For Immediate Release
November 17, 1999

Contact: Tom MacKenzie 404/679-7291

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Selects New Manager for Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge

Jim Kraus - Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Jim Kraus, a nine-year Fish and Wildlife Service veteran, will be the new manager of the 31,000-acre Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, located north of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Kraus returns to Florida after serving for two-and-one-half years as a biologist in the Service's Division of Endangered Species in Washington, D.C. He reports to the refuge in mid-January.

"Jim has extensive experience in manatee, bird, and black bear field work,"said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director. "His background is excellent because Chassahowitzka is a haven for 250 bird species, as well as a sanctuary for the popular, but endangered, manatee and the controversial Florida black bear."

Prior to serving in the Service's national endangered species office, Kraus was Assistant Manatee Recovery Coordinator in the Jacksonville, Florida Field Office from 1991 to 1997. In this position, he helped coordinate manatee rescue, rehabilitation, and release activities. He also worked on the 1996 (current) revision of the manatee recovery plan.

"I'm really excited about returning to Florida," said Kraus. "Where else but on the Gulf coast of Florida is there such a unique blend of wild species, such as manatees, great blue herons, ospreys, black bears, alligators, and green sea turtles?"

"The resources of Florida are a genuine treasure," continued Kraus. "It will be great to once again work with those who are dedicated to conserving them."

Two of Kraus' top priorities at Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge will be to encourage and protect bird nesting in critical colonies within the Tampa Bay area and providing a safe haven for manatees to make it through the winter.

"We need to maintain the delicate, natural balance where the manatee is nurtured and protected but people are allowed to see and learn about this fascinating creature," said Kraus.

In his current position as a biologist in the Service's Endangered Species Division in Washington D.C., Kraus has served as the national program liaison for three Service Regions - - North Rockies and Plains (Region 6); Great Lakes (Region 3); and the Southeast (Region 4). He was the lead biologist responsible for the bald eagle status review and the development of the recent bald eagle delisting proposal. He also spearheaded experimental reintroductions of the gray wolf, grizzly bear, and black- footed ferret.

Prior to working for the Service, Kraus, a native of Ohio, worked in the bird program at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park's Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Virginia. He was employed there from 1989 to 1991. From 1987 to 1989, he conducted black bear field research as a research associate at Virginia Tech. In this position, he conducted trapping, tagging, and radiotracking studies in Shenandoah National Park. During 1987, he traveled throughout in Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Kansas researching bird use of crop fields and their response to pesticides. From 1983 through 1986, Kraus conducted black bear field research in Monogahela National Forest as part of his Master's Thesis project at West Virginia University.

Kraus received his bachelor's in biology from Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia and his master's in wildlife management from West Virginia University in Morgantown. He is married to Debra Ann Kraus, and they have one daughter, Jessica, age 17. Kraus enjoys camping, backpacking, and photographing wildlife and nature.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

Release # R99-088


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