Tag Archives: endangered

Snail Blazers! Creating a future for one of New York State’s tiniest residents

Imagine yourself in the mist zone of a waterfall.

You are surrounded by dense moss and vegetation and cascading dripping wet rocks.

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Chittenango Falls, USFWS

In Chittenango Falls State Park in upstate New York lives several hundred tiny, rare animals that evolved over 2 million years ago.

The Chittenango ovate amber snails are unique to the Empire State meaning you won’t find them anywhere else in the world!

This population is the only known living wild population of these snails at the edge of this waterfall in Chittenango Falls State Park.

The snail, affectionately referred to as “the Chit” or COAS is named for its home. They have a beautiful ovate, egg-shaped shell with amber coloring. The snails thrive in the mist zone of the waterfall, and feed on leaves of plants growing on nearby rocks and vegetation.

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Up-close of a COAS in captivity. USFWS

For years, biologists feared that a single, catastrophic event such as a toxic spill, could wipe out the entire population of COAS.

This potential devastating truth almost happened after a huge rockslide into their habitat in 2006. This event prompted action and a collaborative partnership emerged between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, SUNY-ESF, the New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo to breed and rear the COAS in captivity with intent to release individuals in to the wild.

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COAS length assessment to document health of the population. USFWS

In the summer season biologists and dedicated volunteers make regular trips to the falls site to complete a species survey and evaluate the health of the COAS population.

On the first of survey of the 2018 season a miraculous event occurred.

Not only were 42 captive reared COAS released in to the wild, but a COAS that was bred in captivity and released last year was found.

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Here is “white 14” the COAS that was captive reared and released last year. USFWS

This finding is monumental!

This means that individual not only was able to find food and support itself, but was able to overwinter successfully. This is so important as it reinforces the captive rearing techniques being refined at SUNY-ESF and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo.

Some people ask, “Why put all this effort in to protecting a snail?” “What would happen if we just let it go extinct?”

The answer to those questions is we don’t really know, but all species have a role.

In addition, as a federally listed species, the public has entrusted the Service with responsibilities towards recovering the COAS.

The COAS has many champions forging ahead to conserve and protect them. It all stems from a cooperative effort to looking to prevent extinction and maintain a successful wild population one snail at a time.

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Captive reared, released, and re-captured “white 14”  with USFWS biologist Robyn Niver. USFWS

 

 

 

Cooperation, conversation and conservation

Today you’re hearing from Ted Kendziora, biologist with our New England Field Office in Concord. Ted’s career in natural resources has brought him to places ranging from New Hampshire to Florida and from work with the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture to consulting with private firms. His work has focused on species surveys, regulations, development, and habitat restoration.

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Dr. Glenney, left, and Ted Kendziora, right, on the work site. Credit: Patrick Skahill / WNPR

Connecticut Public Radio reporter Patrick Skahill pulled up and got out of his car to greet me. His microphone and recorder were already strapped to his chest. It’s go time, but I’m not sure if I’m ready. What kinds of questions would he ask? Would my responses make sense?

We had an army at the project site to meet Patrick, where we were in the process of removing pockets of trees to improve young forest habitat (think: the sounds of roaring machinery, cracking tree trunks and breaking branches in the background). The landowner, his grandson, USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service staff, the landowner’s forester, logger, and I had gathered early to go over what I thought was going to be asked of us. We were all good. We are all professionals. But no doubt about it, I was nervous.

As I said, Patrick showed up ready to go. We all greeted him and he asked if we were ready, and then he began recording. He held up his microphone, which was covered in fur and looked like the size of a rabbit (have I mentioned that this project will benefit the New England cottontail?), and asked us our names. We all went silent. I think I told him my name was Ken Kendz, no, Ted Kendziora. Great start, right?

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Old growth is removed to make way for young forest, the preferred habitat for many species, like New England cottontail! Credit: Patrick Skahill / WNPR

Well, after several minutes, things began to loosen up. We all started talking, and eventually it was like the microphone wasn’t even there anymore. I even caught myself during one of my comments, and had to change my thought mid-sentence to make it a little more family friendly I guess. (I was trying to describe how all kinds of animals seek out young forest habitat–it’s like a mall where they can get food, shelter and meet other people. I was about to say to hook-up. Oops.)

