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Open Spaces

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.


Accessing America’s Great Outdoors: Disabled Hunters Have the Hunt of a Lifetime

Tina Shaw is a public affairs specialist for National Wildlife Refuges and the Office of Law Enforcement in the Midwest Region. She recently relocated to the Midwest from Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge where she worked in Visitor Services. Her interests include natural science illustration and photography.

Physical challenges change your life forever, but they do not have to take away your passion, your grace, or your spirit. Over Veterans Day weekend, I had the opportunity to meet a group of hunters who followed this mindset, regardless of the terrain they traveled in life.

The former Savanna Army Depot, now the Lost Mound Unit of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in Savanna, Ill. was the backdrop for a special deer hunt for sportsmen with disabilities. Assembling in the early morning hours, long before sun up, 25 hunters and their assistants layered in blaze orange readied their blinds for the hunt.

Quadriplegic hunter Terry Greenwood and Registered Nurse Doug DaltonQuadriplegic hunter Terry Greenwood and Registered Nurse Doug Dalton from Ohio. Greenwood maneuvers his specially mounted gun on target by manipulating a controller box with his chin. When a deer was in the crosshairs, he blew through a tube to engage an electronic trigger to fire the shotgun. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.


Why I Hunt

This post comes from Joshua Winchell, coordinator for the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, in honor of National Hunting and Fishing Day.

Hunters have provided hundreds of billions of dollars in economic benefit to our country, according to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. The survey has been conducted every five years since 1955 and measures the participation and expenditures of our nation’s hunters, anglers, and wildlife watchers.

And this same survey indicates that hunting participation in America has flatlined.

Hunting at sunset


Late Season Waterfowl Hunting Seasons: Quick Facts about the Proposal

Earlier today, we announced the proposed hunting season lengths for the 2011-2012 late waterfowl seasons.  After partnering with state biologists from each of the four flyways, we’ve come up with a regulatory framework which includes things like hunting length for waterfowl, season dates, and bag limits. 

 Pintail Duck Drake

Here are some key points about the proposal:

- Season lengths vary based on flyways

  • 60 days for Atlantic and Mississippi flyways
  • 74 days for Central Flyway, 23 additional days in High Plains areas
  • 107 days for Pacific Flyway

- A full season on pintails with a two bird daily bag limit nationwide

- A full season on canvasbacks with a one bird daily bag limit

- States select their season within the final framework that establish the earliest season beginning and latest ending date, maximum season length and bag limits

If you’re looking for detailed information about your state, the news release does a great job summarizing each Flyway, including states within each flyway, and full duck and geese seasons and limits.   If you’re looking for information on early-season migratory bird hunting, you can find that here

What are your thoughts about the proposal?  Start a conversation and talk to each other about what you do or don't like, and what changes you might make.  Just remember, while we here at Open Spaces love to hear from you, if you want your ideas to count, you'll need to formally submit your comment once it's published in the Federal Register in mid-August.  Information on when and how you can submit those comments can be found on the Migratory Birds Program page.

Teddy Roosevelt and the History of the National Wildlife Refuge System

Today, there are 553 refuges across the country, with at least one in every state, providing safety to more than 250 threatened or endangered plants and animals.  Have you ever wondered how we got there?

President Roosevelt, known for his love of nature and wildlife established Pelican Island as our first national refuge in 1903.  Though he didn’t know it at the time, Roosevelt had set the nation on the path to building the largest national Refuge System in the world. 

Throughout his presidency, refuges were established around the country, and by the time he left office in 1909, he had declared 53 refuges in 17 states and three territories.


Arkansas: Warming Trends Changing the Hunt for Waterfowl

Birds in flight at Bald Knob

Pintail and wigeon ducks on the move at Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Arkansas. Photo credit: Jim Daniel.

A 2005 newspaper article gave Dr. James Bednarz the idea to look for a possible link between climate change and duck migration.

In the article, someone suggested climate change was already reducing duck hunting opportunities in Arkansas, a state known for its premier waterfowl hunting.

“I thought it was pretty farfetched,” Bednarz recalled recently.

But the hypothesis presented an interesting research project. After diving into 50 years worth of duck data, Bednarz, a professor of Wildlife Ecology at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, says he’s now convinced climate change -- including warmer temperatures, more ice-free days and changes in precipitation -- is causing fewer ducks to migrate south for the winter.

“The analysis definitely demonstrates that change is happening right now,” Bednarz said. “If [climate change] continues, waterfowl hunting in places where we’ve traditionally done it will seriously diminish. I think it will be a big cost to our heritage and our wildlife.”