Off the Rails: A Personal Reflection on Wildlife Impacts from the Norfolk Southern Train Derailment

Palm Warblers are migratory, insectivorous songbirds that pass through Ohio during migration. Photo by Ryan Sanderson

The issues I work on as American Bird Conservancy’s (ABC’s) resident pesticides guy rarely receive national attention. Imagine my shock when “chemical regulation,” “contaminant mitigation,” and, as an Ohio resident, “East Palestine on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border” became household phrases when the Norfolk Southern train derailed last month.

News of the derailment was soon followed by stories of the chemical spill’s impacts on wildlife. Ohio’s Division of Natural Resources estimated that 40,000 individual animals died in the weeks immediately following the crash, mostly minnows and other small fish. Frogs, snails, insects, and other small animals were found dead as well. So far, there is no direct evidence of bird deaths connected to the chemical spill, but I see plenty of warning signs that this is something that could impact them.

With large-scale pollution events, birds often suffer the most as indirect victims of long-term effects. Before the EPA banned DDT in 1972, this insecticide accumulated up the food chain and killed birds by thinning eggshells, making successful chick hatching nearly impossible for species like the Peregrine Falcon and Bald Eagle. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 coated the feathers of many nearby seabirds and hindered their ability to fly, but the loss of habitable coastline probably led to a higher loss of birdlife in the long run. 

In the case of this chemical spill, mass die-offs of a single species, like minnows, may hamper local population recovery for years to come, with impacts that echo up the food chain. Water contamination may decrease habitability for insects and other invertebrates, which are vital food sources for birds trying to raise chicks. Fewer plants and less fertile streams mean fewer places to nest, rest, and refuel during migration. Plant die-offs could also pave the way for opportunistic nonnative species like Amur Honeysuckle, Purple Loosestrife, and Giant Hogweed — plants that crowd out the native species most valuable to birds and other wildlife.

These subtle changes are often the most harmful. In the Netherlands, use of a water-contaminating neonicotinoid insecticide was correlated with a population decrease in dozens of species of local birds. It was not that the birds were being poisoned themselves; rather, the insecticides reduced the supply of food to the point that it was insufficient to sustain population growth.

Regarding the question of exactly how birds will be impacted by the derailment, the most honest answer I can give is “we do not yet know.” We can take educated guesses based on the known impacts of other chemicals or past disasters, but there are no obvious precedents for the kind of spill that happened in Ohio in February. The upcoming migration season, with its influx of billions of individual birds into U.S. skies — millions of which will either pass through or even stop to breed for the summer in Ohio — will probably be the first real test of this environmental tragedy’s more immediate impacts on birdlife.

So, what can we do about it? While we cannot prepare for every possible accident or disaster, we can do a better job of addressing the threats we do know about, the events we can plan for. The more we cut back on existing environmental stressors, the better equipped ecosystems will be to bounce back from this kind of shock to the system. For example, we need fewer chemicals used in farming so that there are fewer contaminants already in the environment when there is a spill. We need fewer rodenticides in our communities so there is one less chemical threat posed to our pets, children, and native raptors. We need safer insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides that will have little to no impact on the environment. 

That’s why ABC is working with lawmakers to pass important bills like the Birds and Bees Protection Act in New York, the Highways for Habitats bill in Minnesota, and the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act in the United States Senate. It’s why we meet regularly with representatives from the National Wildlife Refuge system to discuss agricultural chemicals on public lands, and petition the EPA to require proof that a pesticide works before it gets put onto shelves. It’s why ABC submitted nearly 50 technical comments on chemical registrations and federal wildlife regulations last year. And, it’s why we provide advice on how individuals can reduce chemical use at home or advocate for stronger pesticide regulations.

These steps help ensure that an unexpected chemical spill is not the straw that breaks the songbird’s back.


American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

Rare Species of Feline Dubbed the ‘Original Grumpy Cat’ Found Living On Mount Everest

Andy Corbley

Pallas’s cat / SWNS

A DNA analysis confirmed that the rare and little-known Pallas’ cat lives on the body of Mount Everest—three miles above sea level.

The discovery was made along Sagarmatha National Park on Mount Everest’s Southern Flank in Nepal after a month-long expedition collecting environmental samples.

Scat recovered from the two separate sites located 3.7 miles apart at 16,765 and 17,027 feet (5,110 and 5,190 meters) above sea level confirmed there were Pallas cats in the area.

Known as the “original grumpy cat” before the famous internet meme cat was born, Otocolobus manul or Pallas’ cat stands among the most charismatic and unique wild Felidae on Earth. This mountain specialist is found at high elevations across Asia and is a super predator of small mammals.

Indeed the analysis of the animal’s scat showed the feline was feeding on pika and mountain weasel, which delighted the scientists as these were also unknown in the national park which is a UNESCO Natural Heritage site.

“It is phenomenal to discover proof of this rare and remarkable species at the top of the world,” said Dr. Tracie Seimon, of Wildlife Conservation Society’s Zoological Health Program, and leader of the expedition which occurred in 2019.

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“The nearly four-week journey was extremely rewarding not just for our team but for the larger scientific community. The discovery of Pallas’s cat on Everest illuminates the rich biodiversity of this remote high-alpine ecosystem and extends the known range of this species to eastern Nepal.”Otocolobus manul or Palls Cat CC 4.0. Gitanes232

It is notable that Pallas’s cat went undetected in this park until 2019, and the new study demonstrates how conservation genetics and environmental sampling can be utilized as a powerful approach to discover and study elusive species like Pallas’s cat.

Currently classified by the IUCN as a species of no concern, it’s one of the few small wild cat species that is currently unimperiled. Small wild cats receive a paltry sum of the overall conservation dollars spent to protect wild cats, with the larger tiger, lion, cheetah, and leopard nearly monopolizing the revenue.

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Future research combining camera trap surveys and the collection of additional scat samples would help to better define the Pallas’s cat population, range, density, and diet in Sagarmatha National Park.

Sponsored by National Geographic, the research team included members from eight countries. 17 Nepalese scientists conducted research in biology, glaciology, meteorology, geology, and mapping, to better understand the changing of their high-altitude world.

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Evening Grosbeak

One Evening Grosbeak is a spectacular sight, but a flock of these big finches is unforgettable — an ever-shifting symphony of rich yellows, browns, and grays, set off by bright black-and-white accents. Although the females are less conspicuously colored, their size and large bills still make them standouts. In fact, the Evening Grosbeak’s genus name Coccothraustes means “kernel-cracker,” a nod to this bird’s powerful bill.

Early English settlers dubbed this species the “Evening” Grosbeak in the mistaken belief that it came out of the woods to sing only after sundown. French settlers gave it a more appropriate appellation: le gros-bec errant (the wandering big-bill, or grosbeak).

Like other winter finch species such as the Pine Siskin, Pine Grosbeak, and Purple Finch, the Evening Grosbeak is only an intermittent visitor to backyard feeders. In many years, it does not appear in some regions at all. 

Irregular Irruptions

Evening Grosbeak flocks periodically move south when seed crops are less abundant than usual. These seasonal southern movements, or irruptions, are seen in many wintering boreal seed-eating birds, including the White-winged Crossbill and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Other northern birds such as the Snowy Owl irrupt in response to boom-and-bust cycles of their rodent prey. 

People lucky enough to have Evening Grosbeaks visiting their feeders can be in for a major investment: A flock can consume hundreds of pounds of sunflower seeds over the course of a winter!

Songs and Sounds

Although the Evening Grosbeak is a noisy bird, constantly vocalizing with piercing calls and burry chirp notes, it does not produce complex songs to attract a mate or defend territory.  

Listen here:Doug Hynes, XC612610. Accessible at

Listen to a large flock of Evening Grosbeaks:Meena Haribal, XC460988. Accessible at

Breeding and Feeding

Making Moves

Evening Grosbeaks usually pair up before arriving on their breeding grounds. Since this species lacks a complex song, its courtship depends on mutual movement. The male performs a “dance” for the female, swiveling back and forth with raised head and tail and drooping, vibrating wings. Partners alternately bow to each other, and the male will offer food to his mate.  

The female Evening Grosbeak builds her nest — a loose cup of twigs lined with softer grasses, pine needles, and lichens — in a tree or large shrub, 20 to 60 feet above ground. She lays two to four eggs, which she incubates for about two weeks. Her mate brings her food while she sits on the eggs, then both parents feed the nestlings. Young birds fledge about two weeks after hatching. This species has one or two broods per year. 

Seeds make up the bulk of an Evening Grosbeak’s diet, especially seeds of boxelder and other maples, ash, locust, and other trees. This chunky songbird also feeds on tree buds, berries, small fruits, and sap. During the summer, the Evening Grosbeak adds insects to its diet, particularly spruce budworm larvae and other caterpillars, and aphids. 

