With the passing of rancher Larry Haverfield on September 21, the country and especially Kansas lost a courageous conservationist dedicated to doing all he could on the 10,000 acres of Logan County, Kansas rangeland to provide a refuge for short-grass prairie wildlife. He and two other private landowners hosted one of the most promising reintroduction sites in the Great Plains for endangered Black-footed Ferrets.
Ferrets are one of the rarest mammals in North America. Many species of wildlife benefit from the presence of prairie dog colonies, but Black-footed Ferrets rely on them for prey and for burrow habitat used as dens to raise young and for shelter. Captive-raised ferrets were released on the ranch complex in 2007. Burrowing Owls also depend on prairie dog burrows and associated habitat, whereas Golden Eagles, Ferruginous Hawks and Swift Foxes depend substantially on prairie dogs as prey. Black-tailed Prairie Dogs are a keystone species but their numbers have been decreased by over 95% in the past 150 years.
It takes courage and commitment for ranch landowners to maintain prairie dog colonies in some Kansas counties where an antiquated century-old state statute calling for eradication of prairie dogs, gophers and moles is imposed on landowners. Larry Haverfield and his conservation partners stood up against and fought, in court, the Logan County commissioners who attempted to impose poisoning programs on their land. With the presence of the endangered species the courts in Kansas held at bay the Logan County Commission and the Kansas Farm Bureau, which advocated poisoning to achieve eradication.
One is reminded of the near extinction of American Bison and other wildlife in the prairies with a statute of Buffalo Bill in the county seat of Oakley. Larry’s dedication to conserve prairie dogs and all of the associated wildlife in the 21st century is a reminder of the drumbeat to kill all of the Bison on the plains in the 19th century.
Articles about the struggles that Haverfield overcame appeared nationwide in newspapers and magazines. A recent article that details Larry’s efforts was published in our Summer 2014 PRAIRIE WINGS magazine. An earlier article was also featured in the Fall 2011 issue of PRAIRIE WINGS. .
Larry’s wife Bette, their five children and many grandchildren are dedicated to continuing his legacy of wildlife conservation on the ranch. “His family is proud of the ranch’s part in reintroducing the Black-footed ferret to Kansas and devoted to its continued success. They strongly believe that wildlife conservation is as Larry would say “the right thing to do”.
Funeral Services were held on September 26, the 33rd anniversary of the rediscovery of the ferrets, thought extinct until that date in 1981. Condolences and memorials can be mailed to the funeral home at:
Price & Sons Funeral Home
PO Box 161
Scott City, KS 67871
The family requested that memorials be given to Audubon of Kansas, the Defenders of Wildlife or the donor’s choice.