National Wildlife Refuge Association http://refugeassociation.org Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:09:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Critters That Lurk in the Night http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/critters-that-lurk-in-the-night/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/critters-that-lurk-in-the-night/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:09:03 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10625

Continue reading »]]> As Halloween draws our attention to creatures that lurk in the night, let’s look at some wildlife that actually does! Nocturnal animals are those that are active at night and rest during the day. Typically nocturnal animals rest during the day and hunt for prey at night. There are many species of nocturnal creatures all over the world! Let’s explore a few.

Ocelot

Ocelot
Protecting habitat for ocelots is important on both sides of the United States and Mexico border. | USFWS

Like many big cats, the ocelot is nocturnal and sleeps during the day and hunts at night. It is a highly endangered cat with fewer than one hundred left in the United States.

The ocelot is graceful and can be up to 4 ft long and 35 pounds. It’s coat has brown spots with black borders that are elongated like chain links. Similar to eye liner, the ocelot has a black line above each eye that extends to the back of the head.

This carnivore hunts mostly rabbits, birds, fish, mice, snakes, and other small to medium sized prey such a lizards. They hunt at night, sleeping in the daylight hours where they are draped along a high tree limb of sheltered in a den.

Ocelots are found in south Texas at Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, both near Alamo and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge near Brownsville.

Bats

Mexican Free-Tailed Bat | USFWS
Mexican Free-Tailed Bat | USFWS

As one of the poster species for Halloween, bats are nocturnal and also the only mammal that can fly! Although the saying goes “bling as a bat”, bats actually have excellent eyesight and navigate through echolocation.

All bats found in the United States feed only on insects (the one exception is the Jamaican fruit-eating bat that eats insects and fruit). Moths, mosquitos, and beetles are typical meals for these flying friends that can eat one half of it’s body weight in just one night.

Bats can be found all across the Refuge System! They have an incredible ability to acclimate to their environment and can be found all across the country. Typically, they reside in caves where they have access to water, safe places to hide from predators, and plenty of food.

 

Owls

Owls are an incredibly diverse and interesting family of birds. From the dark brown great horned owl, to the bright white snowy owl, these birds have a wide range of color, habitat, food, and physical features.

Barred Owl at Malheur NWR | Ray Bosch/USFWS

There are 19 species of owl in North America and most of them are nocturnal carnivores. Like most owls, the Barred Owl hunts small animals, especially rodents. The Great Horned owl on the other hand frequently eats larger mammals such as skunks!

Some owls live in large, mature forests made up of both deciduous trees and evergreens, often nesting in the tree cavities. However some owls live in other habitats such as the Barn Owl that prefers large areas of open land where they can hunt or the Burrowing Owl which nests in holes in the ground.

As you are out on Halloween night, trick or treating, out on a refuge, or something else, see if you can spot some of these critters or others that lurk in the night. Happy Halloween!

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Perpetrators, Not Taxpayers, Should Pay – the Resource Protection Act http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/perpetrators-not-taxpayers-should-pay-the-resource-protection-act/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/perpetrators-not-taxpayers-should-pay-the-resource-protection-act/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:45:48 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10619

Continue reading »]]> Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 9.43.04 AMWildlife refuge signs spray painted with obscene graffiti greeted Bill McCoy, last June when he arrived for work at Indiana’s Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge. He often finds dumped construction debris, tires, empty six-packs and other discards on refuge lands.

At another wildlife refuge, someone illegally bulldozed almost a mile of road and nearly two acres of hardwood bottomland habitat, leveling over 400 deciduous trees. The perpetrator also burned several hundred yards on refuge land and dammed a creek, damages exceeding $175,000.

Burned picnic tables, a pipe-bombed toilet, vegetation ripped out of the ground, signs punctured by bullets, bashed kiosks, chemical spills – these are all real examples of vandalism inflicted on national wildlife refuges.

Current law leaves the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “holding the bag,” an empty bag in fact because the Service cannot recover the costs of repairing damage and destruction to its wildlife refuges. If responsible parties are convicted, civil fines go into the general U.S. treasury, not to the Service. The only way it can be reimbursed is by additional appropriations from Congress.