Evening Grosbeak flock. Photo by valleyboi63/Shutterstock.

Region and Range

Grosbeaks Gaining (and Losing) Ground

Evening Grosbeak range map by ABC.

The Evening Grosbeak breeds in mature and second-growth coniferous forests from the boreal forest belt down through the Rocky Mountains; it also occurs as a scarce resident of mountain forests in northwestern and central Mexico (small central Mexican population not shown on map). Depending on the year, wintering birds can be found well below the winter range indicated on the map at right. Three subspecies are recognized; birds of the western mountains have longer, thinner bills and darker female/juvenile plumage.

This species expanded its range rapidly across the eastern U.S. during the 20th century, possibly due to the increased planting of boxelder, a major food source, in cities. Unfortunately, the bird has become scarce in the East once again, and the specific cause is unknown.


Behind the Grosbeak’s Decline

The State of the Birds 2022 Report has identified the Evening Grosbeak as a “tipping point” bird species — one that has lost 50 percent or more of its population from 1970 to 2019. Many other bird species, including the Allen’s Hummingbird, Chimney Swift, and Sprague’s Pipit, are in a similarly critical situation.

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Potential causes of the Evening Grosbeak’s decline may include habitat loss, such as from tar sands development, hastened by accelerating climate change in boreal regions. Pesticides used to control spruce budworm, an important food for the Evening Grosbeak and other species such as Cape May, Blackpoll, and Bay-breasted Warblers, may also be a factor in its decline. In addition, many Evening Grosbeaks are killed by window collisions and by cars during the winter, when flocks may gather on roadsides to pick up road salt and grit.

Get Involved

Policies enacted by the U.S. Congress and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have a huge impact on migratory birds. You can help shape these rules for the better by urging lawmakers to prioritize birds, bird habitat, and bird-friendly measures. To get started, visit ABC’s Action Center.

Living a bird-friendly life can have an immediate impact on migratory birds in the United States. Doing so can be as easy as adding native plants to your garden, avoiding pesticides, and keeping cats indoors. To learn more, visit our Bird-Friendly Life page.

Destruction of Endangered Macaw Habitat Must Be Stopped, Say Brazilian Communities and Biodiversity Conservation Groups

The Lear’s Macaw was rescued from the brink of extinction through years of conservation action, but wind energy development has emerged as a new and potentially deadly threat within the species’ small range. Photo by Bennett Hennessey.

As world leaders gather in Montreal for the United Nations’ (UN) COP15 biodiversity conference, and UN environment chief Inger Andersen warns that “we are at war with nature,” the future for the Endangered Lear’s Macaw hangs in the balance in Bahia, Brazil. So does the way of life for 600 families whose communal lands are increasingly being declared off-limits by French energy company Voltalia. For nearly two years, the company has denied all requests from biodiversity conservation groups and affected communities to relocate its wind energy project away from the habitat of the rare bird. Now, a group comprising 70 organizations and community associations, and supported by American Bird Conservancy (ABC), WWF, and Re:wild, has appealed for help with a formal complaint to the United Nations. 

In the complaint to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 70 local organizations and community associations in the Canudos region of northeastern Brazil state that French company Voltalia began installation of 28 wind turbines — being constructed on 136 acres (55 hectares) of land vital for people and wildlife — before the company conducted the required environmental impact studies and public hearings. The complaint calls for Voltalia to suspend the project and move it out of Lear’s Macaw habitat, and follows up on a public letter requesting the same that was released in August of 2021

Wind turbines already constructed and put in place in Bahia, Brazil, by French energy company Voltalia. Photo courtesy of Barong.

“The Lear’s Macaw has come back from the edge of extinction through intensive conservation efforts over the past 35 years, and now faces the risk of deadly collisions with turbines and associated powerlines,” said Amy Upgren, Director of Alliance for Zero Extinction and Key Biodiversity Area Programs at ABC. 

“Renewable energy is vital in the fight against climate change, and so is conserving our planet’s increasingly endangered wildlife,” added Lewis Grove, Director of Wind and Energy Policy at ABC. “Researchers at COP15 project that one million species are facing extinction. Will the Lear’s Macaw be one of them? We’re advocating that this project be relocated where it will do less harm.”

Project construction is already negatively impacting roughly 600 families from local traditional communities, according to the complaint by the Regional Coordination of Traditional Pastoral Communities in Canudos, Uauá and Curaçá. The project is restricting families from using the communal lands they have used for generations to graze goats and cattle, leading to overgrazing on the areas that remain for livestock. The communities assert that Voltalia is increasingly fencing off these communal lands and constructing roads and gates, further blocking access to the land. 

Luiz Carlos de Andrade Santos, a member of the Regional Coordination of Traditional Pastoral Communities in Canudos, Uauá and Curaçá, stated: “The Traditional Communities from Fundo de Pasto de Canudos, Uauá, and Curaçá in the State of Bahia denounce all violations of territorial rights, disrespect for the way of life of families and failure to present the real impacts of a wind farm project, as well as failure to carry out Free Prior and Informed Consultation for the impacted communities and to comply with environmental legislation.

“We expect and demand due reparations for the damage caused and that the project be suspended,” Andrade Santos said.

“Since discussion of this project began several years ago, we have advocated for it to be moved out of the habitat of the Endangered Lear’s Macaw,” said ABC’s Amy Upgren. “Our biodiversity conservation partners Projeto Jardins da Arara de Lear, Fundação Biodiversitas, and SAVE Brasil have done the same, and Voltalia has not budged. We hope that the local communities’ request to the UN will bring about a change of heart.” 

Road cutting through Lear’s Macaw habitat to turbine construction site. The red cliffs near the horizon are home to 18 Lear’s Macaw nests, where 10 chicks survived to fledge in 2021. This area also hosts well-preserved Caatinga habitat and Licuri palm trees, the main food source of Lear’s Macaw, along with many cavities for nesting macaws and other parrots. Photo courtesy of Barong.

The Lear’s Macaw is an iconic species that is a source of pride in the region and attracts tourists from all over the world. The project is located in the species’ only habitat, which has been globally recognized as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) — a site of global importance to the planet’s overall health and the persistence of biodiversity. It is also an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site and has been designated as a Priority Area for the Conservation of Biodiversity in the Caatinga by the Brazilian Ministry of Environment. The Brazilian Energy Research Company, a federal public company created by the National Congress, includes Brazilian AZE sites as areas of importance in a spatial planning tool developed to help energy projects limit their impact on biodiversity.

Due to the threat to the Lear’s Macaw, in 2021 the Public Prosecutor of the state of Bahia, Brazil recommended the immediate suspension or cancellation of the wind project due to noncompliance with federal legislation. 

Voltalia also appears to be acting against the standards laid out in its own Sustainability Report, which states that “Voltalia works to meet IFC’s (International Finance Corporation) Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability.” IFC’s performance standard clearly states that AZE sites “will not be acceptable for financing, with the possible exception of projects specifically designed to contribute to the conservation of the area.”Despite appeals from the public prosecutor, local communities, and a consortium of conservation organizations to relocate the project, and in contempt of Voltalia’s own stated commitment to environmental standards, the company has already put turbines on the landscape and is continuing to proceed with the project.


American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.orgFacebookInstagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

Re:wild protects and restores the wild. We have a singular and powerful focus: the wild as the most effective solution to the interconnected climate, biodiversity and human wellbeing crises. Founded by a group of renowned conservation scientists together with Leonardo DiCaprio, Re:wild is a force multiplier that brings together Indigenous peoples, local communities, influential leaders, nongovernmental organizations, governments, companies and the public to protect and rewild at the scale and speed we need. Learn more at

3 bald eagles die, 10 sickened in Minnesota after likely eating euthanized animals dumped at landfill

<img src="; alt="FIle – The bald eagle (<i>Haliaeetus leucocephalus

FIle – The bald eagle (<i>Haliaeetus leucocephalus</i>) is a bird of prey found in North America. (iStock)

Stephen Sorace

Three bald eagles have died after at least 13 of the birds were likely poisoned from scavenging the carcasses of euthanized animals that were dumped at a Minnesota landfill, according to experts.

The eagles were found last week near the Pine Bend Landfill in the Minneapolis suburb of Inver Grove Heights, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

In this undated photo provided by The Raptor Center, a bald eagle likely poisoned by scavenging the carcasses of euthanized animals that were improperly disposed of at a Minnesota landfill is seen at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, in Minneapolis.

In this undated photo provided by The Raptor Center, a bald eagle likely poisoned by scavenging the carcasses of euthanized animals that were improperly disposed of at a Minnesota landfill is seen at the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, in Minneapolis. (Courtesy of The Raptor Center via AP)

Local police first found one sick juvenile eagle in the snow on Dec. 4 and brought it to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, the center posted of Facebook.

