Owls and Bats for Halloween

In the spirit of the season, here’s a Mountain West Voices profile of the Montana-based Owl Research Institute, an independent research institute. It briefly mentions a saw-whet owl study the institute is conducting.

It’s a podcast, and about five minutes long. Find the Mountain West Voices piece here.

For bats, there is a press release from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife pointing out that while bats are a symbol of Halloween, bats in Oregon (and in the northeastern US too) are either hibernating or migrating to warmer places to spend the winter. It includes lots of Oregon bat facts and links to further information.

Find the press release here.

From Bat Conservation International, here’s a link to an article on bat folklore. The article is 20 years old, but the folklore hasn’t changed. (And I just have to mention that the “ball game” mentioned in the Cherokee myth is lacrosse, or something very similar to it.)

BCI bat folklore article, here.

Wolf News

Generally we don’t cover wolves because the news has more to do with politics than with scientific research. However, wolves have been in the news a lot these last few months, as several states had their first wolf hunting seasons, and state wildlife departments play a starring role, so it makes sense to at least round-up some of these stories. Fittingly, the first one is:

Minnesota wolf management is based on sound science and conservation principles
In response to a petition to stop the state’s first wolf hunt, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued this press release. (Press release)

Wolves kill bear hounds in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources notices aren’t on-line, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a similar notice. Find the link to the records mentioned, here.

Wolf season closes in one of Montana’s management districts
(Flathead Beacon)

Wyoming wolf hunt began Oct. 1
(Wyoming Star Tribune)

Fish and Game Commission Vote Clears Way for Further Study of Wolf Status
The California Fish and Game Commission will perform a 12-month status review of the gray wolf before deciding if it warranted endangered species status. (Press release)

Mexican Wolf Not a Subspecies, Feds Say
WildEarth Guardians press release, here.
Federal Register, here.

Guarding Sheep to Save Wolves
A New York Times article on a Defenders of Wildlife program to use nonlethal deterrents to keep wolves away from sheep.

News from the Wyoming wolf hunt
(Jackson Hole Daily)

Classes preach caution during Montana’s first trapping season
(Missoula Independent)

Hunters ready for 1st wolf hunts in Wis., Minn.
(Associated Press/Seattle Times)
(Also, Wisc. hunt in Chippawa Herald)

Wolves play a role in Okanogan County (Washington) elections
(Wenatchee World)

Wildlife groups step up to stop [Minnesota] wolf hunts
(Minnesota Daily)

Big mamas help wolf pups thrive [in Yellowstone]
(Billings Gazette)

Oregon wolf collaring and depredation records
(Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Minnesota DNR studies wolf behavior as hunting season approaches
(Minnesota Public Radio)

Recent killing in Washington reignites wolves-livestock debate
(AP/Bellingham Herald)

Photo of gray wolf by Gary Kramer, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Lynx and Bobcat in Northeast

There are lynx sightings in Vermont and a new bobcat management plan in New York.

In New York, the bobcat management plan offers a road map for managing the species over the next five years. Bobcat numbers in the state are up, the report says:

All indications, including harvest trends, suggest that bobcats have increased in abundance here and in surrounding states, and observations have become more common in recent years. Based on analysis of harvest data, we estimate New York’s bobcat population to be approximately 5,000 animals in areas where regulated hunting and trapping seasons have been in place since the 1970s. Estimates are not available for populations expanding into western and central New York.

Because of this, the plan includes opening some new areas of the state to bobcat hunting and changing the bobcat hunting season in other areas for the sake of consistency. The report also mentions investigating the possibility of reestablishing bobcats on Long Island, in the urban southeast corner of the state.

Find a link to the management plan and a short description of it on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s website, on the bobcat page, here.

In Vermont, it’s the rural northwest corner of the state that is seeing an increase of lynx sightings, according to the blog of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Ecological Services.

A total of eight lynx track intercepts were recorded during two survey efforts in February and March. The track patterns and genetic analysis indicated three to five distinct individuals, some of which were traveling together.