To solve this problem, Congress is considering a bill, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Resource Protection Act (S. 2560). Under the bill, the Service could seek compensation and recover some costs to restore, replace or acquire equivalent resources when refuge property is damaged.

The Senate Environment & Public Works Committee held a hearing on the bill in July, a step toward passage, and advocates are pushing for Congressional approval in the “lame duck” session, starting November 12. The provision was also included in the Senate’s version of the FY 2016 Interior appropriations bill, which will also be considered in the lame duck.

The Taxpayer Pays

Wooden signs, two feet by three feet, cost around $300 each to replace says McCoy, a refuge manager who has worked for the Fish and Wildlife Service for 45 years. Large wildlife refuge entry signs, shot through with bullet holes, can cost $600-$700 per sign. He had to hire a truck and winch to pull 45 tires out of the river. He pays the local landfill $35 per truckload for the debris he has to haul there. “Everyday roadside dumping never seems to stop,” he commented recently.

These costs add up over the nearly half a billion acres of public land and waters for which the Refuge System is responsible. In 2010, the Refuge System had 39 reported arson offenses resulting in losses of almost $850,000. In 2011, the Refuge System saw 2,400 vandalism offenses totaling $404,000 in loss, a 33-percent jump over 2010. Why should taxpayers foot the bill for these crimes? Perpetrators should pay for the damage they cause.

Eating into Services 

It’s not just an issue of cost. Repairing the damage takes resources away from the Service’s core responsibilities and programs. Without this bill, the agency has to swallow the costs out of its operations and maintenance budget, which already faces a shortfall of over $400 million each year. It is unfair to expect refuge managers to use funds designated for wildlife habitat protection to pay for irresponsible behavior and damages that refuge staff do not cause. Refuge managers should not have to curb or sacrifice programs because of vandals’ reckless pranks and shenanigans.

Empowering an agency to recover this kind of injury has precedent. The U.S. National Park Service has had authority since 1996 to seek compensation when park resources are harmed through vandalism, encroachment or chemical spills. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has similar authority for its marine sanctuaries.

Congress should extend the same authority to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to save taxpayer dollars and to save our natural resources. At a time when the Refuge System has already experienced a 20-percent cut in funding in just four years, every dollar counts.

 

Please take action today. Join our Refuge Action Network, and send your elected lawmakers in Congress a letter urging them to pass the Resources Protection Act.

 

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Mark Musaus Appointed New Regional Representative, Southeast Region http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/mark-musaus-appointed-new-regional-representative-southeast-region/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/mark-musaus-appointed-new-regional-representative-southeast-region/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:23:42 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10610

Continue reading »]]> DSCN0139The National Wildlife Refuge Association is pleased to welcome Mark Musaus as its new Regional Representative for the Southeast Region. Musaus will represent the Refuge Association to facilitate communication between local stakeholders, nonprofits and the Service about issues dealing with government affairs and conservation programs in the southeast region.

“Mark’s extensive background working with the southeast refuges and their surrounding communities provide the perfect background to succeed as our Region Four Regional Representative,” said David Houghton, President of the Refuge Association. “Mark has the dedication and expertise necessary for this position and will be an excellent addition to the Refuge Association team.”

Musaus retired in December 2012 as the Deputy Regional Director for the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after a 38+ year career. He was selected for the Fish and Wildlife Service Student Trainee Program in 1974, serving one summer at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. He has served as assistant refuge manager at Choctaw (AL), J.N. Ding Darling (FL), Piedmont (GA), and Tennessee (TN) national wildlife refuges, and as the deputy project leader at Savannah Coastal Refuges (GA).

In 1998, he was selected as the project leader for the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee and Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuges. In May 2007 he accepted the Chief of the Division of Visitor Services and Communications for the National Wildlife Refuge System. There he administered recreation and visitor use including hunting and fishing programs, environmental education, wildlife observation and photography on 550 national wildlife refuges. From January 2012 until he retired he served in the role of deputy regional director for the Service’s southeast region. He helped oversee supervision of 1,500 employees in 10 states and the Caribbean in diverse Service programs ranging from the National Wildlife Refuge System to the Endangered Species Program, Migratory Birds, and Wildlife Law Enforcement.

Musaus received the Refuge Manager of the Year Award in 2000, the Department of Interior Superior Service Award in 2001, and the DOI Take Pride in America, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Federal Land Manager of the Year award in 2005.

