“Smart” Collars Reveal Wildlife Secrets

A new type of wildlife tracking collar, using technology similar to a smart phone’s, will allow biologists and other wildlife managers access to the most intimate details of an animal’s life. However, the article quickly goes beyond the benefit this collar would be for wildlife research, and into the realm of managing human-animal interactions.
For example, the collar can tell scientists how long it’s been since a mountain lion has eaten, and if that mountain lion has entered a suburban neighborhood, allowing them to alert residents.
The New York Times article on the new technology ends with a snappy quote about being able to make a Facebook page for each animal, but it does not address any of the ethical or philosophical questions these collars raise.Which animals will be tagged? All animals in a region? Only those that have caused trouble before? Will new hunting regulations be created for these knowable, findable animals?

No news on either a timeline or a price tag is included in the article.

Read the story here.

Irene Round-up

Hurricanes are a natural phenomenon, so nature pretty much takes care of itself during and after one. It’s the human factor that turns the collision of hurricane and wildlife into news. Here’s a look at how humans and wildlife are interacting after Irene:

-The US Fish and Wildlife Service has posted a list of damaged or closed facilities. It’s perhaps no surprise, considering how hard hit Vermont was, that its White River Fish Hatchery, in Vermont, is under water. Find the rest of the list, here.

-A whimbrel, a shorebird, that was tagged by a radio transmitter was tracked flying through the hurricane. It survived. Read the story in USA Today, although it appeared in many other news outlets.

-I am learning that after each natural disaster a story about how wildlife rehabilitators are assisting displaced wildlife is part of the boilerplate coverage. This time it’s wildlife rehabilitators assisting baby squirrels. I wish I were kidding.

-The storm was bad news for baby sea turtles and eggs still incubating on East Coast beaches. The Florida newspapers seem most interested in the story. Here’s one on the hundreds of baby sea turtles that turned up dead from Florida Today. And here’s one on the threat to nests from the Fort Pierce Tribune

-Finally, flooding washed sewage, pesticides and other contaminants into waterways along the East Coast. The New York Times has the story.

Photo: Hurricane Irene on Aug. 22, 2001. by NASA, via US Fish and Wildlife Service

Iowa Repeals Lead Shot Rule

The Iowa state legislature preempted a rule banning lead shot from the upcoming dove hunting season in Iowa. The state’s governor agreed publicly that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Commission had overstepped its bounds.

An article in the Des Moines Register describes both the debate in Iowa and nationally. Read it here.

A version of the story that ran in USA Today also includes a list of lead shot regulations by state.

See what happened when the Field & Stream blog reported the news, here.

Photo: Mourning dove, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wildlife Disease Roundup

Dozens of white-tailed deer in Montana have died of a mysterious ailment which is suspected to be epizootic hemorrhagic disease. The Great Falls Tribune has a brief item. Check out this item on ProMed-mail for a helpful reference to the no-see-ums that transmit the disease.

[ADDITION: The day after this was posted, the state of New Jersey announced epizootic hemorrhagic disease in deer in that state. You can read the press release here.]

A feral hog in Midland County, Michigan has tested positive for pseudorabies. Read the article on Michigan Live, here. Sounds ridiculously scary until you find out that porcine pseudorabies has nothing to do with rabies. It’s a herpes virus, and it doesn’t effect humans, but it does kill dogs and other animals, wild and domestic. Once again, ProMed-mail has the needed explanation. Read it here.

Also in the catagory of “needed explanations” and “wildlife disease” is a recent report in the Los Angeles Times of the “first U.S. transmission” of rabies linked to a vampire bat. Uh, no. Even the article says the man was bitten by a vampire bat in Mexico, then traveled to the U.S. Unfortunately, the story was also picked up on the gossip site Gawker.com. Here’s the LA Times story. And here’s a debunking from a biology professor at Long Island University

Finally, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recently launched a new Web site on chronic wasting disease, aimed at hunters. Find the Web site at http://www.knowcwd.com/ And find an article about the Web site and Wisconsin’s “Know CWD” campaign in the Houston Chronicle.

There were just no pretty pictures for this one. Not even a nice picture of a virus available.

Where Trout Is In Doubt

Girl, dad and rainbow trout

A paper published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week says that climate change is bad news for all the trout species in the northern Rocky Mountains, with an average 47 percent decline in total suitable habitat in 70 years. That, the paper says, is because it’s not just the temperature that is changing. How much water flows in rivers and when is changing, as will greater problems from invasive species, such as those that are already keeping native cut-throat trout out of its native range.

The paper’s lead author is with Trout Unlimited, with other authors hailing from the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State University,  U.S. Geological Survey Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, and the University of Washington, Seattle.

