Category Archives: News

Speaking Up For Wildlife: How To Report Wildlife Crime:


Blanding’s Turtle crossing the road. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for protecting America’s wildlife from poaching, illegal commercialization and other kinds of wildlife crime. While our special agents and wildlife inspectors within the Office of Law Enforcement work with our federal, state and tribal conservation partners across the country to investigate these crimes, we also depend on tips from concerned citizens. People just like you step up and share information that helps us protect everything from native turtles and pallid sturgeon to bald eagles and white-tailed deer. Help us close the next case and you may be eligible for a monetary reward.

Wildlife crime is much more than elephant ivory and rhino horns. America’s native plants and animals need your help across the country. While it’s true that we are actively fighting illegal commercialization, commonly referred to as wildlife trafficking, wildlife crime is far more domestic than you may realize. It can happen in your local parks, wildlife refuges and even on your own land. Many of our law enforcement investigations are solved because people who see unlawful activities reach out to us or their local game warden. In tandem to this community effort, we established the use of financial rewards to people who provide critical information. This program allows us to thank everyday people who help us investigate and stop these crimes, all while protecting their anonymity in the process.

Be situationally aware and trust your gut when things just don’t seem right. This happened to a woman in Minnesota while she was on a bike ride and saw someone putting Blanding’s turtles in their trunk. She knew that these mild-mannered turtles are protected and extremely vulnerable during breeding season as they move to nesting habitat to lay eggs. She reported the vehicle’s license plate number and other identifiable information to an officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and her tip ultimately helped to uncover a multi-state, illegal trafficking scheme based in Wisconsin. The man involved pleaded guilty to a felony Lacey Act violation, served time in prison and paid heavy fines. During the investigation, officers recovered an incubator with 120 native map, painted and softshell turtle eggs that he had illegally collected in the wild. This wildlife trafficker also left an incriminating digital footprint, using online retailers to traffic additional wild reptile and amphibian species. Just one person speaking for a couple of turtles made a positive impact on local wildlife. In this case, we were able to recognize her contributions with a $1,500 reward through the Lacey Act Reward Account, all while maintaining her anonymity. You can remain anonymous when reporting.

Know the law:

Another way you can help is by knowing the laws that protect wildlife. Migratory birds native to the U.S., including their nests and eggs, are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. Knowing what’s in season under state and tribal law is important too, because poaching isn’t the only wildlife crime, hunting out of season and falsifying records are also criminal offenses. Ethical hunters and anglers respect the biological reasoning behind bag limits and speak up when something doesn’t seem right.
Do you have a wildlife crime to report?
If you believe you have information related to a wildlife crime, email or call us with information about where and when it occurred, along with what you witnessed. Include any photos or videos you may have.

How to report a wildlife crime:

If you think you’re witnessing a crime in progress, maintain a safe distance and protect yourself.
Make use of your cell phone and take photos or videos, if you can do so safely.
Write down any information about the person committing the crime, including any vehicle information, what you witnessed and where the event took place.
If you suspect that someone is trafficking in wildlife online, include the full website URL and take screen captures of the potentially illegal sale. Send us an email with all related information or call us using the FWS TIPs line at 1-844-FWS-TIPS (1-844-397-8477).
Please discuss the possibility of a reward with the special agent receiving your information.
Together, we can make a positive difference in the health of America’s fish, wildlife and iconic habitats.

Learn more about the federal conservation laws that guide our law enforcement work on behalf of America’s fish and wildlife. For more information, contact

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service.

Iowa Project Aware: Year 17! Boone River in Hamilton and Wright Counties

Registrations are now available online for sign up at

HAMILTON & WRIGHT COUNTIES – The Boone River in north-central Iowa will be a lot lighter, and arguably prettier, in just a few short months. This July, hundreds of volunteers will spend their vacations muscling trash from sixty-one contiguous miles of the river between Goldfield and the Boone Forks Wildlife Area near Stratford.

Iowa Project AWARE, an abbreviation for A Watershed Awareness River Expedition, is scheduled for July 7-12. Now in its seventeenth year, Iowa Project AWARE is a one of a kind, multi-day, family friendly annual river cleanup. It is one of the few opportunities in Iowa for outdoor recreation and environmental education fully coordinated by volunteers, for volunteers.

“We are excited to be part of this year’s project on the Boone River,” explained Hamilton County Conservation Director Brian Lammers. “Not only will the cleanup directly benefit our local river ecosystem and improve water quality and recreation potential, the event also brings awareness to the community and brings volunteers together to work on the effort.”

