Tag Archives: nysdec

At Brave Boat Harbor and Upper Wells, trees had grown too mature to provide habitat for cottontails. Their leafy crowns cut off sunlight, causing ground-covering food plants to die off. Leaving plenty of other middle-aged forest, trees were harvested on less than 5 percent of the forest as part of an effort to manage young forest across 25 acres. The area is now growing into a dense thicket and becoming great habitat for cottontails and other wildlife, such as gray catbird, a type of shrubland bird. Credit: USFWS

Loggers clear 30 acres for cottontail habitat in NY

Check out this story from New York Outdoor News! We recently finished the primary phase of our first private lands project with owner Benny Caoila in Patterson, New York. In March 2015, we harvested small areas of trees on 30 acres to provide space for young trees, shrubs and plants to grow.

BY JEFF MURRAY, NY OUTDOOR NEWS

Benny Caiola is a real estate developer, but for the next several years, he’s going to be developing some of his land with a different goal in mind — restoration of the New England cottontail rabbit.

If you see rabbits sneaking into your garden or running ahead of your beagles, you are most likely watching the eastern cottontail.

But the eastern variety is actually an import, introduced into New York decades ago to replace a once-populous native, the New England cottontail. Now state and federal wildlife officials are launching a project to restore the New England cottontail to much of its original range, and Caiola and other landowners will be on the front lines of the effort.

Partners (loggers Joe Zarecki and Faun Koplovsky, forester Doug Ramey, Ted Kendziora with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) stand in front of our first private landowner project in New York. Photo courtesy of Benny

Partners (loggers Joe Zarecki and Faun Koplovsky, forester Doug Ramey, Ted Kendziora with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) stand in front of our first private landowner project in New York. Photo courtesy of Benny

Caiola, who lives in Larchmont, Westchester County, owns 300 acres in Patterson, in Putnam County, that adjoins about 1,000 acres of state land. The land is primarily forest that had been logged at some time in the past.

“Doug Ramey from East-West Forestry Associates, whom I’ve used in the past, had reached out to me about a habitat project that was taking place on the adjoining state property,” Caiola said. “He explained to me that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was conducting this work and that there was possibly some grant money that was available if I was interested. I told him that I was and he proceeded to set up a meeting with Ted Kendziora from U.S. Fish and Wildlife as well as Doug Little from the National Wild Turkey Federation.

“(Kendziora) explained to me that this type of habitat restoration additionally benefits approximately 40-plus species, like turkey and deer,” he said. “It was pretty much a no-brainer for me.”

The New England cottontail has inhabited parts of New York and New England for thousands of years, but habitat destruction has greatly reduced the numbers and range of the native bunny.

Sure, it doesn't look so great now, but wait a growing season. This place becomes a hotspot for food and shelter for tons of wildlife. Photo courtesy of Benny.

Sure, it doesn’t look so great now, but wait a growing season. This place becomes a hotspot for food and shelter for tons of wildlife. Photo courtesy of Benny.

The eastern cottontail, which to the untrained eye is almost identical to its New England cousin, was introduced to the region in the early 20th Century, and flourished. Despite their similar appearance, the eastern cottontail was better able to adjust to shrinking habitat than its native counterpart, said Meagan Racey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public affairs specialist.

“Biologists believe that their larger eyes and sharper vision lets eastern cottontails venture farther from protective cover while remaining able to spot and evade predators. Eastern cottontails seem better able to survive in the fragmented habitats of southern New England, including open fields, forest edges, small thickets, and even golf courses and suburban lawns,” Racey said. “In many smaller habitat patches, eastern cottontails have replaced New England cottontails. They may simply be able to survive in habitats that New England cottontails cannot use, and they may be better able to find and occupy new habitats as they become available.”

Here's an 'after' example from another one of Ted's projects. Credit: USFWS

Here’s an ‘after’ example from another one of Ted’s projects. Credit: USFWS

The goal of the project is to recreate large tracts of the type of habitat conducive to survival of the New England cottontail rabbit.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is partnering with state wildlife agencies in several Northeastern states, including New York.

