Facebook icon Twitter icon Flicker icon You Tube icon

Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Bringing Sonoran Pronghorn Back from the Brink

Captive breeding is a wildlife management tool of last resort, and it's not an action any wildlife manager chooses lightly or often. It can be difficult, expensive, and rife with risk. But when so few animals are left, we and our conservation partners must do whatever it takes to prevent extinction.

That's why we've developed the captive-breeding program for the Sonoran pronghorn.

It began over the winter of 2003-2004 when seven of the remaining animals were captured and placed in a specially constructed, one-square-mile pen on Cabeza Prieta Refuge.

In the captive-breeding pen, one carefully selected buck breeds with all of the herd's does. Breeding bucks are rotated to ensure as much genetic diversity as possible.

Jim Atkinson has been the Sonoran pronghorn recovery coordinator since 2008.

In the future, Atkinson said, breeding bucks may be brought in from one of the Mexican populations "to mix up the genetics and ensure the population stays robust."

pronghornA Sonoran Pronghorn doe. (Photo: USFWS)

But, he added, "We're not going to be in the captive-breeding business forever. The whole goal of our efforts right now is to put a floor under this herd and keep it from cratering again and again. For now, we can focus on restoring the herd and stabilizing it for the long haul." Other habitat enhancement efforts are essential elements of a broader effort to recover the pronghorn.


Protect Pollinators in 5 Easy Steps

By Rebecca Bartel, USFWS

Here are 5 simple steps you can take to help pollinators:

Plant: Provide habitat for a variety of pollinators by planting a pollinator garden. To attract pollinators to your yard, choose native plants of different colors, shapes, and heights. Creating variety in flower color and shape will increase the diversity of pollinators that will use the space! Need help in identifying which plants are native in your area? Check through the Native Plant Societies in your area or explore native planting guides available through the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign and Pollinator Partnership.

bumble_bee(Photo: Laura Perlick/USFWS)


Marvelous Millerbird Recovery

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

Aloha! Today we are taking you to the Hawaiian Islands so that you can get to know your species! Specifically, we are talking about the Nihoa millerbird. This species was listed as endangered in 1967, preceding the Endangered Species Act. Since then, a translocation project has been implemented to help the existing population flourish.

(Check out this video of the millerbird!)

Millerbirds are small birds, only about 5 inches long. The females tend to be slightly smaller than the males. They have dark olive and olive brown feathers with white bellies.

Until recently, Millerbirds could only be found on the Nihoa Island. Their population has ranged from 30 – 800 over the last 100 years. Since all of the birds lived in only one location, this increased their chance of extinction. A translocation project was put into place to help conserve Nihoa millerbirds and expand their range and secure their future. Two separate translocations were completed. In 2011, 24 birds were moved to Laysan Island. The next year, 26 more birds were taken to the island.

This translocation project has been successful thus far. Not only has it helped the Millerbird population, but has increased the Hawaiian ancestral knowledge as well. In fact, Nihoa has become a popular name among the Hawaiian residents!

Find out more about the history of the Hawaiian Island and the millerbirds role throughout by watching this great video:

Each week, throughout this ruby anniversary year of the Endangered Species Act, we’ll highlight stories of conservation success in every state across the country. Stay tuned!

Making the Outdoors More Accessible — and Fun — for All Americans

By: Joan Moody, senior public affairs specialist, DOI

Mud Pond Trail has attracted a lot of accolades for a short trail in the White Mountains Region of New Hampshire little more than half a mile long.  Located in the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Mud Pond became a tiny part of the nation’s first National Blueway — the huge Connecticut River watershed — in May 2012.

Hubert Gall REALLY enjoys the universally accessible Mud Pond Trail in New Hampshire. Photo by Ursula Gall.

A year later, on May 31, 2013, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Director of the National Park Service Jonathan B. Jarvis honored Mud Pond and other trails in the country as national recreation trails, adding a total of 650 miles to the National Trails System.   

But what visitor Hubert Gall and his family love most about Mud Pond Trail is the universal accessibility for those in wheelchairs, like Hubert. "A concerted effort involving volunteers and government oversight is making it possible for physically impaired individuals to get back in touch with nature," Gall says.


