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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Biologists Work Together to Return Bull Trout to Remote Oregon River

After a day-long bull trout conservation meeting in June, some of our biologists teamed up with counterparts at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and left behind the city to back up their meeting with actions. 

They got together to translocate bull trout into the Clackamas River. This is the sixth year of an ongoing effort to secure a population of bull trout, previously extirpated, in this watershed.

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Navajo Nation Protects Eagles

Craig Springer, External Affairs in our Southwest Region, tells us about the nation’s newest eagle aviary.

 FWS employees Michael Eldon Brown left and Joe Early release golden eagle at Navajo Zoo FWS employees Michael Eldon Brown left and Joe Early release golden eagle at the Navajo Zoo .

The Navajo people know it as Atsá: the golden eagle. They revere the regal bird, moved by its beauty on the perch and its grace as it soars in the Southwestern sky. The golden eagle represents eternal life; it’s fearless, they believe, and it can see where no mortal man can see. The animal’s spirit is a healer of the human spirit, thus the Native people use its naturally molted feathers and parts to cure illness and keep evil at bay in ceremonies. In short, the golden eagle is a protector of the Navajo.

The golden eagle is protected under federal law. This majestic raptor is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. But through regulations and permitting via our Division of Migratory Birds, Native people have access to these culturally significant animals for use in indigenous religious ceremonies and customs.

Toward that end, the Navajo Nation dedicated its Eagle Aviary and Education Center at the Navajo Zoo in Window Rock, Arizona, on July 1. The expansion of the zoo/addition of the aviary was paid for in part by a Tribal Wildlife Grant we awarded the Navajo Nation several years ago.

The dedication involved heartfelt songs and passionate speeches from Navajo dignitaries and zoo employees. The highlight was no doubt the release of the zoo’s four golden eagles, previously injured and non-releasable into the wild, into the new aviary as a large and silent crowd looked on. 

Two of our employees from the Southwest Region, Michael Eldon Brown, Migratory Bird Permits Branch Chief, and Joe Early, Native American Liaison, were together given the honor of releasing one of the eagles. Both are Native American themselves, and were professionally involved in seeing the aviary through the permitting process.

“I appreciate the collaboration of Native people to support the conservation of birds of prey that are culturally significant to tribes and that are a trust responsibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director of the Southwest Region.

The new eagle aviary at Navajo Zoo is the sixth and largest eagle aviary in the United States, all of which are located in the Southwest Region.

Wildlife Safety Tips for Enjoying the Great Outdoors

America’s public lands, including national wildlife refuges and parks, offer tremendous opportunities to explore and enjoy the great outdoors, most from sunrise to sunset every day. Hike, fish, observe and photograph wildlife! These places offer unique opportunities to see wildlife, but it's always important to remember your personal safety. 

Safety should always be the number one concern when enjoying nature, whether it’s in the form of making sure cycling, biking or climbing equipment is in good working order or taking the possibility of severe weather into account before departing for the outdoors. 

Here are a few tips to follow while exploring wild places:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and what animals may be present that could pose a threat in that environment.
  • Never feed wild animals, even squirrels or chipmunks. Keep them wild and don’t risk attracting predators.
  • If you are camping, keep the area clean: wash all cooking and eating utensils after use and store left over food in airtight containers.
  • Report any wildlife attacks to 911.

As for safety when it comes to some of the larger predators, we collected a few best practices around exploring in areas that include bears, mountain lions and alligators. 


Kodiak brown bearKodiak brown bear by Lisa Hupp, USFWS

In the U.S., brown bears are found in Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and a potentially small population in Washington. The American black bear is found in at least 40 states in the U.S. 

“The opportunity to view a bear in the wild is an unforgettable experience. With some basic wildlife safety precautions, people can absolutely enjoy recreating and observing wildlife in refuges and parks,” -- 
says Lisa Hupp, Park Ranger, Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

If you encounter a bear:

  • Be bear aware and look for signs of recent bear traffic. Leave when you see crushed plants, scat or fresh tracks. Avoid surprising bears when you are out hiking by making noise: clap your hands, sing and talk. Travel in groups and make extra noise if you are in a brushy or loud area.

  • If you see a bear, stand still and stay calm. Assess how the bear is behaving. If it hasn't noticed you, quietly move away. Bears primarily use their noses to get information about the world, but they also have reasonably good eyesight and hearing.

