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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Jim Gale Honored with Prestigious National Law Enforcement Award

   3 men, one holdng a plaque, and one  woman stand on a stagePictured left to right: Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement; Jim Kurth, Service Deputy Director for Operations; Retired SAC Jim Gale; and Amanda Bassow, Director of the Northeastern Regional Office for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Photo by USFWS

More than 100 years after Guy Bradley became the first wildlife officer killed in the line of duty, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Jim Gale became the federal recipient of the 2019 Guy Bradley Award.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) annually presents this prestigious award to one state and one federal recipient, “to recognize extraordinary individuals who have made an outstanding lifetime contribution to wildlife law enforcement, wildlife forensics or investigative techniques.”

Jim Gale retired from the Service in December 2018. At that time, he served as OLE’s Acting Deputy Assistant Director and was the Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division.

RELATED: 2014 profile of Jim Gale

“Effective conservation of wildlife depends in large part on the leadership and professionalism of wildlife law enforcement officers such as SAC Jim Gale,” says NFWF Executive Director and CEO Jeff Trandahl. “Jim’s tireless efforts to develop increasingly advanced enforcement capabilities at the federal level will leave a lasting legacy for conservation in the United States and abroad.”

Gale led Operation Crash, an award-winning investigation into rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory trafficking.

Curator’s Corner: Irwin Allen and Rachel Carson, Paunchy Tiger, Fooling Whoopers, Leisure Suits

The Ultimate Irwin Allen Film

movie poster of The Sea Around Us featuring diver in trunks and helmet batling sea serpeant     Have you ever seen a movie that was directed or produced by the late, great Irwin Allen? Several decades ago, he was the king of big budget disaster movies. The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are just a few of his excursions into the exciting world of the larger-than-life, dramatic movie genre. Irwin also made Rachel Carson’s book The Sea Around Us into a movie! It includes bombastic, dramatic narration and vivid videography, as would be expected from one of his films. We have a framed movie poster from this particular film in our museum collection, and it is proof that Rachel Carson knew how to write movie worthy books along with the best of authors. Eat your heart out, J. K. Rowling.


Paunchy Tiger

rearing mounted tiger

An adult pouncing, mounted tiger in our collection is a favorite of those touring the archives. Visitors love to take selfies standing by the outstretched claws of the massive beast. One visitor, a biologist and tiger expert from India, told me that our tiger was definitely a zoo specimen. It is. She knew because its fur is worn in patches at its elbows from continual resting on hard surfaces like cement. In addition, it has a paunch from regular zoo feedings and lack of exercise. I can attest that, I, and many adult visitors might also be a bit paunchy! Does that mean that we live a life of captivity also?

How to Fool a Whooping Crane

   Whooping Crane   costume, puppet

The whooping crane and Sandhill crane are the only two crane species in North America. The whooping crane was pushed to the brink of extinction with only 21 specimens remaining by 1941 because of habitat loss and unregulated feather trade and egg collection. Now, thanks to the conservation of significant portions of their range, such as the breeding grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada and the wintering grounds at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas along with laws such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act regulating the taking of birds and bird parts, there are more than 800 of these majestic birds. Captive breeding efforts have been used to rear and reintroduce the species to portions of its former range. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center just wrapped up 50 years of captive breeding efforts, and now all captive breeding is done by private facilities such as the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin. In captivity, one rearing method that was developed involved humans feeding chicks by hand while wearing outfits with whooping crane puppet heads so that they will not get used to or imprinted upon humans. We have an entire costume, a wooden puppet head and an arm puppet head from various captive breeding centers. I guess baby cranes are easily fooled! Oh well, so are curators!

Hot Outfits

   brown suit coat with four poskets on front, Service logo on arm

Back in the 1970s, the official Service uniforms were made of polyester, which was very popular back then because it did not wrinkle and lasted forever. The uniforms were actual leisure suits, and boy, did they convey that hip ‘70s vibe. Far out! We have a collection of them from a retired manager from National Elk Refuge whose wife ordered him to get rid of them. She said that if the house ever burned down, there would be a charred pile of molten plastic in the closet where the suits resided! My lasting thought on these horrible fashion statements is that it must have been highly uncomfortable to wear a polyester suit on a stifling, humid summer day on a refuge down South. This uncomfortable situation would never, indeed, be the definition of leisurely!

Previous Curator's Corner

Jeanne M. Harold, former curator of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Museum and Archives at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, says the history surrounding the objects in the museum gives them life. Jeanne retired in November but provided articles to keep Curator's Corner going.

Fish & Wildlife News  
  • This article is from the upcoming spring issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine.

11 Ways Wildlife Refuges Make Life Better

RAFT floats down a river surrounded by green treesNational wildlife refuges generate billions of dollars in economic activity through recreation visits. (Photo of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska by Ian Shive/Tandem)

Even if you’ve never set foot on one of the country’s 567 national wildlife refuges, you’ve probably benefited from its existence.

How could that be? That’s because national wildlife refuges add to the economic and social and physical well-being of the country.