During the cleanup, participants paddle canoes searching for river and riverbank trash by day and camping in local campgrounds and communities by night. Throughout the week volunteers also attend educational programs emphasizing local history, culture and nature. While the expedition lasts six days, participants can register for as few or as many days as they choose. Paddling equipment, boats, and daily meals are included with daily registration fees.

N-Compass, Inc. is the nonprofit organization who produces Iowa Project AWARE. The group is working with the Webster City-based Boone River Cleanup Committee, which has organized local cleanups in Hamilton County since 2007. Despite years of successful local cleanup efforts, local organizers report there is always trash to be found. With the expedition starting in the Wright County hamlet of Goldfield, cleanup volunteers will traverse nearly the entire navigable portion of the Boone River.

In the past 16 years, more than 2,610 volunteers from across the country have participated in the multi-day river cleanup. This includes paddling 1,200 river miles of Iowa waters, removing 436 tons of trash with more than three-quarters of which has been recycled.

For more information about Iowa Project AWARE, N-Compass, Inc. and to register as a river cleanup volunteer for the 2019 event please visit

Iowa Great Lakes Curlyleaf Pondweed Management Plans

Spirit Lake – Invasive curlyleaf pondweed has become a common site in the spring on portions of the Iowa Great Lakes in recent years. The 2019 plan for managing this plant will be similar to 2018, but treat more acres.

A team of leaders from the county, local cities, lake associations, drinking water utilities, Iowa Lakeside Lab, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have been working together over the past two years to manage this invasive aquatic plant that has caused water access and navigation issues on portions of the Iowa Great Lakes.

“Curlyleaf pondweed has been in our lakes since the middle of the last century, but conditions have allowed it to gain a foothold growing to form dense mats impacting recreation and access,” said Mike Hawkins, Iowa DNR fisheries biologist. “This plant is common throughout the Midwest, causing similar issues on hundreds of lakes.” Unlike native plants, curlyleaf pondweed germinates in the fall, grows under the ice and hits the surface by early May. It dies back naturally in late June.

Terry Wilts, with the East Okoboji Lakes Improvement Corporation, has helped spearhead the management effort over the past few years and explains there are no easy options to solve this problem.

“This plant impacts hundreds of acres. As a team, we realize we can’t treat all of it, but should prioritize our funds and efforts,” Wilts said. “The 2019 plan builds on efforts from past years. We’ve taken what we’ve learned and are applying this knowledge to maximize our impact.”

The 2018 project treated 61 acres of curlyleaf with a combination of mechanical harvesting and the use of an aquatic herbicide. The 2019 plan includes a similar combination, but an increase in treatment area to 85 acres. The team was able to increase the number of acres while keeping the overall cost the same.

The 2018 project was considered successful. Boater access was improved and the project stayed on budget and on-time despite the late ice out. Twenty acres along the shoreline was treated with an aquatic herbicide and 41 acres (1 million pounds) was harvested using a mechanical plant harvester. The herbicide was used more than five miles from any drinking water intake even though water testing at the treatment area showed levels well below the drinking water standard right after treatment. The 2019 plan increases the herbicide treatment to 60 acres while still proposing mechanical harvesting of 25 acres.

The DNR and project partners want to emphasize the importance of not illegally applying herbicides.

“We can’t tolerate lakeshore residents illegally applying herbicides. Iowa law restricts their use and only the DNR has the authority to treat plants in the lake with a herbicide. Everyone living or vacationing in this area gets their drinking water from our lakes. Not following the law endangers that precious resource,” said Eric Stoll, with Milford Utilities, which supplies drinking water for thousands of customers in the region states.

Funding for the project will come from local contributions to the East Okoboji Lakes Improvement Corporation and the DNR’s Marine Fuel Tax Fund which is dedicated to improving boater access in Iowa.

Media Contact: Mike Hawkins, Fisheries Biologist, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 712-336-1840.

Curlyleaf Pondweed:
Photo credits to Wikipedia 

Spring Urban Trout Stocking Starts Soon!

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources fisheries staff will release between 1,000 to 2,000 rainbow trout in ten lakes across Iowa in March and April as part of its cool weather trout program.

The spring urban trout stockings are a great place to take kids to catch their first fish. A small hook with a night crawler or corn under a small bobber to casting small simple spinners such as a panther martin or mepps is all you need to get in on the fun.

Bringing trout to cities and towns offers a “close to home” option for Iowans who might not travel to northeast Iowa to experience trout fishing. Most locations also host a family friendly event to help anglers have success and fun while fishing.