 

Click here to read the full press release.

 

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Fire Prevention Saves the Day at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/fire-prevention-saves-the-day-at-kenai-national-wildlife-refuge/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/fire-prevention-saves-the-day-at-kenai-national-wildlife-refuge/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 19:06:52 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10604

Continue reading »]]> During the past spring’s Funny River Fire, two fuel breaks created along the refuge boundary helped save thousands of homes and other structures from destruction.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 3.04.40 PMThanks in part to the fuel breaks, no one was injured and only four seasonal cabins in remote locations were lost. When the fire met the fuel breaks, it slowed down enough to buy the firefighters some time and space to conduct burn-out operations around several subdivisions.

Fuel breaks are areas where vegetation is cleared or thinned so the burning slows. On Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, they were constructed with funding from the refuge’s hazardous fuels reduction program. Refuge Manager Andy Loranger credits the refuge’s partners the Alaska Division of Forestry and Cook Inlet Region, Inc. for making this happen.

Through a cooperative agreement, the Division of Forestry cleared a 200-foot-wide area on private land that is owned by Cook Inlet Region, Inc. The stretch on refuge land thinned understory 100-150 feet wide.

The Funny River Fire began at the refuge on May 19 – an early start to the fire season. The communities of Soldotna, Funny River, Kasilof, and Sterling were in the direct path of the fire. It eventually covered 195,858 acres and was mostly contained on the two million acre refuge. However, it continued to burn for more than a month. Without the fuel treatments it’s likely the homes would have been lost on the northern flank.

Fuel treatments are incredible investments protecting an average of $165 worth of protected residential, commercial, and industrial structures for every $1 spent.

Assessment of the burned area will begin in 2015 to determine if any rehabilitation is needed on the 10 percent of the refuge touched by fire.

Read the full story on Refuge Update here.

 

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Refuge Week, a Great Success! http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/refuge-week-a-great-success/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/refuge-week-a-great-success/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:25:54 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10598

Continue reading »]]> Refuge Week has come and gone, and what a fun week it was! From events all across the country, to the massive participation on social media, thousands of wildlife fans shared their love of our national wildlife refuges far and wide.

We were thrilled by the number of people who sent us photos they’ve taken at their favorite wildlife refuge! We asked our friends, followers and readers to send us photos, and in the end we got more than 600 photos! We created a slideshow with some of our favorites, and a flickr album to help share these inspiring pictures that truly capture the wonder of nature and our national wildlife refuges. Thanks to everyone who participated!

 

 

Here are a few reasons why we love our refuges, and everyone who supports them:

Wildlife Refuges are a Haven for Wildlife:

National wildlife refuges provide a haven for wildlife, ensuring a diversity of species that thrive and prosper. They also provide a place for people to visit and learn all about conservation and the natural world. In turn those visitors generate an economic return to the community. Refuges provide huge economic benefits to the surrounding community returning almost $5 for every $1 appropriated to the community.

Friends Support the Refuge System:

Friends contribute approximately 20% of the work done on refuges. They also aid immensely in the never ending battle of getting adequate funding for refuges, and make an enormous difference on Capitol Hill by educating Congress about the importance of their local refuge.

Even though Refuge Week is ending, you can still get out and enjoy your local refuge! For more information about what is happening in the Refuge System, sign up for our Flyer E-Newsletter, sign up to receive Action Alerts, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and consider making a donation to help us continue to protect wildlife.

 

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Appreciating National Wildlife Refuges http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/appreciating-national-wildlife-refuges/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/appreciating-national-wildlife-refuges/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:26:55 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10585

Continue reading »]]> National Wildlife Refuge Week is in full swing and we couldn’t be more excited about all the events that have happened and continue to happen. Amidst all of the celebrations, we are reminded to stop and think about why we are celebrating in the first place. What is so great about the National Wildlife Refuge System anyways? If you were wondering, you came to the right place to find out.

Havens for Wildlife

Pronghorn Family, one of the many species that benefits from large tracts of connected land | Bob Gress
Pronghorn Family, one of the many species that benefits from large tracts of connected land | Bob Gress

The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to “administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.”