The animals traveling together were likely a mother and her young, the blog says, which suggests a breeding population in the area.

Read the entire blog post, here.

Photo: Lynx track, courtesy Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department

Tracking Gas Impact on Bald Eagles

There wasn’t a study of the impact on natural gas extraction on bald eagles before operations started in anticline region of the Green River Valley of Wyoming, so a new study will closely examine which habitats bald eagles in the area are using, and which they are not using, says an article in the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

The study is being conducted by Bryan Bedrosian of Craighead Beringia South, a non-profit science and education institute, and Susan Patla of the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish, the article says. According to the Craighead Beringia South website, the Bureau of Land Management is another partner in the study.

The research team has attached a solar-powered, rechargeable GPS/satellite tracking devices to six bald eagles, with the stated goal of tracking 12 bald eagles in total. The study is expected to last six years.

Details of the trapping method are described in the Jackson Hole News & Guide article. Read it here.
More details about the study are available on the Craighead Beringia South website. Here. (Includes a slideshow.)
See where the eagles with transmitters are flying, here.

Kirtland’s Warbler Numbers Up in Michigan

This year, researchers and volunteers in Michigan observed 2,063 singing Kirtland’s warbler males, up from 1,805 last year and the biggest single-year increase in the birds since 2007, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reports.

These are the highest numbers ever for Kirtland’s warbler, a federally endangered bird, the release states. The warbler is endangered by habitat loss. It nests only in young jack pines, a habitat that only naturally occurs after periodic wild fires. Today the habitat is created through both prescribed burns and timber harvests with seeding. The birds range has expanded from Michigan’s lower peninsula, to its upper peninsula and into Wisconsin and Canada.

“We are witnessing a conservation success story,” said Michigan DNR endangered species coordinator Dan Kennedy in the release.

Read the Michigan DNR press release here.
Read more info on the species from the US Fish and Wildlife Service here.

In other songbird news:

While bark beetle outbreaks have been bad news for many throughout the West, they have been good news for mountain chickadees, at least at a local level for short periods around the time of the outbreak, says an article in the journal Ibis.

Because the birds are secondary cavity nesters, the study notes, the number of mountain chickadees in a location in a particular year ties most closely to the number of downy woodpeckers and red-breasted nuthatches the previous year.

You’ll need to pay or subscribe to read the whole paper. Find it here.

Photo: Kirtland’s warbler, courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Colorado’s Urban Bears, Interim Report

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) biologist Heather Johnson recently gave an interim report on her five-year black bear study to the state Parks and Wildlife Commission, the Durango Herald reports.

According to the CPW website, the study is intended to gather more information about the increase in conflicts between black bears and humans in the state. Does the increase reflect black bear population trends, or a change in behavior? To that end, the website says, the study:

1) tests management strategies for reducing bear-human conflicts, including a large-scale treatment/control urban-food-removal experiment; 2) determines the consequences of bear use of urban environments on regional bear population dynamics; 3) develops population and habitat models to support the sustainable monitoring and management of bears in Colorado; and 4) examines human attitudes and perceptions related bear-human conflicts and management practices.

One and a half years in, Johnson has found that female black bear behavior of the 51 collared bears she tracks is highly variable. One collared female never left a three block area in Durango, another wandered for 200 miles.

Up next is an experiment comparing conflicts in an area with bear-proof trash cans to one without the cans. That experiment will begin in the spring.

Read more about the study in the Durango Herald, here.
Read brief discriptions of CPW’s black bear research, here.

Photo: Heather Johnson, courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Smoothing Ruffled Feathers

It took a long time to sort out, but this week the the federal Justice Department clarified its stand on native people possessing eagle feathers. The policy said that tribal members can possesses or wear feathers from bald or golden eagles. They can also lend, give or trade the feathers or bird parts to other tribal members, as long as money doesn’t change hands.

