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SELAWIK: Avian Influenza Testing Strengthens Bond with Native Village
Alaska Region, October 3, 2006
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A northern pintail is about to be released after being banded and swabbed in an avian influenza testing project in northwest Alaska.  Photo by Dara Rehder, August 2006.
A northern pintail is about to be released after being banded and swabbed in an avian influenza testing project in northwest Alaska. Photo by Dara Rehder, August 2006. - Photo Credit: n/a

A northwest Alaska project to band and sample northern pintails for avian influenza (H5N1) proved beneficial beyond the scientific data collected.  It also strengthened ties between Selawik Refuge and the Native Village of Buckland, an Iñupiaq community on the northern Seward Peninsula. 

Refuge biologist Tina Moran worked cooperatively with the Buckland Tribal Council on many aspects of the project, including informing residents about the project and hiring a temporary Refuge Information Technician, Percy Ballot.  The first challenge was to locate a suitable campsite and trap area in the Kauk River area, about 35 miles north of Buckland.  Because this was a new area for capturing pintails, careful selection of the camp and trap area was especially important.  The location had to be productive for capturing pintails and yet not interfere with the village’s subsistence harvest activities.  With Percy’s guidance, an ideal site was identified.  Percy also provided indispensable help with the logistics of setting up and supporting the camp.

During the course of the project, ten Buckland high school students visited the camp to learn more about the research, northern pintails, avian flu, and career opportunities with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The visit was part of a culture-science camp run on a volunteer basis by Sherry Swan and other residents of Buckland.  Percy led the students in asking excellent questions. Both Refuge staff and students benefited from the experience.

Because pintails were unusually late in arriving in the area this year, biologists did not reach the sampling goal by the end of the season.  However, the positive working relationship established with Buckland more than offset the low capture success.  Refuge staff looks forward to more fruitful endeavors with Buckland in coming years.


Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov



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