New Hampshire's Nongame and Endangered Wildlfe Program Coordinator
Photo by John Hession
John Kanter has been hooked on wildlife since he was, as they say, knee-high to a grasshopper. As a child, he loved African animals, especially elephants, and got to watch his pediatrician mother take care of the first eight gorillas born at the Cincinnati Zoo. From there his interest grew from taking care of animals to understanding them in the wild and taking care of their natural habitats.
With a degree in wildlife management, he went on to become New Hampshire’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlfe Program Coordinator. The program — this year celebrating its 25th anniversary — was started in the midst of a growing crisis for New Hampshire’s threatened and endangered birds, mammals and fish. Kanter says, “Wildlife habitat was exposed to enormous pressure from development and recreational activities. Populations were dwindling. Species were disappearing.”
Birdwatchers and outdoor lovers joined biologists from the Audubon Society of NH, university researchers, NH Fish & Game staff and members of the state Legislature in a common call to “do something!” The result of their efforts — the program Kanter now heads."
I know what endangered wildlife means but what is nongame wildlife? They are species that are not normally hunted, which includes most of the state’s 400 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, along with thousands of insect and other invertebrate species.
Why is it important that they survive? Both wildlife and people depend on clean water, air and natural lands to survive. Aldo Leopold, who founded the wildlife profession during the 20th century, explained this interdependence well when he wrote, “to keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
What creatures should we be most worried about? New England cottontails and bats, especially the northern long-eared bat, which seems to be disappearing due to a fungus called White-nose Syndrome.
What do you see as the greatest environmental threat? Wildlife habitat continues to degrade from the growth in the built infrastructure and global trade continually introduces new species to native habitats, causing a range of problems from competition to the spread of diseases. The uncertainty that global warming brings is the threat that encompasses all others.
The program’s most important accomplishment? Leading the completion of the state’s first Wildlife Action Plan, which conservation organizations, land trusts and towns use to make decisions about protecting wildlife habitat. Other highlights include restoring a healthy seabird colony of common, Arctic and Roseate terns to the Isles of Shoals, establishing a new population of Karner blue butterflies (our State Butterfly) in Concord after they had disappeared from the wild and bringing back populations of magnificent raptors like bald eagles and peregrine falcons.
What are the goals for the next 25 years? The nongame program is uniquely positioned in that it relies on private donations and federal funds to accomplish its work. To meet the challenges of the next 25 years, we must broaden our donor base and establish dedicated funding for State Wildlife Grants at the federal level. Happily, financial support from individuals and some businesses is something we can count on, have done so for 25 years, and intend to grow. This is essential to ensure that we can meet the growing challenges facing New Hampshire’s wildlife and natural places, where rapid changes are threatening the health of the land and water that wildlife and people depend on.
To mark the program’s 25th anniversary, there are theme talks, fields days and other celebrations. For more information, visit wildnh.com/nongame.