Facebook icon Twitter icon Flicker icon You Tube icon

Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

A Green Triangle of Hope in Fire-ravaged Indonesia

A Bornean orangutan in Sabangau Forest. Photo by Bernat Ripoll Capilla/OuTrop

Fires are devastating Indonesia, threatening gibbons, orangutans, elephants and other wildlife, as well as people. The Global Fire Emissions Database reports that satellites have detected more than 117,000 active fires in 2015 through October 28.

NASA photos indicate widespread smoke and a general haze hovering over Indonesia and neighboring countries. However, within the borders of Indonesia’s Way Kambas National Park (WKNP), a small green triangle marks an area where successful fire prevention efforts have cleared smoke, offering a glimmer of hope amidst the devastation.


Photo by NASA

Since 2008, we, through the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund, have supported forest patrols and other work in WKNP. Fire prevention efforts are among the many responsibilities of these patrol teams, and over the last several weeks, they have been on the front lines fighting to save WKNP from fires that are sweeping across the country.


Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery may Hold Solution for Rare Turtles

alligator snapping turtle
An alligator snapping turtle hatchling. Photo by USFWS

The alligator snapping turtle is part of Oklahoma’s natural heritage. They grow big. They are impressive to look at, and they aren’t as common as they once were.
Craig Springer tells us about important conservation work for the turtles.

alligator snapping turtle  
An alligator turtle shows off its snapper. Photo by Kevin Enge/FL Fish Wildlife Conservation Commission

As crickets sing sunshine to sleep, it’s a wake-up call for alligator snapping turtles. They make a living by the dark of the night in big creeks, rivers and marshes in the southern United States.  In Oklahoma, they are not quite as abundant as they used to be. They once occupied much of the eastern third of the state, but habitat loss and over-harvest reduced this animal to living in only a few select sites. And that’s where Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery stepped in with a captive-rearing program for a most interesting animal.

What animal has a piece of flesh on its tongue to wiggle and lure in unsuspecting fish to prey upon with a forceful snap of its jaw? This one does. 

Starting in 1999, scientists at the hatchery brought the animals on station and developed captive-breeding and -rearing techniques, with much success. While they have not abandoned their work with paddlefish, catfish and the endangered Arkansas River shiner, the alligator snapping turtle has risen in importance to help stave off a potential listing under the Endangered Species Act. You might say they are getting out in front of the emerging conservation issues.


Technician Engages Public in Endangered Fish Recovery on the Colorado River

Having public support can make a world of difference when doing endangered-species recovery work.  But it can be tough to build interest in relatively unknown, rare and elusive species like the four endangered Colorado River fish – the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker.  Dale Ryden, the project leader at our Ouray National Fish Hatchery – Grand Valley Unit (NFH-GVU) in Grand Junction, Colorado, tells us about one co-worker whose mission, in addition to his regular job, is public education and outreach about the endangered Colorado River fish.

Mike Gross
Mike Gross shows off a replica of an endangered razorback sucker to a group of elementary school kids during a tour at Ouray National Fish Hatchery – Grand Valley Unit. Photo by USFWS

While much of the river system that supports the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker in western Colorado runs through pristine and isolated habitat, a surprising amount of the river runs directly through the densely populated area in and around Grand Junction.  And, even though this natural wonder is essentially right in their back yard, many people in and around the Grand Junction area know little about these unique and fascinating next-door neighbors that rely on the same river water people use to cook, shower and water their lawn.

Mike Gross is a Biological Science Technician at Ouray NFH-GVU and as such, already has a full plate of regular job duties to perform.  Yet over the last decade or so, Mike has built a public education and outreach program at this small hatchery that provides hatchery tours to about 1,000 people a year.  Mike provides tours year-round for everybody from small family groups to school field trips (elementary school to college), newspaper reporters, water users, environmental groups, Service leaders, congressional staffers and even the head of The Nature Conservancy.  Mike has the unique ability to tailor his message about endangered-species recovery, what it is and why it’s important to any audience, making it interesting and engaging to people of all ages, from preschool, through high school and college, to professional. 


Hawaiian Hoary Bat Finds Special Place in Hawaii’s Heart

Bat Week

Our last Bat of the Day is the only land mammal native to the Hawaiian islands.

 Hawaiian hoary bat
The ‘ope‘ape‘a feed on a variety of native and nonnative night-flying insects. Photo by Frank Bonaccorso/USGS

The Hawaiian hoary bat, or ‘ope‘ape‘ as it’s called in Hawaii, arrived on the islands some 10,000 years ago. That was quite a migration from North America, over 2,400 miles across the ocean.

The bat is found on all the Main Hawaiian Islands except Kahoolawe and Ni’ihau.

It has not been the subject of a lot of research, so many questions remain. One of those questions is population.  Total estimates range from hundreds to a few thousand but are based on limited and incomplete data. What we can say, though, is that these bats are appear absent from historically occupied ranges.

The endangered Hawaiian hoary bat is the state's official mammal.

