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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Meet the Species: Western Snowy Plover

It's the middle of July, which means it's also the middle of the snowy plover monitoring season!

The western snowy plover is a small shorebird about 6 inches long that lives on the West Coast. We're currently working with the National Park Service at places like Point Reyes National Seashore to help with restoration efforts.

snowyplover(Western snowy plover chicks huddle with an egg. Photo: USFWS)

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Endangered Species Spotlight: Swallow-Tailed Kite

Started in 2006 by the United States Congress, Endangered Species Day sets aside the third Friday in May to recognize the importance of endangered species and is an occasion to educate the public on how to protect them. This year, Endangered Species Day falls on May 18th.  In the weeks leading up to Endangered Species Day, we'll be putting a spotlight on a few endangered and threatened species for you to learn more about what makes them unique. And there's still time to enter the Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest!

Swallow Tailed KiteSwallow-Tail Kite in flight in Big Cypress, Florida.  Photo: Artur Pedziwilk, Creative Commons

Though not federally listed, the swallow-tailed kite is listed as endangered in the state of South Carolina, where the primary threat to its is habitat loss and pesticide use.

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Get Involved: Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest

Know any budding Picassos or Georgia O’Keeffes?

Tell them to grab their art supplies and enter the 2012 Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest! They’ll need to use their creativity to visually portray one or more land- and/or ocean-dwelling endangered species—animal or plant—found in the United States.

The contest is open to ­­­all K-12 students and entries must be postmarked by March 15, 2012.

A prestigious panel of artists, photographers, and conservationists will judge the entries. Winners will be chosen in four categories: K-Grade 2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8 and Grades 9-12, along with one overall national winner. Complete rules for the contest can be found on the Endangered Species Day website.

Some of last year’s semi-finalists include: 

Coho Salmon[Coho Salmon] by Gordon Li of California

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Stamp Out Extinction

The Save Vanishing Species Stamp is the first U.S. postage stamp issued in the 164-year history of the Postal Service to raise funds for international wildlife conservation. Proceeds from the sale of the stamp will directly benefit the Wildlife Without Borders Multinational Species Conservation Funds (MSCF), administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

The stamp features an Amur tiger cub and sells for 55 cents per stamp - just slightly above the cost of first-class postage. By purchasing the stamp,the public can directly contribute to the on-the-ground conservation programs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Since 1989, the Wildlife Without Borders Program has saved tigers, rhinos,elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, marine turtles and other endangered species. We have supported more than 1,800 projects working with more than 200 partners around the globe. 

Save Vanishing Species StampSave Vanishing Species © 2011 United States Postal Service. All Rights Reserved.

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The Cost of Invasive Species

Even if you’ve never heard the term ‘invasive species’, chances are they’ve affected you in one way or another.  Invasives are any non-native species or organism that cause harm to a non-native environment.  For example, you may have heard about the brown marmorated stink bug, introduced accidentally into Pennsylvania from Asia, which has descended on towns along the east coast.  With no natural predators, the insects are able to multiply, feeding on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, hurting farmers and their crops. 

Brown Marmorated Stink BugCredit: David R. Lance, USDA APHIS PPQ

A widely referenced paper cites the cost of invasive species to be more than $120 billion in damages every year to the United States. 

I’ll say it again - $120 BILLION dollars in damages from invasive species.

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Alaska: Across the Wildest State, Climate Change Threatens Many Species and Habitats

A momma polar bear stands with baby bears flanking her on either side

An Alaska polar bear keeps close to her young along the Beaufort Sea coast in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Melting sea ice has made the polar bear a symbol of climate change impact. Photo: Susanne Miller, USFWS. Download.

Mutlimedia iconAudio: Interview with Alaska Native Elder Christina Westlake

Video: Polar Bear Research on the Chukchi Sea

With an area of more than 375 million acres extending 2,000 miles from east to west and 1,100 miles from north to south, Alaska dwarfs other states. The northernmost state is also unmatched in its range of climates and habitats — and nearly all are feeling impacts from climate change. 

During the last half-century, Alaska has seen some of the most rapid warming on earth, with temperatures rising 1 to almost 4 degrees Fahrenheit across its climate regions and ecosystems. By the year 2100, the average annual temperature of Alaska’s North Slope is projected to rise another 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

 “One big difference between Alaska and the Lower 48 is that here we’re dealing with impacts that have already occurred, not just forecasts of change,” says John Morton, Supervisory Fish and Wildlife Biologist at Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. “And because Alaska hasn’t undergone widespread landscape change from non-climate stressors such as agriculture and development, the impacts of climate change aren’t masked as they are elsewhere.”

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Alabama: Small Changes Can Spell Big Trouble for Vulnerable Species

A diamondback terrapin sits in grass

Diamondback terrapins were once abundant on Dauphin Island, Alabama.  Now, they need state protection in order to survive. Photo: Ryan Hagerty, USFWS. Download.

In Alabama, folks embrace their natural resources.  From the sea turtles and manatees of the Gulf Coast, to the darters and mussels of northern Alabama streams, the state has some of the most diverse wildlife in the nation. This incredible variety of species includes many that are rare, and some that are imperiled.

More than 113 of Alabama’s species are now listed as threatened or endangered, including some 61 freshwater mussels, 10 reptiles, and 21 plants. With so many imperiled species in their care, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists take climate change seriously.  That’s because slight changes in climate can affect the survival of a species.

“Small environmental changes can have big effects in a relatively short period of time, particularly when you are considering such powerful ecosystem drivers as temperature and moisture,” explained Dan Everson, Deputy Field Supervisor for the Service’s Alabama Field Office.  “Many of the plant communities we have come to know and love on the Gulf coast are responsive to relatively subtle changes in moisture.  Because of the flatness of the coastal plain, a few extra inches of ground water, a few extra floods, a slight change in elevation of the tides, or even a few extra inches of rain per year may determine whether our children will continue to admire a slash pine woodland with an understory of pitcher plants and toothache grass, or find themselves instead tripping over cypress knees and palmetto crowns in a tupelo swamp.”

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Maine: Rising Temperatures and Declining Snowfall Spell Trouble for Canada Lynx

A Canada lynx prowling in snow

If snow cover decreases in Maine, the lynx may lose its competitive advantage over other predators. Photo: USFWS.

Photo iconPhotos: See photos from the Canada lynx den study

Video iconVideo: Biologists studying lynx dens in Maine

Canada lynx are uniquely suited for the rigors of life in snowy northern Maine. The furry feline’s thick coat, long, lean legs and massive paws allow it to hunt atop snowpack like a cat on snowshoes. But with temperatures predicted to rise in the coming years, the deep snow cover that the lynx depends on may be significantly reduced, eliminating its competitive advantage over other predators.

While the historic range of Canada lynx used to extend throughout much of the northern United States and the Rockies, today the cat is confined to handful of northern states. Northern Maine currently supports the only viable lynx population in the United States east of the Mississippi River.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially listed Canada lynx as a threatened species in 13 states in 2000. As a federally threatened species whose range has already been greatly diminished, this rare wildcat faces a grave threat in climate change.

“It is hypothesized that as the climate warms, the lynx range will recede and move north,” said John Organ, chief of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration for the Service in the Northeast Region. “Without significant snow cover, Maine’s lynx population could be in jeopardy.”

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