Los Altos, Calif., made an interesting stop on his way to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.
The LightHawk volunteer pilot made a special detour to Centennial, Colorado (KAPA) to load an endangered black-footed ferret into his TBM 700. He flew his wild passenger to the North Eastern Wisconsin (NEW) Zoo near Green Bay, Wis.
“Transport by commercial airline is very stressful for wild animals,” explains Carmen Murach, curator of animals for the NEW Zoo. “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 are spared frightening noises and uncomfortable conditions.”
Black-footed ferrets travel in small plastic dog crates. Baum was not responsible for in-flight snacks.
Just as this was not Baum’s first trip to EAA AirVenture, this wasn’t the first time he’d flown black-footed ferrets. In February 2012, he was joined by his teenage daughter when he embarked on a flight to move endangered animals to a new home. He also piggybacked on his Oshkosh journey in 2013 to bring a pair of ferrets to the NEW Zoo.
“I can’t think of a better way to leverage an annual AirVenture migration,” remarked Baum after the flight. “Knowing there is often no viable alternative to a donated LightHawk flight to transport these endangered animals is very gratifying to me. It underscores that pilots who volunteer with LightHawk are truly making a difference.”
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. The black-footed ferret is considered a flagship species for the North American prairie. By helping these animals, a beneficial ripple extends to more than 130 unique plants and animals, according to LightHawk officials.