Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Students take pride in contributing to turtle conservation

Today, wildlife biologist Stephanie Koch and four high school students share their reflections on raising and releasing rare Blanding’s turtles as part of an experimental head-starting program.

This medium-sized freshwater turtle inhabits wetlands in parts of the upper Midwest, New York, New England and southern Canada. Throughout the Northeast, populations appear to be declining. More

Bristol County Agricultural High School students have partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others to help nurture Blanding’s turtles, considered threatened in Massachusetts, and later release them with a greater likelihood of survival at Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge in Sudbury, Mass.

The program, intended to establish a new population at the refuge, involves collecting hatchlings in the wild, raising them in captivity and releasing them back in the wild when the turtles are large enough to survive most predation. Head-start programs are one of many tools that the Service considers in the conservation of species like the Blanding's turtle.

Over the last three years, Bristol Aggie teacher Brian Bastarache and Stephanie have led students in releasing more than 150 turtles. This year's release was on May 23.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Improving a WV river's health by bringing back endangered mussels

Did you think we were through with freshwater mussels? Never! Hear from Barb Douglas, an endangered species biologist with our West Virginia Field Office, on an effort to save endangered mussels from a bridge project and bring them to several sites in other states, including West Virginia. A Pennsylvania biologist shared her perspective last month.

It was a beautiful autumn morning, a perfect day to be out on the Elk River, my favorite river in the state, and doing something I love: restoring populations of endangered mussels.


The WCHS-TV crew tagged along the day these endangered mussels were released. Check out the Healthy Mussels Means Health Rivers eyewitness webcast.
The Elk River has the highest diversity of fish and mussels of any watershed in West Virginia. It’s home to 100 types of fish and 30 types of freshwater mussels, including four endangered mussel species. Populations of many of these species have declined because of poor water quality in the river.

One of those endangered mussels, the northern riffleshell, hadn’t been seen here for almost 20 years. Fortunately, the Allegheny River in Pennsylvania still has a large northern riffleshell population, and our partners there were willing to allow us to transfer some of their mussels out of the path of a new highway bridge and into the Elk River, near an area where they historically occurred.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bombay Hook Refuge celebrates 75 years of conservation

This post is the last in a series running all week about the work done on national wildlife refuges to help recover threatened and endangered species.  Read the Delaware News Journal's feature story this week about Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and its 75 year  history of conserving migratory birds, wintering waterfowl and other wildlife. 

Each year, thousands of migratory birds stop at Bombay Hook during migration. Birdwatchers flock to see them. The 16,000 acre refuge along the coast of Delaware is a birding destination and an important vestige of natural coastal area along the Atlantic coast. Since 1937, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has managed the refuge for migratory birds and waterfowl, and many other animals benefit from this work. This weekend, we celebrate Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge's 75th year! 

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Tim Williams/USFWS

More posts in the National Wildlife Refuge Week series.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge joins partners to help breed rabbits

This post is part of a series running all week about the work done on national wildlife refuges to help with threatened and endangered species recovery. Today, you’re hearing from Nancy Pau, a wildlife biologist at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, and James Panaccione, a biological science technician, about the construction of hardening pens to help recover New England cottontails.


The New England cottontail has become so rare that it's a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act. What's a candidate? (PDF)
You’ve seen them hopping around your backyard right?

Well, not necessarily. You may have seen rabbits in New England, but probably not the rare New England cottontail.

While these rabbits may closely resemble the more commonly seen eastern cottontail, they require a much more specific type of home and are known as habitat specialists. New England cottontails need dense thickets, and they hesitate to stray from cover. 

As that habitat has been lost to development and maturing forest, the New England cottontail population has dramatically declined. These issues, along with habitat separated or fragmented by expanding roads and highways, make it difficult for these rabbits to find food or mates.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Acting, naturally.

De'Andre paddling.
De'Andre Brown, a 2012 intern, kayaking on the
Charles River in Massachusetts.
Credit: Lamar Gore/USFWS
Interning in visitor services at a national wildlife refuge doesn’t mean biological work is off the table. Hear from D'Andre Brown on his experience at the Service’s Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts, where he helped survey terns, band bats and monitor piping plover recovery. This post is part of a series running all week about the work done on national wildlife refuges to help recover threatened and endangered species.

Who knew that theatre studies and working in visitor services at a national wildlife refuge go hand in hand? I would not have thought that before spending last summer in the Career Discovery Internship Program at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Linking red knots from Monomoy to Cuba and beyond

Red knot
  • Is a medium-sized shorebird and a candidate for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
  • Undertakes one of the longest migrations, traveling 16,000 miles round trip from their farthest wintering grounds at the tip of South America to their Arctic breeding grounds.
  • Flies an estimated 5,000 miles without stopping for six days, one of the longest nonstop flights in the bird world.
  • Needs safe places – stopover sites – to rest and feed.
This post is part of a series running all week about the work done on national wildlife refuges to help with threatened and endangered species recovery. Today, you’re hearing from Stephanie Koch, a refuge wildlife biologist, and Susi vonOettingen, an endangered species biologist, about red knot banding and the data collection that is critical to the recovery of this species.

