Tag Archives: department of interior

A Blue Whale-sized Milestone

Cleanup workers at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in Southern New Jersey have been busy of late, hauling garbage out of the marshes that line a 22-mile stretch of coastline near Atlantic City. The debris was dumped there when Hurricane Sandy made landfall at the refuge’s doorstep, sweeping up all manner of jetsam from the densely populated surrounding area and depositing it, as it were, on the front porch.

Debris scattered by Hurricane Sandy across the coastal marshes at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

Debris scattered by Hurricane Sandy across the coastal marshes at E.B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

Crews have been working through brutally cold days this winter to complete the cleanup in Brick Township. When the cleanup ends,the Service will begin restoring the marshes, making them a stronger front line protecting coastal communities during future storms.

The Service oversees work being done to remove debris from fragile marsh areas.  (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

The Service oversees work being done to remove debris from fragile marsh areas. (Credit Ryan Hagerty/USFWS)

As of early March, about 200 tons of debris—roughly the equivalent of a blue whale in sheer mass—have been removed, including boats, docks, remains of buildings, barrels, drums and fuel tanks, some of which contained contaminants.

“Lands protected as a part of Forsythe Refuge buffered inland areas from the full brunt of Hurricane Sandy…we will clean and restore this vibrant and resilient stretch of coast to sustain wildlife and protect the people of New Jersey in the future,” said Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig.

Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig gives Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell a tour of the marsh at Forsythe. (Credit Keith Shannon/USFWS)

Refuge Manager Virginia Rettig gives Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell a tour of the marsh at Forsythe. (Credit Keith Shannon/USFWS)

Click here to read about how and where the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is working to restore natural areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy. You can also view photos of cleanup projects here.

The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 47,000 acres of southern New Jersey coastal habitats which are actively managed for migratory birds.

Wildlife Hunger Games

thomas barnes

I’m Tom, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s new communications intern. If I’m not out fetching coffee, I’ll be sharing important or entertaining conservation stories here every Friday. Credit: USFWS

Whether you’re in a post-Thanksgiving turkey coma or eating popcorn at the premiere of “Catching Fire,” food is on everyone’s mind, wildlife included. And for good reason — animals across the Northeast are preparing to sustain themselves during the coming winter months.

Temperatures are dropping and food is getting scarce. Of course, wildlife have adapted in numerous ways to deal with long winters.

Have you ever wished you could sleep the winter away? I certainly have. Many animals, like the American black bear (Ursus americanus), spend the winter hibernating. We actually call their winter denning “dormancy,” since bears aren’t true hibernators, and some might not den if food is available. After bulking up during the fall, putting on up to anywhere around 15 pounds a week, a black bear can doze for up to 100 days at a stretch by regulating its metabolism. Its body temperature drops by around 12 degrees, and by midwinter, its heart rate can drop as low as only eight beats per minute.

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The American black bear spends autumn bulking up for its winter dormancy.
Same with me. Credit: USFWS.

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Hibernating bats, like the northern long-eared bat, are prone to White Nose syndrome here in the northeast. Credit: USFWS.

Black bears aren’t the only ones holing up for winter. The northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) typically increases its body weight by 35 percent or more before retreating to a hibernaculum. Throughout winter, bats periodically rouse anywhere from a few days to weeks to move between hibernacula, before their heart rate and body temperature is again dramatically lowered to conserve energy. Sadly, a disease caused by a cold-loving fungus has swept through these hibernation sites, causing populations of the bats to plummet, dropping 99 percent at some sites across the Northeast.

Instead of taking shelter during the winter, the rufa red knot (Calidris canutus rufa) takes wing — sometimes flying up to 9,300 miles to reach its wintering grounds in Chile and Argentina. Researchers nicknamed one particular red knot “Moonbird,” after they found it had flown 242,350 miles in 13 years, more than the average distance from the earth to the moon. That’s more than my car could drive, certainly. To make this intercontinental migration twice a year, these shorebirds time their stopovers with the spawning season of clams and crabs along the way, sometimes flying 1,500 miles at a stretch.

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Red Knots sometimes winter as far away as South America! Credit: USFWS.

The New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) stays active during the winter, foraging for food around its thicket habitats. In fact, snow cover allows the cottontail to reach higher foods than in the fall or summer. Shoots, seedlings, bark and twigs of young trees like birch and aspen are all on the menu. Compared to their summer ranges, these rabbits have to travel much more widely to find food.

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Can you spot the New England cottontail? It depends on its thicket and young forest to escape both the eyes of predators and people that read blogs. Photo via Flickr.

Check out what these other northeast animals do in the winter!

How will you be spending this winter? Hibernating like the northern long-eared bat, or flying south like the rufa red knot? For me, this day after Thanksgiving, I may just stick to the theater.

Tom can be reached at thomas_c_barnes@fws.gov.