Its medical staff determined the bird was likely suffering from pentobarbital poisoning, the primary agent used in euthanasia solution.


The center was alerted about a second eagle found in similar condition at the landfill the following day. However, volunteers arrived and discovered nine more sick eagles. Two other eagles were found dead near the landfill.

Ten of the birds remained in intensive care at the Raptor Center. The center’s executive director Victoria Hall told the paper she is optimistic those birds will recover.

In this undated photo provided by The Raptor Center, two bald eagles likely poisoned by scavenging the carcasses of euthanized animals that were improperly disposed of at a Minnesota landfill are seen in critical condition at the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center, in Minneapolis.

In this undated photo provided by The Raptor Center, two bald eagles likely poisoned by scavenging the carcasses of euthanized animals that were improperly disposed of at a Minnesota landfill are seen in critical condition at the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center, in Minneapolis. (Courtesy of The Raptor Center via AP)

Veterinarians suspect that the eagles that died had eaten part of a carcass of an animal that had been euthanized with pentobarbital, and investigators confirmed that some euthanized animals had been brought to the landfill on Dec. 2.


Hall said animals that have been chemically euthanized are supposed to be disposed of in such a manner that other animals can’t scavenge on them.

Of the 11 eagles that were brought to The Raptor Center, three also had lead poisoning and one eagle that was found to have bird flu died.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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U.S. must do more to protect endangered gray wolves, says new lawsuit

2 minute readNovember 29, 20223:32 PM ESTLast Updated an hour ago

  • Conservation group says U.S. should assess status of endangered wolves
  • Iconic predator is still threatened by loss of habitat and conflict with humans, group say

(Reuters) – The Center for Biological Diversity on Tuesday sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to prepare a plan to protect endangered gray wolves, arguing the agency has repeatedly attempted to remove protections for the animal despite persistent threats from loss of habitat and human conflict.

The environmental group said in a lawsuit filed in District of Columbia federal court the agency has never developed a nationwide plan to guide recovery efforts for the wolf, which are now listed as endangered, despite a requirement that it do so in the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Instead of drafting an adequate protection plan, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said the government in recent years has attempted to remove protections only to be blocked by the courts. In 2020, the Trump administration said the wolves had adequately recovered and moved to remove protections, which opponents said appeared to be an attempt to win over Midwestern voters days before that year’s election.

The lawsuit seeks to force the government to develop such a plan and to conduct a long overdue status review, which is required every five years by the ESA.

“The Service can’t rely on its outdated, unambitious, and piecemeal approach to wolf recovery any longer,” said Sophia Ressler, a staff attorney at the CBD, in a statement.

The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing protections after the last status review, conducted in 2012, and in 2020 issued a final rule doing so, according to the lawsuit. That final rule was challenged in court by CBD and other environmental groups, and a D.C. appeals court vacated that ruling earlier this year.

The wolves occupy less than 15% of their historical range in the contiguous United States with a total population of likely less than 7,000 individuals, according to CBD. The group said that represents an improvement since 1978, but that “grave threats remain.”

Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The case is Center for Biological Diversity v. Haaland, United States District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 1:22-cv-03588.

New Jersey residences tell Governor Murphy protect NJ black bears


Watch: Saving a Trapped Mum and Baby Elephant

Published on the 20th of September, 2022

NewsUpdatesWatch: Saving a Trapped Mum and Baby Elephant

In the depths of the drought, we found a heroic display of hope. With her own life on the line, a mother elephant remained fiercely devoted to her baby. Shoulder-deep in mud and unable to move, she continued to protect him the only way she could, shielding him with her trunk. Tiny as he was, the calf was equally brave, refusing to leave his mother’s side.

This story unfolded just a few days after a massive operation to save two female elephants from a muddy fate. On 9th September, KWS and Wildlife Works reported that yet another pair of elephants had gotten trapped in the same dam. This time, it was a mother and her baby.

During the drought, the quest for water becomes increasingly fraught, especially for a creature as large as an elephant. At first glance, the dam must have looked like a safe bet for a drink. The mother elephant wasn’t to know that its shallow shoreline was actually a mire of thick, sticky mud — or that one little slip would turn into a life-or-death situation.

As had happened to the elephants the week prior, the mother lost her footing in the slick mud. She thrashed around, trying to gain enough traction to stand, but this only made her more stuck. Her tiny baby was collateral damage, sinking ever closer to his mum’s side.

Shoulder-deep in mud, both mum and baby had no chance of surviving their muddy prison. They were now on their second day of incarceration. Each passing hour exacerbated their situation, as the unforgiving sun beat down from above and mud encroached from all sides. While adult elephants are surprisingly resilient, the baby was surely struggling without the milk feedings he needs to survive at such a young age.

As soon as we received the report, we mobilised our helicopter. After picking up Dr Limo and the SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit, the team headed south towards the Kenya-Tanzania border. KWS sent two Land Cruisers to the scene, which were joined by a tractor.

Usually, we don’t have to anaesthetise trapped elephants; although they are completely wild, they intuitively know that we are there to help and cooperate with their rescuers. However, a protective mother is an entirely different situation. Stuck as she was, her maternal instincts were out in full force, and she was adamant that no human approach her baby. She continued to pull him closer with her trunk, defending him with the only method she had left. It was heartbreaking and heroic to watch. To ease her anxiety and streamline the rescue operation, Dr Limo administered a sedative.

As it turned out, the baby shared his mum’s fighting spirit. The team was able to free him by hand, but with a chorus of hearty bellows, he kept running back to his mother’s side. Dr Limo also sedated the baby, so he could peacefully rest on terra firma until the mission’s completion.

It was a prodigious undertaking to free the female. Usually, elephants become stuck on their side, but the mud had a quicksand-like effect on this female. She was trapped standing, mired up to her shoulders. The team dug around her, trying to weave straps as low as possible. Eventually, they managed to secure the tow ropes around her front legs and bum. These were attached to the tractor, which was then caravanned to two Land Cruisers. With a mighty pull, the three-vehicle convoy managed to haul the elephant out of her muddy prison.

At last, it was time to wake up the patients. First the baby was revived, then his mum. He waited by her side until she got to her feet. Together, they walked off into the wilderness. There is still ample water and browse in the area, so we feel confident that both will find the sustenance they need. Most importantly, they will remain together. The next few months will be difficult, but with their fighting spirit and fierce devotion to each other, we are optimistic that this little family will see it through to the other side of the drought. And of course, should they need our help again, we will be there.

Epilogue: A happy ending for all

While both rescue operations had happy outcomes, this dam was clearly a danger zone for elephants. We feared that its next victim might not be so lucky. Working with the local chief, KWS corporal, and county government, we funded a long-term solution: An excavator came and scooped out the dam, resealing its floor and removing the perilous layer of mud. Not only does this benefit the local elephant population, but also the community who relies on the dam. With luck, this will be the last rescue operation that unfolds here.


Your support makes these missions possible. Because of you, we are able to help elephants in their hour of need, evening the scales as they navigate this challenging period.


The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, known as Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, is a charity in Kenya, a registered charity in England

and Wales number 1103836, and is supported by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust USA, Inc. a 501(c)3 in the United States (EIN 30-0224549)

Copyright © 2021, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. All Rights Reserved.

Celebrate Your Squirrely Side

“Why is Harpy Eagle Named After Legendary Harpies?”

Tiny But Mighty

Rare Singing, Emerald-Green and Iridescent-Blue Hummingbird Unexpectedly Rediscovered in Colombia – American Bird Conservancy

New sighting of lost Santa Marta Sabrewing gives conservationists hope for the Critically Endangered species

(August 4, 2022) An experienced local birdwatcher in Colombia rediscovered the Santa Marta Sabrewing (Campylopterus phainopeplus), a relatively large hummingbird only found in the country’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. It’s only the second time the species has had a documented sighting since it was first collected in 1946. The last time was in 2010, when researchers captured the first-ever photos of the species in the wild. The Santa Marta Sabrewing is so rare and elusive that it was included as one of the top 10 most wanted lost birds by the Search for Lost Birds.

“This sighting was a complete surprise, but a very welcome one,” said Yurgen Vega, who made the rediscovery while working with SELVA, ProCAT Colombia, and World Parrot Trust to study endemic birds in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. “As I was leaving the area where I had been working, a hummingbird caught my attention. I got out my binoculars and was shocked to see that it was a Santa Marta Sabrewing, and in an incredible stroke of luck the hummingbird perched on a branch, giving me time to take photos and video.”

