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Wildlife sightings cause excitement on Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s East Chevington nature reserve

As part of the Catch My Drift project, five volunteers spent three days surveying the 185-hectare East Chevington reserve for butterflies, with one volunteer having spotted a rare purple hairstreak butterfly next to one of the reserve’s footpaths.

The butterfly relies entirely on the oak tree to survive, using it as a food source, home and place to lay eggs.

It is mostly found in oak woods across southern England and Wales, with scattered colonies further north, but are not massively recorded in this region.

A male emperor dragonfly sits atop a blade of grass. Picture: Dave Purnell

The reserve has semi mature oak trees, so the reserve says that it [the butterfly] is likely living in one of them.

On the same day, an emperor dragonfly, previously unrecorded on the East Chevington reserve, was spotted and photographed by a member of the public named Dave Purnell.

This breed of dragonfly is described as a ‘great colonizer of ponds’, and was found in a pond created by Catch My Drift project volunteers.

Additionally, at Druridge Bay, a pair of juvenile tawny owls were spotted perching in the woodland trees on the wildlife charity’s Hauxley reserve.

A tawny owl perches on the branch of tree.

However, a red squirrel moved itself into the tawny owl nest boxes at the end of April and reportedly barricaded the doorway with sticks to stop the owl from getting back in.

This had led to staff on the reserve ‘resigning’ themselves to the prospect of young Tawny owls not appearing once again this year.

However, their hopes were once again lifted when adult owls found somewhere else to breed on the reserve.

Tawny owls are said to prefer more mature trees, so it is hoped that as the reserve’s woodland starts to mature, they will become a regular sighting.

Alex Lister, Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Druridge Bay landscape manager, said: “From a squirrel taking over a nest box and another taking a look inside the building in the morning to tawny owls taking over the playground, turf wars with crows and now a rare butterfly and dragonfly being found at East Chevington, who says wildlife isn’t great?

“Access to our reserves if free, so if you’re watching your cash this summer, come and see what you can spot for yourself.”


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Film students link up with the police to raise awareness of wildlife crime

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USW students filming Betty the Badger

Film students at the University of South Wales have joined forces with the first all-Wales Wildlife and Rural Crime Coordinator to help raise awareness of wildlife crime across the country.

The group of second-year BA (Hons) Film students collaborated with Rob Taylor to produce five short films addressing the problems of rural and wildlife crime, and came up with the idea of telling the story from the animals’ point of view.

After briefing the students on the main wildlife priorities for police across the UK, the group decided to focus on the dangers to bats, badgers, birds of prey and poaching.

As the films were for use on social media, they are all under two minutes in duration each and are designed to capture public attention, with the ‘animals’ being interviewed anonymously.

Rob Taylor, who has been in post since July last year, said: “Although the police have excellent social media presence, there is limited access to film capability, and so I approached USW with the idea of asking Film students to help us look at the issues of rural and wildlife crime from a fresh angle.”

In one of the films ‘Bruce’ the Bat’ describes how he and his family were made homeless by the demolition of buildings.



Other films in the series include:

‘Betty’ the Badger, a badger baiting survivor

‘Barry’ the Buzzard, a witness to rural crime

‘Danny’ the Dog, an ex-fighting dog

‘Simon’ the Stag, a poaching survivor

Mr Taylor added: “Rural and wildlife crime is a huge issue throughout the UK, but it’s surprising how many people don’t know about the problems it can cause. It was important that what was produced also sought the attention of younger generations, so that they grow up knowing about these issues.

“Using the fresh ideas from the students, and the access to technology that they have, is vital, as well as their knowledge and experience of social media platforms.

“Their exceptional film work has been received and shared widely throughout the UK, not only by the police but by organisations such as the Badger Trust who are using the videos in their latest awareness campaign.

“These films will make a big difference to raising awareness.”

Different

Luca Bergonzini was one of the students who helped produce the films. The 21-year-old, who lives in Cardiff, said the whole experience was very useful in preparing him for the industry.

