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A Talk on the Wild Side.

It Takes a Village to Save a Fish

Arctic grayling. Photo Courtesy of Mark Conlin

Thanks to individual landowners and state and federal biologists in Montana’s Big Hole and Centennial Valleys, Montana’s arctic grayling (a fish) has made huge progress in its recovery. These stakeholders completed 250 voluntary conservation projects, significantly improving habitat quality, which helped more than double grayling populations!

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Cats Off to 2015! An Update on Florida Panthers

We’ve seen your questions about Florida panthers, so we’re closing out 2015 by answering your top three panther questions. 

If you don’t see your question here, never fear! We will do a follow-up piece in 2016. 

Florida Panther

1. Are Florida panthers really Florida panthers? 

Florida panthers are an Endangered subspecies of Puma concolor, also known as cougars and mountain lions.

The Florida panther once ranged throughout the southeastern United States, but by 1995 only about 20-30 Florida panthers remained in the wild. Because of genetic complications from inbreeding, eight female pumas from Texas were relocated to south Florida to restore genetic variability to the population. However, Florida panthers are still distinct from the other subspecies and today represent the only breeding population of puma in the eastern United States.

Learn more about the science behind the Florida panther’s taxonomy from our state partners. 

2. What is the population of Florida panthers?
The FWC reports the current population range as 100-180 panthers in south Florida.
This population range does not include kittens traveling with their mothers.

Because of their secretive nature, counting pumas is extremely difficult, and Florida panthers are no exception. We’re working to utilize the newest science techniques to ensure the most accurate and up-to-date population count.

In addition, twenty-five percent of Florida panther habitat is on private lands, which is why private landowners play a crucial role in the conservation of panthers.


3. What can I do to help Florida panthers? 
Road kills are a leading cause of death for Florida panthers. The best thing you can do is to be mindful when driving in panther country. Be alert, slow down and increase your distance between other cars. Panther activity is greatest between dusk and dawn, and driving slower allows you time to react.

Timeline: A Few Florida Panther Moments from Facebook

2012 - Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge captures photos of uncollared Florida panther moving her kittens.

2013 - Successful releases of a male and female Florida panther.

2013 - Recently released, raised in captivity Florida panther gives birth to female kitten.

2013 - Agencies and a private rancher worked together to raise the $6.6 million to purchase the property to help Florida panthers.

2014 - Someone comes across a Florida panther when they were hog hunting. 

2015 - Florida panther released after surviving automobile collision injuries. 

Endangered Species Act Moments in 2015 Worth Revisiting

greater sage-grouse
A greater sage-grouse male struts at a lek (dancing or mating ground) to attract a mate. One of the largest conservation efforts in U.S. history benefits the greater sage-grouse. Photo by Jeannie Stafford/USFWS


The Endangered Species Act shone in 2015, helping threatened and endangered species across the globe. These milestones reaffirm both the importance of the act and our commitment to working with partners to conserve imperiled animals, plants and their habitats.


Notable Delistings - Species Making a Comeback

Recovery of the Delmarva Fox Squirrel
After more than 40 years of federal protection, this resident of the Delmarva Peninsula was successfully recovered and removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife! It was one of the first species listed in 1967 under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act, and thanks to the dedication of numerous partners to conserve this animal and its habitat, the population is thriving. 

chub
An Oregon chub swims at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge in Corvallis, Oregon. Photo by Rick Swart, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.


Recovery of the Oregon Chub and Modoc Sucker

This year saw the first two fish removed from Endangered Species Act protection due to recovery! Now populations of the Modoc Sucker and Oregon Chub are no longer at risk of extinction.

Working Together For Wildlife


Landmark Conservation Collaboration for Sage Grouse

If you didn’t know it, 2015 hosted one of the largest conservation efforts in U.S. history. As a result, the greater sage-grouse does not require protection under the Endangered Species Act. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Service Director Dan Ashe, four western governors and multiple partners celebrated the success of 11 western states, federal agencies, private landowners and industry in securing the future of the greater sage-grouse and its unique sagebrush habitat. We also made announcements of numerous other species that will not need Endangered Species Act protection due to proactive conservation efforts.   