The male hummingbird was instantly recognizable by its emerald-green feathers, bright iridescent-blue throat, and curved black bill. It was perched on a branch, vocalizing and singing, which scientists think is a behavior associated with defending territory and courtship. However, Vega did not see any other hummingbirds in the area, though there have been sporadic reports of Santa Marta Sabrewing sightings during the past decade by other local birdwatchers. Researchers believe the population of Santa Marta Sabrewings in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is very small and decreasing. The species is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species, though it was historically common in the southeastern part of the mountains.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the world’s tallest coastal mountain massif and home to rich communities of wildlife, including 24 species of birds that are found nowhere else on the planet. It partially overlaps with five Key Biodiversity Areas, which are sites of global importance to the planet’s overall health and the persistence of biodiversity. It is also an Alliance for Zero Extinction site due to the multiple species there that are found nowhere else.

“This rediscovery is tremendous, and it makes me hopeful that we will start to better understand this mysterious and threatened bird,” said Esteban Botero-Delgadillo, Director of Conservation Science with SELVA: Research for Conservation in the Neotropics. “However, we found it in an area that is unprotected, which means that it is critically important for conservationists, local communities, and government institutions to work together to learn more about the hummingbirds and protect them and their habitat before it’s too late.”

Scientists know very little about the Santa Marta Sabrewing, except that it typically lives in humid Neotropical forests at mid-elevations between 4,000 and 6,000 feet. Ornithologists believe that the hummingbird may be migratory, moving up to even higher elevations in the páramo — an ecosystem of grass and shrubs — during the rainy season, in search of flowering plants. Much of the forest in the Santa Marta Mountains has been cleared for agriculture, and scientists estimate that only 15 percent remains.

“Technology has made it much easier to gain and share knowledge about the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and its inhabitants,” said Diego Zárrate, Director of Conservation with ProCAT Colombia. “This is a great example of what we can learn about the biodiversity of this area when local communities and conservationists work together.”

The rediscovery of the Santa Marta Sabrewing is being celebrated by ornithologists around the world, including those working as part of the Search for Lost Birds, a collaboration between Re:wild, American Bird Conservancy (ABC), and BirdLife International.

“It’s so incredible to see photos and video of the Santa Marta Sabrewing,” said John C. Mittermeier, Director of Threatened Species Outreach at ABC. “It’s like seeing a phantom. When we announced the top 10 most wanted lost birds last year, we hoped that it would inspire birders to look for these species. And as this rediscovery shows, sometimes lost species re-emerge when we least expect it. Hopefully, rediscoveries like this will inspire conservation action.”

 Lina Valencia, Andean Countries Coordinator, Re:wild

“The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is so incredibly biodiverse and harbors so many amazing endemic species. It’s hugely exciting to have proof that the Santa Marta Sabrewing is still living in the mountains. We still have time to save it.”

 Carlos Ruiz-Guerra of Asociación Calidris, BirdLife Partner in Colombia

“Coordination with local communities and with the Parque Nacional Natural Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta may yet prove vital for the future of the species.”

Roger Safford, Senior Program Manager for Preventing Extinctions at BirdLife International

“What an inspiring rediscovery this is. The evidence suggests that it is very rare, so great credit goes to Yurgen Vega and his colleagues and supporters, for their skill and dedication in finding it. It is itself an exquisite species and its rediscovery adds weight to the arguments to conserve all the habitats of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, including the unprotected parts where the sabrewing was rediscovered.”

American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

Media Contact: Jordan Rutter, Director of Public Relations| | @JERutter

BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership: a global family of over 115 national NGOs covering all continents, landscapes and seascapes. BirdLife is driven by its belief that local people, working for nature in their own places but connected nationally and internationally through the global Partnership, are the key to sustaining all life on this planet. This unique local-to-global approach delivers high impact and long-term conservation for the benefit of nature and people.

ProCAT is a national and international non-profit NGO dedicated to the research and conservation of ecosystems and species from an interdisciplinary approach. We are a team of scientist characterized by solving complex conservation questions. Our mission is to promote, encourage and develop biological resources, social and cultural development research within a framework of sustainability. With this approach we design conservation plans for species and ecosystems through an interdisciplinary approach, in search of human well-being and biodiversity conservation. You can learn more about ProCAT on, Facebook, and Twitter (@ProCATColombia).

Re:wild protects and restores the wild. We have a singular and powerful focus: the wild as the most effective solution to the interconnected climate, biodiversity and human health crises. Founded by a group of renowned conservation scientists together with Leonardo DiCaprio, Re:wild is a force multiplier that brings together Indigenous peoples, local communities, influential leaders, nongovernmental organizations, governments, companies and the public to protect and rewild at the scale and speed we need. Learn more at

SELVA is a not-for-profit non-governmental organization founded in Colombia by individuals who dedicate their lives to research and conservation in the Neotropics. Our mission is to generate science-based knowledge that facilitates biodiversity conservation and that ultimately helps find a balance between humans and nature. We seek to inspire sustainable change leading to the protection of our natural heritage by promoting the development of new talents and collective learning. You can find us on, Facebook, and Twitter (@selvaorgco).

The World Parrot Trust (WPT) brings together wildlife conservation and welfare specialists to direct effective programs to save parrots and provide technical, logistical, and funding support to our partners. WPT’s approach is rooted in science, decades of first-hand experience in the field, and a deep knowledge of parrot welfare. Find us on, Facebook, and Twitter (@ParrotTrust).

Copyright 2022 © American Bird Conservancy. All Rights Reserved. American Bird Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) organization. EIN: 52-1501259

Avian flu suspected to be responsible for thousands of dead seabirds washed up on Canada’s Eastern Shore

Migrant birds suspected of carrying the avian flu are seen here washed up on the shores of Point Lance, Newfoundland, Canada, on July 25, 2022.

Migrant birds suspected of carrying the avian flu are seen here washed up on the shores of Point Lance, Newfoundland, Canada, on July 25, 2022. (Reuters/Greg Locke)

The carcasses of thousands of migrant seabirds have washed up on the shores of eastern Canada this week and preliminary findings showed that the birds died of avian flu.

Since May 2022, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed 13 positive cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the eastern Canadian province of Newfoundland.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is conducting more investigations to confirm that the seabirds deaths are linked to avian flu, Peter Thomas, wildlife biologist for the center said.

Dead herring gulls, Iceland gulls, common ravens, and American crows are the among the most affected by the influenza, Thomas added.

According to the Canadian Wildlife Service, the avian influenza virus is contagious and can affect domestic and wild birds throughout the world.


Canadian Wildlife Service is working closely with the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative to contain the spread.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza has also been spreading rapidly in Vancouver Island, the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said, infecting birds like great horned owls, bald eagles, great blue herons, ducks and geese, and even crows.

Migrant gannets nesting at Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland, Canada July 25, 2022.

Migrant gannets nesting at Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland, Canada July 25, 2022. (REUTERS/Greg Locke)

“Every day I receive phone calls saying 10 are dead,” Elizabeth Melnick, of Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center, BC, said.

“Wildlife centers in the country usually choose to save the dying ones as dead ones are picked up by the city,” she said.


According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, avian influenza is a respiratory pathogen that causes a high degree of mortality and becomes a serious threat to the poultry industry. It is naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, pet birds can be infected by avian influenza and spread the disease to humans, so wild birds should not be handled when they are sick or dead.

Yellowstone bison goring incidents highlight America’s tourism problem

Image: A bison walks past tourists on June 22, 2022 at Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.

A bison walks past tourists on June 22, at Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming. George Frey / Getty Images file

Humans may think themselves apex predators, but they remain quite vulnerable. Meanwhile, wildlife is feeling more pressure than ever.

By Dennis Jorgensen, bison program manager for World Wildlife Fund’s U.S. Northern Great Plains Program

Bison are oh-so-fluffy, ambling, plant-eating animals that have long captured the world’s attention because of their majestic dignity. Increasingly, however, they also make headlines because of dangerous run-ins with tourists. Already this summer we’ve seen two high-profile bison gorings at Yellowstone, both caught on video.

As a resident Montanan, professional bison conservationist and neighbor of nearby Yellowstone National Park, I can understand why people feel the urge to touch these massive mammals.

As a resident Montanan, professional bison conservationist and neighbor of nearby Yellowstone National Park, I can understand why people feel the urge to touch these massive mammals. They are a sight to behold — both undeniably cute and seemingly oblivious to our presence. However, as a biologist, I assure you that they are keenly aware of our approach. They can and will respond with lightning-fast reflexes if we get too close.null

Indulge me for a minute. The average NFL lineman weighs around 310 pounds, and the league’s fastest player has been clocked at about 23 miles per hour. In comparison, a bison can weigh more than 2,000 pounds and run more than 35 miles per hour. But unlike in the NFL, there isn’t a referee to blow the whistle when a bison feels threatened. They charge until the threat has been diminished.

