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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Two of Three Wild-Hatched California Condors Have Fledged in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah

A California condor in flight. Photo Credit: Gary Kramer/USFWS

More than 70 California condors soar through the skies of Arizona and Utah, including two new fledglings. A total of 25 chicks have hatched in the wild since condors were first introduced in Arizona in 1996.

The Peregrine Fund reports that:

Program biologists from The Peregrine Fund and Zion National Park have confirmed that two California condor chicks have left their nests and taken flight in northern Arizona, but hopes of a third chick successfully reaching the fledgling milestone in southern Utah have been dashed by a lack of visual observation. The third chick was Utah’s first wild-hatched condor chick.

 “Although two out of three 2014 condor chicks surviving to fledging remains encouraging, the loss of Utah’s first chick is a hard reminder that critters have a tough go of it in the wild,” says Chris Parish, Condor Program Director for The Peregrine Fund, which manages the wild Arizona-Utah flock.

California condors are an amazing bird, the largest land birds in North America with wingspans up to 10 feet and weighing up to 25 pounds.   Can you imagine seeing these birds flying at speeds up to 55 mph?


Wisdom Lays an Egg


Wisdom can be seen here checking on her newly laid egg. Photo credit: Greg Joder

At 63, most parents are probably going to a few graduations, playing with their grandkids or just relaxing after seeing their children to adulthood. Wisdom isn't most people. In fact, she's an albatross. And at 63, the world’s oldest known, banded, wild bird just laid her newest egg. 

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The 11%: Women in Hunting

Kristin Fritz
Kristin Fritz, assistant refuge and district manager at Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota, after a successful goose hunt. Photo Credit: Brian Simon. 

Hunting has traditionally been a male-dominated activity. According to most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation in 2011, women constitute only 11% of the U.S. hunting population.  With less exposure for this minority group and fewer experienced women to mentor new women, barriers for participation and entry remain high.

One by one, state wildlife agencies have been creating new hunter recruitment programs which are more inclusive or specifically aimed at minority groups, including women, youth and new adult hunters. Many of these programs offer new motivations for hunting and changing the perception behind the hunter and the hunt. They are bringing the concept of hunting for food and empowering hunters to provide sustainable food to their families and communities to the forefront.  This approach, along with emphasizing camaraderie and self-confidence built in hunting, is the heart of a new chapter in hunting. 

Women are challenging hunting as a male-dominated activity with the help of their families and mentors, and new recruitment programs. Joanna Gilkeson of our Midwest Region tracked down Service employees with various levels of hunting experience to ask how they became involved in hunting and why they stay engaged. 

Meet five women who are part of the 11%

Even With Ducks Flipping Out, Duck Banding Taught Stacey Kinney a Lot

Stacey Kinney
Stacey says this is the way she was taught to hold ducks, but she was not comfortable holding the wings like this until she was  "reassured that I couldn’t kill the duck this way."
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. Today’s featured blogger, Stacey Kinney, spent her summer as an SCA intern at the North Mississippi Refuges Complex, which consists of Coldwater River, Tallahatchie and Dahomey National Wildlife Refuges. Stacey is part of the Career Discover Internship Program (Service’s CDIP website), a collaboration between SCA and the Service that’s strengthening the next generation of conservation leaders by connecting culturally and ethnically diverse college students to wildlife-focused career opportunities. Learn more about all of SCA’s programs at www.thesca.org.

As part of my SCA  internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this summer I had the opportunity to join an expedition banding wood ducks at Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge in Lambert, Mississippi. I had a lot to learn about banding birds, but that's OK because I was with a couple of experts: Refuge Manager Amber Breland of Dahomey National Wildlife Refuge and wildlife biologist Becky Rosamond of the North Mississippi Refuges Complex. 


DC Carr Working to Ensure Everyone Has Opportunity to Enjoy Wild Places

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
DC Carr
"Our role is to invite our neighbors in and help them to feel at home in nature."

DC Carr is a Visitor Services Planner for the National Wildlife Refuge System in our Pacific Southwest Region. That means he designs publications, supports nonprofit partners, and develops volunteer programs on refuges throughout the Pacific Southwest Region. He normally works at our Regional Office in Sacramento, California, but sometimes teleworks from his home in inner-city Oakland.

5 Questions for DC

1. Why is urban outreach important to you?

For me, it is a matter of equality and opportunity. The people in my neighborhood deserve the opportunity to have access to the wild places that their tax dollars support. They deserve to walk the ridges, swim the lakes, stalk the game, see the wildlife and picnic in the trees with their families. They deserve it the same as anyone else. In the commotion of the city, though, surrounded by city streets and barriers and grime, it is easy to never see the green fields nearby. Too many decades of racial and cultural division have taught too many of my neighbors that "this grime is yours" and "these green fields belong to those other people." I cannot stop the hurt of microaggression and social injustice today, but I can begin to reveal that the doors are open to the green fields of refuges. The first tiny step in giving them this birthright is in offering a warm invitation. Urban outreach means meeting urban populations where they are and offering this invitation. This is something that I can do. 


We’re Looking for Federal Migratory Bird Stewards

In 2012, APHIS Wildlife Services employee Marie Griffin holds a raptor.(More about her work.) Photo Credit: USDA

Recognizing that bird-aircraft collisions are both costly and potentially deadly,  the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) undertook the project Managing Raptor-Human Conflicts to Promote Safety and Migratory Bird Conservation. The agency has made significant efforts, within the United States, to reduce the frequency and severity of bird-aircraft collisions involving raptors. Many birds were removed from dangerous environments when they are at risk for collisions with aircraft and relocated to areas without this risk of mortality.

