Monday, December 24, 2012

Best of 2012: 2) Recovering wildlife

New England cottontail at Great Bay National
Wildlife Refuge. Credit: New Hampshire Fish and Game.
We're bringing in the new year with a look back at our milestones for 2012. Check back each day for featured events and activities from across the Northeast!

Many threatened and endangered animals across the Northeast improved last year, and much of that progress is thanks to the many people working to recover and maintain healthy wildlife populations.

Here are of a few results of those efforts:

Biologists at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island have been breeding New England cottontails in captivity, and earlier this year, the Service, state and zoo partners, as well as others, released the first group into the wild on Patience Island off the coast of Rhode Island. In addition, nine other New England cottontails were brought from the zoo to Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire. This rabbit is the only native rabbit in New England, and it's become so rare that it's being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. A team of government agencies, conservation organizations and private landowners are working to restore the cottontail. More on the New England cottontail.

The number of sea turtle nests in Virginia went up, meeting the state's record of nine by the middle of summer. Most were threatened loggerhead turtle nests, but one was a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nest -- the first ever found in the state. A number of the nests were at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Loggerhead eggs. Credit: USFWS.

Survey work this year and last by biologists, including Service biologist Caleb Spiegel, discovered large concentrations of wintering piping plovers, small shorebirds that summer on Atlantic beaches (and other places) and are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Data from the International Piping Plover Census will support conservation of the piping plover across habitats used throughout its life cycle, from breeding grounds through migration and to winter habitat. Read an Audubon story on this research.

Sue Abbott, Bird Studies Canada, scanning for birds at Berry Islands. Credit: Caleb Spiegel/USFWS

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