In the Empire State, DEC is working with its federal counterparts to create about 10,000 acres of suitable young forest habitat across parts of Dutchess, Columbia, Putnam and Westchester counties that can sustain more than 28,000 New England cottontails by 2030.

Currently, there are only pockets of the native rabbits east of the Hudson River.

“The habitat conditions the New England cottontail needs are also needed by many other species of wildlife,” said DEC chief wildlife biologist Gordon Batcheller. “There are 100 different species that require young forest or brush land. Bog turtles, whippoorwills, ruffed grouse — all need young forest. So if we create habitat for New England cottontails, we’ll benefit whole other species.

“It’s a core mission of ours to protect these species and ensure they continue into the future as a native New Yorker,” Batcheller said. “Managing for young forests is long term commitment. It needs to become part of who we are and what we do in our own lands. We’re looking to establish long term management in perpetuity. Going forward, this will be standard operating procedure in the Northeast.”

For more information, go to newenglandcottontail.org.

Protecting, restoring and celebrating estuaries—where salt and freshwater Meet

Tivoli Bays are one of the four tidal wetlands protected by the Hudson River Research Reserve.  Photo courtesy of NYSDEC

Tivoli Bays are one of the four tidal wetlands protected by the Hudson River Research Reserve. Photo courtesy of NYSDEC

Below the Federal Dam at Troy, the Hudson River becomes an estuary, where fresh waters meet salt waters.

In 1982, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designated four sections of the Hudson River (Piermont Marsh, Iona Island, Tivoli Bays and Stockport Flats) as a National Estuarine Research Reserve. This reserve covers 4,838 acres of coastal wetlands along 100 miles of the Hudson River in New York State.

The estuary supports extraordinary biological diversity and provides important benefits to humans, yet these habitats have been diminished, damaged and disconnected by human activity.

In the early 1970s, toxic compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, were discovered in the water, fish and sediment of the Hudson River below General Electric’s plants at Hudson Falls and Ford Edward in New York. These PCBs have contaminated all parts of the Hudson River, including its estuary.

The responsibility for restoring natural resources that have been injured by hazardous substances (such as PCBs) belongs to the natural resource trustees, through a natural resource damage assessment. Trustees are stewards of the public’s natural resources.

For the Hudson River, the trustees are the U.S. Department of Commerce (through NOAA), the U.S. Department of the Interior (through our agency) and the State of New York (through NYSDEC). The trustees are conducting a natural resource damage assessment to measure the harm caused by PCBs, with the goal of restoring these natural resources so that wildlife can thrive and people can more fully enjoy the river.

We’re highlighting National Estuaries Week with a reblog from our partner, NOAA. Check it out below. Learn more about the Hudson River Estuarine Research Reserve in these NYSDEC and NOAA websites.

Juvenile lake sturgeon raised at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: USFWS

Sturgeon stocking success!

Juvenile lake sturgeon raised at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: USFWS

Juvenile lake sturgeon raised at the Genoa National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin. Credit: USFWS

I'm Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You'll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York. USFWS photo with Bethany holding a bog turtle

I’m Bethany Holbrook, and I work at our New York Field Office. You’ll be hearing from me every week! Stay tuned for tales from the great state of New York.

Cold weather, cloudy skies and chilling winds didn’t shake the spirit of fish enthusiasts at the Greenbelt Park Boat Launch in Ogdensburg, N.Y., last Tuesday.

The launch was packed with reporters, interested locals, several resource agencies, and 11,000 juvenile lake sturgeon ready to be released into the wild. All were present for the annual sturgeon stocking, a program led by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) with supportive funding from the State of New York and our agency’s Fish Enhancement, Mitigation, and Research Fund.

You could feel the heightened excitement as hatchery trucks from pulled into the boat launch parking lot: the end to a 1,000-mile journey from the Service’s fish hatchery in Wisconsin, where all 11,000 sturgeon were raised. Reporters were busy talking to biologists, spectators were busy snapping pictures, and the truck drivers were busy prepping the fish and the nets for the release.