Don't miss our awesome video:

- Ann Froschauer and Matt Trott, External Affrairs

Endangered Woodpeckers Return to Great Dismal Swamp After 40-Year Absence

hard at work
Bryan Watts from the Center for Conservation Biology prepares an artificial cavity to receive a red-cockaded woodpecker. Photo by Robert B. Clontz/The Nature Conservancy.

Four pairs of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers took flight last Friday in their new home at Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk, Virginia, which hasn’t seen the woodpecker since 1974. 

The  plan to reintroduce the birds at Great Dismal Swamp Refuge aims to boost the nationwide population of 6,400 potential breeding pairs. Great Dismal Swamp would be Virginia’s second population of the woodpeckers and the only one on public land. It would also be the northernmost outpost of the eastern birds, now concentrated largely in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. 


Tequila Courtesy the Lesser Long-nosed Bat

Bat Week

Our Bat of the Day for Friday is known for its ability to hover at flowers (and the occasional hummingbird feeder). Lesser long-nosed bats are agile flyers that use their slender, elongated muzzle and long tongue to feed on nectar.

 lesser long-nosed bat
A lesser long-nosed bat pollinates a saguaro cactus flower. Photo by Merlin D. Tuttle/Bat Conservation International.

Not only is their tongue as long as their body, about three inches, but  the tip is also equipped with brush-like papillae that help lap up nectar of agave and other cactus flowers. If you enjoy agave syrup or tequila, thank a lesser long-nosed bat!

The lesser long-nosed bat is protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. These bats are also migratory and native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

And don't miss our awesome video:

- Ann Froschauer and Matt Trott, External Affrairs

Pallid Bat Hears it All

Bat Week

Another big-eared bat, the pallid bat, is our Bat of the Day for Thursday. Check out those huge ears –half as long as its head and body length!

 pallid bat
Pallid bats can hear their prey’s footsteps. Photo by Ann Froschauer/USFWS

They use them to detect the footsteps of their prey on the ground. Swooping in silently from above, these larger bats often eat scorpions and centipedes, crickets, grasshoppers and beetles, with an occasional lizard or rodent thrown in! It is one of the few North American bats to capture little prey in the air, and for a bat it is agile on land.

A hibernator, not a migrator, these bats are found in semi-arid regions across most of the American West, up and down the coast from Canada to Mexico.

Finally, as  we said earlier, you should not disturb any bats but definitely not these guys. Pallid bats can emit a skunk-like odor.

- Ann Froschauer and Matt Trott, External Affrairs

Tri-colored Bat Struggle as White-nose Syndrome Hammers Species

Bat Week
 tricolored bats
A tri-colored bat with white nose syndrome. Photo by: Eric Spadgenske  

It is impossible to talk about bats without also talking about white-nose syndrome, a disease affecting hibernating bats in eastern and midwestern North America. First documented in New York in the winter of 2006-2007, the disease is estimated to have killed over 5.5 million bats and can wipe out entire hibernacula – places like caves where bats hibernate.

FIND OUT MORE: Getting on the Same Bat Channel for White-nose Syndrome

Universities, state and federal agencies, nongovernmental organizations and others are investigating the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome, and searching for a way to control it.

Monday’s little brown bat has suffered with the onset of white-nose syndrome.  It has also hit today’s Bat of the Day. The tri-colored bat gets its  their name from its interesting fur – each individual hair is "tri-colored," with a dark base, lighter yellowish brown middle, and darker tips.


The Dead Bring Forests to Life

Pilated woodpecker activity and pileated woodpecker. Photo by Courtney Celley and Jim Hudgins/USFWS.Pilated woodpecker activity and pileated woodpecker. Photos by Courtney Celley and Jim Hudgins/USFWS

Don't ask Rick or any of his compariots in The Walking Dead to say the undead are a good thing. But our forests are full of life, even when they are dead.

Read More

Spotted Bats Offer Amazing Sights and Sounds

Bat Week

Bats fall into two categories: those that migrate to warm climates when it gets chilly and those that hibernate during cold months. Our Bat of the Day, the spotted bat, is a migrator, which means their natural range extends from British Columbia, Canada, south through the western United States and into Mexico. 

 spotted bats
Spotted bats have the largest ears of any North American species. Photo by Paul Cryan/USGS

These bats are considered rare, but what a treat to see one! They have the largest ears of any North American species, and those pearly pink ears and black and white spotted fur give it a very distinctive look. When resting, the spotted bat curls up its ears around its head, but when the bat becomes active, they inflate with blood and unroll.

You also can hear them! Some bats use sound waves (called echolocation) to navigate the night sky or find food. The bats make a high-pitched sound, almost always too high for humans to hear. That sound bounces off solid objects and sends echoes back to the bat. From the echoes, bats can determine size, shape, etc. the spotted bat has one of the only echolocation calls that humans can hear.

- Ann Froschauer and Matt Trott, External Affrairs

More Entries