Recent and ongoing injuries from bison gorings in parks and protected areas are tragedies for both people and bison. Bison aren’t out to get tourists, but with visitation in Yellowstone and other parks on the rise, wildlife is feeling more pressure than ever. Approximately 4.86 million people visited Yellowstone in 2021, its busiest year to date. American travel has exploded recently, as families cooped up during the pandemic embrace their summer vacations. But that (understandable) wanderlust comes with a cost. More broadly, more than 55% of Earth’s land is shared by people and wildlife. As our footprint extends even farther into wild spaces, encounters between people and wildlife increase, often leading to instances of human-wildlife conflict.

The broader problem may be that many of us no longer know how to relate to nature, because we see ourselves as being outside of it. People are so used to experiencing wildlife through the lens of social media or a wildlife series that we’ve come to see ourselves solely as spectators rather than participants when we enter actual wild places. However, let me be clear: When we visit parks with free-roaming wild animals, we have entered a wild area. And we have no special rights or protections, other than our own common sense.

When you choose to not respect a bison, bear or moose’s space to get that selfie for social media, it is not only disrespectful — it’s dangerous. Humans may have evolved to think themselves apex predators, but they are in fact quite vulnerable.

For those who may still be traveling to parks this year, here’s a quick bison “rule of thumb”: If you outstretch your arm and hold up your thumb, you should be able to cover the entire silhouette of any bison in the vicinity. If not, you are too close. This rule should keep visitors approximately 100 yards from a bison, a distance that the animal can cover in just under 6 seconds at 35 miles per hour — if it chooses to. This doesn’t offer much time for you to react, let alone coordinate your family’s reaction — as evidenced by recent events when a frightened child ran away from her parents in response to a charging bison. However, at this distance, the bison will most likely ignore you, preferring to attack a tasty patch of prairie grass instead.

It is also important to note that a boardwalk or road will not prevent a bison from approaching or feeling anxious or threatened by visitors who are too close. One notable exception to the rule of thumb, though you still need to respect a bison’s space, is traveling inside a closed vehicle (motorcycles don’t count). However, I have even seen bison unintentionally damage cars that were too close, sometimes using a side mirror to scratch a hard-to-reach itch.

These recent incidents of gorings are serious reminders that Americans, and everyone, must give more thought to how we interact with wildlife. The fact that bison still exist is a miracle after they were nearly wiped out as part of deliberate efforts to subjugate Indigenous people. Today Yellowstone National Park, a spectacle that every American should see and experience, is home to more wild bison than any other place in the world. Watching these marvels of nature can be one of the most rewarding moments of someone’s life. But only at a safe distance.

Dennis Jorgensen is the bison program manager for World Wildlife Fund’s U.S. Northern Great Plains Program. He’s studied rattlesnakes, mountain lions, bison and many other plains species in the wild and it has reminded him of his place in the food chain and just how rewarding it is to be a participant in nature, if we give nature its due respect and space.


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The tailorbird’s nest-making has to be seen to be believed

Image credit: Photowork by Sijanto/Getty

By Bec Crew

If social distancing has inspired you to take up wholesome new hobbies like knitting and needlecraft, this clever bird might serve as the inspiration you need.

TO CONSTRUCT ITS nest, the common tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius) uses its delicate beak to stitch together leaves in exactly the same way we humans would if given a needle and thread.

Found throughout South and Southeast Asia, including in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, this little songbird gathers plant fibres and spider’s web, which it threads through perfectly placed holes in the edges of large leaves.

It pulls these threads tight to create a deep cradle, and inside that, it packs in a cosy nest of grass and down. If you’re a fan of the Jungle Book, you’ll remember Darzee was a tailorbird.

Here’s ornithologist John Gould’s illustration of the nest:

The tailorbird is so good at what it does, it knows to create the tiniest of holes in the edges of the leaves so it doesn’t wither and brown. This is important, because keeping its cradle looking the same as all the leaves around it is how the tailorbird camouflages itself and its young.

Watch it in action here, it’s kind of mind-boggling:

The common tailorbird belongs to the tailorbird genus, which includes 13 species, many of which have ruddy crowns and pretty green or yellow plumage.

One of the most recently identified species is the Cambodian tailorbird (Orthotomus chaktomuk), which was discovered in 2009 during routine checks for avian flu in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.

If we take this full circle and back to your new quarantine hobbies, you could knit nests of your own for rescue birds, particularly those in areas that have been affected by bushfires.

Here’s a video showing you how to do it, but make sure you contact Wires first to see where the nests are most needed:

Court rules federal agency wrongly withdrew bi-state sage grouse protections

Matthew Koehler

SAN FRANCISCO—A federal court has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally withdrew its proposal to list the bi-state sage grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley on Monday vacated the agency’s 2020 withdrawal of the bird from the proposed listing, reinstated the 2013 proposal to list the birds as threatened and ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a new final listing decision.

“These rare dancing birds have a shot at survival thanks to this court decision,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ve watched for more than a decade as these sage grouse have continued to decline. Without the Endangered Species Act’s legal protection, multiple threats will just keep pushing these grouse toward extinction.”

The bi-state sage grouse is a geographically isolated, genetically distinct population of greater sage grouse, which are famous for their showy plumage and mating dances, during which the males make popping sounds with large, inflated air sacs. They live only in an area along the California-Nevada border and face multiple threats. Population declines are particularly acute at the northern and southern ends of the birds’ range.

The court found that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2020 decision to withdraw the bird’s proposed listing failed to consider the small overall population of the bi-state sage grouse and the significance of the potential loss of subpopulations most at risk of being wiped out.

“These unique sage grouse populations in the Eastern Sierra are heading toward extinction from numerous threats, including livestock grazing, cheatgrass invasions, raven predation and extreme droughts,” said Laura Cunningham, California director at Western Watersheds Project. “They deserve a chance to thrive with legal protection.”

The birds were originally proposed for listing as threatened in 2013, but the Fish and Wildlife Service abandoned the proposal in 2015. In 2018 a federal court found the Service had wrongly denied Endangered Species Act protection to the bi-state sage grouse and required the agency to re-evaluate the bird’s situation. The bird was again proposed for protection, but in March 2020 the Trump administration withdrew the proposal.

“The court’s decision is a win for the bi-state sage grouse, which deserve Endangered Species Act protections,” said Joe Bushyhead, endangered species attorney with WildEarth Guardians. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must address the threats to these birds and their habitat, as well as the failure of existing efforts to halt their decline.”

Sage grouse populations in California and Nevada are isolated from other sage grouse by unsuitable habitats and former habitat that has been heavily developed. The bi-state sage grouse populations together are estimated to be no more than 3,305 birds, far below the 5,000-bird threshold that scientists consider the minimum viable population.

“The decision reinforces important legal principles for endangered species: that agencies must base their decisions on the best available science, fully explain their decisions, and carefully consider the status of an imperiled species, especially segments that are small and vulnerable,” said Daniel Ahrens, a law student with the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, which represented the conservation groups in court.

Stanford law student Zach Rego, who also represented the conservation groups, said the court was right to hold that the Service “must do more to show that conservation measures, like the removal of invasive cheatgrass, will be effective in preventing the bi-state sage grouse’s extinction.”

Efforts to protect the birds, including placing markers on barbed-wire fencing in cattle and sheep operations to reduce collision deaths and vegetation treatments, have failed to stem their decline. Federal scientists predict localized extinctions in the north and south ends of the range. Scientists also estimate occupied habitat has decreased by more than 136,000 acres over the past 11 years.

Bi-state sage grouse are found on lands originally inhabited by the Washoe and Paiute peoples.

The conservation groups that successfully challenged the withdrawal include Desert Survivors, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians. The groups are represented by attorneys from the Center and the Stanford Law Clinic.

bi state sage grouse usfws flickr wildearth guardians

The bi-state sage grouse lives only in an area along the California-Nevada border and faces multiple threats, including grazing, mining and habitat loss. Photo by USFWS.

UK bird flu research project launched to protect poultry and seabirds

A notice from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

A notice warning of an avian influenza outbreak, taken on 25 January in Windsor, UK

Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images

Adam Vaughan

A UK government-backed project – FluMap – aims to help understand how bird flu is evolving and finding its way into poultry farms Environment 20 June 2022

Scientists have embarked on a one-year, £1.5 million research project to combat the highly pathogenic strain of bird flu wreaking havoc on UK seabirds and heaping pressure on poultry farming.

With reports last week of growing numbers of seabirds – from gannets and guillemots to razorbills and skuas – being found dead on UK beaches, the risk is growing of the disease spreading to and from poultry. A record 122 poultry cases have already been recorded in the UK last winter, up on 26 the winter before. Meanwhile, more than 1100 cases have been detected in wild birds, compared with about 300 the previous winter.

