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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Study Finds Amphibians at Risk from Pollution and Warming Environments

Back in 2013, we announced the results of an unprecedented 10-year-study, published in PLOS ONE, on amphibian abnormalities on national wildlife refuges. We found that on average, less than 2 percent of frogs and toads sampled on 152 national wildlife refuges had physical abnormalities involving the skeleton and eyes—a much lower rate than experts first feared based on earlier reports. This indicated that the severe malformations such as missing or extra limbs repeatedly reported in the media during the mid-1990s were actually quite rare on national wildlife refuges. However, there were a few hot-spot clusters that had higher rates of abnormalities. One of these hot spots was at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

As part of the follow-up research on this hot spot, we worked with researchers from Alaska Pacific University and the University of California at Davis to understand how and why there were higher rates of abnormalities. We found that wood frog tadpoles were attacked by dragonfly larvae 30 minutes sooner and three times more often in warm, slightly polluted water treatments, than in cooler, pollution-free treatments. The experiments simulated the effects of degraded water quality due to road runoff and climate change.

The researchers studied the interactions of the tadpoles and dragonfly larvae under various water temperature and copper exposure treatments to watch how the animals’ behavior affected their interactions. The tadpoles in the experiment spent more time at the surface of the water making it easier for dragonfly larvae to see and attack them. The dragonfly larvae exerted the least amount of energy to capture more tadpoles in the warm, polluted water treatment. The increased predation observed in this study supports previous research and could also help explain the prevalence of malformed frogs in some refuge hotspots. 


Paradise Kept - Clean Boating Made Easier in Hawaii


Hawaii = Paradise. This is what we think of when we talk of boating in the islands: tropical sunsets, gentle breezes and the turquoise waters teaming with wildlife. With our partners, we are working hard to keep Hawaiian waters clean for the growing number of anglers and pleasure boaters in the South Pacific. With grants provided by the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, the State of Hawaii is improving water quality at small boat marinas in Honolulu.

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Memorial Day Remembrance: Alaska's Battle of Attu

A visitor reads the plaque about Pvt. Joseph Martinez. Photo by USFWS

As Memorial Day approaches, we share this story about the 2013 dedication of an interpretive site on Attu Island, site of the Battle of Attu, the only WWII land battle in the 50 United States.


Seventy years [now almost 72] after young men fought and died on remote, wind­swept Attu Island in Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, the Service honored their sacrifices with the dedication of a new interpretive site on Attu. 

In addition to interpretive panels that tell the story of World War II in the Aleutians, a plaque honors the deeds of Pvt. Joseph Martinez, the only Medal of honor recipient in the Aleutian Campaign. 

Three interpretive panels describe the Battle of Attu, the fate of the Attu villagers and a timeline of WWII in Alaska. Redwood benches made by veterans allow contemplation of the now peaceful scene on the uninhabited island.


Hunters, Anglers: The Backbone of Wildlife Conservation

Photo: Duck hunters are a major contributor to wildlife conservation, Credit: Ryan Hagerty/USFWS

Brent Lawrence, a Public Affairs Officer with our Pacific Region in Portland, Oregon, remembers a chat with a man who hated hunting.

A few years ago I was at a conference when the man across the elevator saw my U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service badge. He smiled and said, “Thank you for all you do. I love watching wildlife … Do you think you could issue a license to shoot hunters? I hate what they do to wildlife.”

After a brief pause, I leaned in closer and said: “You know what you should do next time you see a hunter? … Thank him.”

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The Birth (and Afterbirth) of a Harbor Seal Draws Quite the Crowd

These incredible photos depict the pivotal moments immediately following a recent harbor seal birth on the Oregon coast. They were taken by photographer Roy Lowe, whose eye-witness account follows. 

Placental warning! These photos aren't for the faint of heart or for everyone, but they capture an amazing event that you definitely won't see every day.

1. Pup 3 minutes old. This was the first observation of the pup. Note that juvenile gull already moving in to feed.

Harbor Seal 3 Minutes after birth



Conservation Genetics Steers Gila Trout Management

Gila trout
Gila trout. Photo by Craig Springer/USFWS

Craig Springer tells how a trout that once stared at extinction offers wilderness angling opportunities.

