Wildlife Management as Alternative to S’mores and Campfires

By Aaron D. Spencer, CWB®, USDA Wildlife Services, Assistant District Supervisor

Image Credit: USDA Wildlife Services

Summer presents an ideal opportunity to introduce young people, especially city youth, to wildlife management and its career opportunities. Staff in Illinois participated in two residential camp options this summer. The Youth Conservation Conference (YCC) exposes underserved youth (high school students at the sophomore to senior level) to environmental stewardship through an immersive, weeklong residential “boot camp” at Chicago State University. Collaborating with other Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service programs, Wildlife Services also presented learning activities for the 2015 Ag Discovery Program at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign. This month-long outreach program exposes teens to careers in plant and animal science, wildlife management, and agribusiness during residency at the college.

Image Credit: USDA Wildlife Services

Image Credit: USDA Wildlife Services

Wildlife Services’ participation enabled the 15 YCC participants to learn about and practice wildlife management techniques, research principles, teamwork, and leadership skills. Presentations covered trapping as a crucial tool of wildlife damage management programs and an important technique in wildlife research. All participants became familiar with the parts, operation, and uses of several different types of traps. In a mock field exercise, students checked turtle funnel traps and identified multiple turtle species. WS also demonstrated radio telemetry and its application in research. Participants learned how researchers utilize telemetry to better understand the dynamics and interactions of various wildlife populations. Participants then used a handheld radio telemetry receiver and yagi antenna to locate a hidden radio transmitter.

Image Credit: USDA Wildlife Services

Image Credit: USDA Wildlife Services

As part of Ag Discovery, Wildlife Services staff presented learning activities and hands-on activities in sessions on zoonotic diseases, management of invasive feral swine, managing piscivorous bird damage to aquaculture at the Jake Wolf State Fish Hatchery, managing starling damage at a dairy, and an introduction to the basics of using telemetry and methods used to capture wildlife. Students marveled at an up-close introduction to raptors during a session on wildlife hazard management at MidAmerica Airport. (Ag Discovery, offered at 17 colleges and universities, many historically black institutions, is open to students aged 12-17 depending on the site. Applications traditionally are due in April.)

Wildlife Services is a Strategic Partner of TWS.