Furl, smear, jiggle, twinkle and fire. It’s all in a day of red knot banding.

At Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, the day began with a crisp ocean breeze as we, our coworkers, partners and volunteers, hauled several hundred pounds of field equipment to our boats. We were heading out to Minimoy Island to capture red knots, and everyone, especially first-timer Susi, was very excited!

“I was in learning mode, fumble fingers and all,” Susi said. “Then orders started to fly, and I really got lost.”

Capturing red knots is no easy task, even with a seasoned, experienced crew leader. At Monomoy Refuge, we use cannon nets, large explosive driven nets that allows us to capture a large number of birds at the same time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Refuge tracking surveys show evidence of Canada lynx in Vermont

This post is part of a series running all week about the work done on national wildlife refuges to help with threatened and endangered species recovery. Today, you’re hearing from Rachel Cliche, a wildlife biologist at the Nulhegan Basin Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, about winter tracking surveys to document the presence of Canada lynx in Vermont.

Are Canada lynx here to stay in Vermont, or just passing through? 

The answer will determine the role of management for this species at the Nulhegan Basin Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. 

Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) are medium-sized cats that live in spruce-fir forests and are highly dependent and adapted to hunt snowshoe hare. They were federally listed under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species in 2000. 

Canada lynx
The Canada lynx range extends from Alaska, through much of Canada, to the
boreal forests in the northeastern U.S., Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains
and Cascade Mountains. Credit: USFWS

Monday, October 15, 2012

Explore your national wildlife refuges!

National wildlife refuges protect important land for wildlife. They restore and enhance habitat, and they engage visitors in the Service's conservation mission. During National Wildlife Refuge Week, we’ll focus a series on how national wildlife refuges help recover threatened and endangered species and how they help accomplish the mission. Here's an introduction from Scott Kahan, northeast chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Scott Kahan
Scott Kahan (far left) at Monomoy National
Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts.
Spanning more than half a million acres, 72 national wildlife refuges are spread throughout the Northeast Region from Maine to Virginia. From the breathtaking views of forests in West Virginia to dynamic Atlantic coastal habitat communities on our eastern borders, refuges work to conserve habitat for wildlife and protect our nation’s natural resources.

While protecting our public lands ensures that we have clean air and water and healthy habitats for wildlife, these lands are here for you too. This week, October 14-20, I encourage you to get outside and explore the outdoors and celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week. You can take pictures, fish, hunt and learn about the outdoors. There is plenty to explore and a number of activities to keep you busy.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hydrilla closes in on the Great Lakes

Collected hydrilla
The first collection of Hydrilla verticillata from
Tonawanda Creek. Credit: USFWS
You don’t necessarily need to be looking for an aquatic invasive species to find it. Sometimes it appears when you least expect it.

That’s exactly what happened in early September, when Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office staff discovered Hydrilla verticillata, a highly invasive aquatic plant, in the New York State Canal System in Tonawanda, N.Y. The location was literally at the base of a boat ramp, a highly visible area that should lend itself to early discovery.

Nonetheless, it apparently went unnoticed for some time, hiding within the abundant native plants, particularly Canadian/common waterweed, a native aquatic plant similar in appearance. The distinction between the two is important, as hydrilla crowds out waterweeds and other essential plants. It slows water flow and can clog lakes and rivers enough to even eliminate swimming or boating.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pa. mussels help restore streams in Ill., Ohio and WV

We love freshwater mussels so much that we extended our month-long series to tell you about work to restore and protect freshwater mussels and their homes in Pennsylvania. Today you're hearing from Lora Zimmerman, the assistant supervisor of Contaminants and Conservation Planning Assistance in our Pennsylvania office. This series highlights the importance of freshwater mussels to the Northeast landscape and the concerted efforts underway to ensure their future in our waters.

Pennsylvania is known for a lot of things—spectacular trout fishing, abundant energy resources, intensely rivaled hockey teams—but one of the lesser known treasures of Pennsylvania is its native freshwater mussels.  

Species almost lost elsewhere are known from the Allegheny River and French Creek in western Pennsylvania, and they are the envy of several neighboring states where the mussels have either been lost or populations are too small to survive without assistance. For example, although it remains in only five percent of its historical range, the northern riffleshell continues to have thriving populations in Pennsylvania. Likewise, the clubshell mussel also has stronghold populations in the Commonwealth.

Clubshell mussel
Clubshell mussel. Credit: USFWS