The Mysterious Case of the Missing Mussel

by Joe Bartoszek, Ph.D., Resource Contaminant Specialist, Washington Fish and Wildlife Office

The western pearlshell, once abundant in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River in southeastern Washington, can no longer be found. Although the cause for their disappearance is not known, the long-lived mussel (some individuals have been aged at more than 100 years) may have suffered from releases of contaminants from the Hanford Department of Energy site.
pearlshell Pearlshell mussel collected from the Eel River, CA. (Photo: Dr. Chris Barnhart)   

The Hanford Natural Resource Trustees would like to understand what happened to mussels in the river by testing potential sensitivity to contaminants released from the site, particularly hexavalent chromium (the contaminant made famous in the Erin Brockovich movie).


Special Delivery: Wildlife!

Caution: Saving a species may require heavy lifting – literally picking up wild animals and moving them long distances.

Big animals. Small animals. Skittish, furtive or aggressive animals. Regardless, the same biological rules apply: To better the odds of survival, rare species need more than one population base and the widest gene pool possible.

This spring, Northwesterners got a glimpse of the challenges involved when our staff netted, sedated and trucked 49 endangered Columbian white-tailed deer from Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, 60 miles southeast in Washington state.

deer_moveA Columbian white-tailed deer in transit at Julia Butler Hansen Refuge in Washington. (Photo: USFWS)

The deer were moved to protect them from the threat posed by an eroding dike between the Columbia River and Hansen Refuge: If the dike failed, flooding might otherwise wipe out the species. A few deer were even flown a short distance by helicopter, suspended by slings.


Boost for Beetles: An ESA Success Story

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

We not only protect threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, but we also strive to prevent species from being put on the list. A great example of this recently took place in Kentucky.

Kentucky is known for its extensive cave systems. Within these caves lives four beetle species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Those species are the greater and lesser Adams cave beetle, beaver cave beetle and surprising cave beetle.


Greater Adam cave beetle (Photo: M. McGregor/Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources)


Hot Fun in the Summertime -- At Your National Wildlife Refuges!

Longer days and warm nights mean many people are looking to spend as much time as possible outdoors this summer -- and we don't want you to overlook your national wildlife refuges as you plan summertime excursions!

yellow_flowersTake in views like this one, captured at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. 
(Photo: USFWS)


Conservation in any Language

By: Stacy Shelton, USFWS

A year ago, Jason Holm opened an email that was like so many he’d seen in his long public affairs career: A national wildlife refuge manager was sharing a television news piece on the refuge’s bird festival.

The Pacific Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with Univision to develop this Spanish language public service announcement.

But this time, Holm couldn’t understand what was said. The reporter, from the Spanish language network Univision, was interviewing a Spanish-speaking volunteer at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, an urban refuge in Portland, Oregon.

“We realized there is this whole other conversation going on that we weren’t involved in,” said Holm, the Assistant Regional Director for External Affairs in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region. “We spend a lot of time talking about relevance, and struggling to reach people, and here’s this entire untapped audience. All we had to do is let them know we are here.”


ESA At A Glance: Another Photo Essay Just For You!

By Brynn Walling, USFWS

This week, we're bringing you more great images and success stories.

And don't forget to check out this interactive map, which allows you to keep up with plants and wildlife in your neck of the woods. Also, visit our 40th anniversary page to track all of our great success stories throughout the year.

U.S. Breeding Population of Wood Storks: Back from the Edge
A low-flying wood stork at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.
(Photo: Tom MacKenzie/USFWS)

A Strong Partnership Protects Interior Least Terns and Piping Plovers
A piping plover with identifying colored leg bands help biologists gain valuable information.
(Photo: Mary Bomberger Brown)

We are the Penobscot River
A project at Sedgeunkedunk Stream in Orrington has reconnected sea-run fish in this stream to 1,300 acres of pond habitat. 
(Photo : USFWS)

North Carolina
Putting mussels on the path to recovery in North Carolina
Service biologist John Fridell uses a clear bottomed viewer to search for Appalachian elktoes in Tuckasegee River. (Photo: Gary Peeples/USFWS)

The Oregon Chub Makes Its Way Upstream Towards Recovery
 Oregon chub. (Photo: USFWS)

Each week, throughout this ruby anniversary year of the Endangered Species Act, we’ll highlight stories of conservation success in every state across the country.

More Entries