“I found the project very interesting and helpful, as it was different to anything I had worked on before,” said Luca.

“It was fun to experiment with the interview style and find the right blend of severity and comedy to get the points across. It was very useful to get the client experience with Rob, who was excellent and helpful. I’m really glad that the work we’ve made may well go on to do some good and inform people of wildlife crime and help prevent it.”

Great characters

Fellow student Sam Meller, who is 21 and also lives in Cardiff, worked as sound engineer on the films. He said: “Working on this project was a great opportunity for me to develop further skills in a studio.”

“I hadn’t spent much time in that environment due to the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting our studies during the first year, so it was great to work alongside the crew and watch them create great characters.

“The story promotes such a strong message, and it was a privilege to work on something that can have a positive impact.”

Sally Lisk-Lewis, Senior Lecturer in Documentary Film at USW, added: “This has been a fantastically beneficial collaboration on both sides, and a great introduction to industry and professional practice.

“I’m delighted with what these creative students have achieved, moreover, the reach and impact their videos have had on social media.”


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A Sombrero ground lizard (Pholidoscelis corvinus), photographed on the island in June 2021.

Can wildlife stage a comeback on Sombrero Island’s barren moonscape? | Environment

Sombrero island has been so degraded by human activity that it no longer looks like a hat to approaching sailors. Once a small mound covered in forest, and with its own species of giant tortoise, the 94-acre outpost has been transformed into a barren moonscape by guano mining, invasive mice and hurricanes.

The island, part of Anguilla that marks the entrance from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean sea, was even considered at one point as a launchpad for commercial satellites by Texan billionaire Andrew Beal in the late 90s. Now, surges from Atlantic hurricanes – turbocharged by climate change – grow so high that they inundate its 40ft limestone cliffs, washing away seabird eggs and lizards.

A Sombrero ground lizard (Pholidoscelis corvinus), photographed on the island in June 2021.
There are already signs that the number of Sombrero ground lizards is increasing. Photograph: Toby Ross/FFI

Still, life clings on, and Sombrero Island’s fortunes may be about to change after decades of ecological decline.

In July 2021, the last invasive mice were killed as part of efforts to restore wildlife on the island, which largely congregates around an abandoned lighthouse. A year later, the rodents have not reappeared, and the wildlife, which includes species found nowhere else on Earth, is making a comeback.

“The Sombrero ground lizard has already increased a lot. There were fewer than 100 in 2018, and the last count had 884 individuals,” says Jenny Daltry, Caribbean director with Re:wild and Fauna & Flora International, who was part of the mouse eradication project at the internationally important bird breeding site.

“I’m quite optimistic we’ll see a lot of improvement.”

Despite its humble size, Sombrero is part of trend in one of conservation’s biggest success stories. According to a new study published this week, removing goats, rats, mice, dogs and other invasive species from islands has had an 88% success rate since 1872, resulting in spectacular transformations in degraded atolls and archipelagos.

The size, complexity and ambition of invasive species removal is also growing, according to the study, spurred by islands states like New Zealand that is aiming to clear all invasive mammals by the middle of the century.

High school students help with a ‘revegetation project’ on Sombrero.
High school students help with a ‘revegetation project’ on Sombrero. Photograph: Farah Mukhida/Anguilla National Trust/FFI

“Sombrero’s recovery is probably going to be slow because it’s limestone, it’s arid and has very little soil left,” says Daltry, who also helped with the restoration of Redonda island, farther south on the Leeward Islands arc, and dozens of other islands.

“It will take time for the vegetation and soil to rebuild so that it can support trees and bushes. In 10 years’ time, there’s a chance it will have full green cover, but it will take longer to get back to the kinds of forest the giant tortoises would have recognised.”

The success of invasive species clearance projects on islands has prompted conservationists to scale up their ambitions. This promises disproportionate benefits for Earth’s biodiversity, with islands like Madagascar, the Galápagos and Borneo home to huge numbers of endemic species. Daltry has her eye on Jamaica’s Goat Islands, and larger areas on populated islands.

