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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Ensuring the Future of the Black Rhino

Fewer than 5,000 black rhinos still exist in Africa. Photo Credit: Karl Stromayer/USFWS

We are currently evaluating whether to approve two applications to import sport-hunted black rhino trophies from Namibia, and we are looking for information to help us make our decision.

The black rhino is endangered. Fewer than 5,000 still exist in Africa, according to 2010 data from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Poachers have massacred rhinos to take their horn, valued as a status symbol and carving material, and for its alleged medicinal properties.

No one wants a world where rhinos don’t exist, so why, people ask, are we even considering the permits to bring a sport-hunted rhino trophy into the United States? Another death won’t help bring rhino population numbers back, some may argue.

Actually, unless it does, we will not grant these permits.


Bears Choose Berries Over Salmon?

Kodiak brown bear
A bear fishing for salmon in the shoals of Karluk Lake. Photo Credit: Marie McCann/USFWS

Monitoring bear movements at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska  has revealed the complicating role berries play in  bear ecology. Elderberries normally ripen in late August after most salmon runs have faded. In 2014, the berry crop was early and abundant. Remote camera and GPS collar data show that bears largely abandoned salmon streams in July and August to exploit elderberry patches, suggesting that they preferred berries over salmon. 

Learn More

‘Huge Smiles’ When Kids Catch First Fish Drive Steve Klein

Steve Klein
Steve (center) and friends hold up handfuls of spot prawn.
Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service

Steve Klein serves as Chief of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) Program for the Alaska Region.  He supervises a team of three biologists, a fiscal officer and an administrative assistant to review and approve more than $50 million in grants to states and tribes annually.  In partnership with Alaska, WSFR is conserving fish and wildlife, and providing diverse and abundant fishing, hunting, boating and shooting opportunities.  Steve is an avid outdoorsman, father of three sons and grandfather of two.

5 Questions for Steve

1. Do you hunt/fish and if so what?

I hunt and fish as much as possible.  This year, I have hunted for caribou, moose, mountain goat, turkey and waterfowl.  I have fished for chinook salmon, coho salmon, sockeye salmon, halibut, rockfish, shrimp and Dungeness crab.

2.Who got you into fishing or hunting?

My father got me into fishing and hunting.  Instead of going to the beach for vacation, we went fishing.  I was a lucky young man!


Innovative Research to Uncover the Unknown Lives of Whooping Cranes

Whooping cranes are one of the rarest, highly endangered and intensively monitored bird species in North America. Despite the monitoring and study, much about the bird remains unknown, and more research is needed to help keep the species on the road to recovery.

A new study is underway to help wildlife biologists discover some of the whooping crane’s secrets. Our biologists are teaming up with biologists from Texas Parks & Wildlife, U.S. Geological Survey, Crane Trust, Platte River Recovery Implementation Program and International Crane Foundation to tag and monitor adult whooping cranes to learn more details about their everyday life. The adult cranes will be tracked using satellite GPS technology, which can uncover unknown migration stops, habitat use, nesting areas and more.

We are doing this study in Texas because the cranes in the Aransas-Wood Buffalo population, which breeds in northern Canada and winters in Texas, are the only remaining wild, self-sustaining migratory population of whooping cranes.


Living the [Genetic] Dream: Meet Christian Smith, Pacific Region Regional Geneticist

Christian Smith
Christian Smith samples steelhead. Photo credit: USFWS

Rebecca Smith from our Pacific Region shares a profile of Regional Geneticist Christian Smith.

Christian Smith’s passion for conservation genetics first expressed itself in the forests and beaches of British Columbia. The Pacific Region’s newest regional geneticist grew up in the Gulf Islands, and first connected with nature when his grandmother took both him and his brother on nature walks and pointed out plants and animals.

It was a very rich experience for my brother and me,” says Smith.

A seven-year veteran at the Abernathy Fish Technology Center, Smith now leads a “genetic dream team” of scientists that use advanced technology to help the Service decipher the genetic code for such imperiled aquatic species as salmon and Devil’s hole pupfish, and make smart, cost-effective conservation decisions.

The center and its Applied Research Program in Conservation Genetics is rapidly establishing itself as a regional and, increasingly, national agency leader and go-to facility when scientists need genetic analyses for hatchery populations or ESA-listed fish.


Trade in Turtles Threatens Species

Florida softshell turtle
More than 150,000 live Florida softshell turtles were exported in 2009, up from 20,000 in 2000 Photo credit: Vanessa Kauffman/USFWS

International demand for turtles has risen dramatically and has raised concern about the future of some turtle populations.

We recently proposed to add four native freshwater turtle species – the common snapping turtle, the Florida softshell turtle, the smooth softshell turtle and the spiny softshell turtle – to Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). That means that exporters will have to obtain a permit before shipping these turtles overseas, so we will be better able to monitor the species.