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This is a New England cottontail. Credit: Tom Barnes / USFWS

So back to my topic: Perspective. As a wildlife biologist focused on private lands, I spend a lot of my time talking with landowners and seeking to understand what they’d like their land to be like. Looking at a project from another point of view has helped me to understand what other people see and what we can do that will help them and help wildlife.

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This is the New England cottontail from a different angle. Credit: Tom Barnes / USFWS

While talking to Patrick, I explained that I had met with landowner, Dr. Chris Glenney, to gain an understanding of what he and his family wanted on their property. What you didn’t hear in the interview was that this understanding came after about two years of communications with Dr. Glenney, now 90 years old, and his 7+/- children, 30+/- grandchildren, and not to mention his great-grandchildren (and I write this with a smile on my face). He’s protecting the land from development through a conservation easement, while still allowing his family to manage a Christmas tree farm, a sawmill, a blueberry harvest, and an irrigation pond.

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This is that same New England cottontail, but much closer up. (Credit: Tom Barnes / USFWS)

After several phone calls, meetings, site visits, and dinners with the family, we all created an agreement of what we wanted the property to look like. Fortunately, Dr. Glenney’s vision and our agency’s goals were on the same path. He wanted a young forest. Not for cottontail, but for birds. The birds he had on his property over 50 years ago: grouse, bobwhite quail, and American woodcock.

Fortunately for us, those birds like what New England cottontails like: thick shrubs, saplings, and young trees. We must create more of this habitat to bring back New England’s only native rabbit. The project happily married our visions.

Understanding what the Glenneys wanted for their property made it very easy for me to communicate with all of them. Each person had their own opinion or point of view, but we worked together and made this project happen.

The WNPR interview gave me an opportunity to hear each person share their unique point of view on this project. It was a pleasant reminder of our different perspectives, and a good illustration of how joining differing ideas can be a success.

I certainly learned many things that will help me on my next project.

Read the original interview at WNPR.

 

Stephanie Koch holds a red knot on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Credit: Meagan Racey/USFWS

Protecting the red knot under the Endangered Species Act

The rufa red knot undertakes a marathon migration, flying thousands of miles from breeding areas in the Canadian Arctic, along coastal and inland migration corridors, to wintering areas in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern U.S., the Caribbean, and South America.

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Many of these robin-sized birds make a staggering migration of 9,300 miles each way, wintering on Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. The oldest known rufa red knot, called B95 for the number on his leg flag, has flown enough miles in his lifetime to journey to the moon and at least halfway back.

While B95 has lived long—at least 20 years—and traveled many miles, many rufa red knots have not fared as well. In the 1800s, unregulated hunting in North America devastated red knot populations, which eventually rebounded. But since the 1980s, knot numbers have dropped by roughly 75 percent in some areas, with the steepest declines resulting from overharvest of the horseshoe crab, whose eggs are one of the knot’s key food sources during migration. Today knots face significant threats from coastal development, dredging, sea walls, oil spills, and—more recently—climate change.

The knot’s future is closely linked to further impacts from climate change. Many of the threats facing the knot are driven by our changing climate—including disappearing habitat and food resources. These birds spend most of their time along the coasts or at the extreme latitudes of the Western Hemisphere, the areas undergoing the most rapid climate change.

Today, we propose to protect the knot as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 40 U.S. coastal and inland states and 24 foreign countries and their administrative territories or regions. Our proposal follows a thorough scientific review of the best available data on the rufa red knot. The added protection of the Endangered Species Act would strengthen numerous conservation efforts that are already underway in the U.S. and many countries, and help ensure the future of the knot.

Want to help?

  • You can visit our red knot site to learn more, comment or provide information on the proposed rule.
  • Learn what role your “backyard” plays in the life cycle of the knot and contact conservation groups for information on how you can help ensure that it continues providing the knot with what it needs.
  • Be a citizen scientist! Report knot and other shorebird sightings at bandedbirds.org and ebird.org.