Facebook icon Twitter icon Flicker icon You Tube icon

Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Tracks in the Snow

   snow tracksWhy did a large-winged bird leave such a deep impression in the snow at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota? Photo by Lee Kensinger/USFWS

Who goes there?

Now’s your chance to find out.

Winter is a great time to find signs of wildlife on national wildlife refuges. You can learn surprising things by studying animal tracks and imprints in the snow.

Snow prints may reveal clues to an animal’s size, diet, gait and habits. Some prints tell stories of struggle and survival.

If you’re hunting, reading animal tracks can mean the difference between finding your quarry and leaving empty-handed. If you’re simply enjoying nature, interpreting snow tracks can be a source of wonder and fun. 

Test your snowprint interpreting skills at https://www.fws.gov/refuges/features/SnowTracks.html

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

Susan Morse, National Wildlife Refuge System communications

Seedskadee Refuge Inspires River Whyless

Last summer, acclaimed folk-rock band River Whyless visited Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Wyoming. Inspired by their amazing experience in this sagebrush ecosystem, the band wrote a song called “Hold Me To Ya.” 




Salmon SuperHwy Project Improves Habitat for Fish, Infrastructure for People

   Stillwell Creek before and after

There’s a highway along the Oregon coast that you won’t find on a map. It’s one of the most used highways, with travelers crowding 10 wide at times. It’s the Salmon SuperHighway, a strategic, comprehensive effort across a six-river landscape to reconnect fish populations with the habitat they need by updating road crossings and other barriers, while also addressing flooding and road damage. When complete, it’ll span 178 river miles reconnect a 940-square-mile landscape on the North Oregon Coast that feeds Tillamook and Nestucca bays.

Read More

Fall in Love All Over Again

The Department of the Interior is getting ready for its annual Valentine’s Day video (last year's is above)  and needs your help. Send your videos and photos of your weddings or proposals in national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands to newmedia@ios.doi.gov. Please identify the location, remove watermarks and submit videos and photos no later than Monday, February 6, for a chance to be in the special Valentine’s Day video.

No Poppin’ these Collars, Key Deer

   Running Key deerA Key deer scampers away after being fitted with a radio collar. Photo by Christine Ogura/USFWS

Ken Warren updates us on the New World screwworm situation at National Key Deer Refuge in Florida.

Thirty adult female Key deer have new collars, and there’ll be no “poppin’” these radio collars. 

Over a three-day period that started January 16, specially trained Key deer researchers from Texas A&M University and veterinarians and biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service captured and placed electronic tracking collars on Key deer at Big Pine and No Name keys. These are small, lightweight flexible vinyl collars, specially made for Key deer. 

   Putting collar on Key deerA team from the Service and Texas A&M University carefully subdue a doe before placing a radio collar on her. Photo by Christine Ogura/USFWS

These collars allow the Service to more easily find, and in turn, closely monitor these Key deer does now, and more importantly, during the upcoming fawning season for possible screwworm infestation.  Fawning season, which usually starts in March or April each year, will be a critical timeframe because of how these parasites lay eggs in open wounds, which hatch and become flesh-eating maggots. Does and fawns are particularly vulnerable during the birthing process. 

   Matt GrassiBiological Technician Matt Grassi uses a handheld telemetry receiver and antenna to track Key deer on Big Pine Key. Photo By Noah Strong/USFWS

Using the radio telemetry gear, Service biologists are checking on these collared does several times a week.  When fawning season begins, Service biologists will increase observations to a daily schedule. 

“We’ve got to be especially vigilant with fawning season coming,” says Dan Clark, refuge manager at Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex. “Should fertile screwworm flies be detected or an infested animal confirmed, Key deer does and fawns will be at higher risk.  If it happens, we’ll be prepared to move swiftly with preventative treatments and/or other contingency operations already planned and established to protect the subspecies.” 

As an added precaution against the parasite, the deer that have received advanced veterinary care have a number shaved onto their sides for relocation and monitoring. The Service has been visually monitoring these deer as they are observed, and will continue to do so through the next few months as a sort of welfare check. 

While significant strides have been made toward eliminating fertile screwworm flies from the environment, complete eradication remains elusive.  On January 13, two Key deer from Big and Little Munson islands, respectively, were confirmed to have been infested with screwworm by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory.  One of these was dead when it was found, and the other was euthanized on January 7 for its own welfare. 

   Collar on Key deerA close-up look at one of the radio collars worn by a Key deer. Photo by USFWS

The radio collars will also provide data to improve the Service’s ability to estimate the population and identify changes in population numbers during the incident. 

