US Geological Survey



Glen Smart

Date of this Version



Published in Perry, M. C. , ed., The History of Patuxent –America’s Wildlife Research Story (2016) U. S. Geological Survey Circular 1422, 255 p.


US govt work


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, we became increasingly aware, as a Nation, of declining populations of birds and mammals. Rates of extinction appeared to be skyrocketing and the situation was becoming critical. The country needed to take action to reverse this trend. The Federal government began to show interest in the problem and acknowledged that it needed to intervene on a hands-on basis. The Washington, D.C., office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began to promote a program, championed by Dr. Ray Erickson, senior scientist at headquarters, to initiate captive research and propagation of birds and mammals. Research was needed to stabilize and recover populations in the wild. In order to save endangered species, the need was not only to raise birds and mammals in captivity but also to release them into the wild to augment populations. Dr. Erickson envisioned a three-pronged program: a section of laboratory investigations; a section of propagation, whereby Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (Patuxent) in Laurel, MD, would maintain captive populations of animals; and the field stations where field biologists would study the populations in the wild to determine what actions needed to be taken to reverse the downward trends.