Skunk Witness Relocation Program Raises a Stink

This fall the town of Avalon, NJ moved some 80 problem skunks, but they are not telling where, reports the Press of Atlantic City. The Press quotes the town’s mayor as saying: “We’re trapping them and putting them in the witness protection program.”

While that’s a sound bite worthy of both Jersey Shore and Boardwalk Empire, neither local communities nor the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife are happy. They don’t want Avalon dumping its skunks elsewhere.

Read the full article in the Press of Atlantic City here.

No mention in the article of the federally endangered piping plover, which nests on area beaches and is threatened by (among other things) predation by skunks, raccoons, gulls and other creatures that have adjusted a little too well to development on the New Jersey shoreline.

To answer one of the commenters on the Press of Atlantic City article: Aren’t there more serious things to talk about? Absolutely. But the quote is funny and how serious can you be on the last working day of the year? Best wishes for 2012.

Disease May Be Behind Low Virginia Hunt Numbers

Virginia is reporting a 10 percent to 15 percent decrease in harvests statewide this year, reports the Tidewater News. In addition to warmer weather and full moons, the article quotes a district wildlife biologist as saying that disease may have also played a role. About three percent of the deer in the Tidewater, Va. have been afflicted with disease, the article quotes the biologist as saying.
However, the biologist says the disease is bluetongue. That’s common in cattle, but fairly rare in cervids such as deer, notes a ProMed commentator. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) displays similar symptoms and is common in deer. A laboratory test can tell the two viruses apart, the comment says.

Midwest Wolf Delisting Expected to Stick This Time

The final rule to remove the western Great Lakes population of the gray wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act is expected to be published in the Federal Register today (Dec. 28, 2011).
The rule will take effect 30 days after publication, so if all goes as planned, that will be Jan. 27, 2012.

The rule applies to gray wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin and “portions of adjoining states,” according to the US Fish and Wildlife press release announcing the final rule.

A map from the US Fish and Wildlife Service of the “Western Great Lakes Distinct Population Segment” of gray wolves suggests that the adjoining states are North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and the tiniest slivers of Indiana and Ohio.

More information about this population segment, including lots of links, is available from the Midwest region of the USFWS, here.

The USFWS species profile of the gray wolf is here.

Here’s a draft of the Federal Register rule.

Read the USFWS press release for details such as the total population in the area (4,000, with more than half in Minnesota).

This is the third time in the past five years that Minnesota’s wolf population has been delisted, notes the Saint Cloud Times. This time, the ruling is expected to stand, the article says. Read the rest here.

Read more in:
USA Today
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Map: courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

“A ray of hope” on WNS in bats

Scott Darling

In Vermont, residents have reported seeing colonies of little brown bats. Over the last five years most of the state’s little brown bats had been wiped out by white nose syndrome (WNS). In Pennsylvania, an abandoned mine appears to have 2,000 healthy bats.

Read the Associated Press article here. (It’s the better story.)
Read the Washington Post article here.

More good news: The Center for Biodiversity reports that Congress has directed that $4 million from the endangered species recovery fund go towards white nose syndrome research. But Congress has allocated for WNS before, and then reneged. It will be truly good news when research actually gets funded.
The Center for Biodiversity press release.

Photo: Scott Darling, Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, in the early days of the WNS crisis. Photo property of State Wildlife Research News. (Permission required for reuse.)

Paper Says US 531 Short on ESA Listings

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of imperiled species is merely informational. The United States’ Endangered Species Act (ESA) is regulatory; it can compel (or forbid) action to save species from extinction.

A recent paper in the journal Conservation Letters says that there are a lot more US species listed on the Red List as the equivalent of endangered or threatened than actually appear on the US’s ESA list. In fact, there are 531 more species on the Red List than listed under the ESA, the paper says.

The paper cites an inadequate budget US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) budget and the existance of a “warranted but precluded” catagory as the major road blocks to a complete listing.

What about politics? That’s where USFWS places the blame, says Scientific American’s on-line news site.

Read an international perspective from Asian Scientist, here.

Read the abstract in Conservation Letters, here. (The full article requires a fee or subscription.) See the whole article on the Center for Biodiversity website, here.

