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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Beneficial Bats: Little Brown Bat Keeps Us Safe

Bat Week

In honor of Bat Week, Open Spaces  will celebrate one bat as a Bat of the Day every day this week. Of course, almost any of the world’s 1,300 bats deserve to be a Bat of the Day somewhere. They’re all pretty awesome. And helpful!

 little brown bats
Little brown bats. Photo by Ann Froschauer/USFWS

Bats eat tons of pest insects. A mother little brown bat, for instance, can eat more than her own weight in insects in just one night. Granted, little brown bats are, well, little – less than four inches long and weighing less than half an ounce – but their voraciousness gives you just one example of bats’ helpful eating habits. Scientists estimate that bats are worth almost $4 billion in pest control for U.S. farmers, Bat Conservation International says, and that means $4 billion worth of pesticides that don’t get into the ecosystem.


Federal Projects in Floodplains Must Meet or Beat New Guidelines

 The Eagle River floodplain
The Eagle River floodplain near Juneau, Alaska. Photo by Neil Stichert/USFWS

Floods leave behind big costs for communities and taxpayers. Between 1980 and 2013, the United States suffered more than $260 billion in flood-related damages.  Losses caused by flooding affect the environment, our economic prosperity and public health and safety, each of which affects our national security. 


Venomous Yellow-bellied Sea Snake Washes Up on California Shore

Yellow-bellied Sea SnakeYellow-bellied sea snake photo by Ashley Spratt, USFWS.

A yellow-bellied sea snake (Pelamis platura) -- highly uncommon in California -- was found in the high tide line at Silver Strand Beach in Ventura County on October 16 by local surfer Bob Forbes. This is the first known report of the species in Ventura County, and, the northernmost record of the species along the Pacific coast of North America. Warmer ocean waters along the southern and central California coast due to El Nino conditions may explain the sea snake’s presence this far north.

Bob recognized the snake as a yellow-bellied sea snake, was aware that it was venomous, and quickly contacted local wildlife experts. An experienced surfer and traveler, Bob had encountered sea snakes before in tropical waters. Clearly seeing that the snake was in distress and out of place, and concerned that an unknowing person could handle the snake and get bit if he left it there, Bob collected the snake and placed it in large container with seawater and transported it to our office in Ventura.


Free Series Brings Outdoors, Conservation Learning to Classrooms

Even if you can’t get out into the outdoors, you can still learn plenty about nature, thanks to Conservation Connect, the Service's online video series targeting young people. Each eight-minute episode highlights wildlife, careers and new technologies utilized to study and protect wild animals and the habitats on which they depend.  Students and teachers who tune into the live broadcast can ask us questions and chat with our biologists in real time.

The series starts tomorrow, October 21, and to get ready for next week’s Bat Week, the topic is bats and small mammals. To view the live broadcast, visit http://nctc.fws.gov/broadcasts, and come back every third Wednesday of the month at 2 p.m. ET.


Native Texans: Rio Grande Silvery Minnows from Texas Stocked in Big Bend National Park

Rio Grande silvery minnow release
The Service's William Knight, Rueben Mendoza, Colby Crouse, Stewart Jacks, Cirilo Alonzo and Rene Guerra form the traditional "bucket line" to facilitate stocking Rio Grande silvery minnow at Big Bend National Park.

Texans love their state, and being a native, or “real,” Texan is a true badge of honor in the Lone Star State. We are hoping that it also helps Rio Grande silvery minnow, an endangered fish whose population in Texas is considered experimental and non-essential.


‘Fishing is the Way of Life’

As springtime approaches, Chinook salmon return from the ocean to migrate upriver for their spawning season, signaling the start of fishing season for anglers in the Pacific Northwest. This is an especially important time for Native American Tribes, such as the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, to fish in their ancestral waters. With both human and environmental threats to wildlife, some fishing seasons have been better than others.

Kevin Blueback ( pictured) and Roosevelt Heath are two employees at the Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery in Oregon who are also an enrolled tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

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Kevin Blueback 

Paying for Conservation by Fishing, Hunting, Shooting and Boating

 Cliff Schleusner
Cliff Schleusner is an ardent angler and hunter, and Chief of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program in our Southwest Region. He is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Early autumn in the Southwest may be the best time of year for anglers and hunters. Upland bird seasons are in full swing, waterfowl are on their way back south perhaps to intersect with you on a duck marsh somewhere. It's not too cold to catch trout in the high country while elk bugle beyond the next aspen glade.

All of these pursuits have something in common, aside from the obvious. As a hunter and angler and boater you are paying for conservation. Next time you gas up your boat, buy a spool of 10-lb. test monofilament fishing line or a box of bird load for your 12-gauge pump, keep this in mind: a portion of what you pull out of your wallet is invested back into conservation. 

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Laura Bush Brings Voice to Monarch Conservation


A monarch butterfly. Photo by Laura Perlick/USFWS

Laura Bush
Laura Bush talks about monarchs. Photo by Beth Ullenberg/USFWS  

Former First Lady Laura Bush encouraged all Texans to join her in helping save the monarch by planting native milkweed and nectar-producing plants whether over vast landscapes or in their own backyards. Bush, founder of Texan By Nature, joined forces with the Service, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, and The National Wildlife Federation on Tuesday at the George W. Bush Institute to bring awareness to the issues facing this iconic species.

“In order for Texas to remain a thriving central flyway for the monarch butterfly, we must join together to conserve and create essential monarch habitat,” said Bush. “Conservation truly begins at home, and with more Texans lending their time, expertise, land and resources, we can ensure that the monarch butterfly – the state insect of Texas – is here to stay.”

It's Not Too Late to Celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week

 High school students enjoy the great outdoors at Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska
High school students enjoy the great outdoors at Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo by USFWS

It’s Thursday already. But don’t worry! You have plenty of time to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week (October 11–17).  Refuges have events this weekend and even later.   And even if you can’t make it for Refuge Week, it is never a bad time to visit a refuge.

About 47 million visitors connected with nature at a national wildlife refuge last year, and refuges provide the ideal chance celebrate our national heritage.


Exposed: 9 Unique Wildlife Hideaways

Don't worry, we're not giving away any trade secrets here. What we DO reveal are a few places these species have been known to spend time, either as year-round residents or annual visitors. And these special lands have one thing in common, they're all National Wildlife Refuges!

  1. Most Visited by Polar Bears: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (AK)

    Polar bear cubs by USGSPhoto: Susanne Miller, USFWS

    Great Place for Raising Young: Starting next month, pregnant polar bears will dig their dens at this refuge. And this is the only national conservation area where polar bears regularly den.


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