Citizen Science Engagement Around Endangered Species
We teamed up with FishBrain – the world's largest free-to-use app and social network for anglers – to launch a new feature of the app that will help the American public identify and document threatened, endangered, and candidate species.  

red-cockaded woodpecker
Red-cockaded woodpeckers have been big beneficiaries of Safe Harbor Agreements. Photo by Eric Spadgenske/USFWS


20th Anniversary of the Safe Harbor Program
We, along with our partners, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first-ever Safe Harbor Agreement, created in 1995 to protect the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. That first agreement not only helped turn around the fortunes of the red-cockaded woodpecker in North Carolina and other states, but also heralded in an era of proactive collaboration between private landowners, states and federal agencies under the Endangered Species Act to conserve America's most imperiled wildlife.


Listing Species That Need Our Protection

Lions Protected Under Endangered Species Act
Lions across the globe were protected under the Endangered Species Act. In addition to listing lions as threatened and endangered, Director Ashe issued an order prohibiting those that violate wildlife laws from getting permits for wildlife-related activities, including sport-hunted trophies.

Mother and baby chimp climbing in tree. The baby is touching its mother's chin.
Chimpanzees Bahati and her baby Baroza at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Credit: © the Jane Goodall Institute


All Chimpanzees Were Given Endangered Species Act Protection
Both wild and captive chimpanzees were given Endangered Species Act protection, a globally significant decision that was lauded by conservation hero Dr. Jane Goodall herself.  

Don't Forget the Monarch

Unless you live on parts of the California coast or near their Mexican wintering grounds, you probably aren’t seeing monarch butterflies these days. But don’t forget them!

The Lions We Listed Are Not Extinct

Heidi Ruffler, African Lions

When you search the scientific names of the lion subspecies that we recently listed, you may see them listed as extinct. We wanted to acknowledge the questions we've received around this and explain why this is the case. 

First, Some Background: 

When it comes to listing a species as endangered or threatened on the Endangered Species Act (ESA), we rely on the best available scientific information. In the proposed rule, we addressed the scientific community’s review of lion taxonomy, but at that time of the proposed rule it had not been resolved.  At that time, the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission Cat Specialist Group commissioned a Cat Classification Task Force from among its experts to determine a consensus on the taxonomy.  

The results of the IUCN review is reflected in our final rule. Namely, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepts the IUCN’s two subspecies taxonomy for Panthera leo (lion): Panthera leo leo for the central, western and Indian populations of lion and Panthera leo melanochaita for the southern and eastern populations of lion.  

Why It Seems Weird: You’ve Done Your Research, But the Sites Aren’t Up to Date

With the recent lion ruling, there has been some confusion around whether the subspecies we have listed are extinct. This is likely because when people Googled or searched the scientific names they were sent to results that only showcased extinct lions. But this information will be updated as the scientific community catches up to recent studies.

It’s largely because the proposed taxonomic change just recently came out, that all of the links that are being shared around are not up to date. It was a recent assessment that IUCN did that altered the distinction between lions:

“In June 2015, after the close of the comment period on our proposed rule, IUCN posted an updated Red List Assessment for lion. In this assessment, a new two-subspecies classification is proposed based on the recommendation of the IUCN Cat Classification Task Force: P. l. leo of Asia (India) and western, central, and northern Africa, and P. l. melanochaita for southern and eastern Africa (Bauer et al. 2015a, unpaginated) (Figure 1), which is supported by Barnett et al. (2014, p. 6), Dubachet al. (2013, p. 746), Bertola et al. (2011, entire), Antunes et al. (2008, entire), and Barnett et al. (2006a, pp. 511–512)."

Couple of Facts:

  1. There are only two subspecies of lions. And as of January 22nd they will all be listed. We called the two subspecies out to be thorough, but for all who are wondering, all lions are now listed.

  2. All Panthera leo, which includes its only two subspecies (P. l. leo and P. l. melanochaita) are listed under the Endangered Species Act. There are no other subspecies of Panthera leo.

  3. It may take some time for the scientific community to adopt this taxonomy and start using these names. Keep an eye on this link or download the PDF for more information.

Additional Questions

What is different between the proposed and final rule to list lions?
The Service received new information from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that the western and central populations of lions are genetically closely related to the currently endangered Asiatic lion (formerly the endangered Panthera leo persica), and the IUCN has named this subspecies Panthera leo leo. The IUCN also found that the southern and eastern populations of lions are now their own subspecies, Panthera leo melanochaita. The Service has determined the two subspecies of lion qualify for different statuses under the ESA.

What happens if the names change again? Will the lions still be protected? 
Should the taxonomy of lions change in the future, we would issue a notice to notify the public and would do a technical correction. The point is to protect these lions but as the science evolves so will the language in the ruling.

