Big Bend to control feral hogs

F55004CC-1DD8-B71B-0B17080CEC650D76Feral hogs compete with native species in Big Bend National Park.

Earlier this year the National Park Service invited public comments on a plan to manage non-native, exotic animals in Big Bend National Park. The 30-day review and comment period for the park’s Exotic Animal Management Plan and Environmental Assessment ended in February and the verdict is now in.   On June 13, 2018 Regional Director Sue Masica signed the decision document, a finding of no significant impact (FONSI), that will allow for limited aerial shooting as well as live trapping of these non-native species, using the most humane feasible methods.

“These invasive animals threaten the native plants and animals the park is mandated to protect,” says Acting Superintendent Tom Forsyth. “This plan provides the framework to manage them while minimizing the effects on park visitors. This plan will aid park management as we steward these resources for future generations.”

To protect the park’s natural and cultural resources and the visitor experience, the National Park Service will manage aoudad (Barbary sheep) and feral hogs using lethal means. Control of these populations as proposed as these non-native species compete with and consume native species, alter species composition, threaten biodiversity, and impair the visitor’s ability to experience natural conditions and scenery.

Aoudad have been in the park for the past three decades, and have increased significantly in recent years. Estimates suggest 200 to 400 aoudads now inhabit the park. Aoudads are major competitors to native desert bighorn sheep. Feral hogs are present in low numbers in the park’s northern extremity, and are expected to invade the heavily vegetated, 113-mile Rio Grande corridor in coming years. Additionally, the park wishes to prevent feral hogs from invading the Chisos Mountains, a small range within the park that contains rare montane woodlands and hosts endangered, rare and isolated native species.

Control actions will employ the most humane feasible methods. No poisons, snares, or leg-hold traps will be used. Only lead-free bullets would be used to minimize impacts to scavengers. Aerial control of aoudads and feral hogs would primarily occur during the hot summer months, when few visitors use the park’s backcountry. Aerial control would likely occur only several days per year, and a total of 20 days per year would be the maximum allowable helicopter use for all aspects of exotic aoudad and feral hog management. Ground-based control would occur during many times throughout the year, but would avoid the busier visitor use periods and locations.

Dawn of the bats

Bat flight at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

One special morning each year, curious visitors join park rangers at the entrance of Carlsbad Cavern to witness the homecoming of hundreds of thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats.

Between April and October these bats call Carlsbad Caverns National Park home. Each sunset, hundreds of people witness their mass exodus from the cave in search of food and water, but far fewer people are present as these creatures of the night return at sunrise with their bellies full. Join us Saturday, July 15, 2017 for the Dawn of the Bats, a FREE special event celebrating the bats as they arrive home in small groups and dive back into the safety of the cave.

5:30 a.m. – The main event begins at the outdoor amphitheater when we will view the bats returning to the cave.

6:30 – 7:30 a.m. – Naure walk to explore the life of bats in the park.

8 a.m. – Noon – Bat themed activities in the visitor center including kid’s programs, talks about bat research being conducted in the park and more!

No reservations necessary. We hope to see you there!


Outdoor Amphitheater

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A solution to blocking the wall?

by Jason Abrams


The Big Bend-Rio Bravo International Park — A permanent solution to blocking wall construction?

One possible solution to the problem of border construction might be an 80+ year old idea. Creating a US-Mexico international park including Big Bend and adjoining lands in Coahuila and Chihuahua would enact a permanent moratorium on border construction. It would also bring our nations closer together, like the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on the Montana-Canada border. The wall is a problem but a permanent solution like the Big Bend-Rio Bravo International Park is always worth considering?


calderon-and-obamaPress Conference with U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in 2010

Exposing illegal trade in elephant tusks


Following a seizure of ivory, a suspected illegal trader has been sentenced to imprisonment. Paul de Ornellas of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), a grantee with IUCN’s SOS initiative, explains how ZSL helped expose the crime. 

In November 2014, a project team working in the Dja Biosphere Reserve (DBR), a conservation area in Cameroon and home to the Endangered forest elephant, was involved in arresting a suspect with 91 kg of tusk hidden in his truck full of cocoa bags.

Illegal wildlife traders in the region often hide illicitly obtained goods such as ivory, elephant tails and pangolin scales under very heavy loads. Forest officers inspecting vehicles cannot offload tons of goods unless they are absolutely certain of the presence of illegal materials, so it is a popular way of evading the authorities.

In this case a truck was seized in Djoum, a town outside of the Dja reserve, based on reliable information from the informant system supported by ZSL through SOS funds. The truck belonged to a well-established, rich businessman and the case attracted much attention locally. It presented a challenge for DBR ecoguards, but partners including ZSL coordinated their efforts, with ZSL providing full support during the court procedure until a sentence was passed.

