Conserve Wildlife Blog

September 15th, 2021

Eagles, Vultures and a Kitten

By: CWF biologist Larissa Smith

This is the second year that the NJ Endangered & Nongame Species program along with the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ have set up a “soft release” area for juvenile eagles that were found grounded and cared for at Rehabilitation centers. The site is in a remote area of Cumberland County where staff and volunteers provide supplemental food (fish and road-killed mammals) in a safe place, and where other juvenile and sub-adult eagles would provide the social learning they needed. Trail cameras were installed to document eagle use. 

The site had attracted juveniles, sub-adults, and adult eagles on a regular basis, as well as black and turkey vultures on a daily basis. At the end of August a tiny kitten showed up on the game cam. The kitten was hanging out with the vultures, eating frozen bunker and road kill.

Other stray cats have shown up on the game cam before but this kitten was making regular appearances. When a volunteer dropped off frozen bunker the kitten came out to eat while the volunteer was still at the site.

photo by: John King

With the help of a local woman we trapped the kitten. The kitten is a female and she had to be feisty and tough to survive, but to my surprise she was also super sweet. She was covered in fleas, hundreds of tiny ticks and full of worms from eating road kill. She was just under 3lbs and 3 months old. We named her Maple and she was adopted by Eagle Project volunteers Sharon & Wade Wander. They report that she is doing well and is a playful and happy girl.

Maple in her new home September 8th, 2021

It is a miracle that she survived out there with all the predators, (she would have been an easy meal for an eagle) . Maple is a lucky kitten. Thanks to everyone who made it possible for Maple to go from being a wild cat to a pampered family member.

September 10th, 2021

Species on the Edge Art & Essay Winners Join CWF and NJDFW staff for Sedge Island Eco-tours

by Ethan Gilardi, Wildlife Biologist

A view of Sedge Island Natural Resource Education Center.

This past August, Species on the Edge Art & Essay winners and their parents joined Conserve Wildlife Foundation and New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife biologists at Sedge Island Natural Resource Education Center for a day exploring New Jersey’s only marine conservation zone.

Located in the Barnegat Bay, Sedge Island is a brief fifteen minute boat ride from a dock on the southern tip of Island Beach State Park. Sedge sits amongst a smattering of other land masses and channels which make up the marshy southern end of the barrier island and is home to countless osprey, terns, crabs, mussels, and other marine wildlife.

On the island sits a historic nature center, the Sedge Island House. Built almost a hundred years ago, the building was originally used as a hunting lodge for visiting duck hunters and tourists. Now the building is home to a number of biologists, researchers, and educators who use the island to host tours of the marsh and conduct biological and ecological studies of this one of a kind biome.

The August 17th tour group poses by the Sedge Island House.

As a bat biologist, organizing field trips is not quite in my wheelhouse and I must admit I was nervous to head out to Sedge Island for the first time. However, as I found myself leading two groups of Species on the Edge winners and their parents as the Island Beach State Park staff showed us the natural wonders of Sedge Island, those nerves melted away.

Meeting this group of winners was a true honor. What an amazing group of young naturalists!

Not one kid showed any hesitation when it came to getting down and dirty with wildlife, whether it was digging in the sand for clams, handling fish caught in the seine nets, or even kayaking through the brackish waters of the Barnegat Bay. One young adventurer even tried a fresh caught RAW CLAM!

This should have come as no surprise after reading the wonderful essays and art pieces created by these young naturalists. Their love of nature and curiosity is an amazing thing to get to see first hand. I know for certain I’ll run into them years down the line as a new generation of ecologists and conservationists working to protect our wildlife and environment.

Check out the galleries below to see some shots from the trip and a look at some of the wildlife we encountered!

Sedge Island Eco Tour 2021 Photo Gallery:

A look at the wildlife of Sedge Island:

We would like to thank Island Beach State Park, Karen Byrne, John, Mae, and the wonderful staff of interns at Sedge Island. They made this a truly unforgettable experience.

Thank you to our generous Species on the Edge Art & Essay Sponsors:

September 8th, 2021

A Summer at the Beach: Protecting Seabeach Amaranth

by Sherry Tirgrath, Assistant Biologist

Seabeach Amaranth, a state endangered/federally threatened beach plant.