Ian Brown at the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency hopes the government-backed project, dubbed FluMap, will help researchers fill knowledge gaps about how the H5N1 influenza is evolving and precisely how it is finding its way into poultry farms.

Hybrid WOW Legislative Hearing – June 16, 2022 | The House Committee on Natural Resources

Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Date: Thursday, June 16, 2022 Add to my Calendar Time: 09:00 AM Location: Longworth House Office Building 1324 Presiding: The Honorable Jared Huffman, Chair

On Thursday, June 16, 2022 at 9:00 a.m. ET, in room 1324 Longworth House Office Building and via Cisco WebEx, the Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife will hold a hybrid legislative hearing on the following bills: 

  • H.R. 4768 (Rep. David Joyce, R-OH) To require the Secretary of the Army to initiate at least 5 projects to reduce the loss and degradation of Great Lakes coastal wetlands, and for other purposes. Detrimental Erosion Forcing Enhanced Needs to Defend (DEFEND) the Great Lakes Act.
  • H.R. 6936 (Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY) To provide for the issuance of a semipostal to benefit programs that combat invasive species. Stamp Out Invasive Species Act.
  • H.R. 6949 (Rep. Dwight Evans, D-PA) To amend the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act to reauthorize Delaware River Basin conservation programs, and for other purposes. Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2022
  • H.R. 7398 (Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN) To prohibit wildlife killing contests on public lands, and for other purposes.Prohibit Wildlife Killing Contests Act of 2022.
  • H.R. 7792 (Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-NM) To provide for a national water data framework, and for other purposes. Water Data Act
  • H.R. 7793 (Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-NM) To provide for the water security of the Rio Grande Basin, to reauthorize irrigation infrastructure grants, and for other purposes. Rio Grande Water Security Act.
  • H.R. 7801 (Rep. Mike Levin, D-CA) To amend the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 to allow the Secretary of Commerce to establish a Coastal and Estuarine Resilience and Restoration Program, and for other purposes.

For hearing materials and schedules, please visit U.S. House of Representatives, Committee Repository at

Return of the Buffalo – Flathead Beacon

A bison grazes among blooming arrowleaf balsamroot on the Bison Range nature preserve on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Over three days the Salish and Kootenai celebrated the restoration of the Bison Range to tribal ownership allowing them to manage the resources and wildlife for the first time in 112 yearsBy Micah DrewMay 25, 2022

Red Sleep Mountain rises 2,000 feet above the floor of the Mission Valley, one of the best vantage points to take in the dramatic expanse of the Mission Mountains that form the valley’s eastern border. The top of the mountain is only accessible via a one-way dirt road that winds through 18,524 fenced-off acres in the heart of the Flathead Indian Reservation. 

That swath of land is home to deer, elk, bears and approximately 455 bison, a herd of animals whose history is intricately bound to the Salish and Kootenai people. 

However, for more than a century that parcel of land was federally owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as a National Wildlife Refuge known as the National Bison Range (NBR). Tribal members were cut off not only from their ancestral land and the herd of bison they helped bring back from the brink of extinction, but from their ability to leverage generations of resource conservation knowledge to protect the landscape and habitat within the fence line. 

For decades, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) actively sought to restore ownership of the NBR to allow the Salish and Kootenai to resume full management responsibilities of the range. 

The Bison Range nature preserve on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Rich Janssen, head of the CSKT’s Natural Resource Department (NRD), said in a 2015 interview with Montana Public Radio that he believed the range would be returned in his lifetime. 

“I just had that feeling back when I was 45, I felt in my heart that I thought it was going to happen,” Janssen said last week. “You know we just weren’t going away until it was done, and when I turned 50 it happened.”

Legislation to restore the Bison Range was included in the 2020 annual omnibus spending bill, known as Public Law 116-260, which was signed on Dec. 27, 2020, transferring the land to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to be held in a trust for the tribes, effectively restoring the land forcefully taken more than a century ago.

“The range was always a postage stamp of pink, which is the federal land color, on our land status map for so long,” said Whisper Camel-Means, division manager of fish, wildlife, recreation, and conservation for the tribal NRD. “Now it’s green, the tribal ownership color, and we don’t want this hard border anymore. Yes, we have a fence to keep the bison in. But as much as we can I want to see that line blurred, making the bison range holistic with the rest of our management and the rest of our reservation.”

Tribal dancers celebrate the restoration of the bison range

Dancers march to the dance floor during the powwow portion of the Bison Range Restoration Celebration on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

While the legislation restoring the Bison Range was signed in late 2020, it wasn’t until January of this year that the transfer was completed. As a culmination of decades of work, as well as to commemorate the opening of the range under full tribal management for the first time, the CSKT held a three-day celebration last week that began with prayers, dances, and a powwow on Friday, May 20 and ended with half-price admission to the Bison Range on Sunday, May 22. 

 The ceremonies reached a peak on Saturday afternoon inside the gym of the Salish Kootenai College in Pablo. A multigenerational crowd packed the venue and, after songs by Flathead Nation singers and opening prayers by tribal elders, the first Native American Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland took the stage, tearing up as she started speaking. 

“I cannot help but imagine what this area looked like before European contact with vast herds of bison roaming the plains, when our Indigenous ancestors lived on this land alongside the plethora of animals and each respected their place in the balance of nature,” Haaland began. “With the loss of tribal homelands and the depletion of the buffalo herds, Plains tribes lost traditional connections with this beautiful animal; but in spite of that tragedy and loss, we are still here. You are still here, and that’s something to celebrate.”

Former Interior secretaries expressly opposed the restoration of land ownership, making Haaland’s presence an important affirmation of the reunification. As the first Native American in the presidential Cabinet, Haaland’s position also prompted emotional reactions from many attendees who congregated around her for handshakes and photos. 

“When our wildlife management and conservation efforts are guided by Indigenous knowledge developed over millennia, we all succeed,” Haaland said. “The return of the bison range to these Tribes is a triumph and a testament to what can happen when we collaboratively work together to restore balance and ecosystems that were injured by greed and disrespect.”

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks at the celebration of the Bison Range restoration

Deb Haaland, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, speaks at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo May 21, 2022. Micah Drew | Flathead Beacon

Throughout the celebrations, tribal elders relayed the history of the Tribes’ relationship with the buffalo, both in person and through screenings of the short documentary film, “In the Spirit of Atatice: The Untold Story of the National Bison Range,” which was commissioned by CSKT to explain how members of the Tribes were responsible for initially bringing buffalo to the Flathead Indian Reservation from across the Continental Divide when the animals were at the brink of extinction, a narrative that was fractured by the creation of the Bison Range. 

The idea to restore bison to the Flathead Reservation dates to the 1860s when a tribal member named Atatice, or Peregrine Falcon Robe, was on a buffalo hunt across the Continental Divide and asked the tribal chiefs if they could bring some bison back with them, but the chiefs were at an impasse.

His son Latati, or Little Falcon Robe, was able to realize his father’s vision while on a buffalo hunt by bringing some orphaned calves across the Divide. A small herd began to flourish on the Reservation, but in 1884, Latati’s stepfather sold the herd to tribal members Michel Pablo and Charles Allard without Latati’s consent. 

The Allard-Pablo herd continued to grow and, in 1901, a portion of the herd was sold to Charles E. Conrad in Kalispell. Three years later, the Flathead Allotment Act opened land to non-Indian homesteaders, effectively ending free range on much of the Reservation and allowing the federal government to force Pablo to sell the remaining head of his herd.

When the American Bison Society began scouting land to establish a bison range to preserve the species, the organization contracted with the ecologist Morton J. Elrod, a professor at the University of Montana who recommended the Flathead Indian Reservation as a fitting landscape, where the species could return to its native land. In 1908, the federal government seized 18,524 acres of land to establish the National Bison Range.  

Flags fly over the Bison Range Visitor Center on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In a wrenching twist of irony, the 36 animals that made up the initial herd for the range were purchased from the Conrad family — the same animals (or their direct descendants) that formed the Allard-Pablo herd prior to the federal government’s forceful removal. 

The establishment of the Bison Range continued the fragmentation of the reservation, which was reflected in the Salish translation for the range: “fenced-in place.”

“It was common knowledge that the fence was as much to keep the Indians out as it was to keep the buffalo in,” former CSKT councilman Leonard Gray said over the weekend. “I remember growing up driving down [U.S. Highway] 93 heading toward Ravalli and knowing this was the Bison Range but that it was federal land and I just didn’t feel welcome.”

For decades, tribal members were prohibited from working for the Bison Range; as recently as the early 2000s, only one tribal member, Darren Thomas, was employed there. 

