We are so proud to report that several of DGIF’s District Wildlife Biologist recently received recognition from state chapters of national organizations.
District Wildlife Biologist Betsy Stinson received the Henry S. Mosby Professional Wildlife Award at the 2020 annual meeting of the Virginia Chapter of The Wildlife Society. This award is given annually to a professional wildlife biologist, on the basis of a number of years of significant, sustained contributions to wildlife biology or on the basis of a single very significant contribution.
Throughout her nearly 30 years with DGIF, Betsy has demonstrated professionalism and dedication in conserving, restoring, and protecting wildlife populations and habitats across southwest Virginia and the Commonwealth. Betsy started her career at DGIF as its Wildlife Health Program Manager, where she was responsible for investigating environmental impacts to wildlife. Her most notable accomplishment in that role was a multi-year investigation into the effects of Furadan, a carbofuran utilized as an insecticide in agriculture, on wildlife. Her work led to the eventual halt in the use of Furadan in Virginia and the United States. For her outstanding work documenting the deleterious effects of Furadan to non-target species, Betsy received the Southeast Section of The Wildlife Society’s Wildlife Management Award in 1992.
Since 1994, Betsy has worked as a DGIF District Wildlife Biologist based out of Blacksburg where she focuses her efforts on wildlife habitat management and technical guidance, wildlife species research and management, and human-wildlife conflict resolution. She has worked with numerous landowners to develop and implement wildlife habitat improvements on both public and private lands. In preparing habitat plans, Betsy’s focus is always on the “bigger picture,” ensuring wildlife management activities benefit a wide variety of species.
Beyond her efforts to improve wildlife habitats, Betsy has played a vital role in managing wildlife populations throughout Virginia. During the early portion of her career, she actively participated in work groups tasked with developing recommendations on deer farming and large mammal shooting preserves. Her work in helping understand and address concerns associated with these facilities >20 years ago reflects her forward-thinking, proactive nature. Her knowledge of population management via harvest of wildlife has contributed to conservation of games species as she participates in the development of regulations leading to the sustainable harvest of small game, deer, and bear populations.
Finally, Betsy exhibits a keen interest in her professional growth as well as the growth of others. Betsy routinely incorporates Virginia Tech wildlife students into her work activities. During the Cooperative Alleghany Bear Study, Betsy assisted graduate students with summer trapping and winter den work as well as serving as a mentor, offering career advice and encouragement. She utilizes Tech students for projects such as development of Wildlife Management Area management plans to offer first-hand experience in wildlife conservation work.
Please join us in congratulating Betsy on this outstanding recognition!
At its annual awards banquet in January 2020, the Virginia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation awarded its Andrew Huffman Award to District Wildlife Biologist Bill Bassinger. The Huffman Award is named for Andrew Huffman, long-time Area Manager at DGIF’s Gathright WMA. In the 1950s, Andy pioneered the use of cannon nets to capture wild turkeys at the Gathright in support of wild turkey restoration in Virginia.
Bill Bassinger began his career with DGIF as a Wildlife Biologist Assistant working on the National Forest. He later became a District Wildlife Biologist in Region 3. He contributed to the Department’s wild turkey research projects by catching hens and gobblers so they could be equipped with radio-transmitters. He participated in all phases of these research projects: tracking birds, doing brood checks, locating and evaluating mortality sites and other responsibilities. Lately, Bill has lead several Super Fund Projects (habitat work funded by the National Wild Turkey Federation) on the Big Survey WMA, creating access and habitat. Bill also annually assists with a Wounded Warrior Project during spring gobbler season, providing service men with an opportunity to experience gobbler hunting.
Please join us in congratulating Bill on this tremendous achievement!
One of our exciting winter tasks is judging and selecting the artwork for the annual Virginia Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp. The honor of being selected is something that many artists dream of and only a few realize. This stamp is required of anyone hunting migratory waterfowl in Virginia. The money generated from the sale of the stamp is held in a special fund and is used primarily in two ways: funding cooperative waterfowl habitat improvement projects with non-governmental organizations, and funding DGIF efforts to protect, preserve, restore, enhance and develop waterfowl habitat in Virginia. Through 2019, hunters and collectors have purchased more than 243,000 stamps. Since the implementation of the stamp in 2005, the DGIF has directed more than $1 million from this special account to protect, enhance and restore over 9,000 acres of wetlands and wildlife habitat.
This year, judges of the artwork will include DGIF staffs from the Wildlife Resources and Outreach Divisions, Executive Director Ryan Brown, and representatives from Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, and the Virginia Waterfowler’s Association. Judging will occur on March 4 at DGIF’s HQ in the Board Room at 1:00p.m. If you are in the building then, feel free to stop in to see the artwork.
Finally, some exciting news about some of Virginia’s rare salamanders! In early February, J.D. Kleopfer, DGIF’s herpetologist (reptile and amphibian expert), and Steve Living, DGIF’s Region 1 Lands & Access Manager, discovered a new tiger salamander breeding site in York County. The tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) is a State Endangered species and is only known to occur at a few locations eastern Virginia. The site was discovered when a local resident forwarded DGIF a photo of a tiger salamander crawling down his sidewalk one rainy night a few weeks ago, nearly half a mile away from where the breeding site was eventually located. However, long distance movements in ambystomatids (mole salamanders) is not unheard of. In addition to several tiger salamander egg masses, a dozen or more State Threatened Mabee’s salamanders (Ambystoma mabeei) were also observed. These species typically use sinkholes, or vernal ponds, in which to lay their egg masses. These water bodies are temporarily filled each year, becoming dry usually by mid-summer and filling again in the winter.
Fortunately, much of the area of this new breeding site is protected as part of a mitigation bank. The Grafton Ponds area is comprised of nearly 300 sinkholes and is the highest concentration of sinkholes on the East Coast outside of Florida. Records of adult tiger salamanders from this area date back to the early 1970s, but a breeding site had never been identified. Because the site is completely surrounded by housing and is isolated from other tiger salamander populations, plans to translocate egg masses to the Grafton Ponds Natural Area Preserve are being discussed with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages the 600-acre preserve.
Photo from DGIF