Skip to Content

Found 10,741 Resources

Conserve Wildlife

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Protect Wildlife

National Museum of American History

Game, Concentration Wildlife Edition

National Museum of American History
This "entertaining and approved educational game" consists of forty playing cards. Each card has a drawing of a plant or animal on it, with appropriate background. Instructions describe playing the game and give information about the wildlife shown. The cards and instructions are in a box. One card has a back that is a different color than the others.

The mathematician Olive C. Hazlett once owned this game. For related objects, see 1998.0314 and 2015.3004.

According to Dan Gifford, former archivist at the National Wildlife Foundation, the cards date from about 1959 (when the character Rick the Racoon (later called Ranger Rick) that is shown on the back of the cards was introduced) to 1961.

Richard Conniff’s Wildlife Writing

Smithsonian Magazine

Richard Conniff has been writing professionally since 1969, and for Smithsonian magazine since 1982. In that time, he has intentionally crossed paths with cheetahs, leopards, snapping turtles, ptarmigans, hummingbirds, wild dogs, ants, jellyfish, spiders and scores of other animals, plus the people who study them, all for the sake of explaining how the natural world works. He has won the National Magazine Award and a Guggenheim fellowship, among other honors. With the publication of the latest collection of his work, Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals, we prevailed upon him to come inside for a bit and answer a few questions.

You grew up in the concrete jungle of northern New Jersey. How did you end up making a living by writing about the wild?

Well, I was never one of those kids who came home with frogs in his pockets. I started writing about this stuff when I was in my mid-20s and a magazine asked me to write a piece about the so-called New Jersey state bird, the salt marsh mosquito. And I just got really interested in how they sneak up on us and all the other adaptations they have for sucking our blood. It was that assignment that got me interested in biology. I never even visited the part of my college campus that was known as Science Hill; I ended up getting my science education on the job. But the good thing about that is that when I interview scientists, I can ask dumb questions honestly and get answers that normal people can understand.

You've written that you admire snapping turtles because they're "unhuggable in a culture determined to make all animals cute." How do you write about the wild world without succumbing to that cultural force?

For one thing, it’s awfully hard to make a snapping turtle cute. Let’s talk about the hummingbird, which a lot of people think is kind of a unicorn on wings, all sweetness and light. When I went out and talked to people who study hummingbirds, they all talked about them as being mean, mean, mean. They have this incredibly high metabolism, where their heart is beating at something like 1,200 beats a minute, and so they have to spend all their time searching for the food it takes to maintain that level of activity. It would be like us trying to find 171 pounds of hamburger every day, which would certainly make me cranky. The trick for me is to find out how the animals really live. I had a problem with cheetahs, for instance, because they’re just so sleek and beautiful. But I met a researcher who spent a lot of time with them and she told me it doesn’t matter if an animal turns out to be more ferocious than you thought, or more gentle than you thought; what matters is how the animal really lives. Because the better we understand that, the better it is for the animals.

You have a gift for metaphor. In your piece on “The King of Pain”—the king being the guy who developed the index for measuring how much bug bites hurt—you wrote that a trapped insect is like Reese Witherspoon in some Hollywood caper movie: “She can’t do any real harm. But she can hold a lighted match up the fire detector.” This is useful in illustrating the idea that bug venom serves the bugs by deceiving predators into overreacting. But when you're writing, how hard do you have to work to keep from anthropomorphizing the animals you're writing about?

I have to say I do anthropomorphize; just the other day I was watching a hawk tearing up its prey, and I wrote that it reminded me of Julia Child making hamburger. But I do that because it helps people connect with the animals I’m writing about—I lead people in with the anthropomorphizing, but then when they’re inside, I try to get them to see the world through the animals’ eyes. That’s the ultimate goal.

A great deal of natural history journalism is as much about the humans studying the animals as it is about the animals themselves. In describing the mindset of some cheetah researchers observing a wildebeest calf on the Serengeti Plain, you write, “No one out here roots for Bambi, except as Bambi tartare.” Of all the researchers you’ve encountered, have you noticed any unifying eccentricity? Or are they individually eccentric?