Refuges generate billions of dollars in jobs and services, filter pollutants from our air and water, provide top-class outdoor recreation, enrich learning, and reduce fire and flood risk to communities.

kids in green shirts, some with goggles, gather around USFS employee planting a plant; 2 girls hold purple watering canNational wildlife refuges connect Americans to nature — inside their communities and out. Photo by Ian Shive/Tandem

Our story highlights these and other key ways that national wildlife refuges improve the lives of everyday Americans.

Look for a new online story about your national wildlife refuges every Wednesday on the Refuge System homepage.


Susan Morse and Bill O’Brian, National Wildlife Refuge System communications

Refuge Animals From A to Z

 alligator crawling into river  A is for alligators. This one is at Anahuac Refuge National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Photo by Norman Welsh

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conserves land and water on national wildlife refuges for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 1,000 species of fish. Our Refuge System home page story “Refuge Animals From A to Z” includes a sampling of them.

  seal with mouth wide open P is for pinnipeds. This seal is at Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Ian Shive/Tandem  

Pinniped is the scientific term for seals, sea lions, walruses and other meat-eating marine mammals. Pinnipeds haul out of the water to rest at national wildlife refuges along the West Coast, including Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge in California, Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Washington and Togiak National Wildlife Refuge and Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

   zebra mussels Z is for zebra mussels. These freshwater mussels are an aquatic invasive species that threaten the health of inland waters and other mussel species. Photo by Dave Britton/USFWS

“Refuge Animals From A to Z” is part of the Refuge System’s series of online stories that highlight the conservation work and visitor opportunities at national wildlife refuges, wetland management districts and marine national monuments. New stories are posted on the Refuge System home page on Wednesdays. The stories are archived here.

How to Build a Pollinator Garden in Seven Steps

   garden with lots of purple flowers; monarch on one Pollinator garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Creating habitat, no matter the size, is helpful for monarchs and pollinators. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS

Pollinators are in trouble. You can help by planting a pollinator garden! You can plant a garden anywhere - your yard, school, church, business or even in a pot for your front steps. A simple, native flower garden will attract beautiful butterflies and birds to your yard and help pollinators stay healthy. In addition to nectar from flowers, monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive, so if you notice the leaves on your milkweed have been chomped, don’t worry, it’s a great sign!

Step 1: Choose your location and 6 more 

Lessons from a Butterfly Basket

man sitting with two smiling little girls   Spike Jackson, with his duaghters, Coco Neytiri Jackson, 6, and Arrow Rose Jackson, 2, during the November 2018 Saline Valley monarch butterfly survey. Photo courtesy of Spike Jackson

Surrounded by blue skies and the vast open desert, Spike Jackson, a member and environmental director of the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe, describes a large basket, woven with ornate geometric patterns, and orange and black butterflies.

“The basket was handcrafted by my great-great aunt, who lived here (California’s Saline Valley) at one time,” Jackson says. “The butterflies must have been significant to my ancestors, but I don’t know why and I’d like to know.”

Inspired by a chance to visit the home of his ancestors and see the butterflies adorning his family’s handwoven basket, Jackson and his family volunteered to monitor monarchs as part of the second annual Saline Valley Monarch Count.

Relearning History (Full Story)

In Desert or Great Lakes Region, We All Need Water

2 photos, one of path through green forest and one of desert with cacti      Despite obvious differences between the Midwest and the Southwest, the need for water is the same. Photos by USFWS

Indu Roychowdhury works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Water Resource Division in the Southwest Region.

We know water as a resource we all rely upon, but how does its role in nature and society change throughout the different areas of the United States? When talking water, the Midwest may just be the most drastically different area from the Southwest desert, and that’s why I made the 1,125 mile trip from Albuquerque to Minneapolis last year: to investigate the similarities and disparities.

As my car pulls up to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Midwest Region office, my groggy post-travel eyes can process only one thing: green. Even in the midst of the bustling city, the large office sits nestled in an alcove of trees—a testament to the abundance of water in the area. Hydrologist Jennifer Gruetzman (whom I would later accompany in monitoring fieldwork) guides me through the building. Large, glass windows allow for a romantic view:  Typing in a cubicle on the 10th floor feels comparable to wading in the field.

In both the Southwest and the Midwest, water is coveted, leading to conflicts. This similarity, of course, is laced with a multitude of differences. As human activity and shifting weather patterns continue to deplete the Rio Grande of water, the biggest issue in the Southwest rings glaringly clear: With everyone staking claims to it, there’s just not enough water to go around. Hydrologists and other employees with the   Fish and Wildlife Service Water Resource Division focus on resource distribution and use of the desert’s remaining water—and how to keep this use sustainable. 

   field with a pond  amid greenery

The Midwest may have enough water (they are, after all, renowned for it), but they face a number of alternative challenges. I travel to St. Croix Wetland Management District in west central Wisconsin and speak with Project Leader Bridget Olson. Wetland Management Districts are scattered across large landscapes. The main problem Olson reports has to do not with water scarcity but with pollution and damage to natural areas. She discusses the way ditches have destroyed wetland areas and outlines present-day restoration efforts. Conservation strategies include working closely with private landowners—placing conservation easements on properties, effectively “restricting building in that area and protecting all the cold water springs.” Another issue in the St. Croix area has to do with industrial groundwater use. Discussing the connections between groundwater extraction and surface wetland ecosystems, Olson laments the challenges in protecting both: explaining impacts of groundwater impacts on small wetlands.

