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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Emergency Response to Elephant Poaching in Cameroon

Today's guest blogger, Dirck Byler, is a Program Officer for the Great Ape Conservation Fund with the Service's International Affairs office in Arlington, Virginia. Today, he shares a story about his recent trip to Cameroon.

In February, I was in Cameroon to meet with students attending the Garoua Wildlife College, a regional institution supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The College trains young professionals from French-speaking Africa in wildlife management.

community in CameroonCommunities in northern Cameroon surrounding Bouba Ndjida National Park. Photo: Dirck Byler/USFWS

While in Cameroon, reports filled my inbox on the slaughter of as many as 500 elephants in Bouba Ndjida National Park. However, the facts of these reports were disputed. Little detail was available on what interventions, if any, were being made to prevent further poaching.


The Fish & Wildlife Service You Don't Know: What's For Dinner?

Today we bring you another in a series of short features about little-known aspects of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by David Klinger, a writer-editor at our National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

They claim it’s the mission.

That our admirable goal of conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of the globe (“for the continuing benefit of the American people”) accounts for the almost-maniacal devotion to duty that motivates most Fish and Wildlife Service employees.

But, as most of us know... it is really about the food.

Well before training center smorgasbords, decades before regional office clambakes and central office holiday spreads (graced, occasionally, with gustatory delicacies and delights contributed by field stations and the occasional congressional office, intent on promoting home-state agriculture, from salmon packing to peanut raising), food played a central role in the life of the Fish and Wildlife Service.


Endangered Species Spotlight: Polar Bear

Started in 2006 by the United States Congress, Endangered Species Day sets aside the third Friday in May to recognize the importance of endangered species and is an occasion to educate the public on how to protect them. This year, Endangered Species Day falls on May 18th.  In the weeks leading up to Endangered Species Day, we're putting a spotlight on a few endangered and threatened species for you to learn more about what makes them unique. And there's still time to enter the Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest!

Today is International Polar Bear Day! Join us in celebrating this unique symbol of the Arctic.

Polar bear with cubPhoto: Scott Schliebe/USFWS


Love All Around: Nature's Courtship Rituals

It’s just about Valentine’s Day! Looking to show your sweetie just how much you love him or her? Take a cue from wildlife, who often put on fascinating shows species put on to attract a mate. These colorful, noisy rituals can be seen firsthand at many national wildlife refuges.

Take the male Attwater’s praire chicken. He’ll dance a jig and make a “booming” sound by filling orange air sacks on the sides of his neck. The spectacle can be seen in March and April at Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Its annual festival is April 8-9.

If you want some help converting the chicken's moves to human form, wildlife biologist Laurie Gonzales can help:

Or maybe you aren't a prairie chicken at heart. To the north, you can find the American woodcock, whose night “sky dance” can be seen in places like Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Vermont or Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island. The dance, which renowned author and conservationist Aldo Leopold loved, begins with a series of sharp “peent” sounds, until the bird suddenly flies up, twittering, in a widening spiral, floats briefly, and dives zigzag back to earth. 

Maybe you’re more of a greater sage-grouse. Every year, they gather in March and April on leks, or breeding grounds, where males gather to strut their stuff hoping to attract the attention of females.  The early-morning ritual involves popping and bubbling noises that can be heard hundreds of yards away. With their pointed tail feathers erect, and their white breast feathers accentuated by air sacs, they create a spectacular mating display.

Or how about the grey tree frog that inflates its vocal pouch to balloon-like proportions and sounds a melodic trill? University of Missouri researchers discovered the male can calibrate his love song to attract a mate with matching chromosomes! If you’re hoping to hear the song, head to Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in Missouri, or Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas in early April.

And then there are the horseshoe crabs, which come ashore in the thousands to spawn in May and June. The male horseshoe crab crowds along the water line, vying for arriving females. When the time is right, he will grab onto a mate and ride ashore. The female will dig a hole in the sand to deposit her eggs, and the male fertilizes them. Some great spots to check this out: Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware and Cape May National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

Horseshoe Crabs MatingMispillion Harbor, Deleware Photo: Gregory Breese/USFWS

Get Involved: Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest

Know any budding Picassos or Georgia O’Keeffes?

Tell them to grab their art supplies and enter the 2012 Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest! They’ll need to use their creativity to visually portray one or more land- and/or ocean-dwelling endangered species—animal or plant—found in the United States.

The contest is open to ­­­all K-12 students and entries must be postmarked by March 15, 2012.

A prestigious panel of artists, photographers, and conservationists will judge the entries. Winners will be chosen in four categories: K-Grade 2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8 and Grades 9-12, along with one overall national winner. Complete rules for the contest can be found on the Endangered Species Day website.

Some of last year’s semi-finalists include: 

Coho Salmon[Coho Salmon] by Gordon Li of California


Meet the Species: The ‘I‘iwi

Have you ever heard of the ‘i‘iwi?  If you’re from Hawai’i, chances are you have. 

It’s a bright, scarlet bird with black wings, and has a sickle-shaped bill that helps it sip nectar from long, tubular flowers.

i'i'wiPhoto: Jack Jeffrey/USFWS


Felt-free for Aquatic Species

On Jan. 1, Alaska and Rhode Island became the latest states to ban felt-soled wading boots, popular because they offer anglers good traction on slick river beds.

Turns out they can also offer rivers something less attractive: Invasive species.

Felt-soled bootsA pair of felt-soled wading boots. Phot: Cheryl Anderson/USFWS


Protecting the Flint Hills Tallgrass Prairie

Tallgrass prairie once blanketed more than 170 million acres from Texas to Canada. Today, just four percent of the United States’ original tallgrass prairie habitat remains.

So, what happened to it all?

Most of the habitat was converted to farmland in the 19th century to feed Americans.  But during this expansion, the Flint Hills of Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma was left untouched.  It’s geology made it unsuitable for farming, with its shallow soil and limestone. 

Since that time, ranchers have worked the Flint Hills landscape in a way that has preserved the prairie.  In the springtime, the Flint Hills is nothing but lush, green, vibrant grass far as the eye can see. People on nighttime flights have mistaken tallgrass prairie for a large, wavy body of water!

The Flint Hills wildflowers in bloomWildflowers in bloom in the Flint Hill Legacy Conservation Area, which was authorized by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2010 and established as a Refuge System unit in eastern Kansas last September. Photo: Greg Kramos/USFWS


Wisdom is Back at Midway Atoll!

Last year she made headlines for surviving the tsunami.  Now, Wisdom, is back in the news.

She’s made her way back to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific, and she’s incubating an egg!

Wisdom the Laysan Albatross incubating an EggTaken December 1, 2011, Wisdom is back an incubating an egg!

Why is this such a big news?  Well, if you didn't know, Wisdom is world’s oldest Laysan albatross. The average lifespan for albatrosses ranges from 12 to 40 years.

Wisdom is at least 61.


Let's Go Outside! Featured Refuge Events for the Week of December 5th

It's the holiday season on our refuges! Here are some of the events happening at refuges across the country this week, many in the spirit of the season.  Check out this link for more events happening in December on our refuges.

As always, make sure you head over to the Refuge System's homepage and use their searchable map to find events at a Wildlife Refuge near you!

Let's go outside!

Sleigh Passing Elk HerdSleigh passing elk herd Photo: Lori Iverson/USFWS


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