Wildlife refuges provide large tracts of land that provide safe and healthy habitat for wildlife, plants, insects, etc. Different than national parks or forests, wildlife refuges are managed for wildlife first to ensure their protection. Refuge managers make management decisions based on what is best for the wildlife on the refuge and in the surrounding areas.

Wildlife also benefits sheerly from the land being protected. Without the land being developed, wildlife has more habitat. In addition, having large tracts of land reduces fragmentation which can lead to edge effects and separated populations. Both fragmentation and edge effects result in reduced populations of wildlife species.

Also, large swaths of land allows species to migrate and shift their ranges in response to seasonal and climatic fluctuations. Climate change is resulting in warmer average temperatures resulting in species shifting their ranges either north or south to reach ideal climates. Refuges give them space to do this so that they are less likely to shift into developed areas.

Without wildlife refuges, the world’s largest network of public lands and water, many wildlife species would be extinct by now. Refuges ensure that wildlife will be around for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

Benefits to surrounding communities:

Not only are wildlife refuges vital for some species’ survival, they also provide many additional benefits to the surrounding communities.

Many wildlife refuges act as outdoor classrooms where visitors of all ages can come and learn about the local ecology, and the environment in general. Programs range from bird watching for the blind, to boardwalk tours that teach about different kinds of animal scat.

Refuges also provide economic benefits. Refuges:

Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. One of the many programs across the Refuge System that provides environmental education to America's youth. | USFWS
Puddle Stompers at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. One of the many programs across the Refuge System that provides environmental education to America’s youth. | USFWS
  • Generate more than $2.4 billion for local economies and create nearly 35,000 U.S. jobs annually;
  • Protect clean air and safe drinking water for nearby communities;
  • Attract approximately 46.5 million visitors each year, offering activities such as wildlife-watching, hunting, fishing, photography, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and environmental education;

For every $1 appropriated to the Refuge System, an average of $4.87 is returned to local economies.

National wildlife refuges provide places for people to get out into nature and reconnect with the natural world. They also provide a place to recreate and hike, fish, birdwatch, photograph, and much more!

Wildlife refuges provide immense benefits that are worth celebrating. We hope you enjoy your Refuge Week and don’t forget about what you are celebrating!


The National Wildlife Refuge Association works to protect these refuges and the surrounding areas. We can’t do it without your help. Please consider making a donation to help us protect even more wildlife and habitat.

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Friends and Refuges: A Valuable Partnership http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/friends-and-refuges-a-valuable-partnership/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/friends-and-refuges-a-valuable-partnership/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 16:06:10 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10572

Continue reading »]]>

Friends lobbying on the Hill. From left to right: Joan Patterson, Director of Grassroots Outreach at the Refuge Association; Birgie Miller, "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society; Mike McMinn, Friends of Nisqually NWR; Andy Fisk, Friends of Silvio O. Conte NFWR; Cheryll Hart, Friends of Tualatin RIver National WIldlife Refuge; Judith and Bill Jewell, Friends of Louisiana Wildlife | Emily Paciolla
Friends lobbying on the Hill. From left to right: Joan Patterson, Director of Grassroots Outreach at the Refuge Association; Birgie Miller, “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society; Mike McMinn, Friends of Nisqually NWR; Andy Fisk, Friends of Silvio O. Conte NFWR; Cheryll Hart, Friends of Tualatin RIver National WIldlife Refuge; Judith and Bill Jewell, Friends of Louisiana Wildlife | Emily Paciolla

Did you know that volunteers and refuge “Friends” do approximately 20 percent of all work on national wildlife refuges – the equivalent of 648 full time employees?

Friends groups exist to support national wildlife refuges, and they do just that in many different capacities. Friends volunteers to do restoration work, handle publicity for the refuge, host events, manage and run nature stores, and much more. Without Friends groups, the Refuge System would not be what it is today!

The concept of public stewardship of our nation’s wildlife and habitat has its roots in President Theodore Roosevelt’s foresight in setting aside large areas of the public domain for wildlife and public enjoyment. In 1903, he established Pelican Island in Florida as the first national wildlife refuge. But lacking federal funds for staff, the first refuge warden started as a volunteer, laying the foundation for citizen commitment to our national wildlife refuges.

Today there are 230 Friends organizations working in support of refuges across the nation, with 40,000 volunteers contributing 1.3 million hours a year to the Refuge System.