There’s a lot of individual eccentricity. On the other hand, it’s curious that a number of them in the book seem to name their animals after single-malt whiskeys, so there’s something going on there. As a group, they seem to specialize is sitting back, setting aside their assumptions and watching what the animals really do. And that means they see new things that we can’t imagine. My favorite biologist of that sort is guy named Bill Eberhard, who studies spiders. Most people won’t look at a spider web twice, but he’ll look at one a hundred times. He discovered a species of spider that produces a pheromone to lure a specific kind of male moth, and as it get closer the spider fires this gooey ball of silk thread and pulls the moth in and eats it. Eberhard named that species dizzydeani, after the baseball pitcher. He showed me a dozen things that were equally weird when I was traveling with him in Costa Rica.

Obviously, a lot of people are paying a great deal of attention to climate change and other worrisome ecological events, and yet, as you note, researchers seem to be discovering new species all the time. How do you reconcile such apparently contradictory phenomena?

Well, one reason we keep discovering new species is that we’re cutting roads into places we’ve never been before. I was once in a rainforest in Ecuador, reporting a story for Smithsonian magazine, when a felled tree came so close to the biologist I was working with that it almost killed him. From that tree he took an orchid he’d never seen before—a specimen that would have been really exciting, except it was a specimen from a habitat that would be gone by the end of the week. So finding new species isn’t necessarily good news. One thing I try to do is to keep this stuff fun and get people engaged in a positive way, because once you see how weird and wonderful this stuff is, you don’t want to lose it.

Of all the animals you’ve written about, which ones would you most like to live among?

The wild dogs. I liked the African wild dogs a lot, the ones living on the Okavango Delta in Botswana. These dogs are very closely connected to the other members of their group, and they get to run through some beautiful countryside and chase fast food, in the form of impalas. They just seemed to live really well. Unfortunately, they’re almost extinct. But maybe if we pay more attention, they’ll survive.

Wyoming Wildlife Federation

National Museum of American History

L A Wildlife

National Museum of American History

Winston Wildlife II

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Save our Wildlife

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

World Wildlife Hunt

Smithsonian Magazine

King Juan Carlos, at right, stands with his guide from Rann Safaris as his dead Botswanan elephant lies propped against a tree.

The king of Spain visited Botswana recently, and on the famous savanna, teeming with animals familiar from the picture books we read as youths, King Juan Carlos shot and killed an elephant.

When I heard about the king’s outing, I decided to learn a little more about Botswana’s laws governing the protection—or lack thereof—of Africa’s most famous creatures. It turns out that many of them can be lawfully killed for those who buy the privilege. According to the website of Rann Safaris, the hunting outfit that guided King Carlos (who happens to be the honorary president of the Spanish branch of the World Wildlife Fund) it takes $6,000 to shoot a leopard. For $1,200, you can shoot a crocodile. For the pleasure of killing a hyena, you must turn over only $500. For a rhino, sorry, you’ll have to visit South Africa. But if you’re content to shoot an ostrich, stay on in Botswana, where the permits will run you $550. Short on cash? Then there’s always baboons, which go for a paltry $200 a pop. And to shoot the greatest land animal on the planet, the one that lives in matriarchal herds and mourns somberly when a family member dies, the one that’s been targeted by tusk-seeking machine gunners for decades and which you’d think should be a protected species—to shoot an African elephant, you’ll need to pay $19,000. It’s a princely sum, but nothing for a king.

The world is full of opportunities to shoot at its mightiest creatures, whether they’re good to eat or not, and here are just several animals that some of us would love to see and photograph—and that some people just want on the rec room wall.

Sharks. There’s nothing politically correct about shark fin soup, but an annual killing contest goes on in Martha’s Vineyard, where hundreds of sport fishermen gather every July to compete in the Annual Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament. The event’s website states that 98 percent of sharks caught in the derby are released (a change from prior years), but there are prize incentives to bring the largest fish in to the dock, where crowds gather expectantly to see dead and bloody “monsters” hoisted at the weigh station. Last year, the biggest sharks landed and killed included 630-pound and 538-pound thresher sharks, a 495-pound porbeagle and a 278-pound mako. In 2005 a fisherman took a tiger shark weighing 1,191 pounds.