What's going on with Panthera leo persica?
Currently, the Asiatic lion (P. l. persica) is listed as an endangered species under the ESA. Based on the new taxonomic classification for lions, we are revising the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife at 50 CFR 17.11(h). In the Regulation Promulgation section of this document, we implement a taxonomic change by removing the invalid subspecies P. l. persica. This entity is now included in the assessment of the lion species (P. leo).

We know it's a long document, but if you're really curious about what we're doing behind it, we recommend you read this. 

More Sources About the Recent Lion Listing:

More specific information:


Photo Gallery: Snowy Winter Wildlife

Whether you're spending the rest of the year in shorts or bundled up, winter has officially arrived. To honor the winter solstice, we've compiled an album of wildlife in the snow at wildlife refuges across the country. Let's embrace the beauty of the season!

Red Foxes at Alaska Penninsula NWR

Ugashik River Foxtrot by Robert DreeszenSparring red foxes at the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge by Robert Dreeszen.

Bison at National Elk Refuge in Wyoming

Bison with Frosty Face
Bison with a frosty mask at National Elk Refuge by Chris Clapp, volunteer.

Red-tailed Hawk at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk
Juvenile red-tailed hawk at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge by Mike Guyant, volunteer.

River Otters at Squaw Creek NWR in Missouri

River Otters at Squaw Creek
River otters enjoy the partially frozen wetlands at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge by Kenny Bahr.

Deer at John Heinz NWR in Pennsylvania

Deer with Snow on Nose
Deer with a sprinkle of snow on its nose at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge by Barbara Wheeler Photography, volunteer.

Loggerhead Shrike at Malheur NWR in Oregon

Loggerhead Shrike in Snow
Loggerhead shrike in snow at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Craig Lewis, USFWS.

Muskrat at Great Meadows NWR in Massachusetts

Muskrat Eating
This photo of a muskrat chowing down at Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is copyright (c) 2013 Bob Travis and made available under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs at Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR in Colorado

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs
Black-tailed prairie dogs at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge by Lee Winnike, 2012 photo contest winner.

Bald Eagle at Camas NWR in Idaho

Bald Eagle in Snow Covered Tree
Bald eagle in a snow covered tree at Camas National Wildlife Refuge by Lance Roberts, USFWS.

Sandhill Crane at Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico

Sandhill Crane in Snow
This photo, "Sandhill Crane in snow Bosque del Apache NWR" is copyright (c) 2015 Mark Watson and made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

Tundra Hare at Yukon Delta NWR in Alaska

Tundra Hare on Frozen Pond
Tundra hare crosses a partially frozen pond at Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge by Allen Stegeman.

Coyote at Seedskadee NWR in Wyoming

Coyote in Hoar Frost
Coyote in hoar frost at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge by Tom Koerner, USFWS.

The Changing Climate of the Delaware Bay: Knot an Easy Solution

Red Knots and Horseshoe Crab
Red knots depend on horseshoe crab eggs. Photo by Gregory Breese/USFWS

The red knot is a robin-sized shorebird with one of the longest yearly migrations, traveling as many as 9,300 miles from its Arctic breeding grounds to the tip of South America. The Delaware Bay is important for red knots during their annual migration, because they depend on the energy-rich eggs laid by nesting horseshoe crabs to gain enough weight to complete the last leg of the spring migration to their breeding grounds in the arctic tundra. Unfortunately, the red knot population has declined by more than 75 percent over the past 30 years, prompting the bird to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. One of the many threats responsible for the listing is climate change, which is expected to accelerate as temperatures continue to rise, sea levels increase, and storms become more intense and erratic. Learn more about what the Service is doing to strengthen our coastal resilience: http://1.usa.gov/1Z7Eebg

Kodiak Brown Bears Love Their Elderberries

Kodiak bear
It's no surprise that many of Kodiak's bears rely on salmon for a large part of their diet - but questions remain about how bears move across a landscape to "surf" the variable timing of returning salmon, what factors influence their choice of fishing areas, and when bears may utilize other food resources like berries. Photo by Lisa Hupp/USFWS


In 2014, researchers uncovered something odd at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. While studying the relationship between Kodiak brown bears and salmon, they saw the bears largely abandon salmon streams in July and August to chow down on elderberries

This year, the Kodiak Bear Crew (refuge bear biologist William Leacock, University of Montana doctoral student Will Deacy, biological science technician Caroline Cheung, and volunteers Shelby Flemming, Kristina Hsu and Andy Orlando) spent May through October in the remote southwest corner of the refuge to learn more about the ecological relationship between the spawning runs of the sockeye salmon and the Kodiak brown bear. 

