Wildlife Vocalizations: Rebecca Mowry

Mowry baits a tree with a beaver carcass in the Bitterroot Valley in Montana. In winter 2018-2019, a large team of biologists, wardens and volunteers deployed hundreds of bait stations and remote cameras to look for the elusive fisher (Pekania pennanti). Credit: Pete Clarkson

Wildlife Vocalizations is a collection of short personal perspectives from people in the field of wildlife sciences.

I think the biggest lesson life has taught me is to be kind. And that applies to everything: the people you deal with, the people on your team, the wildlife you manage.

Working with the public can be extremely frustrating. But more often than not, I begin a phone conversation I really wasn’t looking forward to, only to hang up 10 minutes later with a smile. Maybe I really learned something from that person or I taught them something, or maybe I got them to appreciate wildlife in a way they never did, all because I initiated the conversation with kindness and patience instead the snarky cynicism I might have been feeling at the time.

Mowry fits a sedated mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) doe with a GPS collar during the winter of 2016 in the Bitterroot Valley. Credit: Craig Jourdonnais

Kindness can also go a long way in the teams we work with. I can’t count the number of technician jobs I held that were terrible because my supervisors were unkind. For years, I felt this was the norm in wildlife biology, and it almost made me quit the field. Fortunately, my current team is amazing, and while we all make mistakes, we strive to build each other up and help one another whenever we can. It’s extremely important to understand the impact your actions and attitudes have on your employees and co-workers, especially if you’re supervising budding wildlifers.

Mowry at Kerlee Lake in the Bitterroot during the summer of 2018. Mowry and her team hiked to this lake to get a vantage point from which to survey for mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus). Credit: Rebecca Mowry

And be kind to wildlife, too. It’s cool to handle a bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) or a wolf (Canis lupus) during capture, but their lives are literally in your hands and it’s not the time to take a trophy photo. The more I actually capture animals, the less I enjoy doing it. I find as I get older that my best memories of wildlife are those rare chances to observe them in the wild, doing their thing, without interference. Treasure those moments.

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