  • If you encounter young bears, back away in the direction you came. If your trail goes close by them, find another way around. The mother is likely nearby and you don’t want to get between her and her cubs.

  • If a bear is aware of you, talk calmly and face the bear. If the bear does not approach, back away slowly until you are at a safe distance to leave the area.

  • Do not allow them to obtain human food or associate humans with a food reward – even fish! A bear that knows it can find food around humans is no longer wild. Store your food and garbage properly. 

  • Never run from a bear. Bears can sprint at up to 40 mph – and, like dogs, will chase animals that run away. If you are approached or charged by a bear, stand your ground and use your bear deterrent (i.e. spray). Most charges by bears are defensive, not predatory.

  • In the very rare event you get knocked down by a defensive bear, roll on your stomach and “play dead.” The bear will leave when it perceives you are not a threat. If the attack is prolonged or predatory, fight back.

  • If attacked by a black bear, do not play dead. Try to escape to a place such as a car or building. If escape is not possible, try to fight back using any object available. 

Mountain Lions

 Mountain LionMountain lion in a cottonwood tree by Justin Shoemaker

Mountain lions tend to be elusive and typically avoid people. They are primarily found in 14 western states, as well as in Florida, where a subspecies called the Florida panther is protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Below are safety tips for traveling through known mountain lion areas.

  • Do not hike, bike or jog alone. Go in groups with adults supervising children. Avoid hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active—dawn, dusk and at night.

  • Keep children close to you. Animals seem especially drawn to children; keep children within sight at all times.

  • Do not approach a mountain lion. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation. Give them a way to escape.

  • Do not run from a lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase. Do not crouch down or bend over. A human standing does not resemble a mountain lion's natural prey.

  • Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. If wearing a jacket, take it off and wave it around. Pick up small children. Wave arms slowly, speak firmly in a loud voice, throw rocks or other objects.Try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. Fight back if attacked.


American AlligatorAmerican alligator by Dale Suiter, USFWS

The American alligator is a living prehistoric relic, having survived on earth for 200 million years. While the population is secure, some related reptiles – crocodiles and caimans – are still in trouble. For this reason, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to protect the alligator under the Endangered Species Act as “threatened due to similarity of appearance”. Alligators live in lakes, rivers and wetland areas year-round, along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts from Florida and the Carolinas to Texas, as well as parts of the inland states of Oklahoma and Arkansas.

  • Alligators can be inconspicuous, spending much of their time floating in water just below the surface. Although alligators should be considered dangerous, they are inherently afraid of humans, and typically pose no serious threat if left alone.

  • Give alligators their space and never feed them. When fed, alligators can overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food. Dispose of fish scraps in garbage cans. Do not throw them into the water.

  • Alligator bites are most likely to occur in or around water. However, they can lunge at prey if within a few feet of the shoreline. Be aware of the possible presence of alligators when in or near fresh or brackish water.

  • Keep your distance and do not approach alligators for photographs or a “better look”.

  • Never allow children or pets to play, swim or exercise in bodies of water these reptiles may call home. Be vigilant when you are near shorelines, especially between dusk and dawn when alligators are most active.

  • If an alligator bites you, the best thing you can do is fight back, making as much noise and commotion as possible. Hitting or kicking the alligator, or poking it in its eyes may cause it to release its grip.

  • Never remove an alligator from its natural habitat or accept one as a pet. It is illegal and dangerous to do so. Handling even small alligators can result in injury.

Visitor safety and wildlife conservation are our top priorities. Enjoy your adventure!

-- Vanessa Kauffman, Spokeswoman for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Black Swallowwort by any Other Name is Just as Toxic

 Jordon Tourville

Jordon Tourville, an intern at Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, has had the unfortunate privilege to find some of the worst invasive plants in the country. He’s engaged in hand to hand combat with oriental bittersweet vines 50 feet tall and sailed through seas of Japanese knotweed. And, he says, one of the most dastardly invasives out there is black swallowwort.

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Trout Anglers in Southeast Have Addition to List of ‘Must-Fish Streams’

A gloomy day in May can't keep the anglers away from Hatchery Creek. Photo by USFWS

If you catch a trout in Kentucky, it almost always has some tie to Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery. The hatchery raises rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout, and it produces all the trout stocked in Kentucky. So anyone who fishes for trout in Kentucky has nearly a million reasons (the number of all fish stocked annually) to give thanks to Wolf Creek. 

