Sam with Hunters

Samantha Spinabella with hunters at Weaver Landing.

The Winona area is blessed with an abundance of natural areas and wildlife. It’s located in the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, 261 miles of land and water bordering Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Framed by steep wooded bluffs that rise above the lush Mississippi River valley, the refuge offers scenic beauty and fish and wildlife habitat unmatched in the heart of America. It’s a Wetland of International Importance and a Globally Important Bird Area.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with protecting this unique resource, which this fall is providing Samantha Spinabella with an internship opportunity “in the field.”

Spinabella, a senior criminal justice major from Frisco, Tex., spends each Tuesday with Federal Wildlife Officer Rob Hirschboeck as he works to enforce laws, rules and regulations within the refuge.

“I’ve been able to apply knowledge from my criminal justice classes to the type of work Rob does. We have responded to calls such as broken-in homes on refuge property and complaints of what seemed like injured animals,” Spinabella says.

“When the start of waterfowl season began, I did bag checks, meaning I checked people’s boats to see how many birds were hunted and to make sure no legally protected birds were taken. This required communication with hunters and knowledge of birds. And I’ve done a canoe trip to check for invasive plants in Buffalo City.”

On Thursdays, she works in the refuge’s Winona district office, organizing and contacting volunteers.

“This internship has been amazing so far,” Spinabella says. “I love that I am able to be out in the field doing all sorts of interesting things. I have learned a lot about communicating and thinking outside of the box to get tasks done.”

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