Photo: The New England cottontail is on the IUCN Red List, but not listed under the US Endangered Species Act. Photo by David Tibbetts, courtesy USFWS

Big Nosed Deer Deer in Mich. Is One of Several

A deer with a weirdly swollen nose was found in Michigan this season. It was the fourth deer ever found in Michigan with a similar swelling, according to a wildlife biologist and pathologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Disease Lab quoted in an article in the Kalamazoo Gazette. The pathologist also says in the article that the only thing the deer have in common is an infection with the mites that cause mange.

State wildlife officials originally had no interest in this particular deer, according to an Associated Press report, but Kevin Keel, a wildlife pathologist at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia saw the odd deer’s photo on a deer hunting blog, and got involved.

Keel said in his blog post that in the last seven years he’s seen about 10 of these deer from states ranging from Georgia to Idaho. What causes the nasal swelling is still a mystery. The Kalamazoo Gazette article says that a bacterial infection seems likely, but the Athens lab hasn’t been able to isolate it yet.

It may turn out that there may be more of these deer out there than anyone thought. Just a week after the first posting, someone else sent a photo of a swollen-nosed deer to the same hunting blog.

Here’s the Kalamazoo Gazette article that first discussed the deer.

Bobwhite Report

Last fall, the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, self-admittedly “a late entry in the long-running national drama” of bobwhite quail conservation,” published a 46-page report on the State of the Bobwhite. The report provides a valuable summary of population data, research and contacts for the 25 states participating in the initiative.

The report concludes that despite conservation efforts, bobwhite populations are still declining, all though they are not declining as steeply as they have in the past. A blog post on the report in the Charlotte Observer notes that all species dependent on the same grassland habitat are in decline.

What are other states doing that your state isn’t? Which states have notable bobwhite programs?

Read the Charlotte Observer’s blog post on the report, here.

Read the report itself, here.

Wyoming Wins Praise on Sage Grouse Management

It’s pretty rare to see a newspaper editorial praising a state wildlife plan, so we wanted to make sure that you saw this one, in the Casper Star-Tribune earlier this week.

The editorial notes that the feds are pleased too, quoting Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar at the sage grouse summit in Cheyenne last week: “We see Wyoming as a template for how we address the challenges the sage grouse is facing.”

It also notes that pleasing the feds has some benefits. Wyoming has received $17 million in federal funding (through the US Dept. of Agriculture) to conserve critical sage grouse habitat.

Read the entire editorial in the Casper Star-Tribune, here.

See State Wildlife Research News’ previous coverage of Wyoming’s sage grouse management plan, here. It includes a link to more detail about the plan itself.

Photo: Greater sage grouse by Stephen Ting. Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service.

More Disabled Hunter Permits Mean Fewer Elk in Montana

The elk population in some areas of Montana is being reduced by the abuse of disabled-hunter permits, which allow the holders to take cow elk, says the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commission chairman in a recent Associated Press article.

Look for the quote buried in the story’s seventh paragraph. This is mostly a story about the abuse of the permits, sort of a healthy people parking in handicapped spots story of outrage, but with disabled-hunter permits in place of the convenient parking space.

According to the article, the abused loopholes seem to be the ability walk 600 yards carrying 15 pounds and the ability to carry 25 pounds. Lots of people who are just out of shape, and not handicapped at all, can’t do these things and can get a doctor’s note to prove it.

Read the Associated Press article for more details.

Photo: Cow elk and calf, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Hawaiian Fence Even Keeps Out Mice

When invasive species are harming the nests of ground-nesting birds, an obvious solution is to erect an exclosure. Sometimes that solution works, and sometimes it doesn’t. So just imagine the situation in Hawaii, where non-native rats and even non-native mice are part of the problem. It’s hard to keep those tiny critters out.

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) announced recently that a 2,040-foot long, 6.5-foot-high, stainless steel fence surrounding a 59-acre wedge-tailed shearwater nesting area on O’ahu is a success. This year’s chick count is up 14 percent, and is the highest number ever recorded at the colony. The fence has been up for eight months.

Read the ABC press release for the details. Also see the press release announcing the project, which has some interesting additional information, including that the project has spirit gate in an accommodation to local belief.

This is the first time such a fence has been used in the United States, but it was developed in New Zealand, which has a similar problem with ground-nesting birds and non-native predators that range from house cats (high jumpers) to mice (can squeeze in just about anywhere).

Check out this link for more information on the New Zealand-style exclosure fencing. It may be expensive, but it seems to be effective.

You may not have Hawaiian-caliber nesting bird issues, but even adopting some aspects of this fence can offer solutions to tough exclosure problems.

Photo by George E. Wallace, ABC, used by permission.