Now, anglers have another reason to cheer the hatchery – a dazzling new trout stream.

The man-made Hatchery Creek replaces a 380-foot creek and meanders more than a mile through created riffles, runs, glides and pools, all providing different habitat for fish and wildlife. A series of step pools allow trout to move between the Cumberland River and the newly created stream.  

Stream designers also added special touches to encourage natural reproduction of trout. No, not Barry White on an underwater stereo. Think pools and tree stumps for small fish to hide out and special gravel to make egg-laying possible.

All this is awesome news for trout anglers. The Kentucky state records for rainbow trout, lake trout, brown trout and brook trout are all in the Cumberland River/Lake Cumberland Tailwaters. So maybe some record-setters will be among the trout testing out the new stream.

We worked together with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to make the new Hatchery Creek happen. It’s your nature; get out there and take advantage of it!

-- Matt Trott, External Affairs

Monarch Science Still has a Few Mysteries

 monarch caterpillar The Monarch Science Partnership is developing tools and information so we can better help monarchs, like this caterpillar, right here, right now. Photo by Joanna Gilkeson/USFWS

Until 1975, scientists were bewildered by the flocks of butterflies migrating each fall and returning each spring. No one knew where they spent the winter months. There are still modern-day monarch mysteries - or partial mysteries at least. For example, we still don’t know exactly how and why monarchs know when to migrate.

We do know, though, that monarchs are in trouble.

Using the best available science is the Monarch Conservation Science Partnership, which is exploring some of the remaining monarch mysteries, so we can better manage habitat for monarchs and other pollinators, with a focus on providing immediate relief from some threats, particularly habitat loss.

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Fire Over Ice: Beating Back Monocultures

 Winter prescribed burn. Winter prescribed burn. Photo by Sean Sallmann/USFWS

As summer heats up, winter might be the farthest thing from your mind, but not for us! We’re already planning for next winter.

Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin is one of the largest freshwater native cattail marshes in the United States and has the largest breeding population of redhead ducks east of the Mississippi River. But like many wetlands in the Midwest, the marsh is threatened by invasive cattails and winter is one of the best times to fight them.

Cattails may seem benign, but they can quickly take over a wetland. Early growth along the water's edge advances and chokes out native plants. This growth fills in open areas with what becomes a dense monoculture. And simply put, monocultures are bad for people and wildlife.

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16-Year-Old Puts her (Junior Duck) Stamp on Conservation

 Stacy Shen“It’s great knowing that I get to pursue my passion while raising awareness and funds for waterfowl and habitat conservation,”  says Stacy Shen, 2016 national Junior Duck Stamp winning artist. Photo by USFWS

Stacy Shen’s artwork appears on the 2016-17 Federal Junior Duck Stamp, chosen first from more than 27,000 national entries.

Stacy, along with the National Duck Stamp winner Joe Hautman were recently honored by the Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Postal Service and Bass Pro Shops at the first day of sale ceremony held earlier this month in Springfield, Missouri. All funds from Duck Stamp sales go to environmental education programs, and increase the opportunities for wildlife education and habitat conservation across the United States.

Read Stacy’s Story

Anglers Enable Restoration of the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout

Restoration of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is possible through Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program dollars, money that comes from excise taxes paid on hunting, boating and fishing gear. Watch how anglers pay for native trout conservation.

Endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker Makes its Presence Known in Longleaf Pine Forest

 NRCS State Conservationist for South Carolina Ann English and FWS staff Joshua Winchell in the field at the Aiken Preserve, South Carolina. Credit Wayne Hubbard/UAOTV
Joshua Winchell and NRCS State Conservationist for South Carolina Ann English in the field at the Aiken Preserve in South Carolina. Photo by Wayne Hubbard/UAOTV

Joshua Winchell
, Designated Federal Officer and Coordinator for the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, recounts a recent visit along the Georgia and South Carolina border highlighting longleaf pine habitat restoration efforts.  