Big cats. The African lion has declined in numbers from possibly 100,000 in the early 1990s to a current population estimated to be as low as 16,000 individuals. Yet hunting of this vulnerable species is legal in parts of Africa. By some reports, in fact, the number of lions killed by licensed trophy hunters each year is on the rise. In California, cougar hunting was banned in 1990—so when a member of the state’s Fish and Game Commission got the urge to kill one this January, he went to Idaho, where hunting the cats is legal. The hunter, Dan Richards, posed gleefully with the cougar in his arms, sparking an explosion of anger among animal rights activists and trophy hunting critics. The controversy centered on the question of whether a man charged with, among other things, protecting cougars in one state should go and hunt them in another. Richards pointed out that he and his friends ate cougar the evening after the hunt—an excuse often voiced by trophy hunters. If you want to put food on the table, shoot a rabbit or a deer—but please, not a top predator.

Dan Richards, of the California Fish and Game Commission, went out of state to shoot this Idaho mountain lion.

Bears. They reportedly taste vile if they’ve been feeding on salmon or marine mammals, but that doesn’t stop Alaskan hunters from killing brown bears. In fact, these animals usually aren’t eaten—just skinned and beheaded, as Alaska state law requires. Alaskan black bears, too, are often killed only for wall mounts. The state, to its credit, prohibits one from using the meat of a game animal for purposes other than human consumption, yet exceptions are generously granted to bear hunters, who can at certain times of the year (like during salmon runs) use a black bear’s flesh as pet food, fertilizer or bait. (For wolves and wolverines, the meat does not need to be used at all.) Elsewhere in the world, bear hunters sometimes participate in controversial “canned hunts“—such as the one in 2006 in which King Juan Carlos, our mighty elephant hunter, shot a tame, drunk Russian brown bear named Mitrofan, who was fed honey and vodka prior to being prodded into an open field, where the crowned noble had an easy shot. Even imperiled polar bears are still legally hunted for trophies.

Baboons. I’m almost reluctant to discuss this one, so similar are the animals to us and so grisly the nature of this hunt, but the fact that men and women shoot baboons for kicks needs recognition. Landowners consider baboons pests in some places and welcome trophy hunters, who often use bows to kill the primates. The animals are known to react dramatically when hit, and—much like a human might—a baboon will scream and holler as it tussles with the shaft protruding from its torso. Even hardened hunters reportedly grow queasy at the sight of a skewered baboon panicked with fear. If you have the stomach for it, look through this Google gallery of “baboon hunting” images, showing proud hunters with their trophy kills, or for some less graphic insight into the minds of the people who would kill baboons for the joy of it, read through this baboon hunting discussion. Here is a sample from the conversation: “Seems kinda twisted but given the chance I’d shoot one. Cool trophy.” And: “Good Luck, Hope ya get one. My next time back I’d like to kill one as well.” Someone get me a bucket.

Wolves. While this top predator reproduces relatively rapidly and can be naturally resilient to some level of persecution, sport hunting the gray wolf still stinks. To justify the hunt, wolf hunters describe the animals as having negative effects on deer and elk herds. In the Rocky Mountain states, where wolves were reintroduced in the 1990s, they are already being hunted again. Some wolves are baited into shooting range, others pursued via snowmobile, and in a few places wolves are shot from airplanes—like on the Kenai Peninsula, where a government predator control program is drawing fire from wolf allies. Wolf pelts, not the flesh, are the goal of the game, though cast members of the film The Grey reportedly ate wolf stew in order to prepare for a scene in which the actors, including Liam Neeson, would pretend to dine on wolf meat. Most of the cast vomited during their meal, donated by a local wolf trapper, though Neeson returned for seconds.

More top targets of the trophy hunter’s hit list:

Billfish. Anglers may eat sailfish sashimi or braised marlin, but let’s keep things real: These fish die for their swords.

And crocodiles for their hides.

And walrus for their tusks.

And hippopotamus for … honestly, I really can’t imagine.

This just in: King Juan Carlos has publicly apologized for killing his elephant. “I am very sorry,” he told the press on April 18. “I made a mistake. It won’t happen again.” Sure, now that he’s got his tusks.

Arctic Wildlife Portfolio

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access
Website about Alaska and its animal inhabitants. Divided into birds, mammals, and sea mammals. Includes primary accounts of the arctic by a 19th-century naturalist, animal fact sheets, matching animal game, and glossary.

