Facebook icon Twitter icon Flicker icon You Tube icon

Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

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. 

SEAWORLD-CENTENNIAL PARTNERSHIP BY THE NUMBERS
  • 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

Rescued Pangolin Given a Second Life in Cameroon

   pangolin disappearing into brushReleased pangolin finding its way in the wild. Photo by MENTOR-POP      

Ichu Ichu Godwill  of MENTOR-POP (Progress on Pangolins) tells us how the team's reputation as regional experts on pangolins is gaining traction.

This fall, Dr.Tobias Feldt, a postdoctoral scientist from Germany who is working in North-West Cameroon, contacted MENTOR-POP. “Two days ago, my landlord confronted me with the information that he had bought a ‘strange creature’ from a friend,”he told them. The animal turned out to be a white-bellied pangolin. The landlord planned to keep the animal and display it for tourists and little children. Upon receiving this information, the MENTOR-POP Fellows contacted other pangolin experts in Africa and the authorities of the North-West Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife. In Cameroon, the giant pangolin is completely protected, while the white-bellied and the black-bellied pangolin have partial protection. Regardless of which pangolin, trade in pangolin scales is illegal.

Uncertain of the legality of keeping the pangolin (it would depend on the source of the animal) and realizing that the pangolin would likely not survive long in captivity, the landlord decided to release it back to the wild.

The pangolin was finally released to the wild in the Mbi Crater Forest Reserve in North-West Cameroon  by  the MENTOR-POP team, authorities of the North-West Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife, and Dr. Feldt.  Says Dr. Feldt:

Tarla holds pangolin while others lookFrancis Tarla, the MENTOR-POP Coordinator, provides a close-up look at the soon-to-be-released pangolin to the Conservator of Mbi Crater Forest Reserve and the North-West Regional Chief of Wildlife. Photo by Tobias Feldt

“I had never seen a real pangolin before in my life, but due to my interest in nature documentaries, I was quite aware of their existence in this part of Africa.  So, it immediately attracted my attention when the owner of the place where I am staying for my research here in Bamenda mentioned that he had just purchased a ‘strange animal that rolls up when it is afraid.’ And it became clear from the very first moment that it would not be at all a good idea to keep it. Thanks to the international pangolin conservation family, it took only a few emails to raise the awareness of a global network ofconservationists for my case. But the highlight came when I was invited by MENTOR-POP to witness the first release action ever carried out for a pangolin in the history of Cameroon. It made me very happy, and somehow proud, to see this little fellow being released into the wild again, where it belongs. Overall, it was a pleasure, and a gift, to experience this beautiful creature alive – and later in freedom. And I really hope that other people will still be allowed to share this experience in the future. Farewell, little fellow, and all the best for your ‘second life – and all the best to all pangolins for your future!”

pangolin release teamDr. Tobias Feldt (5th from right) and some members of the delegation that released the white-bellied pangolin. Photo by MENTOR-POP

Pangolins are unique in being the only scaly mammals. Unfortunately, they are heavily trafficked for their scales, which are used in traditional medicines, and their meat, which is considered as a delicacy in some parts of Africa and Asia. As the populations of Asian species have dwindled over the past years, traffickers have shifted to Africa to meet the Asian market demand, making the African species increasingly vulnerable to extinction. All eight species of pangolins have been up-listed to Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), meaning a complete ban in international trade in pangolins or their parts.

The MENTOR-POP Fellowship, an 18-month program organized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, works with transdisciplinary teams to strengthen capacities to conserve pangolins in Central Africa.

 

Eagles Across America

   bald eagle A bald eagle cruises over Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge  along the California-Oregon border. Photo by George Gentry/USFWS

Half a century ago, the bald eagle was in danger of extinction. Habitat loss, illegal shooting and food source contamination (largely via DDT) decimated bald eagle population. The Endangered Species Act, government banning of DDT and conservation actions taken by the public have helped lead a remarkable recovery. The bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007. This week’s National Wildlife Refuge System photo essay, Eagles Across America, touches on why the bald eagle is the grand bird that it is.  

   bald eagle A bloodied bald eagle after downing a meal at Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. Photo by Thomas DeHoff  

“Bald eagles tend to evoke passion and emotion in people that few other wildlife species can match,” says Matt Stuber, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region eagle coordinator. “Maybe it’s their size. Maybe it’s because they are our national symbol. Or maybe it’s because many people grew up in a time when bald eagles were rare, which made them all the more special. Maybe it’s all of the above.”

Author E.F. Schumacher said: “Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes.”

   bald eagle A bald eagle perches at Camas National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho. Photo by Lance Roberts/USFWS

Despite bald eagles’ recovery, adaptability and increasing population, they still face many human-related threats. Among a few threats cited by Stuber, in no particular order, are:

  • collisions with man-made structures and vehicles
  • lead poisoning and poisoning from other chemicals
  • electrocution
  • illegal shooting
  • unintentional capture in leg-hold traps (meant for other animals)

Today, eagles are protected by at least three laws, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act.

   bald eagle A bald eagle patrols Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Photo by Larry Hitchens

“Eagles Across America” is part of the Refuge System’s series of weekly photo essays that highlight the conservation work and visitor opportunities at national wildlife refuges, wetland management districts and marine national monuments. A new photo essay is posted on the Refuge System home page each Wednesday. The essays are archived here.