One of the many benefits Friends provide to the Refuge System is lobbying on behalf of the System. Friends have helped significantly increase the Refuge System Operations and Maintenance budget and get significant legislation passed. Friends make a real difference on the ground and on Capitol Hill.

If you are a Friends member or want to become one, check out Refuge Friends Connect! Your go-to guide to all things Friends.

As you celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week, don’t forget about the wonderful Friends groups that enhance this amazing system of public lands!

 

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Support the Refuge Association through the Combined Federal Campaign http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/support-the-refuge-association-through-the-combined-federal-campaign/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/support-the-refuge-association-through-the-combined-federal-campaign/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 16:25:55 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10499

Continue reading »]]> NWRA CFC #10076Attention Federal Employees!

As you know, the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) is the annual fund-raising drive conducted by federal employees in their workplace each fall. Each year, federal employees and military personnel raise millions of dollars through the CFC, benefiting thousands of non-profit charities like the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

Contributing through CFC is a unique and easy way to support the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Please help us make a difference for the Refuge System by checking #10076 on your contribution form. This year, a new search tool makes it even easier to find us. CFC donations help us carry out our mission of protecting the integrity of the National Wildlife Refuge System by building community support and educating decision-makers about the importance of refuges for wildlife conservation.

Since the first campaign in 1964, CFC has brought in over $7 billion for charities. Last year alone more than 800,000 employees donated over $209 million to charities including the National Wildlife Refuge Association. We cannot protect wildlife and ensure that refuges will be around for future generations without your help.

Every donation makes a big difference!

Click here to learn more about how the Refuge Association helps protect America’s wildlife refuges.

Click here for our CFC Flyer

For more information, visit the CFC website here.

View the Press Release for this year’s campaign here.

 

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It’s Almost Refuge Week! http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/its-almost-refuge-week/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/its-almost-refuge-week/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 18:59:52 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10468

Continue reading »]]> Next week is National Wildlife Refuge Week! There are events happening all over the country. Do you have any plans for Refuge Week? If so, let us know in the comments!

Kids and adults painted with their hands in “Art with your hands” during Refuge Week at Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS
Kids and adults painted with their hands in “Art with your hands” during Refuge Week at Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS

The Refuge Association is in full force gearing up for a week of celebrations surrounding our favorite thing – the Refuge System! We know that visitors to refuges love these spaces as well and also love to take photos of these incredible landscapes. That is why we asked you to share some favorite photographs you have taken while visiting your favorite wildlife refuge. So far, we’ve gotten an overwhelming number of beautiful shots and can’t wait to share.

If you want to submit a photo, simply use #seerefuges on instagram, facebook, or twitter, or just email your photos to epaciolla@refugeassociation. We’ll be posting about 2 photos per day, so keep an eye out to see if your picture has been chosen.

Next week our blogs and Flyer will also be Refuge Week themed! Keep an eye out for all things Refuge Week. Be sure to check out our blog, and if you haven’t already, sign up for our newsletter, the Flyer.

If you don’t have plans yet, be sure to check out the Refuge System’s list of events here.

 

Here are some highlights:

October 11-19: Various Events

Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, OH

The Refuge will be hosting a variety of events all throughout Refuge Week! On October 11 is the Big Sit Birding Event, and international day of birding. Also on OCtober 11 is a Naturalists Meeting. On October 14 you and your family and friends can enjoy a Night with the Stars. On October 15 bring the kids out to At Home in a Habitat. October 18 is a photography scavenger hunt. Finally, on October 19 is a Hayride and Live Raptors on a Middle Island Adventure. Click here for more details!

 

October 11: Walking Tour (2pm-3pm)

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA

“The nation’s 561 national wildlife refuges protect wildlife habitat while cleaning our air, filtering our water and pollinating our crops. They also provide world- class hunting and fishing and hiking. Come with us on a walking tour as we explore the 1st urban national wildlife refuge and learn about the unique habitats that are in your very own backyard. Questions? Call Julie: 408-262-5513 ext.104.” Reservations required.

 

October 11: Wildlife Festival (starting at 9am)

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, FL

This event is filled with tons of wildlife-centric activities such as a sea turtle obstacle course, live snake displays, shorebird photo presentation, a bioluminescent kayaking trip, and more! Click here for more details.