“There’s so many things you can learn from a buffalo — from how they act, how they behave, their strength, their kindness, their wiseness, how they run in a herd,” Thomas said. “So as a Flathead Nation, now we are truly a buffalo nation.”

An elder's folder hands during a prayer at the Bison Range restoration celebration

Salish elder Johnny Arlee folds his hands over his hat and cane during a prayer at the Bison Range Restoration Celebration on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Rich Janssen has worked for the NRD for more than a decade, helping to steer conservation and restoration work across the 1.25 million-acre reservation, protecting habitat for everything from grizzly bears and bighorn sheep to trumpeter swans and bull trout. 

That meant managing thousands of acres abutting the imaginary ecological boundary of the Bison Range, including shared wetlands, watersheds and wildlife habitat, without being able to complete the same work on the other side of the fence.

Now conservation work can continue unfettered by jurisdictional divides, an efficient, but subtle difference. Day-to-day management of the range and bison hasn’t changed much since the transition from federal to tribal management, though Janssen said one difference is how the annual bison roundup is conducted. The roundup allows biologists to monitor the health of the herd, as well as cull some animals to send to other herds or auction off to raise funds for the range. Starting last fall, staff implemented a low-stress handling procedure, doing away with the use of whips and horses and cattle-like treatment. 

“The roundup took a little longer than normal,” Janssen said. “It was an extra day to gently move them through the corrals and handle them with the respect they deserve and we’re already seeing the changes in the bison. They’re really taking to our way of caring for them.”

The most visible change to the Bison Range is at the visitor’s center in Moiese, where a newly renovated wing of exhibits details the history of the Tribes’ relationship to the bison and the land. There are also plans for a cultural center and a second entrance to the range at the top of Ravalli Hill, located directly off U.S. Highway 93, which will make access easier for travelers. 

“We’re getting a lot of traffic and it’s only getting larger,” Janssen said. “We’re inviting the public to come out and enjoy the Bison Range, especially if they can’t get into Glacier and can’t get into Yellowstone.”

Rich Janssen, Department Head of Natural Resources for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Preparing for a greater number of visitors means addressing a backlog of deferred maintenance on the Bison Range that has piled up through the years. Janssen said the Tribes are working on improving the roads, making the visitor’s center ADA accessible and upgrading technology to make both staff and visitor experiences smoother.  

“Some people have been worried about the transition, but we’ve already got our feet on the ground, and I don’t worry about this place failing,” said Camel-Means, the NRD’s division manager of fish, wildlife, recreation, and conservation. “We can manage wildlife and we can manage places and now we get to manage this land in the same way. Failure isn’t a term that’s part of my vocabulary anymore because we don’t have to worry about other people ruining things for us for a political agenda.” 

If there was one entity that didn’t seem to understand the magnitude of the weekend’s celebration, it was the dozens of buffalo lounging hillside across the Bison Range, unfazed by the procession of cars driving past, visitors snapping photos through open windows. 

Just over the summit of Red Sleep Mountain, a few bison were grazing among the blooming yellow arrowleaf balsamroot. Standing out in stark contrast to the adult’s dark brown shapes were a few diminutive reddish baby buffalo, a few of the 20 calves born this spring, which Secretary Haaland fittingly referenced in her closing remarks.

“Today represents a return to something pure and sacred,” she said. “I am confident that the future is as bright for the little calves just learning to walk in the spring as for the generations of CSKT members who will be reconnected with their ancestral traditions over the decades.”A cow bison rests with her calf on the Bison Range nature preserve on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

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Summer Preview

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Surging summertime crowds have prompted a ticketed-entry strategy to manage congestion problems in and around the park, and persistent overcrowding could mean it’s here to stay Environment

Return of the Buffalo

Over three days the Salish and Kootenai celebrated the restoration of the Bison Range to tribal ownership allowing them to manage the resources and wildlife for the first time in 112 years Books

Art, History, and the Atomic Bomb

Author, illustrator and Flathead resident Jonathan Fetter-Vorm reflects on the 10-year anniversary of his debut book, a graphic history of the first atomic bomb

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WildChoices assists local and international tour operators, agents, and individual travellers to make informed, ethical choices about captive wildlife tourism facilities in South Africa.


WildChoices identifies the captive wildlife facilities* in South Africa that offer tourist attractions and activities including interactions and volunteer programs, and assesses them by applying the publicly available SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Decision Tool published in 2019, to publicly available online information about the facilities and their activities.

The Tool is in the form of a decision tree (see below) that guides the user through the rapid assessment of a facility against a series of qualifying and disqualifying criteria to help decide which captive wildlife tourism facilities to support and which to avoid.

The assessment process results in one of three possible outcomes: Support, Support with Caution, or Avoid.

Neither the list nor the assessment results are static and are updated with any new information to keep the list and assessment result current. No online information prior to 2018 has been considered in the assessment process.

For the full SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Guidelines click here.

For the full SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Decision Tool click here.

**Captive wildlife facilities are defined as facilities that keep wild animals in a human-made enclosure that is of insufficient size for the management of self-sustaining populations of the species and designed to hold the animals in a manner that prevents them from escaping and facilitates intensive human intervention or manipulation in the provision of food and/or water, artificial housing and/or healthcare.


The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) is a non-profit, member-driven association representing the Southern Africa region’s tourism private sector. It has over 1,000 members including accommodation establishments, airlines, attractions, transport operators, conference organisers, marketing organisations, tour operators and destination management companies.

At SATSA’s annual conference in August 2017, members raised concerns about the proliferation of captive wildlife attractions and activities in South Africa, and the negative impact that unethical facilities might have on tourism and brand South Africa.

In 2018 SATSA established a Board Committee on Animal Interactions and commissioned BDO South Africa, an independent consulting firm, to:

  1. Define the types of entities that fall within the ambit of captive wildlife interactions including standardising definitions and terminology;
  2. Develop an ethical framework to evaluate operations that involve captive wildlife interactions to underpin the debate and establish the principles upon which the ethicalness of animal interaction operations may objectively be evaluated;
  3. Develop a set of guidelines for the self-regulation of captive wildlife tourism experiences.

In November 2019 SATSA published their Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Guidelines and Decision Tool.

In 2021 Brett Mitchell and Gavin Reynolds, both members of the 2018 SATSA Board Committee, founded WildChoices.

WildChoices launched in March 2022 with a list of 219 assessed facilities.


Wildlife deaths caused by hair ties, surgical masks and other ordinary household items

Amber Irving-Guthrie

We know that plastic bags, straws and microplastics have a deadly reputation when they wind up in the ocean, but there are other everyday items that are killing animals regularly without us noticing.

This story contains images that readers may find distressing.

Recently, a platypus was found dead in Warburton, 2 hours east of Melbourne, with an old hair tie wrapped around its neck.

Geoff Williams from the Australian Platypus Conservancy says platypuses are killed from hair ties more often than you might think.

“We are currently aware of one or two platypus deaths per year in Victoria caused by hair ties. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg,” he says.

Dead platypus appears to have been choked by a hair tie.
This platypus was found choked by a hair-tie at Warburton in Victoria recently.(Supplied: Johnathan McLay)

“Very few dead platypus are ever found as the animals typically die in the water or in underground burrows. The actual number of platypuses that are killed by litter entanglement is much higher.”

Dr Kate Robb from the Marine Mammal Foundation says entanglements are a constant threat for marine life.

“We’re very well aware of things like plastic bags, food wrappings and balloon strings … but there are these other lesser-known hazards that [are killing animals],” Dr Robb says.

“Anything that has a ring structure can be deadly, for example box [packing] tape is problematic, especially when we are getting more and more things delivered.”

Duck with baby's teething ring caught in its bill.
Pacific black duck discovered with a teething ring caught in its bill, at Werribee.(Zoos Victoria: Gary Gale)

Common dangers for animals

Here are some of the items causing regular animal entanglements that Dr Robb believes should be brought the public’s attention:

Platypus killed by elastic band, a gloved hand holds the band
Platypus killed by elastic band entanglement, Preston Victoria. (Supplied: Australian Platypus Conservancy)

“The rim around your hat that keeps it on your head becomes an issue when the hat breaks down,” she says.

“The velcro at the back of your hat also becomes a circular object and is dangerous.”

People collecting Fishing buckets and other plastic waste.
Fishing buckets and other plastic waste collected by Colleen Hughson and friends.(Supplied: Colleen Hughson)

“Just like hats, buckets that are used for bait can blow off into our waterways and they can also create those circular rings that cause entanglements,” Dr Robb says.

“A lot of birds are getting caught in face masks … in the straps that go around the ears,” she says.

“Anything that forms a circular shape can be really problematic and dangerous for our animals.”

Discarded surgical face mask tangled in seaweed.
Colleen Hughson found endless waste from the pandemic.(Supplied: Colleen Hughson)

Boating supplies in beach waste

Victorian environmental warrior Colleen Hughson says she has noticed a myriad of random things washing up on beaches in Western Victoria.