The popular program is supported by the sales of the trout fee. Anglers need a valid fishing license and pay the trout fee to fish for or possess trout. The daily limit is five trout per licensed angler with a possession limit of 10.

Children age 15 or younger can fish for trout with a properly licensed adult, but they must limit their catch to one daily limit. The child can buy a trout fee which will allow them to catch their own limit.Once you buy your trout fee, you can fish for trout all year-long at any of the community trout lakes and trout streams in northeast Iowa.

Find tips on how to fish for trout on the DNR website at

2019 Spring Urban Trout Stocking Schedule:

March 22
Noon: Wilson Lake, east of Donnellson

March 30
11 a.m.: Ottumwa Park Pond, Ottumwa
11 a.m.: Liberty Centre Pond, North Liberty

April 6
Noon: Banner Lake South, north of Indianola
1 p.m.: Terra Lake, Johnston

April 13
10 a.m.: Heritage Pond, Dubuque
11 a.m.: North Prairie Lake, Cedar Falls

April 20
10 a.m.: Prairie Park (Cedar Bend), Cedar Rapids
Noon: Sand Lake, Marshalltown

Media Contact: Mike Steuck, Regional Fisheries Supervisor, Northeast Iowa, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 563-927-3276.

Rainbow Trout

Photo credits to Wikipedia

Littleton Dam removal on the Wapsipinicon River may create hazardous ice conditions

MEDIA CONTACT: Todd Robertson, Iowa DNR River Programs Outreach Coordinator at 515-243-3714.

LITTLETON, Iowa — A construction project on the Wapsipinicon River in Buchanan County to replace the Littleton Dam with a rapids, may create hazardous ice conditions on the river upstream. Work is expected to start on Monday, Feb. 11th.

Snowmobilers, ice anglers, and any other use of the Wapsipinicon River should avoid the area from the Cutshall Access to the Littleton Dam.

The first step of the project removes the dam, which lowers the water level supporting the ice by about five feet. The ice may appear to be stable, but may have several feet of empty space below it and collapse unpredictably.

“This is a temporary, but hazardous condition,” said Todd Robertson, River Programs Outreach Coordinator for the Iowa DNR. “The water level will go back up as the rapids are built, but ice probably won’t be around anymore by then.”

The rapids will be built so the water will pool to about the same level as it was before. Nine fatalities have occurred in the Littleton Dam’s dangerous currents since it was built.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Diversity News! Eagles of Iowa!

Eagles of Iowa

Eagles are essentially massive hawks that are often seen perched in the open or soaring on very long broad wings.

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

  • The most common eagle in Iowa. As an adult it is easily identifiable by the white head and tail, large yellow bill, and a 70″-90″ wingspan.
  • Juveniles are mostly dark with blotchy white on its underwing and tail. They take 4-5 years to reach full adult plumage.
  • They nest and overwinter in Iowa and are regularly found near rivers.
  • Feed mainly on fish, carrion, and roadkill.
  • For most, the nesting season begins in late February and March. If you see a nest, be sure not to disturb the birds and report the nest to the DNR.

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

  • Most common in the bluff country of Northeastern Iowa, golden eagles can be found from November through March.
  • Golden eagles are brown with a variable yellow to tawny brown wash over the back of the head and neck. Adults have a faintly banded tail. Their wingspan is 80″-88″.
  • Immature bald eagles are frequently misidentified as golden eagles but the golden eagle juveniles have well defined white patches at the base of their primary feathers.
  • It takes 4 years for adult plumage to be acquired.

For more information, go to: DNR CONTACT:

Stephanie Shepherd | 515-230-6599 |

Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Diversity News! Eagle Survey Completed!

Photo Courtesy of Steven Niewoehner


Iowa is one of the most important wintering grounds for Bald Eagles with thousands of the huge raptors moving into the state from the north to join our resident breeding birds. Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan all have some of the highest densities of nesting Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states and many of those eagles, especially from MN and WI move into Iowa during the winter months and frequently gather in large numbers around areas of open water to feed and roost.

Since the early 1990s, the Iowa DNR, plus a small army of volunteers has recorded this phenomenon during the Bald Eagle Midwinter Survey that takes place in the first two weeks of every year.  Surveyors scope the trees, air and ice for Iowa’s largest raptor while driving snowy roads which wind along next to many of Iowa’s biggest rivers.  There are 52 set routes in Iowa that cover over 1500 miles in 45 counties and along at least 13 rivers.  The 2019 survey was run from January 2nd through the 16th and was mostly characterised by extremely mild winter temperatures and weather leading up to the survey.  The average percentage of river covered with ice was only 18%, the lowest since 2007 and most surveyors indicated that the weather was “mild” to “very mild”. Hard to believe coming out of the polar vortex!