Anguilla has plans to fence off a five hectare (12 acre) area and clear invasive species on the mainland in Fountain Cave national park. The country successfully cleared Dog Island and its satellites in 2012, boosting numbers of sooty terns from 113,000 to more than 300,000 nesting pairs, and benefiting lizards and endangered green and hawksbill turtles, both threatened with extinction.

A brown noddy flies over Sombrero Island last year.
A brown noddy flies over Sombrero Island last year. Photograph: Toby Ross/FFI

“[Clearing Fountain Cave national park] means we would be able to reintroduce native and potentially endangered wildlife back into that area, so it works as a conservation sanctuary,” says Farah Mukhida, executive director of Anguilla National Trust, who was part of the team that helped clear Sombrero Island.

“Most of the work has focused on offshore cays, and not many people are able to go there. By doing this on the mainland, we’re creating a nice conservation area for biodiversity, and we are also able to show residents what is possible when you remove invasive species,” she says.

Find more age of extinction coverage here, and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features




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New Mexico agencies release plan to protect wildlife and drivers from collisions

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story said the project would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, it has been corrected to read hundreds of millions of dollars

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – State agencies are releasing their extensive plan to protect drivers and wildlife from collisions. Driving across New Mexico, it’s not uncommon to come across wildlife, and maybe even accidentally hit it. It’s something the non-profit and rehabilitation facility, the New Mexico Wildlife Center, sees a lot.

“Many of our animals that come into rehabilitation are here because of some kind of human-wildlife interaction, and many of those are because of vehicular collisions,” said Dr. Sarah Sirica, staff veterinarian at the New Mexico Wildlife Center.

State research found that from 2002-2018, nearly 700 deer, 200 elk, and 40 bears were hit by cars on average each year. Now, the state is trying to pump the brakes on those numbers. As part of the Wildlife Corridors Act signed into law in 2019, New Mexico Game and Fish and the New Mexico Department of Transportation studied, got public input, and now is releasing a nearly 800-page plan to mitigate the crashes.

“It’s been overwhelmingly positive. People are in support of it, it doesn’t really have any political bias to it. It’s a lot of traffic safety and preserving wildlife populations,” said Matthew Haverland, Wildlife Coordinator for NMDOT.

The state focused on the movement of six species including elk, deer, black bear, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and mountain lion. They came up with 11 top priority projects to make it safer for animals to cross and avoid cars. Five are based on collision data and the other six are based on wildlife movement.

“Enabling various species to have better access to the groups of them that can improve genetic biodiversity over time and then that can improve the health of the population overall,” said Dr. Sirica.

The priority sites include 550 north of Cuba, US 180 and I-90 in Silver City, the I-25 Glorieta pass, and US 70 and NM 48 Ruidoso. The changes sites could see could include an overpass or underpass, or fencing to funnel animals to a safe crossing area.

“Some animals are more likely to use overpasses while some are perfectly fine using underpasses,” said Haverland. It could take years for the projects to become reality, still, the Wildlife Center said it’s a step in the right direction.

“Decreased collisions is for sure a good thing in our eyes. The only things were really disappointed with was it didn’t go quite as far with making as many sites in the short term,” said Dr. Sirica. Until the projects become a reality, officials are reminding drivers to be aware on the road and of any animals nearby.

Now that the plan is released, it’s all about funding. NMDOT and NMDGF created a new coalition to help get funding for these projects, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. To see the full plan, click here.


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Heartache for this animal lover when lives are affected and lost during human-wildlife clashes

 

While most children were traipsing across suspended bridges at the neighbourhood playground, Krithi Karanth was on a different type of adventure. As an eight-year-old, her thrills came not from such playful antics, but from treks into the wilderness with her tiger biologist and conservationist father, as he tracked the wild cats.

“I spent the first 17 years of my life outdoors in the wild,” recalls Dr Krithi, who’s now the director and chief conservation scientist at the Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS) based in Bengaluru, India.

So it was only natural that the animal lover would go on to study in the United States for 13 years before returning to India because of her love for her country’s wild animals, and her desire to protect them.