Most people would enjoy their summer days being spent on the beach. Long, sunny days listening to crashing waves and shorebird calls with a salty breeze blowing gently across your face – sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t it be awesome to experience that nearly every day of the summer? Well, that’s been my life since early June of 2021. I am a new recruit of Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, and when I was offered to take on the role of rare plant technician, surveying Seabeach Amaranth and other protected shore plants along the Jersey coast, I jumped on the opportunity.

Now to give everyone a little background on Seabeach Amaranth before I continue – this federally threatened and state endangered beach plant is an annual bloomer, growing low and branching out along the ground, sometimes reaching up to a meter in diameter or more. However, many plants remain relatively small and some may never grow more than a few centimeters across. Larger plants produce more seeds, and therefore are more successful at propagating the species. It has red stems and thick, waxy, greenish-red leaves that are somewhat reminiscent of spinach. In mid to late summer, these plants produce tiny pale-yellow flowers in the center of leaf clusters at the tip of each stem. These flowers contain the seeds that will hopefully go on to produce next year’s amaranth. The seeds are dispersed in a variety of ways. They may drop near the “parent” and remain relatively close to where plants have germinated in previous years. Some may be carried by wind as sand is blown along the beach. Rising tides may wash out seeds, as well, sometimes redistributing them on the shore in what are known as “wrack lines.” Wrack lines contain the debris left behind by the high tides, typically consisting of sea grass, shells and human litter. Amaranth is often found growing in them.

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September 8th, 2021

Barnegat Light Habitat Restoration: Measuring Success by More Than Just the Numbers

By Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

Pi Patel, one of the eight piping plovers chicks that fledged from the Barnegat Inlet Restoration site in 2021. Photo courtesy of Matt Reitinger.

The success of a habitat restoration project is typically measured in numbers, number of acres restored, the abundance of target species, breeding success of the wildlife using it, that sort of thing. And we certainly have good numbers for the Barnegat Light Habitat Restoration Project… 40 acres restored, including two foraging pond, five pairs of piping plovers using the site this year, a substantial increase from one pair just two years ago, and breeding success above the federal recovery goal and well above the state average for two years running since the project was fully completed.

But there’s more to the success than numbers, it can also be told through names. So first a disclaimer; we name our banded piping plovers in New Jersey. This practice is sometimes frowned upon by other researchers who fear anthropomorphism undermines their scientific credibility or leads to misunderstanding about biological processes.  Point taken, but in the case of piping plovers, we believe naming can potentially lead to better engagement in their conservation through dynamic outreach, much the way Monty and Rose, Chicago’s famous plovers have garnered huge public support. Also, in New Jersey our banded plovers typically have four bands, so it is much easier for our monitoring staff to identify and communicate about a bird named “Major Tom” than orange over light blue (left), orange over black (right). Finally, some people are just plain curmudgeons about this issue, but endangered species recovery work is hard, so having a little fun with it isn’t such an awful thing! So, let’s get to the names and the “stories” they tell.

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August 28th, 2021

CWF In The News: Bats and summer nights – perfect together!

by, Ethan Gilardi, Wildlife Biologist

Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus). Photo by Ethan Gilardi.

I recently had the chance to speak with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation about CWF’s work with bats.

We discussed how bat populations are recovering from White-Nose Syndrome, the difficulties of studying such an elusive species, the projects currently being undertaken by CWF to help our bats, and what makes our bats a special and irreplaceable part of New Jersey’s wildlife community.

We’d like to thank Sandy Perry for conducting this wonderful interview and Michele S. Byers for including us as a part of New Jersey Conservation Foundations’ The State We’re In.

Check out the excerpt below and continue reading this and many other great articles on

Sit outside on a summer evening around sunset and look up. If you’re in an open area with nearby woods, you may be treated to a dazzling aerial display of bats hunting for flying insects.

“They’re endlessly fascinating,” said Ethan Gilardi, a bat biologist with the nonprofit Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. “They’re fun fliers, with all their diving and weaving and hairpin turns.”

Besides being interesting to watch, bats provide priceless insect control services in a state that jokingly refers to the mosquito as its state bird. “A single little brown bat can eat 3,000 insects a night,” noted Ethan. “They eat every kind of insect pest you can think of.”

But many of New Jersey’s bats are struggling to survive. Fifteen years ago, a fungus attacked hibernating bats, leading to a disease known as white-nose syndrome. The disease disrupts hibernation, causing bats to use up their vital energy needed to survive the winter. White-nose wiped out most of the bats in the Myotis genus: little brown bats – once our most widespread species – and northern long-eared bats.

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