Chad Bishop To Lead Colorado Wildlife Branch

From a press release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Rick Cables has announced the selection of Chad Bishop to serve as Assistant Director for Wildlife and Natural Resources.

In his new role as assistant director, Bishop will oversee the biological units of the agency as well as the units that manage real estate and water resources. Since 2009, Bishop has headed the Mammals Research Program, which includes 18 research projects that address ecology and management of cougar, black bear, elk, mule deer, lynx and other species in the state. Bishop has recently been serving as acting manager of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Terrestrial Section.

Bishop is an avid sportsman and has lived in Colorado since 1999. He has a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management from Montana State University, master’s degree in wildlife resources from University of Idaho, and a doctorate in wildlife biology from Colorado State University. Bishop started with the former Colorado Division of Wildlife as a wildlife researcher in 1999. As a researcher, he studied mule deer for a decade before becoming head of the Mammals Research Program in 2009.

“I’m excited for this new opportunity to serve Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the citizens of Colorado,” said Bishop. “Colorado boasts a wealth of fish, wildlife and natural resources. I’m looking forward to helping manage and preserve those resources for our State’s residents and visitors, now and into the future.”

Read the entire release, here.

Avian Malaria in Alaska

Human beings do not get avian malaria, which is a good thing for the human beings in Alaska. Avian malaria is, however, caused by a parasite that is closely related to the one that causes human malaria, and that might be a good thing, too. Of course, the news for birds is bad all around.

A study by San Francisco State University researchers, published in the journal PLoS ONE, collected blood samples from birds in Alaska over a latitudinal gradient in Alaska, from 61°N to 67°N, and found the avian malaria parasite as far north as 64°N.

This is a huge threat to the Arctic’s rich bird life, because the birds there have never been exposed to avian malaria and they may be highly susceptible to it, says San Francisco State University Associate Professor of Biology Ravinder Sehgal, one of the study’s co-authors.

The finding may supply medical researchers with a valuable model of human malaria and climate change. The spread of malaria (the human kind) is one of the most threatening aspects of climate change on human health.

For anyone charged with managing populations of wild birds — whether they are songbirds, water fowl or upland game birds, the presence of avian malaria at up to a latititude of 64°N is worth noting in hunting plans, endangered species recovery plans, and when investigating disease outbreaks in birds.

Read the PLoS ONE paper, here. (This is an open access journal.)
Read the SF State U press release, here.
Read a brief analysis of the findings in Climate Central, here.

Photo: SF State Associate Professor of Biology Ravinder Sehgal holds a Common Redpoll, one of several bird species in Alaska researchers discovered were infected with malaria. Credit: Ravinder Sehgal, SF State.

Condor Reintroduction Reviewed

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department:

A review of the 2007-2011 period of the California condor reintroduction program in northern Arizona and southern Utah was recently completed and identifies a number of successes, including an increase in the free-ranging population, consistent use of seasonal ranges by condors and an increased number of breeding pairs. However, exposure to lead contamination from animal carcasses and gut piles left in the field continues to limit the success of the program. The team made several recommendations to address the lead issue.

You can read the rest of the press release on the AZGFD website, here. It’s the third item on the page.

Go straight to the news with this Peregrine Fund press release. (I think it says exactly the same thing.)

On Saturday (Sept. 29), the reintroduction continues with 17th public release of condors in Arizona since the recovery program began in 1996. At this event three endangered California condors will be released to the wild.

Read more about it in the AZGFD’s Wildlife News. It’s the sixth item from the top and is followed by another release praising Arizona hunters for voluntarily reducing their use of lead bullets to help the condors survive.

Photo: California condor, courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department.

New EHD Outbreaks and Other EHD News

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has been reported in Missouri and Wisconsin.

Find more information about the situation in Missouri through the Missouri Department of Conservation press release, here. In Wisconsin, the cause of death of 31 deer has not been confirmed, but EHD is suspected. If it is EHD, it will be the first outbreak since 2002 says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Read the blog in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, here.

In South Dakota, the EHD outbreak has been severe enough to curtail deer hunting licenses, according to the Mitchell Daily Republic. South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department is removing all the unsold hunting licenses from several of the state’s hunting units and is offering refunds to hunters who would like to voluntarily turn in their licenses. Read the whole story in the Mitchell Daily Republic.

Map: Antlered deer harvest in South Dakota in 2010. Darker color is higher number of antlered deer per 100 square miles. Courtesy South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

Fast(er) WNS Test

little brown bat with white nose syndrome on cave wallGeomyces destructans, the fungus that causes white nose syndrome in bats, is difficult to identify. The parts that are external to an infected bat, brush off easily, and DNA tests have a hard time discerning G. destructans from other fungi in the genus, which are soil-dwelling organisms that are very common in caves.