As many cities across the world continue to grow, more people are coming into closer contact with wild animals, sometimes sparking conflicts and fear. Even in urban Singapore, some residents have had run-ins with otters, wild boars and monkeys, with several cases making headlines.

According to Dr Krithi, India has hundreds of thousands of human-wildlife clashes each year, with damage, injury and even death on both sides a common result. The keys to reducing human-wildlife confrontations, in her opinion, are three-pronged: conservation, education and compensation.

The 43-year-old has developed three programmes to minimise human-wildlife conflicts in her home country, and has also received further support from Swiss watchmaker Rolex to expand her work.

In 2019, she was one of five Rolex Awards for Enterprise Laureates on the basis of her innovative programmes, which include Wild Seve, a toll-free helpline to assist people in filing official compensation claims for damage caused by wild animals.

Rolex created the Awards in 1976 to support individuals with exceptional projects that make the world a better place, expand knowledge, propose solutions to major challenges, and preserve our natural and cultural heritage for future generations.

Her programmes are in line with the Rolex Perpetual Planet initiative launched by the company, which initially focused on individuals who contribute to a better world through the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, on safeguarding the oceans through a partnership with Mission Blue, and on understanding climate change as part of its association with the National Geographic Society.

An expanding portfolio of partnerships under the Perpetual Planet initiative now includes projects such as the Under The Pole expeditions, pushing the boundaries of underwater exploration; the Xunaan-Ha Expedition, focusing on water quality in Yucatán, Mexico; and the Hearts In The Ice platform, which collects climate change information in the Arctic.

Rolex also supports organisations and initiatives fostering the next generations of explorers, scientists and conservationists through scholarships and grants.

Operation damage control


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Wildlife Defenders Slam Senate Dems’ Bill for Not Protecting Refuge in Alaska

“We will never stop fighting to protect these sacred lands, the Porcupine caribou, and our communities,” vowed the Gwich’in Steering Committee’s executive director.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Image-Audubon video screenshot
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Image-Audubon video screenshot

Amid widespread applause Sunday for U.S. Senate Democrats’ long-awaited passage of a budget reconciliation package, Indigenous and conservationist leaders declared that they were “deeply disappointed” in lawmakers’ refusal to restore protections to a key region of Alaska.

“Congress has chosen to ignore the health of the Arctic and the Gwich’in way of life.”

Unlike the Build Back Better Act approved by House Democrats last year, the deal negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) doesn’t shield the incredibly biodiverse Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from fossil fuel activity—which the Wilderness Society called “a grievous attack on the rights, culture, and sacred lands of the Gwich’in and Iñupiat peoples.”

After the Inflation Reduction Act passed the Senate on Sunday, Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee—an Indigenous group that has long fought to safeguard ANWR’s Coastal Plain—blasted the exclusion.

“In the Arctic, we’re experiencing a warming climate at four times the rate as the rest of the world, yet Congress has chosen to ignore the health of the Arctic and the Gwich’in way of life by failing to stop this destructive and failed oil and gas program,” she said. “We will never stop fighting to protect these sacred lands, the Porcupine caribou, and our communities.”

Amid widespread applause Sunday for U.S. Senate Democrats’ long-awaited passage of a budget reconciliation package, Indigenous and conservationist leaders declared that they were “deeply disappointed” in lawmakers’ refusal to restore protections to a key region of Alaska. “Congress has chosen to ignore the health of the Arctic and the Gwich’in way of life.” Unlike the Build Back Better Act approved by House Democrats last year, the deal negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) doesn’t shield the incredibly biodiverse Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from fossil fuel activity—which the Wilderness Society called “a grievous attack on the rights, culture, and sacred lands of the Gwich’in and Iñupiat peoples.” After the Inflation Reduction Act passed the Senate on Sunday, Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee—an Indigenous group that has long fought to safeguard ANWR’s Coastal Plain—blasted the exclusion. “In the Arctic, we’re experiencing a warming climate at four times the rate as the rest of the world, yet Congress has chosen to ignore the health of the Arctic and the Gwich’in way of life by failing to stop this destructive and failed oil and gas program,” she said. “We will never stop fighting to protect these sacred lands, the Porcupine caribou, and our communities.”