 

October 12 The Big Sit!

Scores of refuges will host this annual birding event in which teams count and report bird species seen or heard from a 17-foot-diameter circle. Refuges participating include:

 

October 12-18: Sunset Walks every night (5:30pm- dark)

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, NJ

Join us to watch the many species of migrating ducks that descend into the Refuge pools to spend the night. It’s awesome! Easy walk on service roads. Van available Sunday and Thursday nights; space in the van is limited – reservations required. Meet at Bluebird Parking Lot, 197 Pleasant Plains Rd., Harding Township, NJ.

 

October 19: Guided Birding Tour (9am-11am) and Reception (1pm-3pm)

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, NY

For the birding tour, join refuge staff and volunteers for a tour of the refuge with visits to birding hot spots. The reception will feature live music by Jim Clare and Perry Cleaveland with fall favorite snacks and beverages.

Monica Harris and Blue Goose wave to the audience during Refuge Week at Savannah Refuges Complex | Garry Tucker, USFWS
Monica Harris and Blue Goose wave to the audience during Refuge Week at Savannah Refuges Complex | Garry Tucker, USFWS

 

Don’t forget to tell us your plans in the comments below!

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Pioneer of Kodiak Brown Bear Biology Passes Away at Age 89 http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/pioneer-of-kodiak-brown-bear-biology-passes-away-at-age-89/ http://refugeassociation.org/2014/10/pioneer-of-kodiak-brown-bear-biology-passes-away-at-age-89/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 12:48:19 +0000 http://refugeassociation.org/?p=10463

Continue reading »]]> A pioneer of capturing and tracking bears, a wildlife enthusiast, and a force to be reckoned with, Will Troyer passed away September 21 at the age of 89 in Alaska.

Troyer lived life to the fullest, as they like to say. Not one to shy away from adventure, Troyer reportedly escaped death three times, and that doesn’t include his close calls with bears. One time he went over a waterfall in a raft, and the other two times were crashes in small planes; in one crash he had to be cut out of the wreckage.

Troyer conducting a swan nest survey at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS
Troyer conducting a swan nest survey at Kenai National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS

Troyer feared nothing, which is probably why he decided to become one of the first to capture and trap Kodiak brown bears in Alaska. Before 1955 when Troyer began tracking the bears, very little was known about them.

As refuge manager of Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, Troyer made it his mission to learn more about these great bears, which can weigh over 1,400 pounds. Troyer’s first method was to use ether to subdue the bears. He and his team quickly learned that ether worked better on humans than bears, and had to be careful not to inhale too much to avoid passing out before the bear. After a few close encounters, the team decided to try an alternative method – leg-hold traps.

The first few times they lassoed the animals, tied them down, and anesthetized them, they were able to successfully take measurements and release the bears to go on their way. It wasn’t until they had a run-in with a bear cub and its momma that Troyer decided there might be a better method. Troyer’s trial and error methods and work became the foundation for future bear and other wildlife capture techniques around North America.

Troyer and his airplane that he flew and landed onto Surprise Mountain in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS
Troyer and his airplane that he flew and landed onto Surprise Mountain in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS

Eventually, Troyer moved on to become manager of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, where he initiated the Swan Lake and Swanson canoe trails that are now nationally recognized by canoeing enthusiasts. After leaving the Refuge System, Troyer continued his work with bears for the National Park Service. He retired in 1981, but didn’t slow down a bit. He spent his time writing and consulting, spending nearly every day outdoors – always observing.

Troyer received the prestigious Olaus Murie Award from the Alaska Conservation Foundation in 1987 for his life’s work in wildlife conservation. Throughout his career, he also published three books: From Dawn to Dusk: Memoirs of an Amish/Mennonite Farm Boy; Into Brown Bear Country; and Bear Wrangler: Memoirs of an Alaska Pioneer Biologist.

Kevin Painter, a Service regional environmental education specialist in Alaska, says Troyer was “ahead of his time, leading the way with innovative ideas and plans of action from wildlife research to visitor services. He dedicated his life’s work to being a good steward of the people’s lands.  He was role model for many in Alaska.”

For more information, see the article in Alaska Dispatch News, and Refuge Update.

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