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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Trade in Turtles Threatens Species

Florida softshell turtle
More than 150,000 live Florida softshell turtles were exported in 2009, up from 20,000 in 2000 Photo credit: Vanessa Kauffman/USFWS

International demand for turtles has risen dramatically and has raised concern about the future of some turtle populations.

We recently proposed to add four native freshwater turtle species – the common snapping turtle, the Florida softshell turtle, the smooth softshell turtle and the spiny softshell turtle – to Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). That means that exporters will have to obtain a permit before shipping these turtles overseas, so we will be better able to monitor the species.


These species are not threatened with extinction, but we are worried that rising trade could create a threat.  For instance, about 3,100 live common snapping turtles were exported in 1990. More than 655,000 were exported in 2009.

In the following article from the winter 2013 issue of Fish & Wildlife News, Dr. Thomas Leuteritz and Bruce Weissgold of our International Affairs Program summarize the problems facing turtles. Proposals from the United States, China and Vietnam at the 16th Conference of Parties (CoP16) to CITES increased protection for 44 Asian freshwater turtles.


Tortoises and freshwater and terrestrial turtles are the world’s most endangered vertebrates, and the Service has been involved in CITES efforts to better monitor and regulate their international trade.

Global commerce in turtles in the last 20-plus years has followed a well-known pattern of boom and bust in international wildlife trade: Once a species is depleted or regulated, trade shifts to species not as threatened or less regulated.


Excavating a Sea Turtle Nest Makes for an Unforgettable Experience

SCA logo

Open Spaces is featuring monthly posts by Student Conservation Association (SCA) interns working to promote, protect and study wildlife on public lands all over the United States. Since 1957, SCA has been connecting young people from all backgrounds with life-changing, career-making conservation service opportunities. Learn how you can get involved at www.thesca.org. First up is SCA intern Rachel Snodgrass who worked at Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina.

SCA Intern
Excavating sea turtle nests can be hard because you find rotten eggs (left) and hatchlings that didn't survive. But sometimes, as it did for Rachel and biologist Brooke Wheatley, an excavation turns up live hatchlings! Photos courtesy Rachel Snodgrass

Hello Wildlife Enthusiasts! I’m so happy to get to tell you about my recent experience excavating sea turtle nests as a Student Conservation Intern at Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina!

Wildlife biologists excavate nests to collect data after eggs in a nest have finished hatching. They dig in and document such findings as unhatched eggs, hatched shells, broken eggs and stranded live hatchlings.


Kids Learn All About About Native Fish

The New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Office runs Native Fish in the Classroom. The program encourages interest in local wildlife resources by allowing students to raise Rio Grande cutthroat trout and other native fish species of the Middle Rio Grande. The students care for the fish and learn about habitat, biology and threats to them. Watch the kids release the fish and sing a goodbye song above. Then watch an interview with project administrator biologist Angela Palacios-James.

A similar project in Our Pacific Region brings salmon into the classroom.

This article is from the Spring 2014 Fish & Wildlife News.

Reaching Students with Salmon in the Classroom

The Service is committed to working with partners and the public to promote stewardship of natural resources.  With that goal in mind, biologists at Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery in the Columbia Gorge in Washington developed the Salmon in the Classroom program.


Fish and Wildlife Service Thanks Our Veterans


Sgt. Will Tucker on the job as an Army Reservist. See more veterans. Photo courtesy of Will Tucker.

We remember and thank all veterans for their sacrifices, but most especially, the more than 1,400 who now dedicate their lives to conserving the nature of America as employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service. One of these employees, Will Tucker, says he is privileged to protect the ideals of this country as a member of the Army Reserve and the country’s natural resources as a wildlife biologist for the Service.

Youngsters Mentored Mike Piccirilli in Bass Fishing

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Mike Piccirilli
Mike has been an angler since grade school.

Mike Piccirilli is the Southeast Regional Chief of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. He works with State Game and Fish agencies daily to enhance their fish and wildlife resources for public benefit through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Grant Programs.  Through this partnership the Southeast Region  administered approximately $250 million of grants to the states this fiscal year. The money helped finance such projects as land acquisition, population surveys, construction of boat ramps, fish and wildlife research, management of public fishing and hunting management areas, hunter education programs and shooting range construction 

5 Questions for Mike

 1. Do you hunt/fish and if so what?

I do hunt and I fish.   I especially like to fly fish for trout and have done so since I was in grade school. It's very gratifying because trout are found in some of the most beautiful and undisturbed places.  I also love catching trout on flies that I have learned to tie myself. Tying flies and anticipating the trout you will catch on that fly is almost as much fun as actually catching them.  I also have started to fish for largemouth bass. I like it almost as much as fly fishing for trout. It allows me to fish more locally and expands my opportunities to spend more time outside. 