What did all this mild weather mean for the eagles?  There were fewer than last year’s close to record numbers but at 2,924 there were still plenty of birds counted.  When the weather is mild and rivers are open, we expect fewer birds to be counted because birds from up north may not feel driven to move south to look for food and the birds that are here are more spread out, making them harder to count. Also, at least four routes could not be surveyed because of the federal government shutdown.

The count of birds is usually split into adult and immature (and some unidentified) and those totaled 1,893 adults and 952 immatures.  This is important because the percentage of immatures in the population is a metric we use to make sure that successful reproduction is happening.  The percentage this year was 32.6%, almost identical to 2018’s percentage and it has been stable since 1994.

Notable this year, was the Missouri River, which had its highest count ever with 498 bald eagles counted!  The second highest count was in 2012 and was only 195.  The Mississippi and Des Moines rivers tend to have the most birds and while they were highest again this year, the Missouri came in a close third.

The data collected on Iowa’s bald eagle midwinter survey show an upward climb of eagle numbers from 1994 to 2019.  It’s an important survey for the annual trend it provides and along with eagle nest monitoring helps the Iowa DNR keep an eagle eye on this important species!

The Bald Eagle Midwinter survey is a national survey, currently coordinated at that level by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps analyzes data from the many states that participate which allows them to have an idea about eagle population trends at the regional and national scale. These type of data played a key role in determining in 2007 that the Bald Eagle was doing well enough to be removed from the Endangered Species List.

For more information, contact

Frog and Toad Survey Workshop

All across the state of Iowa, citizen scientists are making enormous contributions to wildlife conservation with some training through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program.

“The Volunteer Wildlife Monitoring Program provides an opportunity for adults who love the outdoors and wildlife to be directly involved with the conservation and monitoring of Iowa’s resources. The work done is crucial to the well-being of these species,” said Stephanie Shepherd, wildlife biologist with the Iowa DNR’s Wildlife Diversity Program.

Every March and April, Shepherd travels around the state to lead training workshops that ready folks to collect data on some of Iowa’s critical wildlife. So what are these critical wildlife species?
Volunteers are trained to listen to and recognize the 16 species of frogs and toads in Iowa based on their breeding calls. In 2018, volunteers surveyed 54 survey routes which translate into more than 400 wetland sites monitored for frog and toad activity.

“The frog and toad surveyors are particularly special because to perform the surveys volunteers have to drive back country roads at night along a specific route using only their ears to collect data,” Shepherd said. “I think most feel that exploring the Iowa wilds at night is a unique experience and opportunity.”

Interested volunteers must register for and attend a training workshop.

Frog and Toad Call Survey Workshops

April 2: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Pioneer Ridge Nature Center, 1339 Highway 63, Bloomfield
Hosted by Wapello County Conservation

April 8: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Wapsi River Environmental Center, 31555 52nd Ave., Dixon
Hosted by Scott County Conservation

April 9: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Boone Wildlife Research Station by Ledges State Park, 1436 255th St., Boone

April 13: 1 to 4 p.m.
Oak Grove Lodge at Oak Grove Park, 4051 Cherry Ave., Hawarden

Hosted by Sioux County Conservation

There is a $5 fee to cover workshop materials.

For more information, go to e-mail

“Chickadee Check Off” or Fish / Wildlife Diversity Fund

Last year, a little over 7,500 Iowa taxpayers helped boost wildlife conservation with donations to the Fish and Wildlife Fund on their state tax form. This is roughly 400 fewer contributors than in 2016. Donators represent about 0.4% of total tax payers in Iowa.
“We are so thankful to all the people who choose to donate to wildlife conservation with their tax refunds,” said Shepherd. “I have a hope that we can do even better to increase funding levels which go directly to habitat development and restoration programs for some of Iowa’s most vulnerable animal species. The funds are so important for natural resources.”