The presence of New World screwworm was confirmed on National Key Deer Refuge on September 30. Since then, we have worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Monroe County, Florida, and others to eradicate this parasite and protect the endangered Key deer and other wildlife from infestation.


For the Birds: People Turn out to Celebrate Centennial of Migratory Bird Treaty

intern with bird on her head

In 2016, the Service and partners celebrated all over the country the centennial of the most important document to aid in the protection of migratory birds in North America. The Convention between the United States and Great Britain (for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory Birds – also called the Migratory Bird Treaty – was signed August 16, 1916, codifying the United States’ and Canada’s commitment to protecting our shared bird resources. In 1918, the United States signed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the domestic legislation that formally implements the United States' commitment to the 1916 treaty. This treaty and three subsequent international conventions, with Mexico (1936), Japan (1972) and Russia (1976) provide for the protection of migratory birds that travel among and inhabit these nations.

Photo: Intern Rozz gets acquainted with a lorikeet at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Photo by USFWS

Fish & Wildlife News   This article is a preview of the winter issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine. The issue is due online in finished form in early February.


The Big Apple Goes Big for Birds

   releasing dovesNew York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver (L) prepares to release a rehabilitated dove in Central Park, following the lead of Service biologist Scott Johnston. Photo by USFWS

"New York City: Migratory Bird Treaty City of the Year"?  

Maybe that's going too far because so many other cities participated or hosted an event in celebration of the 100th anniversary of our nation’s most significant conservation treaty. But the biggest media market in the world – New York City – sure did its part to celebrate. 

To begin with, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared May 5 "Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial Day" in New York. To celebrate, the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation hosted an event in Central Park. Students from the Mather School experienced bird watching – many for the first time – in Central Park, and  Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver released rehabilitated doves, with an assist from Service migratory bird biologist Scott Johnston.   

The centennial was also celebrated in an unlikely setting as staff members from the National Audubon Society’s New York City headquarters office rang the New York Stock Exchange opening bell on August 1 in honor of the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial. The occasion was featured on CNBC and Yahoo Finance, among others. 

“What an awesome way to celebrate the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty,” says Chandra Taylor Smith, Audubon's vice president of diversity and inclusion. 

   young and old birdersJamal, a student at International High School, introduces himself to Helen Hays, Director of the Great Gull Island Project with the American Museum of Natural History. He wants to pursue biology and science as a career and is signing up to do volunteer field work on Great Gull Island. Photo by Margaret Byrne/USFWS

The celebration continued  at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium, where partners built a receiver tower to track radio-collared birds, including endangered roseate terns and threatened red knots. Tagging work was funded by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Students participating in the science club at the International High School in New York City will work on a project to track the birds and monitor their flight patterns. Students will present their results at a mini-centennial symposium at the New York Aquarium event.  

Even if New York City must share the title of Migratory Bird Treaty City of the Year with other cities around the country, the Big Apple and its residents showed that they’re for the birds.

Scott Johnston, Migratory Bird Program, Northeast Region

Fish & Wildlife News   This article is a preview of the winter issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine. The issue is due online in finished form in early February.

Chicago Centennial Celebrations Embrace a Wide Range of Audiences

   bird walkA bird walk through a Chicago area park focused on the significance of birds in Chinese culture. Photo courtesy of Audubon Great Lakes

The Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial came to the Windy City in a big way this summer.

The Chicago area was the focal point for the Service’s regional centennial celebration, and the National Audubon Society Chicago Region worked with the Service’s Midwest Region and community partners to develop a variety of events in communities throughout the Chicago area celebrating the importance of birds in our lives and cultures.

The main event, at Lincoln Park Zoo, highlighted local efforts such as the Urban Bird Treaty program, as well as regional and national efforts in migratory bird conservation. Young people were also able to show off their skills in a youth art contest, with judges including five-time Federal Duck Stamp artist and Minnesota native Joe Hautman.

   bird walk
Many events in the Chicago area focused on getting urban youth into the outdoors. Photo courtesy of Audubon Great Lakes  

Throughout the Midwest, the Service worked with partners to celebrate the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial with local events, including state fairs, youth and adult hunting events, bird festivals, and other bird-centric gatherings. 

“This centennial is a unique opportunity to create awareness and increase support for migratory bird conservation through promoting key actions and engaging the public in centennial-related activities like our event in Chicago,” said Tom Cooper, the Service’s Midwest Region Migratory Bird Program Chief. 