The accused businessman was found guilty, condemned to 4 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay around US$ 22,000 in fines and civil awards. The accused has filed an appeal and the case has been sent to the Court of Appeal. Over the last year, ZSL has been following the case closely and working with the head of the DBR legal unit, Robert Okale, to ensure that the current judgment is upheld.

Poaching, habitat loss and illegal wildlife trade are pushing wildlife to the very edge. Illegal wildlife trade, estimated to be worth over US$ 10 billion annually, is the world’s fourth most lucrative criminal industry after drugs, human trafficking and weapons. Forest Elephant. Photo: Garth CrippsIn just two years between 2010 and 2012 over 10% of the total African elephant population was slaughtered for ivory.

The grantee has also been invited by the Government of Cameroon to support its National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP). As part of its support for NIAP, ZSL is ensuring that the 91 kg of tusks and other seized illegal items are not fraudulently fuelling the black market.

This blog post is part of a series highlighting frontline conservation work from grantees of SOS – Save Our Species, a global initiative created by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the World Bank and IUCN, since joined by numerous other donors. Managed by IUCN, SOS aggregates and redistributes much-needed funding to high-impact species projects implemented by conservation organisations worldwide.

This is just one of many anti-poaching projects supported by IUCN’s SOS initiative. With your continued support we can continue to support frontline conservation tackling a number of high-priority issuesincluding illegal wildlife trade such as ivory poaching. Please donate now and help SOS save more species.

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NPS Extends Public Comment Period on Environmental Assessment for the Use of Quarantine for Yellowstone Bison


The National Park Service is extending the public comment period for the Environmental Assessment for the Use of Quarantine to Identify Brucellosis-free Yellowstone Bison for Relocation Elsewhere for an additional two weeks. The comment period will now close on February 29, 2016. The comment period was extended to allow for additional time for the public to review the EA and submit comments for consideration. There will be no additional public meetings held during the extension period.

The NPS is inviting public comment and engagement on the EA pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). The EA can be found online at request a hard copy of the EA, call 307-344-2015.

Respondents are encouraged to submit their comments online through the Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at Comments may also be hand-delivered to the park administration building, or mailed to: Superintendent, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, 82190. Comments will not be accepted by fax, e-mail, or in any manner other than those specified above. Bulk comments submitted in any format on behalf of others will not be accepted. The deadline to submit comments is midnight MDT February 29, 2016.

Once comments are analyzed, a decision on whether to implement the plan will be made by the Regional Director of the Intermountain Region of the NPS. If approved in time, the NPS may implement a quarantine program during the 2016 bison management operations period.

For additional background on this public comment period see

Big Bend National Park


by Rick LoBello

I have absolutely no doubt that Big Bend National Park will always be one of my favorite parks. It was here that I was first hired as a park ranger in 1975 and later became the Executive Director of the Big Bend Natural History Association. I spent the best part of my 17 years living and working at Panther Junction Park Headquarters and the Chisos Basin.

To experience Big Bend one must plan on the visit as a destination, not as a drive through trip on your way somewhere else. You need at least three full days to see the major sights and you better plan on getting out your car and taking a least a short walk along each of the major trails. Don’t let a 5 mile round trip to the top of Lost Mine Trail discourage you because you are not in the best shape. Simply hike as far as you can and turn around if you must, just get out of the car for Pete’s sake!

The best time to go would be the cooler months of October to February, although if you are in good shape and can take the heat, almost any day of the year is a good time to go.

If you appreciate the wonders of the natural world and the geologic landscape, you’re going to love Big Bend.

Be sure to protect yourself from the sun and always carry water. Here are a few of my travel tips for anyone visiting the park.

1. Don’t miss hiking inside Santa Elena Canyon at sunrise and dinner at the Starlight Theater in the evening where you can oftentimes see a great sunset. Get there at least 1-2 hours before sunset to walk around the ghost town and there is a great gift shop next to the Starlight.

2. The hike to the top of Lost Mine Trail is another must do hike on another morning and go to the top, take a lunch and water and enjoy.

3. On the east side of the park go to the Hot Springs for sunset and a night time (dark) dip in the springs. Bring a flashlight. The Boquillas Canyon trail on the east side of the park is also great early morning and you can go to Boquillas for lunch. Say hi to the Falcon Family.

4. Other favorite trails of mine include: Tuff Canyon, South Rim (all day hike), Emory Peak (all day hike), and the Window Trail (morning or afternoon). Watch the sunset from the Chisos Mountains Lodge or the Window View trail after dinner in the restaurant. Watch for bears in the Chisos Mountains

Big Bend National Park Official Website

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