The Fish and Wildlife Fund, known popularly as the “Chickadee Check-off,” is a mechanism the Iowa Legislature created in the 1980s for Iowa citizens to donate to wildlife conservation on the Iowa state tax form. Before this time, so called “non-game” wildlife had no dedicated funding. Non-game wildlife are the 1000+ species such as songbirds, bald eagles, salamanders, turtles, monarchs and bees that make up the majority of wildlife in Iowa. It is one of the only funding sources for the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Diversity program which is responsible for all these species. The program uses the funding to help improve wildlife habit, restore native wildlife, provide opportunities for citizens to learn about our natural resources and much more

According to Shepherd, Iowans donated roughly $145,000 last spring when completing their 2017 tax forms. This translates to an average gift of $19.25 per donor. The number of donors has mostly stayed level or decreased but thanks to more generous giving, the amount donated has also stayed level or even increased.

The tax check-off line is pretty inconspicuous and can be easy to pass over or forget. “Many tax preparers may not remember to ask whether a client wants to donate,” said Shepherd. “It may be up to the taxpayer to remind their preparer, or make a point of looking for it whether they are doing their form on paper or electronically.”
Once you find the check-off, donating is easy, according to Shepherd: simply write the amount to donate next to the Fish and Wildlife Check-Off, line 57 on Form 1040, and the sum is either automatically deducted from the refund or added to the amount owed. As with all charitable contributions, the amount is deductible from next year’s taxes.

If every Iowa taxpayer donated just $1, it would mean $1.5 million for wildlife and natural resource conservation!

Stephanie Shepherd | 515-230-6599 |

US Fish and Wildlife Report: USFW Fisheries received three Pallid Sturgeon in December to help with species recovery


Pallid sturgeon are bottom dwelling, slow growing fish that feed primarily on small fish and immature aquatic insects. This species of sturgeon is seldom seen and is one of the least understood fish in the Missouri and Mississippi River drainages. It is an ancient species that has existed since the days of the dinosaurs.

The recovery efforts include research to learn more about its life history and habitat requirements, artificial propagation to improve its numbers, habitat improvement and reducing mortality from commercial fishing.

Species Description: The pallid sturgeon has a flattened, shovel-shaped snout, possesses a long, slender, and completely armored caudal peduncle, and lacks a spiracle and belly scutes. Pallid sturgeon are bottom-oriented species. Pallid sturgeon can be long-lived (40+ years), with females reaching sexual maturity later than males. Pallid sturgeon at the northern end of their range can obtain sizes much larger than fish at the southern end of their range.

The pallid sturgeon experienced a dramatic decline throughout its range since the mid to late 1960’s. Nearly all of its habitat has been modified through river channelization,
construction of impoundments and related changes in water flow. These changes blocked the pallid sturgeon’s movements, destroyed or altered its spawning areas, reduced its food sources or its ability to obtain food, and altered water temperatures and other environmental conditions necessary for the fish’s survival.

Pallid sturgeon are bottom dwelling, slow growing fish that feed primarily on small fish and immature aquatic insects. This species of sturgeon is seldom seen and is one of the least understood fish in the Missouri and Mississippi River drainages. It is an ancient species that has existed since the days of the dinosaurs.

The recovery efforts include research to learn more about its life history and habitat requirements, artificial propagation to improve its numbers, habitat improvement and reducing mortality from commercial fishing.

Species Description: The pallid sturgeon has a flattened, shovel-shaped snout, possesses a long, slender, and completely armored caudal peduncle, and lacks a spiracle and belly scutes. Pallid sturgeon are bottom-oriented species. Pallid sturgeon can be long-lived (40+ years), with females reaching sexual maturity later than males. Pallid sturgeon at the northern end of their range can obtain sizes much larger than fish at the southern end of their range.

Species Factsheet:

Location: Pallid sturgeon are found only in portions of the Missouri and Mississippi River basins. More specifically, the species is known to occur in the following areas:
  • Missouri River in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota
  • Mississippi River in Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois (downstream from Melvin Price Locks and Dam), Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri (downstream from Melvin Price Locks and Dam), and Tennessee
  • Platte River in Nebraska downstream of Elkhorn River confluence
  • a portion of the Kansas River downstream from Bowersock Dam
  • Yellowstone River in North Dakota and Montana downstream of the Bighorn River confluence
  • and the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana
    Habitat: Mississippi River downstream of its confluence with the Missouri River; Ohio River below Dam #53; Missouri River
There have been occasional observations in the lower Big Sioux River of South Dakota, the Grand River in Missouri, and the Mississippi River near Keokuk, Iowa.
For more information, please click on this link:
The Pallid Sturegeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) is currently listed 
as Endangered as of Sept 6, 1990. 
 Photo by South Dakota Game Fish and Parks; Sam Stuke