PHOTOS: Explore Kodiak Refuge and its Bears

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Fighting to Keep Toxics out of the Environment

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Jay Davis
Jay Davis (brown, FWS jacket) and others pour runoff collected from Seattle highways into a large tank at Grovers Hatchery in 2012. Photo by Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Jay Davis, a resource contaminant specialist in our Pacific Region, works with environmental toxics. Jay says he asks, “What does pollution do, what do contaminants do to fish and birds and other wildlife?”

Both Jay’s parents were in the pharmaceutical industry, and from them he learned that “if you take too much of anything you can kill yourself.” So maybe there is some toxicology in his blood.

But his undergraduate degree is in marine biology, and he says he spent a lot of time raising fish, shrimp and other aquatic organisms. “Every once in a while, you have this one tank that didn’t do well, and then you start to try to figure this out. Is the water quality not good enough or is there a particular contaminant, disease or pathogen causing a problem?”

What really made him say “Wow! I’m interested in pollution,” though, were large beachings or mass strandings of whales or dolphins. After strandings, he says, “oftentimes people will wonder if contaminants or pollution played a role in that.”

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Douglas Fir: A Wildlife Hero

Red-Shafted Flicker
This photo, "Handsome" is copyright (c) 2009 Minette Layne and made available under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

When I decided to get a tattoo of an evergreen, it was obvious which species to get. I was born and raised in Oregon, where the state tree is the Douglas fir. I grew up stomping (respectfully) through forests of the towering giants. This tree is a fantastic reminder of home. As a kid my family called me "Sunshine," which fit perfectly because Douglas firs appreciate the sun. This tree means a lot to me, and I'm not the only one. This tree is somewhat of a wildlife hero.

Myth of the Mouse and the Douglas Fir

Pacific northwest legend has it that long ago there was a great fire. All the forest animals frantically fled, trying to escape the flames. The tiny mice, with their short legs, were unable to outrun the fire. They stopped to ask the trees of the forest for help. The big-leaf maple, red cedar and other trees ignored their plea.

Finally, the giant Douglas fir offered protection. The mice climbed up the fire-resistant bark and scurried into the tree's cones. The mice survived the great fire and still today, you can see the hind legs and tails of mice sticking out from the scales of a Douglas fir cone. 

Douglas Fir Cones
You can see what looks like the hind legs and tails of forest mice (based on the myth) sticking out. This photo, "Douglas-fir Cones" is copyright (c) 2011 Tom Brandt and made available under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Wildlife Benefits of Douglas Firs

Myth or not, these trees provide incredible benefits to wildlife. As we move into winter, keep in mind all those wild Christmas trees out there. Below you'll find just a few of the many reasons to appreciate Douglas firs and other evergreens for supporting wildlife.

Food

Chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers eat insects from the tree. The red tree vole, beavers, porcupines and deer eat its needles. Pine white butterfly larvae and several species of moth larvae will also consume the foliage.

Porcupines will eat the sweet inner bark of younger trees in the winter, and bears will eat the inner bark in the spring. Squirrels, chipmunks, siskins and crossbills are among the many species that eat seeds from the cones.

Squirrel Eating Douglas Fir Seeds
A squirrel feeds on the seeds of a Douglas fir cone by peeling off each scale, discarding the scale and removing the seed. This photo, "Squirrel Eating Douglas Fir Seeds" is copyright (c) 2008 grogotte and made available under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

Cover & Shelter

Cavity nesting birds, like woodpeckers and owls, and small mammals including and flying squirrels use Douglas firs for homes, shade and shelter.

Northern Saw-Whet Owl in Douglas Fir
A northern saw-whet owl takes shelter in the branches of a Douglas fir. This photo, "Sleepy" is copyright (c) 2013 Andrew Friesen and made available with special permission. All rights reserved. 

Water

Red tree voles obtain their water from the trees by licking moisture off the needles. Absolutely amazing.

Support

The organic matter and tree surface of Douglas firs also support a variety of mosses, lichens and mushrooms that can’t be forgotten!

Douglas Fir Mushrooms
This photo, "Douglas Fir Mushrooms" is courtesy of Alice Poulson, U.S. Forest Service.

 

-- Dani Tinker, Digital Content Specialist

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