A key partner, Audubon Great Lakes, hosted a number of centennial events connected to a broad range of social and geographic diversity, touching Chicago’s north, west and south sides, in addition to the wider Chicago metro area with events in Cook County, Lake County and DuPage County, as well as northern Indiana. 

Audubon Great Lakes engaged urban audiences around the centennial with two dozen partners, including the National Park Service, the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago and RefugeeOne.

Highlights of these events include: 

  • Bird walks, led by Audubon’s Junior Naturalist Aidan Cullen, where participants identified common neighborhood birds while also looking for fall migrants that were passing through on their way to their wintering grounds in Central and South America.  
  • Trips for 25 refugees, including Congolese Swahili-speakers, Syrian, Iraqi and Somali Arabic-speakers as well as individuals from Burma and Afghanistan, led by Audubon Great Lake. The trips offered information on ethnobotanical uses of native plants, wildlife management practices, bird migration behaviors, as well as broader introductions to park spaces and their amenities. 
  • A bird walk for 30 participants starting at Ping Tom Park, including a discussion about the appreciation of birds and nature in Chinese culture. After a cultural exploration of Chinese music and traditional practices inspired by nature in general and birds in particular, Audubon staff led the group on a bird walk along the river bank. 

Larry Dean, External Affairs, Midwest Region
Contributing: Audubon Great Lakes

Fish & Wildlife News   This article is a preview of the winter issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine. The issue is due online in finished form in early February.


Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial Establishes New Partnerships

   crowd at banding stationVisitors to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay flock to the banding station to learn how the Service tracks birds. Photo by USFWS

The Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial campaign produced a number of positive results, such as raising awareness of the importance of birds to humans and the natural world, and inspiring people to take simple but meaningful actions for bird conservation. 

  • 275,663 guests and students learned about migratory bird conservation through programs and events at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks.

  • 245,000+ online users were reached with SeaWorld and Busch Gardens centennial social media content.

  • 19,415 young people participated in centennial-focused activities during summer camps and field trips at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks.

  • 6,100 SeaWorld community members received centennial information via emails or texts.

  • 4,100+ SeaWorld and Busch Gardens ambassador employees received information about the centennial.

  • 3,540 people were reached through local community activities highlighting the centennial.

Another positive outcome of this national celebration was the strengthening of traditional partnerships – such as the century-old conservation alliance with Canada – and the creation of new and nontraditional partnerships.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Service’s burgeoning relationship with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, which includes all national SeaWorld and Busch Gardens locations. 

The Service – through the Southeast Region Centennial Team – reached out to SeaWorld to help create awareness about the importance of migratory bird conservation using SeaWorld’s extensive educational resources, reach and availability of migratory species ambassadors. What followed was an enthusiastic effort by SeaWorld to leverage the occasion of the centennial to raise the profile of migratory bird conservation and connect with visitors in its parks across the nation. 

   Daffny Pitchford and owl
Daffny Pitchford, refuge manager of the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Woodbridge, Virginia, helped out at the Busch Gardens Williamsburg event. She also made a new friend – a barn owl. Photo by USFWS  

As of October, more than half a million people had engaged to explore the world of migratory birds and were inspired to act for bird conservation through the efforts of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

Among the highlight activities of the centennial partnership with SeaWorld: 

  • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Busch Gardens Williamsburg hosted centennial events in August that engaged a total of nearly 4,000 guests. 
  • Educational booths at Wild Days events reached 23,600 park guests at SeaWorld San Diego and SeaWorld San Antonio. 
  • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s centennial celebration engaged guests in bird-related crafts, a bird call karaoke contest and educational stations focused on bird conservation. The event also welcomed back summer campers who had helped assemble nest boxes earlier in the year. 
  • SeaWorld San Diego ambassadors led birding programs for nearly 400 students in the Ocean Connectors program. 
  • Busch Gardens Williamsburg reached more than 750 community members about birds and the centennial through events such as the Historic Jamestown Birds of Prey program and Newport News Parks and Recreation Summer Camp.
  • SeaWorld San Antonio ambassadors shared centennial messaging at a Bexar County, Texas, government meeting where May 14 was declared Bexar Bird Day.

Rachel Fisk Levin, Migratory Bird Program, Headquarters, and Resee Collins, Migratory Bird Program, Southeast Region

Fish & Wildlife News   This article is a preview of the winter issue of Fish & Wildlife News, our quarterly magazine. The issue is due online in finished form in early February.

10 Simple Ways You Can Help the Environment

   Staff and volunteers restoring tidal marsh at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Staff and volunteers restoring tidal marsh at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Don Freiday/USFWS

This year make a commitment to help out the environment by making everyday easy changes.

Read How

More Entries