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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Federal Wildlife Canine Helps Law Enforcement Team Close Poaching Case

By Tina Shaw, USFWS

Our law enforcement officers work every day to uphold all sorts of conservation laws, permits and regulations on refuge lands across the Midwest.

Sure, you may know that they use GPS technology, surveillance and other high-tech tools to get the job done, but did you know that they have another highly sophisticated tool?


Yes! National wildlife refuges have been using trained federal wildlife canines for more than 20 years across the country for everything from search and rescue to finding and retrieving hidden game.

NateMeet 'Nate,' a member of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife law enforcement team. (Photo: Dustin Schelling/USFWS)

Our most recent canine success story comes from the law enforcement team at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Illinois.


Bald Eagles Recover from Sea to Shining Sea

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

From sea to shining sea -- that’s the range of the American Bald Eagle.

And the recovery of this bird is one of our greatest success stories to date.

In 1782, when the bald eagle was named our national symbol, the eagle population was approximately 100,000. Then, in the mid-1800’s, waterfowl and shorebird populations began to decline. Since the bald eagle is at the top of the food chain, this had a major effect on their population too. There was a fight for food.

bald_eagle(Photo Couresy Arthur Nelson)

In 1940 the bald eagle was threatened with extinction. Congress stepped in and passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, protecting them from poaching and making it illegal to kill a bald eagle.


Bringing Environmental Education to Diverse Audiences

“What are we really accomplishing running 20,000 students through the refuge each year?”

Beth Ullenberg, supervisory visitor services manager at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge questioned the value of field trips.

So Minnesota Valley Refuge initiated a Refuge Partner Schools Program, one of nine programs described in a Special Report: Bringing Environmental Education to Diverse Audiences.


Village elders teach older children how to set and haul nets for whitefish at Selawik Refuge, AK.
(Photo: Susan Georgette/USFWS)

The special report not only gives the public a good insight into the range of environmental education programs offered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but it also shares innovative approaches that staff on national wildlife refuges can adapt or adopt for their own communities.


Get to Know All About ... the Grizzly Bear!

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

When you think of picnics, bonfires, and camping, what iconic U.S. animal do you think of first?

Is it the grizzly bear?

Sure, was for me!

Grizzly bears can grow up to 7 feet tall! Males range in weight from 500 to 700 pounds, but have been known to weigh up to 800 pounds! Females are slightly smaller ranging from 200 to 400 pounds.

grizzlyGrizzlies are an iconic -- but threatened -- species. (Image: USFWS)

Lewis and Clark were the first known to report the sighting grizzlies. In the 1800s approximately 50,000 bears roamed the west. Clark recorded in his journal that he saw a “white bear.” After talking to Native Americans about the animal, Clark distinguished the grizzly bear from the American black bear.


How to Successfully Save an 800-pound Leatherback Turtle

By Stever Traxler, USFWS

While many Americans were scrambling to file their returns during the last week of tax season, on Monday, April 8, I was out with a small group of rescuers saving an 800-pound leatherback turtle.

I was called at about 8 a.m. by Dr. Jonathon Gorham of In Water Research Group, Inc. (IRG). He told me a leatherback sea turtle was in the St. Lucie Florida Power and Light (FPL) power plant intake canal. He asked me to help with the capture. Given my love and respect for wildlife and previous experiences with these captures, it was a no-brainer.

leatherback_rescue_poseA successful rescue involves a cooperative group! (Photo: USFWS)


Think You Know All There is About the Texas Blind Salamander? Think Again!

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

Texas blind salamanders are rare but fascinating creatures.

This cave dwelling amphibian is a pinkish translucent color and grows to be around 5 inches long. They are fairly slender and fair-legged and about half of their body length comes from their tails alone.

blind_salamanderWho needs eyes when you've got a tail that long? (Photo: USFWS)

Impress your friends with these five fun facts:


In the Weeds at Noxubee Refuge

By Vera Taylor

Until recently, I was a gardener who mainly chose the plants to go in my yard plot because they were given to me, they were cuttings appropriated from public places (I’m sure the bank doesn’t mind that I got my start on purple heart from its bed), or they were 75-percent-off distressed plants dragged home from our local box store.

But that haphazard gardening style has taken a turn, mostly likely because I let it slip that pulling weeds put me in a meditative Zen state. I accepted the post of being in charge of the Native Plant Garden at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee Refuge in Mississippi.

red_buckeyeSweet pepperbush blooming (Photo: USFWS)

You know what they say. “Fools rush in …” That might describe my agreeing to take on this task. It isn’t just a learning curve, but more like a corkscrew – in terms of my knowledge of native plants. Fortunately, I enjoy the process of growing plants and learning about new species.


Building a Better Beach

At Gulf Shores Plantation, a wooden boardwalk has always been the gateway between condominiums and the sandy white beaches of the Fort Morgan peninsula.

As vacationers happily cross the boardwalk to reach the Gulf of Mexico, they are able to view sand dunes, which act as valuable habitat for creatures, such as beach mice, sea turtles, and shore birds.

For years, residents have been co-existing with wildlife habitat -- enjoying nature’s gifts and working with us to help stop their extinction.

But in 2004, Hurricane Ivan wiped out that boardwalk, along with sand dunes on the beach. When it was rebuilt, it sat too low on the flattened beach.

As the dunes began to rebuild, they didn’t have any vegetation, making them unstable. Soon, winds covered the boardwalk with sand. Many vacationers and snow birds had no access to the beach.

dune_rebuild(Photo: USFWS)

“We have a lot of elderly and disabled people who rely on that boardwalk. But when the sand overtook it, access to the beach was cut off,” explained Boardwalk Committee Chairman Robert Bush. “Mothers couldn’t even push strollers over the thick sand.”


Good Recovery Stories from the Golden State

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

We are now four months into our year-long commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, and this week we’re highlighting the state with the highest number of endangered and threatened animals — California.

You may already know about some of the rare animals of the Golden State, like the California condor or the desert tortoise, but there are hundreds of unique species that call this state home — many of them occur nowhere else in the world!

fairy_shrimpThe vernal pool fairy shrimp. (Photo: Dwight Harvey/USFWS)

An example is vernal pool fairy shrimp. Like its name suggests, this tiny crustacean lives in vernal pools, some as small as a puddle, and others the size of a small lake. The term ‘fairy’ comes from its ability to gracefully swim on its back. Actually, you will only find this species swimming on their back!


Refuge Law Enforcement Officers Help Protect Our Prairies

By Tina Shaw and Jeff Lucas, USFWS

If you fill it, they will come.

Minnesota’s wetlands and prairies saw a victory recently as a wetland easement violator was sentenced for illegal development activities on a federally protected wetland basin in central Minnesota.

The Minnesota man was sentenced March 27, 2013 for constructing a road through a wetland that he knew was a federally protected basin. United States Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois sentenced James Bosek to two years of probation on one misdemeanor count of filling a wetland that was subject to a federal easement under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act.

“Wetlands are essential buffers during annual high water events as we head into the spring melt and every acre we can keep as undeveloped wetland and prairie habitat helps buffer everyone’s land.” explains Fergus Falls Wetland Management District (WMD) project leader Larry Martin.

wetlandFBThe Prairie Pothole Region is dotted with small wetlands that are interspersed with prairie. Habitat like this is important to wildlife and people alike. (Photo: USFWS)

Judge Brisbois told Bosek in court that the restoration of the wetland is the only way to “undo the injury to the public interest.” So, he fined Bosek $2,500, but said if the restoration is satisfactorily completed by March 31, 2014, the fine will be waived.


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