These species are not threatened with extinction, but we are worried that rising trade could create a threat.  For instance, about 3,100 live common snapping turtles were exported in 1990. More than 655,000 were exported in 2009.

In the following article from the winter 2013 issue of Fish & Wildlife News, Dr. Thomas Leuteritz and Bruce Weissgold of our International Affairs Program summarize the problems facing turtles. Proposals from the United States, China and Vietnam at the 16th Conference of Parties (CoP16) to CITES increased protection for 44 Asian freshwater turtles.


Tortoises and freshwater and terrestrial turtles are the world’s most endangered vertebrates, and the Service has been involved in CITES efforts to better monitor and regulate their international trade.

Global commerce in turtles in the last 20-plus years has followed a well-known pattern of boom and bust in international wildlife trade: Once a species is depleted or regulated, trade shifts to species not as threatened or less regulated.


Excavating a Sea Turtle Nest Makes for an Unforgettable Experience

SCA logo

Open Spaces is featuring monthly posts by Student Conservation Association (SCA) interns working to promote, protect and study wildlife on public lands all over the United States. Since 1957, SCA has been connecting young people from all backgrounds with life-changing, career-making conservation service opportunities. Learn how you can get involved at www.thesca.org. First up is SCA intern Rachel Snodgrass who worked at Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina.

SCA Intern
Excavating sea turtle nests can be hard because you find rotten eggs (left) and hatchlings that didn't survive. But sometimes, as it did for Rachel and biologist Brooke Wheatley, an excavation turns up live hatchlings! Photos courtesy Rachel Snodgrass

Hello Wildlife Enthusiasts! I’m so happy to get to tell you about my recent experience excavating sea turtle nests as a Student Conservation Intern at Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina!

Wildlife biologists excavate nests to collect data after eggs in a nest have finished hatching. They dig in and document such findings as unhatched eggs, hatched shells, broken eggs and stranded live hatchlings.


Kids Learn All About About Native Fish

The New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Office runs Native Fish in the Classroom. The program encourages interest in local wildlife resources by allowing students to raise Rio Grande cutthroat trout and other native fish species of the Middle Rio Grande. The students care for the fish and learn about habitat, biology and threats to them. Watch the kids release the fish and sing a goodbye song above. Then watch an interview with project administrator biologist Angela Palacios-James.

A similar project in Our Pacific Region brings salmon into the classroom.

This article is from the Spring 2014 Fish & Wildlife News.

Reaching Students with Salmon in the Classroom

The Service is committed to working with partners and the public to promote stewardship of natural resources.  With that goal in mind, biologists at Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery in the Columbia Gorge in Washington developed the Salmon in the Classroom program.


Fish and Wildlife Service Thanks Our Veterans


Sgt. Will Tucker on the job as an Army Reservist. See more veterans. Photo courtesy of Will Tucker.

We remember and thank all veterans for their sacrifices, but most especially, the more than 1,400 who now dedicate their lives to conserving the nature of America as employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service. One of these employees, Will Tucker, says he is privileged to protect the ideals of this country as a member of the Army Reserve and the country’s natural resources as a wildlife biologist for the Service.

Youngsters Mentored Mike Piccirilli in Bass Fishing

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Mike Piccirilli
Mike has been an angler since grade school.

Mike Piccirilli is the Southeast Regional Chief of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. He works with State Game and Fish agencies daily to enhance their fish and wildlife resources for public benefit through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Grant Programs.  Through this partnership the Southeast Region  administered approximately $250 million of grants to the states this fiscal year. The money helped finance such projects as land acquisition, population surveys, construction of boat ramps, fish and wildlife research, management of public fishing and hunting management areas, hunter education programs and shooting range construction 

5 Questions for Mike

 1. Do you hunt/fish and if so what?

I do hunt and I fish.   I especially like to fly fish for trout and have done so since I was in grade school. It's very gratifying because trout are found in some of the most beautiful and undisturbed places.  I also love catching trout on flies that I have learned to tie myself. Tying flies and anticipating the trout you will catch on that fly is almost as much fun as actually catching them.  I also have started to fish for largemouth bass. I like it almost as much as fly fishing for trout. It allows me to fish more locally and expands my opportunities to spend more time outside. 

I grew up hunting in Pennsylvania for a variety of game species that included whitetail deer, black bear, turkey, and such small game as grouse, pheasant, squirrel and rabbit. Pennsylvania has a very strong tradition of hunting, selling about a million hunting licenses annually.  It’s such a strong tradition that some public schools are closed the opening day of rifle deer season.   Since moving to Atlanta 17 years ago I have hunted less and fished more.  Never did I think that the trout fishing would be so good in north Georgia and especially North Carolina.  Because it's so good with tremendous public fishing opportunities with great weather, I essentially fish year round, which leaves me less time to hunt.


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