Further, tribal members can keep eagle feathers that they pick up off the ground, but they can’t kill or harass the federally protected birds to get the feathers. There’s a federal depository for eagles that were accidentally killed, and tribal members can apply to receive feathers or parts from the repository for ceremonial purposes.

The US Fish and Wildlife department also issues a few permits for tribal members to kill eagles for religious purposes.

The Summit County Citizens Voice was the article getting all the buzz. Read the article, here.
You can also check out the Washington Post‘s take on the issue, here.

But now that we have eagle situation solved, other migratory birds are an issue. An Alaskan man was stunned to find out that selling items decorated with bird feathers is illegal, the Anchorage Daily News reports. As a member of the Tlingit nation, he felt that he was just doing what his people had done for generations. He settled the case for a $2,005 fine.

Unfortunately, the article does not clarify how the federal Migratory Bird Act applies to tribal members, but it is likely that the rule is similar to the rule for eagle feathers and parts.

Read the Anchorage Daily News story here.

Photo by Dave Menke, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wildlife Rehabilitators Decline

Newspapers all over the country picked up this Associated Press article about the decline of wildlife rehabilitators in Wisconsin. The story says that half as many people are licensed as wildlife rehabilitators as were 12 years ago. In 2001 there were 225 organizations licensed and today there are 113.

The AP story did not dig deeper, but an article in the Press of Atlantic City that reported a similar trend in New Jersey back in February, did. It found that rehabilitator numbers are down in Florida and California as well.

Not having enough wildlife rehabilitators puts a strain on police, who must respond to distressed animal calls instead of a trained rehabilitator, and is, in general, a public relations black eye for state wildlife departments, who often must kill ill or injured animals when rehabilitation is not an option.

In New Jersey, a Wildlife Rehabilitator’s Act aims to increase the number of rehabilitators in the state by reducing red tape (by creating a licensing committee that is “in but not of” the state wildlife department) and changing the training requirements for rehabilitators. But the various bills put forward in the state senate and assembly have been controversial.

The NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife has created a wildlife rehabilitators advisory committee in attempt to get things on the right track. You can read agendas and minutes for the committee here.

Read the AP story on Wisconsin rehabilitators, here.
Read the Press of Atlantic City article, here.

American Midland Naturalist

Here are some articles of interest in the current issue of American Midland Naturalist. (Fee or subscription required to read the full text.):

The Impact of Exotic Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) on Wetland Bird Abundances. Some wetland bird species do well when loosestrife increases, this study found. It urges land managers to take care when removing loosestrife so as not to harm those species.

Use of Camera Traps to Examine the Mesopredator Release Hypothesis in a Fragmented Midwestern Landscape. Coyotes don’t like deep forests and red foxes don’t like urban landscapes, this study found. The presence of coyotes only scared off other mesopredators a little.

Lots more on invasive species. Including papers on garlic mustard and the types of plants that grow in contaminated roadside soil.


Deer Health

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced the first case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer there last week. As you may guess from the state department issuing the news, CWD was found in captive deer.

CWD had been found in New York, which borders Pennsylvania, several years ago and is believed to be eradicated there. But there have been more recent incidents in West Virginia and Maryland, which also border the state.

(My rough measurements show the Pennsylvania case as being about 40 miles from where CWD was found in Maryland and West Virginia.)

Read the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture press release here. (It’s a PDF).
Read an article in the Lehigh Valley Morning Call, here.

In other deer health news, Louisiana State Wildlife Division chief Kenny Ribbeck told the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission last week that Hurricane Isaac killed up to 90 percent of the deer fawns in the Maurepas Basin, according to an Associated Press article that you can read in The Oregonian. Deer hunting in the region has been adjusted as a result.

And in the category of “when is no news actually news” the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre notes in its blog that epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) came awfully close to Canada this year. The midge that spreads EHD is not found in Canada, it says, but the disease may move north with the midge because of climate change. It also notes that because the disease has never struck there, the outbreak may be severe.

Read the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre blog post, here.

Photo: Joe Kosack/Pennsylvania Game Commission