The Service's Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck and NYSDEC Oneida Fish Hatchery truck. The trucks had 3 or 6 compartments that are like giant coolers with thousands of fingerlings in them. Credit: USFWS

The Service’s Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck and NYSDEC Oneida Fish Hatchery truck. The trucks had 3 or 6 compartments that are like giant coolers with thousands of fingerlings in them. Credit: USFWS

Biologists started by transferring approximately 3,000 fingerlings from the Service’s truck to the NYSDEC Chateaugay Fish Hatchery truck. One by one, biologists would scoop a large net (capable of holding 300-500 fingerlings) into the giant coolers holding hundreds of gallons of water and thousands of fish, and transfer them to a cooler on the other truck.

From here, the NYSDEC truck would travel to six other locations on three separate rivers while our truck would release 7,000 fingerlings, net by net, into the St. Lawrence River at the boat launch. Additional fish were raised at the NYSDEC Oneida Fish Hatchery in Constantia, N.Y., and were released in Cayuga Lake and the Genesee River in mid-October.

From Ogdensburg, the Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck stopped at the St. Lawrence Power Project in Massena and released the remaining 500 fingerlings below the dam.

The Service's Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck at the St. Lawrence Power Project in Massena, N.Y. Photo Credit: Tom Brooking

The Service’s Genoa National Fish Hatchery truck at the St. Lawrence Power Project in Massena, N.Y. Photo Credit: Tom Brooking

The NYSDEC hatchery truck left Ogdensburg and traveled to the Pine Ridge Campground in Constable, N.Y., where another 500 sturgeon fingerlings were released in the Salmon River.

Students from the Akwesasne Freedom School were present at the site to help with the release and receive a hands-on lesson about lake sturgeon.

Students were able to hold the fingerlings in a touch tank set up at the site, and also help biologists with weight and length measurements for several fingerlings.


After leaving the Pine Ridge Campground, the NYSDEC truck made another stop along Route 37 in Fort Covington to release an additional 500 fingerlings in the Salmon River. From there, the truck traveled to Brasher Falls and Brasher Center to release 1,000 fingerlings at 2 locations on the St. Regis River. Next, the NYSDEC hatchery truck drove to Raymondville and finally reached the end of its journey in Massena Springs to release another 1,000 fingerlings at 2 locations on the Raquette River.

One of our biologists, Scott Schlueter, releasing sturgeon in the Raquette River in Massena Springs. Credit: USFWS

One of our biologists, Scott Schlueter, releasing sturgeon in the Raquette River in Massena Springs. Credit: USFWS

The fingerlings were four months old and measured approximately 4-6 inches in length. I was amazed to see how calm the fingerlings were when handled; they would allow you to pick them up and hold them without much resistance. The intimidating sharp-looking bony scutes on their backs weren’t sharp at all, but instead provide the juveniles with great defense against predators, boosting their survivorship rate.

Sturgeon have a hard, spiny exterior, but their bony scutes along the top and sides of their skin are not as sharp as they appear. This protects them from predators as they feed on the bottom of the river. Credit: USFWS

Sturgeon have a hard, spiny exterior, but their bony scutes along the top and sides of their skin are not as sharp as they appear. This protects them from predators as they feed on the bottom of the river. Credit: USFWS

The sturgeon stocking program has proven to be extremely effective, as we are just starting to find young wild sturgeon in stocked areas, a sign that indicates successful reproduction of stocked fish in past years. With continued commitment from resource agencies in stocking efforts, we can hope to see more of this prehistoric species in New York waterways as the program continues.

From left to right: Doug Aloise (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Don Meisner (FISHCAP), Scott Schlueter (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and Douglas Carlson (NYSDEC). Credit: USFWS

From left to right: Doug Aloise (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Don Meisner (FISHCAP), Scott Schlueter (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and Douglas Carlson (NYSDEC). Credit: USFWS