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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Strong After Sandy

Red knots

Beach restoration at Delaware Bay restored critical habitat for horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebirds such as the imperiled rufa red knot.  Photo Credit: Gregory Breese/USFWS

Tom Sturm of our Northeast Region filed this report on our Hurricane Sandy restoration and resiliency projects for the next issue of Fish & Wildlife News. We're giving you an early read.

By strengthening natural defenses, the Service and partners help wildlife and coastal communities better withstand future storms.


Five beach restoration efforts on Delaware Bay brought back to life one of the most crucial habitats for migratory birds on the East Coast. The beaches, badly eroded by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, will likely face continuing challenges from future storms, sea-level rise and ongoing shoreline development. To bolster the depleted landscape at Moores Beach, trucks brought in more than 70 loads of sand daily.  All told, the multiple contractors working at Moores, Reeds, Kimbles, Cooks and Pierces Point beaches would deposit 45,000 tons of sand by the time the restoration project wrapped up in April.

“This sand is critical for horseshoe crab spawning,” says New Jersey Field Office biologist Eric Schrading. “If you don’t have it, they won’t be able to reproduce, won’t have any sand to dig into. In the end, if you don’t have horseshoe crabs laying eggs then there’s nothing for the shorebirds to feed on.”


Introducing…Wildlife Selfies!

A black bear stands in water to cool off. Photo credit: USFWS

Wildlife selfies? Yes, that’s right!  Our Southwest Region has a brand new interactive webpage that you will find both captivating and educational.   Taken from automatic cameras that many national wildlife refuges set up to help count, track and identify wildlife, these amazing photos capture a variety of species in their rarest form.  From a mother black bear with her cubs to golden eagles splashing in a watering hole, you will see wildlife from a whole new perspective!  

Wildlife Selfies!

Outsmarting My Disability: From Struggling Student to Conservation Educator

Dan Spencer
Dan with an Elwha Chinook.

“If someone had told me that someday I’d become a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service conservation scientist and educator, I would have told them they were crazy,” writes biologist Dan Spencer. He knew he had a learning disability as far back as second grade. But it wasn’t until college that he learned that he had tremendous potential, he just had to use new ways to unlock it. As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, let’s remember people like Dan, who has much to teach us about conservation, and life.


Full Story


Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service: Steve Abele

Steve Abele
Steve Abele. Photo credit: USFWS

We check in this week with some of the folks working to conserve the greater sage-grouse, its habitat and an American landscape. Steve Abele is a wildlife biologist in our Nevada Fish and Wildlife Office in Reno. He writes: “While my mom may still think that I wrestle alligators, on any given day I do what I did when I was in kindergarten.  I talk to people, read a little, write a little and do some math.” Only now, he is doing them in the name of conservation.

5 Questions for Steve

1. In the conservation world, we hear a lot about the need to do “landscape conservation.” What does that mean to you?

To me, landscape conservation means thinking about the bigger picture – not simply focusing on an acre of land here or an acre of land over there, but considering how those individual acres are related to one another.  It means thinking about  how processes, such as fire and water, move across a landscape and how these interconnected acres are viewed through the eyes of animals that rely on them.  Greater sage-grouse are a nice example here.  Over the course of a year, the species selects variation in what often appears to be a homogeneous sagebrush sea.  Seeking out slightly different habitat features fulfills a seasonal need and may help them successfully navigate a year of challenges.  Aldo Leopold once wrote “The first rule of an intelligent tinkerer is to keep all of the pieces” (The Round River).  In my mind, this graceful sentence captures the big picture concept.  Before we reach a conclusion as to the value of any specific acre of land, we need to ask ourselves how this piece fits into the whole. 


Endangered Attwater’s Prairie-Chicken Recovery Efforts Making Gains

Attwaters prairie-chicken
The Attwater’s prairie-chicken is considered one of the most endangered birds of North America. Credit:   Noppadol Paothong

By Beth Ullenberg and Terry Rossignol, Southwest Region

Wildlife biologists are making gains in the recovery of the Attwater’s prairie-chicken, a critically endangered subspecies of the greater prairie-chicken.

Historically, up to 1 million of these birds occupied their native habitat on the coastal prairies of Texas and Louisiana. Invasive species, drought and loss of habitat took a toll on the population. By 1919, the species had disappeared from Louisiana, and by 1937 only about 8,700 birds remained in Texas, signaling the end of hunting for a once-common game bird. It was listed as endangered in 1967 and in 1973 the Endangered Species Act provided immediate protection.

The Attwater’s prairie-chicken is considered one of the most endangered birds of North America. About 100 individuals are left in the wild. Currently, only two populations exist in Texas – one at the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge and the other on private lands in Goliad County.


Heather McPherron: Sage-grouse Must Not Need Cell Service

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Heather McPherron
"The display of a male sage-grouse is truly a wonder of the natural world,” Heather says.

We check in this week with some of the folks working to conserve the greater sage-grouse, its habitat and an American landscape. Heather McPherron is a sage-grouse biologist in the Central Washington Field Office. Her typical day in the office involves collaborating with federal and state partners to implement conservation efforts for the Columbia Basin population of sage-grouse. But, like sage-grouse biologists all over the West, Heather spends much of the spring stumbling through the shrublands at night looking to capture grouse with just a spotlight and a net. She has worked with sage-grouse in six of their 11 range states, and has endured many sleepless nights, carried generators on her back, ridden ATVs in extremely cold temperatures, tripped over bushes in the dark and walked hundreds of miles in search of sage-grouse. She has no plans to end her springtime ritual, though, “because there’s nothing better than watching a sage-grouse strut on an early spring morning,” she says.