Bo Derek Joins Efforts to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

 Bo Derek  Actress Bo Derek, who is a WildAid Board Member and has also served as a Special Envoy of the Secretary of State for Wildlife Trafficking, spoke passionately about the need to protect wildlife from trafficking. She became interested in the issue after visiting the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. Photo by Frank Kohn/USFWS

We recently stopped by Capitol Hill to highlight the work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners including JetBlue, Discovery Communications, WildAid and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance in the fight against wildlife trafficking. We held a briefing for congressional staff and the public, which allowed us to amplify our messages to Americans and consumers abroad about how they can help reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife. People who travel abroad will sometimes unknowingly make purchases of food, souvenirs, clothing and medicine that are made from imperiled wildlife. Endangered and threatened animals may even be sold as pets.

Here’s a quick overview of how each of these partners is making a difference:

 panel  Our Danielle Kessler moderated a panel with partners including WildAid, Discovery Communications, JetBlue and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance. Photo by Frank Kohn/USFWS

WildAid

The #StopWildlifeTrafficking campaign features celebrities in airport billboards and PSAs that ask consumers to protect wildlife by questioning their purchasing choices, particularly for items like ivory. The cast of the Walking Dead TV show is featured in one PSA; a broader range of celebrities are featured in other PSAs. And the video infographic below provides some of the hard-truths about how trafficking is impacting species. More PSAs with additional celebrities will soon be released.

A WildAid campaign in China featuring basketball star Yao Ming and other celebrities has helped to reduce consumption of shark-fin soup by 50-70 percent. This is just one example of WildAid’s success in reducing demand, and we’re hopeful that their expertise in changing consumer behavior will lead to similar successes for species being impacted by U.S. consumers.

JetBlue

The Caribbean is one of the most popular destinations for many of JetBlue’s flights and protecting what makes the Caribbean special is critical to the company’s business interests. JetBlue in partnership with the Service produced a short film featuring local conservation leaders in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Grenada that seeks to empower consumers to serve as guardians of Caribbean wildlife such as sea turtles, coral, and blue and gold macaws. The film is being shown on JetBlue flights, which carry 35 million passengers each year.

Discovery Communications

In September, at the most recent international wildlife trade conference (CITES COP17), Discovery Communications released a new PSA created in collaboration with the Service. It is narrated by actor Edward Norton and is now airing on Discovery networks in the United States and abroad. The PSA was part of the company’s mission to not only inspire people, but also empower them to protect the world’s wildlife and natural wonders

U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance

The U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance has recruited a large number of companies and organizations under one umbrella to work together to take on the wildlife trafficking crisis. Sara Walker, Executive Director of the Alliance, explained that while it’s not an issue that has been on the radar (yet) for many companies, there is relevance and a role for them to play in helping to protect wildlife. Some big names have already joined the Alliance in addition to Discovery, JetBlue, and WildAid, including Google, eBay, Ralph Lauren, and Tiffany.

   Senator Jeff Flake

Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) meets with Office of Law Enforcement Chief, William C, Woody, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff, Bo Derek and our partners. Senator Flake was a lead co-sponsor of the recently passed END Wildlife Trafficking Act. Photo by USFWS

Congressional Interest in Combating Wildlife Trafficking is Significant

Giving us new tools to fight wildlife trafficking, last year Congress passed, and the President signed into law the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Act. This legislation demonstrates that protection of wildlife, both domestically and abroad, is a priority for Congress that has broad, bipartisan support. 

Following the briefing, other Members of Congress and their staff took time to meet with us and our partners to discuss the progress we are making. 

Senator Coons, one of the lead sponsors of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act said, “The collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with private sector leaders is essential if we are to meet our goal of quickly and effectively combatting wildlife trafficking and poaching. Countless species worldwide, including well-known ones like elephants, sea turtles, and rhinos, could potentially be lost if we don’t take action. The partnership of well-respected advocacy organizations, like WildAid and the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, will be critical to combine the strength of all sectors to empower Americans to know what they can do to help protect wildlife around the world. I am proud of the work Congress did earlier this year to pass the END Wildlife Trafficking Act, which provides congressional authorization and guidance for this important work.” 

Senator Flake, another lead sponsor of the END Wildlife Trafficking Act stated: “Wildlife trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry that not only threatens to extinguish iconic wildlife, but also fuels an illicit industry that threatens global security. I am thankful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other stakeholders are bringing awareness to this important issue.”  

   Congressman Mike Thompson Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA-5) meets with Bo Derek, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and our partners. Photo by USFWS

The Service looks forward to continuing to work with Congress on the important issue of combating wildlife trafficking.

SECAS: An Unprecedented Vision for Conserving the Southeast Landscape

   BlueprintThe SECAS Blueprint 1.0 shown here represents lands with high conservation value, but it is not an acquisition boundary. In fact, much of the “high” priority is already in the conservation estate, while the “medium” areas are important for promoting and maintaining connectivity. 

The Southeast Region’s population grew 40 percent faster than any other region over the past six decades. Cities are getting bigger. Rural communities are getting smaller.  

Urbanization, population and related growth trends, and a range of related conservation needs prompted all members of the Southeastern Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA); 12 federal agencies including the Service, all members of the federal Southeast Natural Resource Leaders Group; and conservation partners steering the work of six Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) to come together in 2011 to develop a shared, long-term vision called the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS).

[More]

More Entries