Drainage is one of the biggest issues in the Midwest Region. Tile drainage, the extracting of water from beneath the Earth’s surface using underground “tiles” is a practice that can alter natural drainage through the soil and potentially pollute water. I speak with Doug Norris, the Minnesota State Department of Natural Resources Wetlands Program coordinator, who describes how agriculture “drained over 90 percent of the original wetlands in parts of Minnesota.” This loss of wetlands presents another concern–the subsequent depletion of aquifers—that is, groundwater. Lead hydrologist Josh Eash stresses the importance of water monitoring. “We’ve polluted so much of our surface water here in the Midwest that we’re now drawing from groundwater.”

I traveled to the Midwest to learn a bit about how the different arms of the Service complement and compare to each other. It’s easy to get caught in the perspective of the region you work from, but the United States boasts an incredible diversity of environment and culture. In the Southwest, we always have water on the mind; its scarcity makes it a hot commodity. Our growingly arid environment demands that we work toward conserving what little water we have. The Midwest, on the other hand, is one zone with a culture of abundant water pride. From fishing to boating to other water sports, the region relies on water and its protection. Whether in context of desert sand or Midwestern fields, water rules the way we live and thrive. It informs our cultures and lifestyles, our recreations and enjoyments, our wants and necessities. Everywhere, it demands active protection from depletion and pollution—it is the tie that binds us all together.

Lifelong Connection with Nature can Blossom with Just One Experience

   man in checked shirt sitting with child on lap

We frequently talk about the need for a lifelong connection with nature, and we hold events to help people develop it. To some, that may seem overblown. Sure, they think, the outdoors is fun but it is no big thing. Try telling that to Brent Lawrence, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region in Portland, Oregon. Brent’s Dad, who died recently, didn’t get a chance to enjoy the outdoors a lot, but he carried it with him always. 

World War II Veteran Carried Special Memories of Outdoors to the Very End

Fayetteville Woodpeckers Pick the Perfect Mascot

 A woodpecker mascot with red hair and a bat with holes chewed through  Photo courtesy of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers

In Florida and Arizona, pitchers and catchers are reporting for workouts to prepare for another baseball season. One club we’ll be keeping an eye on: the Fayetteville Woodpeckers. As U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mark Davis wrote back in November when the team was established:

black and white bird at hole in tree

Note the fierce gleam in the eye, topped by a scarlet crest.

Yes. It is our friend, good ol’ Leuconotopicus borealis. But most folks know him as the red-cockaded woodpecker, or RCW.

The endangered woodpecker makes its home on public and private lands around Fayetteville, North Carolina, including Fort Bragg, but it is also found in 11 states in the South, as far west as Texas.

It once numbered more than 1 million woodpecker clusters, but that number fell precipitously as the longleaf pine ecosystem disappeared.

The bird was protected as endangered in 1970, and while too early to declare recovery, “With few exceptions, the woodpecker is coming back strong,” says Will McDearman, who heads up Service efforts to rebuild the bird’s numbers.

Today, 7,200 active clusters, or male-female pairs of birds, exist from Virginia to Texas. In 2003, there were 5,600 clusters.

If the Fayetteville Woodpeckers face a slump where their bats just aren’t working, they can just look at everything their “tough and persistent” mascot has faced and is overcoming.

Albatross Wisdom is a new mom again

   white bird stands over grayish chickWisdom’s mate Akeakamai stands over their newly hatched chick.  Photo by Bob Peyton/USFWS

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross and world’s oldest known banded wild bird, hatched another chick recently at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial. She is at least 68 years old, has raised more than 30 chicks in her lifetime.

“She’s incredibly powerful as a symbol of why we do what we do and why people all over the world pay attention to her,” says Beth Flint, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife biologist.  

Wisdom and mate Akeakamai spent about two months incubating the egg, and now they will raise the chick, which needs five to six months before it leaves the island to fly out to sea, or “fledge.” This process takes up so much time and energy, so most Laysan albatross do not lay an egg every year.

“Because Laysan albatross don’t lay eggs every year and when they do, they raise only one chick at a time, the contribution of even one bird to the population makes a difference,” says Bob Peyton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service project leader for Midway Atoll Refuge and Memorial.

For the first years of their lives, albatross grow and mature at sea. Starting around age 5, juvenile Laysan return to their home colony during breeding season and begin the search for a mate - a process that can take years.  During nesting season, juvenile albatross can be found all over Midway Atoll practicing elaborate courtship dances or dozens of ritualized movements. When they find that special bird to dip, bow and preen with, the pair stays bonded for life.

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