“We found lots of fishing gear, fishing ropes and nets, 200 litre drums and chemical containers,” she says.

Ms Hughson recently walked 100 kilometres over seven days collecting rubbish between Portland and Warrnambool.

“Most of the stuff we found was ocean-based waste and litter. Not so much your single use items … but rubbish that was falling off ships and boats,” she says.

“We were collecting some bottle neck rings … but the fishing rope is the biggest issue. Birds get tangled up so easily in fishing rope.”

Two people carrying plastic tubing they have collected from the beach.
Colleen Hughson collected waste along the Shipwreck Coast.(Supplied: Rosana Sialong)

Dr Robb says there are ways we can dispose of rubbish and make sure it doesn’t end up around an animal’s neck.

“One of the main things we can do is to cut anything that is ring shaped before throwing it out. Rip straps off your face masks … and cut hair ties before throwing them out,” she says.

“Cut anything that has a ring shape before you put them in the bin or into the recycling.”

Ongoing plastic production an issue

“We can change our processes further upstream with the way things are manufactured, but it changes with the consumer,” says Dr Robb.

“There’s a push from the consumer for manufacturers to create products that are more sustainable, and is less likely to kill our wildlife.”

Dr Paul Read from Sea Shepherd Australia says we should be looking at a more significant problem when it comes to marine life entanglements — the waste from commercial fishing boats and the amount of plastic we produce.

Waste collected on Victoria's coastline laid out in order of plastic to netting.
Rubbish from Colleen Hughson’s 100km trek along Victoria’s southern coastline.(Supplied: Colleen Hughson)

“We need to address the plastic problem at the source, which is the constantly running tap of plastic production, as well as combating the massive amount of debris caused by the industrial fishing industry,” he says. 

“We need to campaign for plastic alternatives, remove existing fishing nets from the ocean, ensure compliance with fisheries laws by commercial fishers and combat illegal fishing.”

Dead platypus caught in a fishing line.
This platypus got caught in fishing line at Werribee.(Supplied: L Taillard)

The Beauty of Nature

“Harpy Eagle”

The Harpy Eagle lives in Brazil and United States is 3 ft 6″ high and the female weighs 20 pounds and the male 13 pounds, with talons bigger than bear claws.

U.S. Allows Hunters to Import Some Elephant Trophies From African Countries

Elephants at a waterhole in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
Credit…Eric Baccega/agefotostock, via Alamy

After settling a lawsuit filed during the Trump administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service granted six permits to bring elephant parts into the country. It may approve more in the coming months.

April 1, 2022

Miranda Green

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service informed some hunters last month that it would allow the import of six elephant trophies into the United States from Zimbabwe. The African elephant carcasses will be the first allowed into the country in five years.

The decision reverses an agencywide hold on processing elephant trophy import permits that was put in place during the Trump administration in November 2017, and has since prevented any elephant tusks, tails or feet from being brought into the country.

The reversal is the result of a September 2021 settlement with the Dallas Safari Club, a big-game hunting organization that sued the Trump administration in December 2019 for pausing trophy permit processing. The environment and tourism ministry of Namibia was also a plaintiff in the case. The Fish and Wildlife Service is required under the settlement to process the permits of the 11 hunters named in the suit, as well as 73 other outstanding permit applications. That could potentially lead to additional trophies being brought into the United States from countries that allow limited hunting of elephants for sport.

According to a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson, both parties “negotiated a settlement they consider to be in the public interest and a just, fair, adequate and equitable resolution of the disputes set forth in the plaintiffs’ complaint.”

The service’s decision to settle the lawsuit continues a long-running dispute between hunters and biodiversity experts over whether trophy hunting is beneficial or harmful to big game species, particularly endangered animals like the two species of African elephants. It has also prompted criticism from activists and biodiversity groups who question why the agency did not fight the lawsuit or reinstate a similar ban that was instituted during the Obama administration.

They point out that the move goes against President Biden’s commitment on the campaign trail to limiting hunting imports. The critics also say it is the latest in a series of confounding steps by the Biden administration to acquiesce to lawsuits leftover from the Trump administration and a failure to invest in more protections under the Endangered Species Act, like conserving more gray wolves. They argue these actions show that Mr. Biden hasn’t kept his word on environmental priorities.

“We expected the Biden administration would have halted everything and taken a hard look and made some tough decisions that maybe this isn’t something we should be doing given the biodiversity crisis,” said Tanya Sanerib, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “So to have the reality be the exact opposite of that, it feels like whiplash.”

For trophy hunters and big game groups, the reversal came as a long delayed win.

“It’s a victory for conservation because in a lot of these places where elephants reside, the habitat is only made available because of hunting dollars,” said Lane Easter, 57, an equine veterinarian in Texas whose trophy permit was approved under the settlement for a Zimbabwe hunt he did in 2017.

The majority of trophy hunters are from the United States. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, hunters must prove before they import a trophy that killing the animal aided in the “positive enhancement” of a species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s perspective, which predates Mr. Biden’s election, is that trophy hunting can qualify as species enhancement if it’s “legal, well-regulated hunting as part of a sound management program,” the agency spokesperson said.

Big game hunters say that the money they spend on hunts is later invested in the rehabilitation of the species and economically benefits nearby communities, preventing poaching. They also say that hunting certain animals like elephants and lions can benefit overall herd health.

Hunters can spend upward of $40,000 on an African hunt in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia and Namibia, and many of them win the rights through bidding wars held at national conferences like the Safari Club International’s annual convention.

But groups like Humane Society International say that hunting a species does not benefit its survival and that the Fish and Wildlife Service should not allow paid hunts to qualify as a method of species enhancement, especially on animals the United States considers threatened. The International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2021 revised its listing for both species of African elephant to highlight that both are at greater risk of extinction.

Critics also say there is little proof that money paid for a hunt ultimately helps the species recover, especially when corruption has been found to be rampant in several of the countries where African elephants reside.

“There is no evidence that trophy hunting advances conservation of a species,” said Teresa Telecky, a zoologist and the vice president of wildlife at the Humane Society International.

When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, big game hunters expected it would be easier to import elephant trophies. The week before Thanksgiving in 2017, the Fish and Wildlife Service reversed an Obama-era ban, allowing hunters to import elephant trophies from several African countries. The news set off a storm of disapproval and criticism, with even staunch allies of Mr. Trump warning the move might increase the “gruesome poaching of elephants.”

Just 24 hours later, Mr. Trump tweeted that he would put the decision on “hold.” After that tweet, not a single elephant trophy was approved for import to the United States.

“Because the president found trophy hunting distasteful he essentially abrogated the law with a tweet,” said George Lyon, the lawyer who represented the Dallas Safari Club, “and that’s not how the administrative process is supposed to go.”

So far, the wildlife service said it had processed eight permits. In addition to the six it allowed, it denied two, and it is expected to rule in coming months on more. Mr. Lyon estimated that as of last September, close to 300 elephant trophy permits from various African countries were awaiting processing.

Mr. Easter says he’s not wasting any time to bask in his legal victory. His elephant’s tusks are already being prepared for shipment to his home in Texas.

“They are going to hang in the living room of my house, and I will remember that elephant for the rest of my life,” he said.

He has another trophy hunt in Africa booked for August.

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Another One Of Biden’s Accomplishments

“Young man noticed a strange stump and decided to get closer to it! What happened next made him gasp!”

Help Protect Our Wolves

What a shot! Game Warden shoots antler off buck to free it from net

Photo Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Game Commission

What a shot! Game Warden shoots antler off buck to free it from net

by CBS 21 NewsThursday, March 24th 2022

BERKS COUNTY, Pa. — One buck in Berks Co. is an antler lighter, but safe, thanks to a PA State Game Warden.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission posting this amazing story on it’s Facebook page.

A concerned resident called the Game Commission when they saw a buck with it’s antler stuck in a net.

State Game Warden Ryan Zawada was nervous that chemical immobilization was not a safe option because of the distress level of the deer.

So, he decided the best option was to shoot the antler off.

Pennsylvania Game Commission

🦌 This buck recently shed an antler in a nontypical way.

State Game Warden Ryan Zawada recently responded to quite the call when a concerned citizen reported a buck had it’s antler stuck in a net in Berks County.

Given the deer’s state of distress upon arrival, SGW Zawada was nervous that chemical immobilization was not a safe option to remove the deer from the net. He decided the best option was to shoot the caught antler off. After the shot, one antler lighter, the buck ra… See more

May be an image of outdoors
May be an image of 1 person, deer and nature
May be an image of deer and nature

After the shot, the buck ran off, unharmed.

Now that’s what I call a good shot.