I grew up hunting in Pennsylvania for a variety of game species that included whitetail deer, black bear, turkey, and such small game as grouse, pheasant, squirrel and rabbit. Pennsylvania has a very strong tradition of hunting, selling about a million hunting licenses annually.  It’s such a strong tradition that some public schools are closed the opening day of rifle deer season.   Since moving to Atlanta 17 years ago I have hunted less and fished more.  Never did I think that the trout fishing would be so good in north Georgia and especially North Carolina.  Because it's so good with tremendous public fishing opportunities with great weather, I essentially fish year round, which leaves me less time to hunt.


Nature Still Gives Jason Pyron the 'Fuzzy Feeling' in his Belly He Got as a Kid

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Jason Pyron
Jason talks to students on a field trip.

Jason Pyron is the Sage-grouse Coordinator for the Idaho Fish & Wildlife Office in Boise, Idaho.  His typical day involves working extensively with partners to ensure the long-term conservation of our sagebrush steppe landscapes.

5 questions for Jason

1. What inspired you to work with young people?

My mom was my greatest inspiration for me to work with young people. She's dedicated her life as a teacher and administrator to our future through education. Through her, I realized that it's all of our jobs to help educate the next generation.

2. What is your favorite part of working with kids?

Their honesty, simplicity and sincere sense of naive enjoyment when they see something spectacular in nature for the first time. Seeing them get excited gets me excited, and reminds me how awesome and important our wildlife and natural resources are.

3. What is the best way to connect youth with nature?

Get them out into it.


City Birds: Working with Partners for Urban Bird Conservation in Albuquerque, Other Cities

Migration Game
Guests at the Albuquerque celebration play the Migration Game, which shows how birds migrate and some of the threats they face. Photo credit: USFWS

We recently celebrated Albuquerque’s designation an Urban Bird Treaty city. As Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director, noted: Albuquerque’s middle Rio Grande corridor “is growing rapidly. It is critical that we work together to balance all the demands on the river while conserving the important natural resource we so highly value in New Mexico.”

We featured the Urban Bird Treaty in the summer issue of Fish & Wildlife News:

In Phoenix, Arizona, residents learn about bird-friendly landscaping at the Rio Salado Bird Garden, a garden in the local Audubon Center. Residents, especially those with disabilities, are given the opportunity to participate in citizen science opportunities.

In Washington, DC, Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) included 30 elementary schools in the District in a bird-of-prey study. ECC installed and operated a web camera at an osprey nest on the South Capitol Street (Frederick Douglass Memorial) Bridge. Students helped tag four juvenile osprey and tracked the tagged birds online. ECC made school visits to educate students about bird-of-prey lifecycles, osprey in the urban environment and actions students can take to improve habitat for birds of prey. 

And in Indianapolis, Indiana, the city created the Indy Birding Trail, an online guide to 35 of the city's best areas for birds. 


Spot Something Illegal on a Refuge? Call In or Email a TIP

Trash on a refuge
Violations on Service-managed lands can take many forms, including illegally dumped trash. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS

We have established a Turn In Poachers (TIPs) Line to help visitors and other members of the public report violations occurring on National Wildlife Refuges and other Fish and Wildlife Service-managed lands.

You can call 1-844-NWR-TIPS (697-8477) or email NWR_TIPs@fws.gov 24 hours a day. You'll be asked for the type of incident as well as the date, place (refuge name or county/state) and approximate time of the incident. You may leave your name and contact information, which will aid law enforcement in the response and investigation, or you may remain anonymous. Any contact information provided will be used for official purposes only.

Thanks for your help in preserving America's natural treasures.

Wisconsin Man Sentenced for Migratory Bird Sausage

An investigation that began in 2007 with a few strange reports of dead owls found along the road in a garbage bag has ended with a Wisconsin man who owned a captive pheasant hunting lodge pleaded guilty to the illegal sale of sausage containing snow goose, a migratory bird. After engaged citizens alerted game wardens to the dead owls, the wardens in turn alerted the Service and turned over 13 dead long-eared owls that appeared to have been shot.

Full Story

Long-eared owl

Long-eared owl. Photo courtesy of Steve Gifford.


Childhood adventures inspire life career goals

Bird watching
After four field seasons with the Service, Tannar plans to get a master's degree in something like  fisheries biology. Photo credit: USFWS

As a child Tannar Francis was introduced to the natural world as part of the Penobscot Indian Nation. Now, as a college student and Service intern, his dream is to have a career as a fisheries biologist conserving the wildlife and habitat that surrounds his home in Maine.

Full Story

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