The journal Mycologia has published an on-line before print article describing a TaqMan polymerase chain reaction test to identify the fungus’s DNA. The key to not picking up any of the 43 other fungi in the genus (or other closely-related fungi) appears to be focusing on the multicopy intergenic spacer region of the rRNA gene complex.

This innovation should allow diagnostic laboratories to identify G. destructans more quickly.

Read the Mycologia article (requires subscription or fee).

Photo: Little brown bat with white nose syndrome, courtesy of Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Moose Decline

Warmer temperatures and more parasites may be the causes of a sharp decline in moose in Montana, Wyoming and Minnesota, says an article in the Billings Gazette. The decline has been noted for at least 30 years, the article says, but just recently has the matter been studied in-depth.

Montana hired Rich Deceasre as a full-time moose biologist with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks just two months ago, the article says. Deceasre will conduct an eight- to ten-year study of moose. The protocol will be the same as for a recent Idaho study, so that the data can be compared.

Much more info, including an overview of the Minnesota moose decline, is in the Billings Gazette article. Read it here.

Photo by Alan Briere, courtesy NH Fish & Game

Trail Cam as PR Assistant

Do you have an under-used wildlife refuge that you would like to promote? A bit of wildlife habitat that needs protecting, but has been forgotten? Strap some trail cameras along likely wildlife corridors and let the resulting photos help you get the word out.

People believe what they see, and photos can show the wildlife diversity in a particular area. And people generally love pics of either cute or scary creatures, so media looking for a “brite” love animal pics.

This story in the San Francisco Chronicle has some trail cam shots, and some wonderful wildlife shots from what must be professional photographers. And yes, the Point Reyes National Seashore is hardly a forgotten wildlife refuge (it has 2.5 million visitors annually), but the pictures make a point. The story, meant to celebrate the seashore’s 50th anniversary, got a lot of play from the Chron and on the Internet. Read the story here.

Photo: A black-tailed deer inspects a trail camera at Point Reyes National Seashore. Photo courtesy of Point Reyes National Seashore.

More Whooping Cranes in Louisiana

Whooping cranes in LouisianaFourteen additional whooping cranes will be re-introduced to southwestern Louisiana in late November, according to an Associated Press article. These whooping cranes will join the survivors of two other groups of whooping cranes that had been reintroduced in February and December 2011.

According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the last record of a whooping crane in Louisiana dates back to 1950. That bird was moved to Texas to join others of its kind. Fittingly, the first birds re-released in Louisiana were located where the last one had lived. Only three of the first group of 10 whooping cranes survived their first year, and 12 of the second group of 16 have survived until now.

Read the AP story in the Houston Chronicle, here.
Read information from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, here.

Photo: Whooping cranes are habituated in Louisiana in 2011 before release. Courtesy Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Deer Disease News

The most recently Wildlife Health Bulletin from US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center includes a list of resources for hemorrhagic disease, including epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and bluetonge virus.

The bulletin is a two-page long PDF, but includes links to reports and news briefs as well as contact information for relevant personnel at the National Wildlife Health Center.

Find the bulletin here.

In Delaware, citizens, and particularly hunters, are being asked to report any dead deer that have signs of EHD or show no apparant sign of death. The Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife hopes to track where the outbreaks are occurring in the state.

Read the Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control press release, here.

Photo: A healthy white-tailed deer, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife.

Man-Made Bat Cave Aims to Aid WNS Bats

The bat cave created by The Nature Conservancy chapter in Tennessee can be disinfected after each hibernation season, which may offer some bats a refuge from white nose syndrome (WNS). According to the Leaf Chronicle, the cave cost $300,000, which was raised entirely from private funds.

The article also notes that the cave was built near an existing bat hibernation site.

Lots of details in the Leaf Chronicle article. Read it here.
Read a shorter article in Popular Science, here.
The Nature Conservancy press release is here.
A Nature Conservancy interview with project leader Cory Holliday, here.

What the two reported articles don’t say is that the cave is an answer to a common question about possible solutions for white nose syndrome: Why don’t you just disinfect the cave with an anti-fungal? (Any doubts that this is common? See the comments after the articles.) The short answer is that a cave is a complex ecosystem and fungi play an important role. So far there isn’t a way to kill just the WNS fungus without killing other fungi in the cave.

The artificial cave doesn’t have an ecosystem, so it can be sterilized when the bats leave in the spring. This should prevent healthy bats from be infected from fungi in the cave the following winter, perhaps lessening the virulence in that cave.

It’s pricey, time-consuming and takes some of the wildness away from the bats, but compared to having wildlife rehabilitators raise a “Noah’s ark” population (which has been discussed at times with some seriousness, and even tried with Virginia big-eared bats), it’s likely cheaper, easier and less disruptive.

…And, this just in: An Associated Press story (here in the San Francisco Chronicle) does get into some of these details. Read it here.

Photo: View of the artificial bat cave, with the human entrance below and the bat entrance above. Photo credit: © Cory Holliday, The Nature Conservancy