 

Following the Senate’s vote Sunday, Winsor joined Demientieff, the Gwich’in leader, in expressing disappointment about the package’s exclusion of ANWR safeguards while also highlighting handouts to fossil fuel giants included in the legislation.

“The United States just took a big leap forward to address climate change,” he said. “However, today’s progress left out public lands as part of the solution, and in fact parts of the bill increased oil and gas extraction on our nation’s lands and waters, including in Alaska’s Cook Inlet.”

“We are… doubling down on our efforts to make certain that public lands are the focus of future climate progress.”

The Biden administration in May canceled three fossil fuel lease sales for the Gulf of Mexico and Cook Inlet, citing a lack of industry interest—a move welcomed by climate campaigners, who continue to call on President Joe Biden to end all offshore drilling.

Discussing Manchin and Schumer’s compromise, Nicole Whittington-Evans, state director at Defenders of Wildlife, told the Anchorage Daily News in late July that “I think the Alaska provisions will really greatly reduce our achievements, in terms of climate, with this deal.”

The federal government would have to make at least 60 million acres of waters available for fossil fuel leases to hold a sale for offshore wind energy projects, which Whittington-Evans said “is very significant” and “does not seem like a great trade-off for Alaska.”

Winsor on Sunday pledged to keep fighting for regional protections, saying that “while we too celebrate a win today for our climate as a whole, we are also doubling down on our efforts to make certain that public lands are the focus of future climate progress.”

“Tomorrow we’ll be back at work,” he said, “seeking to restore congressional protections for the Arctic refuge, and urging President Biden to do everything in his power to make sure the Arctic refuge is a climate solution, and not an oilfield.”

Common Dream’s work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.




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Letter: Building double standards mean devastation for our wildlife

This centre is built on a very important site, I believe it was a special garden, all once part of Tapton House gardens.

When our environment becomes ever more precious, including insects, bees, wild flowers, I am wondering if there are any regrets by councillors, who seem obsessed on building more and more office complexes, and on green spaces?

You can’t drive electric cars then bulldoze over a wildlife sanctuary and ever think that’s ok. Double standards mean devastation to wildlife.

“This centre is built on a very important site, I believe it was a special garden”, says a reader of Tapton Business Innovation Centre.

Any answers regarding the lack of consultation over this build? It’s very concerning: if you care for the environment then actions speak louder than words.

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Wildlife SOS star Simon Cowell, 70, reveals he has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer

Beloved Wildlife SOS star Simon Cowell could have ‘weeks’ to live after a shocking lung cancer diagnosis.

The 70 year-old conservationist was told by doctors he had an ‘aggressive’ form of cancer after a routine scan.

The TV star has undergone chemotherapy and has opened up about how he has dealt with the devastating news.

He told SurreyLive: ‘I spent the first week in panic mode, not knowing what to do. Then I thought, you can either bend to it or knuckle down and get on with things.

‘They have given me no idea of the timescale. It could be weeks, it could be years.

‘Until we have gone through the chemo we don’t know what’s going on. But I shall remain positive.’

Simon Cowell, 70, revealed he had been given the shocking lung cancer diagnosis after a routine scan

Simon Cowell, 70, revealed he had been given the shocking lung cancer diagnosis after a routine scan

Simon has spent his career rescuing and caring for animals over the last 40 years

Simon has spent his career rescuing and caring for animals over the last 40 years 

He is best known for the 16 years he spent presenting documentary series Wildlife SOS

He is best known for the 16 years he spent presenting documentary series Wildlife SOS

Simon is best known for the 16 years he spent on Wildlife SOS, but has been rescuing and caring for animals for over 40 years and received an MBE for his work. 

He also set up the Wildlife Aid Foundation in 1979 – a multimillion pound charity that began as a wildlife rescue sanctuary.