Read the synopsis of the paper on Science Now, here.

Read a newspaper article from the Idaho Statesman, here. And this blog entry on the Idaho Statesman Web site.

And finally, read the paper itself (open access) from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, here.

Photo: Rainbow trout are expected to suffer the least from reductions in suitable habitat due to climate change. Photo by Carl Zitzman, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Climate Has Already Shifted Habitats

A paper in the current issue of the journal Science says that the distribution of many plants and animals has shifted toward the poles or to higher elevations because of climate change. But what is really interesting is that the meta-analysis of other papers on changes in species distribution shows that plants and fish are moving north and up at the same rate as birds and insects. (There wasn’t much data from the southern hemisphere.)

That’s because species aren’t actually moving, the paper says. They are reproducing less at the hotter edges of their ranges and more at the cooler. They are moving at the rate of reproduction, not at the rate they can flee. Also, they found certain species within groups are moving much faster or slower than the group as a whole. So one species of butterfly may have shifted its distribution drastically, while another species has stayed put.

Media accounts are using the distribution of specific species, such as pika moving to higher elevations, to show the paper’s findings, but no specific species are mentioned (although a study of mammal distribution in Yosemite is mentioned in the supporting materials).

Read the paper in Science here (subscription or payment required).

Read the description of the work in Science Now here.

The journal Nature weighs in on its blog too.

Even if the predictions in the paper aren’t helpful for your work, the story is getting widespread coverage, and given the polarization in the US over climate change, there is sure to be a lot of chatter.

General media accounts:
USA Today 
New York Times blog
Toronto Star
Washington Post

Another Science paper on the implications of climate change has also been getting a lot of press, and we’ll take a look at that on Monday.

Photo: Ochotona princeps (pika) Location: Tokopah Falls, Sequoia National Park Date taken: 2003-06-13 Photographer: Justin Johnsen License: {{GFDL}})

Bad News for Endangered Frog

The Los Angeles Times reports that 104 of the 106 mountain yellow-legged frogs that were rescued from a wildfire in 2009 have died mysteriously in captivity. There are believed to be about 200 of the frogs still in their native habitat in the California mountains. The species is listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The US Geological Survey ecologist leading the recovery effort says he still has hope for the species. And judging by the reader comments on the article, hikers in the region are having no problem finding the frogs, although I have to wonder if they are confusing them with a similar-looking species.

Read the Los Angeles Times story here.

Read the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s species profile here.

Photo: Courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

20 Mountain Lions in Nebraska’s Pine Ridge

A recent dog-tracking survey and DNA analysis shows that Nebraska’s Pine Ridge, in the panhandle, is home to 19 mountain lions. Scat-sniffing dogs found the scat, then 33 scat samples were sent for DNA analysis. The analysis revealed 19 individual mountain lions present in the region, which is near the border with South Dakota, and its known mountain lion population.

The story broke earlier this month. Here is a quick summary from Nebraska Central News. Another report comes from the Kearney Hub, which headlines with the biggest possible number of mountain lions. And here is a more in-depth report from the Lincoln Journal Star.

Lake Erie Watersnake Declared Recovered

The Lake Erie watersnake is the 23rd species to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act due to its recovery. Not as glamorous as the bald eagle or American alligator, the Lake Erie watersnake is a harmless snake species found on offshore islands in western Lake Erie.

An article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer says the round goby, an invasive fish, and a public education campaign were keys to the species’ recovery:

The arrival of round gobies in Lake Erie – a bottom dwelling fish that came from the Black and Caspian seas via ballast water from ships – crowded out native fish like madtom, stonecat, and longperch, but helped Lake Erie watersnakes rebound.

 Read the US Fish and Wildlife press release here. (Most media coverage is a rehash of the release.) The release has links to a fact sheet on the snake, and the final rule. The Cleveland Plain Dealer story goes beyond the release.

The state of Ohio will retain the snake on its list of endangered species.

Photo: A very cooperative Lake Erie watersnake (bottom of photo), photo courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Asian Carp Found in Wisconsin

A bighead carp caught by an angler, and traces of silver carp DNA found in tests means that Asian carp have expanded beyond the Mississippi River, where they were first found in Wisconsin 1996, into Wisconsin tributaries, a recent release from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reports. The silver lining is that no evidence of the carp reproducing has been found.

The department is asking anglers to report and bring in (on ice) any Asian carp caught.

Read the WDNR release here — with a nice graphic (keep scrolling down).

The Wall Street Journal picked up the Associated Press’s article on the story. Read it here.

This short item was posted on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog. Read it here.

Photo: Yes, those are Asian carp behind that boat, but the boat is not in Wisconsin. Chris Olds, US Fish and Wildlife Service