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Conservation

Nov 15, 2019

It was a glorious day to be a fisher. In the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, just south of Randle, Washington, fall leaves crackled underfoot and the November air was crisp. As a crowd of humans watched in hushed silence, the door lifted on a crate – and the first of four new Cascades fishers darted out into the ferns. The latest chapter in the recovery of a species was being told. “We are here today as partners in bringing fishers back to Washington,” explained Jeff Lewis, conservation biologist for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. “Individually, as a species, …

Oct 16, 2019

Wildlife products now illegal to sell in Washington can be dropped off at Oct. 26 event. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 25, 2019 TACOMA, Wash. – Have any ivory carvings tucked away at home? A shark fin souvenir? Grandma’s antique turtle-shell brooch? Thanks to the passing of the Washington Animal Trafficking Act – I-1401 – those wildlife products are now illegal to sell in Washington state without proper documentation, in order to protect endangered species from poaching. Yet there may be many South Sounders who still own such products, through inheritance or prior sale. What to do with those items? Hand …

Jul 10, 2019

You could see 500 bats – or you could see three. Either way, every one of the 49 Northwest Trek staff, interns and volunteers that gathered for the twilight Bat Counts on June 28 and July 5 was vital. Armed with data sheets, click counters and plenty of comfy chairs, the bat counters were helping the wildlife park study its native population of bats – a study that in turn is crucial to helping scientists better understand and protect these tiny mammals. Plus, it’s becoming a Trek tradition. Bat Spotting “Is that –?!” “No, it’s a bird.” I slumped back …

Jun 28, 2019

Forget the ugly duckling. These cygnets are only a week old, and already beautiful. But the six baby swans, which hatched early June at Northwest Trek, aren’t just pint-sized bundles of fluffy gray cuteness. They’re part of a success story for trumpeter swans in North America, helping the species flourish in the wild. “This year we had six cygnets, which is more than we’ve had in years,” said curator Marc Heinzman. “It’s great to see such a healthy population here.” Paired for life, breeding for the future The new cygnets were hatched to the wildlife park’s breeding pair of swans, …

May 13, 2019

As pink sky slowly darkens behind tall trees, six scientists stand motionless outside the veterinary clinic at Northwest Trek. Only a robin’s chirp pierces the cool air. All eyes are fixed on the clinic’s overhang roof, straining to see through the shadows. They’re waiting for the appearance of a tiny creature that’s often misunderstood, yet is vital to human health, and is now in danger from a deadly disease. They’re waiting for bats. 6:00 p.m. Scientists Michelle Tirhi and Abby Tobin arrive at Northwest Trek, and start scouting bat roosts with Trek staff: conservation engagement coordinator Rachael Mueller, veterinary technician …

Apr 18, 2019

It’s a sunny spring afternoon at Northwest Trek, and in the Free-Roaming Area pond a small turtle is basking on a log. Keeper Dave Meadows, passing by, stops the truck and whips out a camera – because this is no ordinary turtle. It’s a rare western pond turtle, endangered in Washington. And it’s the first one seen at the wildlife park in two years. “You really only see them in spring, when they come out of hibernation and it’s sunny, but before the water levels fall too much,” says Meadows. Native – and endangered Western pond turtles are around 4-8 …

Jul 16, 2018

The mission began at sunset. After a quick briefing to receive assignments and equipment, 26 staff and volunteers spread silently out to their locations. In the entrance breezeway, near the tram garage and underneath trees, they hunkered low on the ground as darkness grew. They waited, breath hushed. And then, with a chattering and creaking overhead, the mission began: The Great Trek Bat Count of 2018. As bats began to fly out from their roosts into the night to hunt, the humans sitting quietly below them began to click their counters, one for each outgoing bat. One staff member had …

Jun 05, 2018

Some was sprinkled around the base of a tree. More was scattered over the floor of the tram garage. But it was just outside one of the veterinary clinics, under a wide overhanging awning, that Michelle Tirhi got really excited. “Look at all that!” she exclaimed, sweeping her eyes around the concrete floor. “And it’s all fresh! We could just scoop up some right now.” Bending down, she picked up a tiny black sliver the size and shape of a rice grain and held it up triumphantly. Bat poop. Or guano, to be precise. Tirhi, the District II wildlife biologist …

Jun 04, 2018

Amazing. That’s the word used to describe the outcome of the 2018 Point Defiance Park BioBlitz, a 24-hour survey of living things observed in the 760-acre park. By sheer numbers, the BioBlitz more than met its purpose of forging connections between people and their natural surroundings, said Metro Parks Tacoma’s Craig Standridge. In his role as community engagement coordinator at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, he oversaw the April 27-28 event, as well as the previous one in 2011. “There was an overwhelming level of participation and enthusiasm,” he said. “It showed there is a real craving for this type …

Jun 04, 2018

Deep in the forests of Mount Rainier National Park, a female fisher holes up in the crook of a towering Douglas fir, protecting and feeding her newborn kits. Far below and several miles away, a propeller spins faster and faster, generating the speed needed to hurl a small aircraft down an airstrip and into the Northwest skies. The plane’s belly and wings bristle with antennae as it heads off on a mission to pinpoint the fisher’s location using signals from a transmitter implanted before her release. This is a fisher reconnaissance mission, funded with the donations made by Northwest Trek …