The trout stole its color from a southern New Mexico summer sunset.

Gila trout sport a painter’s pallet of pink and olive, rose, yellow and copper and a few tones in between. Beneath the black pepper flakes that fleck its side lies a lexis—a language carried forward from another time. It’s an ancient language coded in molecules of proteins written by the press of time and experience in a land turned arid.

Gila trout, native only to headwater streams that vein over the Mogollon Rim of New Mexico and Arizona, have expressed in their genetic makeup a mapping of how to survive in the vestiges of what surely was a large and contiguous range. Their genetics equip them to face what nature may hurl at them in an already harsh environment.

It’s those innate characteristics coiled in the double-helix of DNA that Service biologists strive to preserve in the fish. Conservation genetics is at its heart an investment in the future with an eye on the past. Dr. Wade Wilson with the Service’s Southwestern Native Aquatic Resources and Recovery Center in Dexter, New Mexico, knows Gila trout like few others can; he’s a geneticist who can de-code the language. It’s his charge in the conservation of Gila trout to help ensure that the diversity of genetic characters unique in this fish stay in the fish going forward.


Have You Heard The Buzz?

Pollinator gardens


Local high school students and volunteers work on the East End Nature Garden in Houston. Photo by Nancy Brown/USFWS

Beth Ullenberg tells us about the pollinator gardens sprouting in Houston, Texas.

Great things are happening deep in the heart of Texas. The Houston Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership is attracting a lot of interest in the nation's fourth-largest city from diverse local partners who are helping the Service connect with urban communities and create opportunities for urban residents to “find, value and care for nature.”

“Not only are local citizens benefiting from these new partnerships but pollinators are as well, such as honey bees and specifically monarch butterflies,” says Nancy Brown, Southwest Region Urban Refuge coordinator.

A great way to engage urban audiences in conservation is to begin with small habitat restoration projects right in their own neighborhoods. The five national wildlife refuges within 60 miles of downtown Houston are pulling together partners to create and construct pollinator gardens around the city.


15 Underdog Endangered and Threatened Species

We've all heard of the bald eagle, gray wolf and grizzly bear, but there are many lesser-known endangered and threatened species that are integral parts of the landscape and ecosystem. The Ozark hellbender, prairie bush clover, akepa or purple cat's paw pearlymussel all have something in common: They're worth getting to know if you've never heard of them!

Here's a list of interesting species that we're working to protect. 

1.Ozark Hellbender: This strictly acquatic salamander feeds almost entirely on crayfish, but will also eat small fish, invertebrates and other hellbenders. See where this species occurs

Ozark hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi) 


America’s Smallest Refuge Turns 100!

Hennepin Island
Hennepin Island is managed as a nesting colony for the state-listed threatened common tern. Photo by USFWS.

President Woodrow Wilson established Mille Lacs National Wildlife Refuge on this day in 1915 when he set aside Spirit Island to protect breeding habitat for native birds. Hennepin Island was later added to the refuge, increasing the National Wildlife Refuge System’s smallest refuge to just over half of an acre. These small patches of rock in Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake may not seem like much, but they are an important place for common terns, as well as other colonial nesting species like ring-billed gulls, herring gulls, and double-crested cormorants.

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For Senator, Monarch Conservation Starts with Mom

Senator Amy Klobuchar, with her mother, Rose; daughter, Abigail; and a monarch
Senator Amy Klobuchar, with her mother, Rose; daughter, Abigail; and a monarch

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota is one of the leading voices for monarch conservation in Congress. She wrote this column for the spring issue of Fish & Wildlife News.

The monarch butterfly is one of America’s most iconic species, but it might not be around for future generations to enjoy if we do not come together to protect it. 

With the monarch butterfly population having decreased an estimated 90 percent since the 1990s, and the milkweed plant that monarch caterpillars depend upon for food suffering similar declines, now is the time for action. 

I recently joined Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine in calling on the Departments of Interior, Transportation and Agriculture to build on and strengthen public-private partnerships to preserve the monarch butterfly. 


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