3c Wildlife Conservation single

National Postal Museum
This Wildlife Conservation Issue stamp emphasizes the importance of wildlife conservation in America. Wildlife conservation is the practice of protecting endangered plant and animal species and their habitats. The stamp depicts two whooping cranes and two of their young in wetlands. The whooping crane is the tallest North American bird. It is an endangered species.

United States; North America; wildlife conservation; protect; endangered; animal; habitat; whooping crane; bird; wetlands; landscape

Seney National Wildlife Refuge

Smithsonian Magazine

Location: Michigan
Size: 25,150 acres
Year Designated: 1970
Fast Fact: The Strangmoor Bog, located within the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, is considered the best surviving example in the 48 states of a sub-arctic patterned bog ecosystem.

Though nearly all of the Seney National Wildlife Refuge seems wild, only the western third of the refuge is actually designated as wilderness (the rest is carefully managed “wilderness” meant to help wildlife thrive). Still, those 25,000 acres constitute Michigan’s second-largest wilderness area and provide a home for bald eagles and rare grey wolves, as well as moose, black bears, coyotes and foxes.

Millennia ago, the Seney wilderness was covered by an ancient lake. As the lake disappeared, wind and weather whipped the newly exposed sediment into sand dunes. Today, these dunes, covered with grass and trees, form a string of islands throughout a wetland known as the Strangmoor Bog. Accessible only by foot, the Strangmoor Bog is the southernmost example of a string bog: a skinny, finger-like bog separated by sandy islands. String bogs are normally associated with periglacial climates, like tundras, where thawing permafrost allows string bogs to form, and are most often found in colder climates, making the Strangmoor Bog unique. The bog itself supports rare vegetation, including the carnivorous pitcher plant.

I SUPPORT WATCHABLE WILDLIFE

National Museum of American History

Fisheries and Wildlife Exhibition

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Requested from Photographic Services Division by Office of Exhibits.

Special exhibition in the foyer of the National Museum of Natural History.

Fisheries and Wildlife Exhibition

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Requested from Photographic Services Division by Office of Exhibits.

Special exhibition in the foyer of the National Museum of Natural History.

Fisheries and Wildlife Exhibition

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Requested from Photographic Services Division by Office of Exhibits.

Special exhibition in the foyer of the National Museum of Natural History.

Fisheries and Wildlife Exhibition

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Requested from Photographic Services Division by Office of Exhibits.

Special exhibition in the foyer of the National Museum of Natural History.

Fisheries and Wildlife Exhibition

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Requested from Photographic Services Division by Office of Exhibits.

Special exhibition in the foyer of the National Museum of Natural History.

Fisheries and Wildlife Exhibition

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Requested from Photographic Services Division by Office of Exhibits.

Special exhibition in the foyer of the National Museum of Natural History.

Fisheries and Wildlife Exhibition

Smithsonian Institution Archives
Requested from Photographic Services Division by Office of Exhibits.

Special exhibition in the foyer of the National Museum of Natural History.

Wildlife in the Winter Garden

Smithsonian Gardens
Did you know Smithsonian Gardens joined Audubon International’s Cooperative Sanctuary Program? The goal is for the gardens and greenhouses at the Smithsonian to be designated as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. To become certified, Smithsonian Gardens has developed, implemented, and documented the results of an environment management plan in five key areas: site assessment and […]

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge

Smithsonian Magazine

Location: Florida
Size: 5.5 acres
Year Designated: 1970
Fast Fact: Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge was the first designated wildlife refuge in America.

In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt decreed that the tiny island of Pelican Island, located in Florida’s eastern coastline, be set aside for the protection of the birds that called the island home. In doing so, President Roosevelt created the first federal land designated for wildlife refuge, effectively creating the National Wildlife Refuge System. In 1970, Congress allocated 5.5 acres—primarily the water in the lagoon portion of the Indian River—as a wilderness area, furthering Pelican Islands federal protections, though the area has recently become threatened by commercial development on its eastern shoreline. Today, the wilderness area within the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is the smallest wilderness area in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The island is home to 15 different threatened and endangered species, including the manatee, which though protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, still faces extinction (the species is currently endangered, mainly due to humans hunting them for their oil, hides and bones). In addition to the manatee, over 30 species of nesting bird use Pelican Island, including the brown pelican, the wood stork, the great egret and the black-crowned night heron.

1-24 of 10,741 Resources