5 Questions for Heather

1. In the conservation world, we hear a lot about the need to do “landscape conservation.” What does that mean to you?

To me, landscape conservation means thinking holistically about the functionality of the ecosystem as well as the needs of the species that depend on it. Landscape conservation planning is especially important to the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). Sage-grouse are unlike most birds, they don’t migrate to drastically different environments for breeding and winter. Instead, they require sagebrush-steppe (a dry environment characterized by sagebrush plants and short bunchgrasses) for all of their life functions.

They use sagebrush to nest under, eat and hide from predators; they raise their young and spend winter in the same ecosystem. However, within the same ecosystem, there are many different parts to sage-grouse life cycle. That’s the key to landscape conservation, not preserving any one component, but achieving success at multiple levels that preserve the functionality of the landscape as a whole.


Bob Timberman: Collaboration with Many Partners is Key to Landscape Conservation

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
sage grouse tour
Partners work on sage-grouse conservation. Photo credit: NRCS

We check in this week with some of the folks working to conserve the greater sage-grouse, its habitat and an American landscape. Bob is the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (PFW) biologist  for the NW Colorado Focus Area.  As such he works with private landowners and other partners to directly improve wildlife habitats.  Much of his work is with the greater sage-grouse. Bob has also served as a wildland firefighter, wrangler, and as a search and rescue team member 

5 Questions for Bob

1. In the conservation world, we hear a lot about the need to do “landscape conservation.” What does that mean to you?   

Living and working in a very rural part of Colorado makes it easy for me to embrace landscape conservation.   With habitat fragmentation being a threat to many species, conservation of the intact landscape is paramount to furthering wildlife goals for the long term.  Habitat restorations, proper land protections, combined with effective management and education, remain some of the keys for long term landscape conservation. 

Landscape conservation begins for me with considering its entirety, then beginning work in core habitat areas for a particular wildlife species, or a host of species.  The best initiatives have interconnected properties with one, or several specific conservation objectives, and established collaboration with many key individuals to ensure success. 


In Dogged Pursuit of Poachers: Canines Combat Wildlife Crime in Africa

Conservation Dogs
A patrol dog, handler and ranger demonstrate their abilities to track a mock poacher in Ol Jogi, Kenya. Photo credit: Matt Muir/USFWS


Today's blog comes from Dr. Matt Muir, a wildlife biologist with the Service's International Affairs Program.

As part of my work for our Division of International Conservation, I help support anti-poaching efforts to protect wildlife in foreign countries. This important work now has a high profile as it supports two of the three strategic priorities of the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking released by President Obama in February 2014. These are developing capacity to strengthen enforcement and facilitating partnerships to develop and implement innovative and effective methods to combat wildlife trafficking on the ground. 

One of the tools increasingly touted as innovative and effective to combat wildlife crime in Africa is the use of conservation dogs. At the field level, conservation dogs can be trained to help detect and investigate wildlife crime. In other roles, they provide safety to the rangers they accompany -- an important benefit to a high-risk job. Once the crime has been committed and trafficking is underway, conservation dogs can be used to detect wildlife products that have entered the supply chain.


Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service: Connie Keeler-Foster

Connie Keeler-Foster
Connie often goes out scouting for game with her mule.

Connie Keeler-Foster is the Project Leader for Ennis National Fish Hatchery in Montana, and for the past year and a half, she has also served as the Acting Project Leader for the Bozeman Fish Health Center. Our day starts at 6:30, and the routine appeals to her – they feed the fish, clean up after the fish, spawn the fish and care for the eggs and young fish. Essentially, she says, “I am a farmer/rancher at heart, it’s just fish not cows or crops.”

5 Questions for Connie 

1. Do you hunt/fish and if so what?

I archery and rifle hunt. Now that I live in Montana, with an extended hunting season and over-the-counter license sales, I hunt much more than I did in my native New Mexico. I hunt big game (deer, antelope, elk), and upland birds. I fish, too, but prefer sitting in a boat being lazy as opposed to wading around working at it.

2.Who got you into fishing or hunting?

I have vivid memories of early mornings in the mountains of southern New Mexico – zero dark thirty – with the smell of coffee and bacon, and the anticipation of hiking out with my father. I was too young to hunt, but just loved the total package, including the cool red sweatshirt hoodie that came out only for deer season!


Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service: Christine Willis

Christine Willis
Who shouts "Fish On!" for Christine?

Christine Willis, is the Energy Coordinator, for the Southeast Region, in the Division of Environmental Review in Ecological Services.  A typical day is providing program coordination among the Regional, Headquarters and Field Office staff that are reviewing and providing technical assistance on a myriad of energy and infrastructure projects such as transmission lines, pipelines and new renewable energy projects such as solar, wind and biofuels.  

5 Questions for Christine

1. Do you hunt/fish and if so what?  

I like to both hunt and fish.   My fishing has been mostly salt water.  It is particularly interesting fishing in the same area throughout the year and seeing the shift in both prey species and bait in the water over the summer season.  My hunting experience has been in south Georgia.  Learning more about turkey and deer through the use of a trail camera and observations has been really unbelievable.  Every time I go out, I learn something more about the species and how they interact with other species such as turkey and owls or deer and squirrels.   


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