Midwest Region


August 19, 2013

Keeping Staff and Wildlife Safe

Regional Director Tom Melius assisted instructor Wayne Brininger in firing the rocket-net demonstration at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Kelly Blackledge/USFWS.
Regional Director Tom Melius assisted instructor Wayne Brininger in firing the rocket-net demonstration at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Kelly Blackledge/USFWS.

Staff from around the Midwest Region met at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge to sharpen their skills in rocket-netting last week. Regional Director Tom Melius was on hand to kick off the training in northern Minnesota.

Rocket-netting, and the similar technique known as cannon-netting, is an important method used by biologists and researchers to capture large numbers of wildlife quickly for population studies and other resources management needs.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists use rocket nets to capture live wildlife to better understand bird migration and habitat use, as well as measure the overall health of populations in the face of disease. This technique is also utilized to rehabilitate and release wildlife impacted by oil and other contaminants. The most common species captured include waterfowl, shorebirds, cranes, gulls, turkeys and deer.  

Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius shared some of his fieldwork experiences with the cohort, noting that the “strength of this technique is built on a team of people who can act safely and quickly together.”

In the Midwest Region, the netting technique is most often used for banding or other monitoring purposes, but is also a quick and safe method for relocation programs.  Most often, bait is used to lure the desired species into the netting area while the rocket netter waits in a concealed blind a short distance away, ready to fire weighted nets over the birds.  

“Rocket-netting came into existence in the mid-1950s and many of our staff have used this technique to capture various wildlife for research and marking purposes,” explains instructor and acting deputy project leader Wayne Brininger.

Although rocket-netting has been a relatively safe practice with our biologists throughout the years, this training brings the Midwest Region into compliance with the new rocket netting policy that was developed in 2010.

Participants included:

Lowell Deede - Wildlife Biologist, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge
Gina Kemper - Biological Technician, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge
Cody Okeson - Pathways Intern, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge
Tom Cooper - Webless Migratory Game Bird Coordinator, Headquarters
Jessica Dowler - Zone Biologist, Rydell National Wildlife Refuge
Keith Jensen - Maintenance Worker, Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge
Robert McGinn – Midwest Region SHEC Manager
Wayne Brininger - Instructor/Acting Deputy Project Leader/Wildlife Biologist, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge
Darrin Franco - Instructor/Fire Management Specialists, Glacial Ridge & Rydell National Wildlife Refuges

Check out rocket-netting in action: 


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Last updated: June 15, 2016