For this project, USDA-APHIS earlier this year won the 2014 Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award.

We are nearing the deadline for nominations for the 2015 Presidential Migratory Bird Stewardship Award Nomination. It’s January 9. 

The Presidential Migratory Bird Stewardship Award annually recognizes a project or action conducted by or in partnership with a federal agency that contributes to migratory bird conservation. The agency/action demonstrates a leadership role in inspiring others to take action in migratory bird conservation.

For more information:

Finding a Sense of Place in Southern California

With their own pair of wings, imaginations soar as third grade students mimic the California condor, during a Connecting People with Nature program led by the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office. Photo Credit: Mike Glenn/USFWS

At the intersection of abundant wild places, Fillmore, California, elementary students bond with rare wildlife. We work with students across the country to provide hands-on outdoor activities, educational presentations about threatened and endangered wildlife, and field trip opportunities for children of all ages to learn and experience the diverse natural areas and species.

Bad News: Asian Weather Loach Found in California River

Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff using backpack electrofishing gear to sample a pool. Photo Credit: USFWS

Invasive species are a huge problem in the United States. It is estimated that the annual damage caused by invasive species totals more than $120 billion. So when biologists at our Stockton Fish and Wildlife Office discovered an Asian weather loach during fish monitoring surveys on the San Joaquin River in Madera County in California recently, it raised lots of red flags. Six more weather loaches were found during intensive sampling, and along with our partners we will discuss best management practices for the area.

People are a key source of invasive species. As our Aquatic Invasive Species website says:

People have helped spread species around the globe for centuries either intentionally or unintentionally. Intentional introductions involve the deliberate transfer of nuisance species into a new environment. An example of this would be someone who dumps the contents of their home aquarium into a lake. Unintentional introductions occur when invasives are transferred accidentally. For instance, zebra mussels can be spread when ballast water used for ship stability is exchanged.

In fact, aquatic nuisance species can be spread many ways including ships, boats, barges, aquaculture, aquatic recreation (fishing, hunting, boating, diving, etc.), water gardening, seaplanes, connected waterways and many other pathways. Through these and other means, thousands of terrestrial and aquatic invasive species have been introduced into our country, costing us billions annually.

We can all help Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers and be sure to develop a Habitattitude.

Hunting and Fishing Connected Leo Miranda to Nature and Brought Him into Conservation

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Leopoldo Miranda
After not hunting at all until graduate school, Leo Mirada says he is "trying to catch up."

Leopoldo Miranda is the Assistant Regional Director of Ecological Services for our Southeast Region, which consists of the Southeastern United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. That means he is in charge of all "ecological services" programs (all endangered species issues, private lands and coastal restoration, regulatory compliance, and more) in the region. He has help – the program has 14 offices and about 400 employees. 

5 Questions for Leo

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

My son Pablo and I hunt mostly white tail deer and turkeys. However, when opportunity comes I hunt elk out west and Sika deer or waterfowl in the eastern shore of Maryland.  We also hunt small game like squirrels and doves. During spring and summer we like to go fishing, both fresh water and salt water. We really enjoy the time we spend together doing these outdoor activities. 

2. Who got you into fishing or hunting? 

I have been fishing since I was a young boy. My son Pablo has followed these steps. In our hometown of Ciales, Puerto Rico, we lived very close to one of the main rivers on the island. We used to walk to the river and fish all day long every opportunity we had.  Although I really wanted to, opportunities for hunting in Puerto Rico were extremely limited. My first hunt was when I went to graduate school in North Carolina. I harvested my first doe ever. After that, I was hooked and now am trying to catch up! Later, my son got interested in hunting and we went out to the woods near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. After several days of chasing some whitetails, Pablo was able to bag his first deer ever with a muzzleloader!  Pablo has enhanced his hunting skills so much that recently he was able to harvest two invasive wild hogs at our hunting lease in Georgia. He did this with a small .22 rifle that he used to hunt squirrels when he was younger! 


Leah Eskelin Inspired by Kids' Curiosity and Fearlessness

Meet Your Fish and Wildlife Service
Leah Eskelin
Leah Eskelin leads kids on photo safaris. Photo credit: USFWS

Leah Eskelin serves as a Park Ranger for Visitor Services at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.  She describes her typical summer day as “diverse and fast-paced.” She spends part of the day staffing the Visitor Center front desk, answering questions, decoding regulations, and planning camping and trail activities with guests.  While she’s away from the front desk, she plans future interpretive programs, designs event flyers and Refuge signage and maintains the Facebook page, and a bunch of other stuff, too. In the winter, Leah catches her breath and starts planning for next summer.

5 Questions for Leah

1. What inspired you to work with young people?

I have always loved seeing that spark of excitement when a child gets inspired.  I call it the "ah-ha" moment. I sought out opportunities during high school to volunteer at aquaria and zoos where I could help bring programs to children that connected them to the natural world. Inspiring them in turn inspires me, feeds me and makes me optimistic about our shared future.

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

 My favorite part of working with kids is being able to use their native curiosity to engage them with their world.  As we grow, become more educated and also more distracted, we can lose the curiosity that leads to experiences like lying down on the cool earth looking up through the forest canopy and pretending to be bugs.  Kids are inclined to try this out. They have imaginations that connect them to the real world in remarkable ways.  Adults become embarrassed at the thought of shouting out "Cool! Look at this!" on a trail walk. Kids don't have that fear, and that makes working with them truly incredible. 


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