The foundation has set up a fundraiser following the news of his cancer diagnosis which aims to raise £4 million for wildlife causes. It has already raised over £200,000.

A spokesperson for the foundation said on the fundraiser page: ‘Simon Cowell, our founder, has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer that is terminal. Simon has dedicated his life to giving wild animals a second chance. 

‘He has devoted his life to saving wild animals that couldn’t help themselves. Hundreds of thousands have been given a second chance thanks to his compassion and dedication. Tragically, for him there will be no second chances.

‘Over 40 years ago, Simon turned his back on a lucrative City career and founded the Wildlife Aid Foundation, which has become one of the UKs best-loved and busiest wildlife rescue charities. 

A spokesperson for the Wildlife Aid Foundation - which Simon set up in 1979 - said 'he has devoted his life to saving wild animals that couldn't help themselves'

A spokesperson for the Wildlife Aid Foundation – which Simon set up in 1979 – said ‘he has devoted his life to saving wild animals that couldn’t help themselves’

Simon gave up a lucrative career in the City decades ago to work full-time as a conservationist

Simon gave up a lucrative career in the City decades ago to work full-time as a conservationist 

‘His sacrifice, passion for conservation, and antics on Wildlife SOS secured him a place in the nations heart and an MBE for services to wildlife. 

‘Now, as his last wish, he is asking for YOUR help to continue his legacy and protect the lives of generations of wildlife to come.’

Simon asked people to keep donating to help protect wildlife in the UK.

He said: ‘It has been a bad time with Covid, and Brexit and Ukraine,’ said Simon. 

‘Everyone is really pushed for money at the moment, but if everyone in Surrey just gave £1, that would be magnificent.’ 

Before becoming a full-time conservationist, Simon had a lucrative career in the City as a trader and commodities broker earning ‘huge bonuses’.

In an article for the Daily Mail in 2016, he said he had spent his business career: ‘recklessly, on the spur of the moment.

‘My hobbies were rally-driving, flying and gambling. Even when our second daughter, Gemma, came along, I was rarely home and barely saw the kids. 

‘In retrospect, I realise I was an awful father, and I’ll feel guilty about that till the day I die.’

He gave up his career and carefree lifestyle when a friend arrived at his house with a gull with only one wing. 

Simon and his wife Jill would later call the bird ‘patient zero,’ as the gull became the first of many animals he and his wife would take into their home to care for as they gradually set up their ‘accidental rescue centre.’

He said: ‘Very so often, there would be a knock on the door and we’d find a well-meaning stranger bearing something — usually a small bird or a hedgehog — that rustled inside a cardboard box. “A friend told me you look after injured wildlife…” they’d say.’ 

By the 1990s, Simon’s enterprise and Wildlife Aid Foundation had expanded hugely and he began filming his work with the animals he cared for.

This eventually evolved into the Wildlife SOS programme in 1997, when he said ‘I had become a TV presenter – completely by accident.’ 

Throughout his career, Simon was called by members of the public to help rescue animals that were lost or injured.

On one particularly dramatic occasion in the 1990s, Simon’s animal centre caught fire – forcing him and his volunteers to fight through the flames to rescue the trapped animals.

Although Simon said he ‘felt a sense of crushing loss’ at the destruction of the animal centre, he gradually managed to rebuild it with donations from the public.

He recalled one occasion when a woman in her 80s arrived at his farm with a £50 in her hand. He said: ‘It showed how much she cared.

‘I completely understand that. 

‘Caring about animals is the emotion that drives me, and I could no more give up this job than I could walk away from my own shadow. 


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Sylva man graduates wildlife law enforcement training

Sylva resident Cole Burch is among the 15 new wildlife law enforcement officers sworn in during the 58th Basic School graduation ceremony July 20. 

The seven-month training included a variety of conservation-specific instruction as well as basic law enforcement skills. Graduates will now begin six months of on-the-job training under the supervision of a veteran wildlife officer. After completing field training, they will be assigned a permanent duty station in North Carolina. 


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