Tag Archives: thomas barnes

Fish stocked

Landowner and dairy farmer Steve Dransfield holds up a stunned brook trout! Credit: USFWS

Landowner and dairy farmer Steve Dransfield holds up a stunned brook trout! Credit: USFWS

It’s almost a cliché now, that industrialization and development took its toll on the environment and the diversity of species that support it. Brook trout is one of these species, historically populating much of eastern North America’s lakes and rivers, and now extirpated from much of its natural range.

Now, biologists at the White Sulphur Spring National Fish Hatchery are working with the West Virginia Conservation Agency to restore brook trout populations to Kitchen Creek and its tributary Cove Branch.

Brook trout need cold, well-oxygenated water to thrive. Biologists believe this particular part of the watershed is perfect for brook trout, as Cove Branch begins in a cave where the water is a cool 54 degrees.

Brook trout also need clean water, which is why our West Virginia Field Office worked with the conservation agency to complete four fencing projects that create a buffer zone between pastures and the stream. The fencing is very flood tolerant, easy to maintain and repair, and is highly beneficial to fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and farm operation.

photo 1 (3)

A stunned, juvenile brook trout. Don’t worry, it’ll be okay. Credit: USFWS

So, after the completion of those projects, our hatchery collaborated with the landowner, dairy farmer Steve Dransfield and partners to introduce 2,000 fry to Cove Branch this past fall.

(A fry is a juvenile fish. It is also something you do before eating fish. Just not brook trout, please.)

Last week, biologists went back to Cove Branch to survey the stream and were thrilled to find that many of the brook trout had survived that brutal, unending winter. Not only that, but the fish were growing exceptionally well.

This pioneering class of brook trout is the first of many, with a second class of fry being introduced to the stream this November. As part of a larger effort to improve water quality and agricultural practices in the area, this reintroduction of brook trout is one way the Service is restoring river habitat in West Virginia.

Surveying the stream! Credit: USFWS

Surveying the stream! Credit: USFWS

photo 2 (2)

The gang is back together! Credit: USFWS

(Burying) Beetlemania

Okay, their popularity might not rival that of the Fab Four, but there are plenty of burying beetle fans here in America!

In fact, one biologist recently came all the way from Oklahoma to check out the American burying beetles that call Nantucket (MA) and Block Island (RI) home. They’re not found anywhere else in the Northeast.

Biologist Anita Barstow is our head biologist for the species, which is also found in Oklahoma and a few other states. Anita was out to see how the habitat, threats and conservation strategies match up to what she’s seeing out west and south.


American burying beetles are monitored each year on Nantucket Island and Block Island using pitfall traps like these. Similar species, such as the two Nicrophorus marginatus seen here, are also commonly captured during these surveys and are recorded to keep a complete record of the burying beetle community. Photo credit: Cindy Maynard/USFWS

The American burying beetle is sometimes referred to as “nature’s gravedigger.” This beetle is a natural recycler, ridding the surface of dead animals and returning them to the food web. And I’d argue that it’s a lot cuter to look at than some of our other recyclers (cough, vultures).

Chris Raithel, wildlife biologist for Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, studies the burying beetle:

“The beetle climbs the carcass [of a baby pheasant] and begins to broadcast alluring scents into the air. Soon other beetles arrive. In an insect’s version of “king of the hill,” male and female beetles fight until a single pair remains. They have claimed the prize…one beetle crawls beneath the carcass; the other anchors itself by grabbing some strong grass with its rear legs and then clutches the pheasant’s body with its front legs. One beetle heaves while the other pulls…this feat of muscular leverage would make Archimedes proud.”


After they are processed, the American burying beetles are released. Here, three beetles are getting ready to fly off, and an example of the habitat they use on Block Island can be seen in the background. Photo credit: Cindy Maynard/USFWS

Despite these wild qualities, the species began to dwindle in the 1920s. Changes in land use affected the availability of carrion for food and increased competition with other predators and scavengers like foxes and crows.

Biologists weren’t about to let this rugged creature blink out, so they started hand delivering carcasses and rearing beetles at Roger Williams Park Zoo for release. Order up!

And things are going pretty well, with at least 3,000 beetles on Block Island, and more than 3,000 that have been released on Nantucket.

So, do you have (burying) Beetlemania now?


Anita Barstow, biologist from our Oklahoma Field Office, releases an American burying beetle on Block Island, Rhode Island, after it has been trapped, processed and marked. Photo credit: Cindy Maynard/USFWS


The Plight of the Pollinators

Imagine a world without apples, bananas or avocados. Or a world without chocolate. Or even coffee. Who wants a world without coffee?!

That’s a world without pollinators.


This is a pollinator. Without it, there’s no coffee. Credit: USFWS

Pollinators, like honeybees, butterflies, moths and other insects — even birds and bats! — move pollen between plants, enabling fertilization. This transfer is critical for not only our natural ecosystem, but also for the agricultural system as well. In fact, 1/3 of all food and beverages are the result of the pollen transfer process.

Check out this video we produced last year for thanksgiving, highlighting what food wouldn’t be on the table without pollinators!

Because every year pollinators help produce nearly $20 billion worth of food and other goods, the balance of ecosystems worldwide depend on these industrious pollinators to ensure a healthy harvest.


Without coffee, why bother. Credit: USFWS

But, populations of pollinators are declining, and have been for decades. Scientists believe this decline can be traced to several sources, including pesticide misuse, the rapid spread of pollinator diseases and parasites, as well as habitat destruction.

The plight of pollinators affects all of us, so don’t be afraid to tell your friends about it.

Want to know more about what you can do to help? Go to pollinator.org for more ways to get involved and check out our national website about pollinators.


Another pollinator, different angle though. Guys, coffee is really great and I don’t think I can handle going without it. Let’s do something about these pollinators. Credit: USFWS