Rob laughed when I asked him if I’d be adding a red-cockaded woodpecker to my birding life list. “Josh, you know that when something is listed as endangered that means there’s not a whole lot of them around. So I wouldn’t count on seeing one today!” he said. I smiled along with others on the bus, but was just a wee bit disappointed at his answer. I’ve been an avid bird-watcher since high school, and the possibility of adding a new bird – and a famous one at that – to my life list was exciting. But Rob had just deflated my hopes. 

 FWS Wildlife Biologist Nancy Jordan, FWS Longleaf Coordinator Clay Ware (back to camera), and FWS Southeast Region Director Cynthia Dohner (in red-shirt and sunglasses) discuss red-cockaded woodpecker nest monitoring.  Credit Joshua Winchell/USFWS
FWS Wildlife Biologist Nancy Jordan, FWS Longleaf Coordinator Clay Ware (back to camera), and Southeast Region Director Cynthia Dohner (in red-shirt and sunglasses) discuss red-cockaded woodpecker nest monitoring. Photo by Joshua Winchell/USFWS

Rob was Robert Abernathy, president of the Longleaf Alliance, and he was helping lead a field trip along the Georgia and South Carolina border highlighting longleaf pine habitat restoration efforts. The field trip was organized by Rob, and longleaf pine recovery/restoration coordinators Clay Ware and Kyle Jones from the Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service, respectively. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region Director Cynthia Dohner was with us as well, and was providing insights on the habitat, associated wildlife species, the remarkable collection of federal, state, local and nongovernmental organization collaborators, and the private individuals who own land where much of the longleaf pine restoration was occurring. 

  Mature longleaf pine habitat, Aiken Gopher Tortoise Preserve South Carolina. Credit Joshua Winchell/USFWS
Mature longleaf pine habitat, Aiken Gopher Tortoise Preserve in South Carolina. Photo by Joshua Winchell/USFWS

Before European settlement, more than 90 million acres of longleaf pine forest blanketed the southeastern United States, but by the early 20th century, almost all of these forests had disappeared due to overexploitation, urbanization, or conversion to other forest types or land uses. Longleaf pine forests contain a stunning diversity of plants and animals, with more than 900 plant species that are found nowhere else in the world. It is also home to the red-cockaded woodpecker, bobwhite quail, indigo snake, gopher tortoise and many other imperiled species. In addition to providing quality habitat and recovery opportunities for these species, longleaf pine has a rich cultural history as an integral part of the southern landscape, is prized for its high quality wood, and is more resistant to insect infestation, disease and heavy winds. The native open-canopied longleaf pine forested systems, properly maintained with frequent, low-intensity fires, have also been shown to be very efficient water-users, which not only makes the system more resilient in the face of climate change, but also serves to improve both the water quantity and quality of the rivers and streams that meander through them.

The field trip was put together for members of the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, a federal advisory group established by the Interior and Agriculture Secretaries to provide them guidance on a range of wildlife, habitat and outdoor recreation topics. The council was meeting in nearby Edgefield, South Carolina, later that week.The private landowners we visited on the field trip spoke with excitement about longleaf habitat on their properties, and appreciation of the support they’ve received from federal and state conservation bureau staff. One of the landowners, recently retired from the military, talked about his pride in restoring longleaf to his property and improving the land for his children and grandchildren. 

Along the way we also visited Aiken Gopher Tortoise Heritage Preserve, a South Carolina Wildlife Management Area that we were told encompassed more mature longleaf pine habitat. And, as its name implies, is home to a population of gopher tortoises (a species of conservation concern) and a range of other plants and animals associated with longleaf pine. 

At the preserve we were met by Nancy Jordan, a Service biologist from Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge. Nancy led the group on a walk around the preserve, and spoke about the tortoise and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.  Nancy spoke enthusiastically about the new wireless cameras attached to long poles that allowed for safer and more efficient monitoring of nest cavities, with only a slight acknowledgement that the old days of clambering up trees and peering into the nest might have been a bit more exciting. Nancy shifted the conversation to the use of artificial nest cavities in the trees to encourage the return of the red-cockaded woodpecker when, right on cue, one flew overhead and landed on the trunk of a mature longleaf pine not 30 feet away from us.

A red-cockaded woodpecker (NOT the one they saw at Aiken) with an insect perches near a nest in a tree cavity. Photo by USFWS

I saw the bird close up. I turned to Rob and laughed, mostly with delight and just a hint of something else. He smiled and started laughing along with joy, and the rest of the group joined right in.


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