NYS Raising Hellbenders

hellbenderHellbenders are the America’s largest aquatic salamander and can reach over two feet in length. In New York, they are only found in the Allegheny and Susquehanna River river drainages. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, eastern hellbenders were listed as a species of special concern in the state in 1984.

One survey of the hellbenders in the Susquehanna River drainage found that all of the salamanders were over 25 years old, showing that no young had survived in that population for quite a while, according to NYS DEC.

Hellbenders raised at the Buffalo Zoo have been released into the wild starting in 2009. A recent issue of the NYS DEC Field Notes says that 146 juvenile hellbenders have been released into the Allegheny River, and recently, one of them has been recaptured, after having gained 40 grams.

The rest of the 400 hellbenders raised in the Buffalo Zoo program are scheduled to be released in 2013, the newsletter says.

Model Predicts WNS Peak

little brown bat with white nose syndrome on cave wallA study published recently in Nature Communications models the spread of white nose syndrome in bats, says a press release from the University of Georgia. The model that fits the history of the disease’s dispersal across the United States, predicts a peak in infections in 2015-2016. It also predicts that caves most areas of the United States will have the WNS fungus within 100 years. The model does not include data from Canada.

The model shows that cold winters and the existence of caves are the key factors in where the disease is found.

Read the University of Georgia press release here.
Read the Nature Communications abstract, here. (A subscription or fee is required to access the full article.)

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

The Bears Are Back

web_Bear-Hair-in-TrapBlack bears are back in northeastern Alabama and southern New Jersey, recent reports say.

In Alabama, the return of black bears to northeastern Alabama has inspired studies of the species’ population dynamics in the state. According to a press release from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources:

Research is currently underway in the Little River Canyon National Preserve, Talladega National Forest and the Mobile River Basin. Sampling for black bears in northeastern Alabama involves the deployment of hair snares and trail cameras. In the southern part of the state, EcoDogs are also a vital tool. The canines from Auburn’s EcoDogs program are capable of sniffing out and locating bear droppings. Once the hair and droppings are collected, they can be used to determine dietary habits, habitat use and population size.

According to the press release, the established population of black bears in northern Alabama is about 50, but black bears are moving into the northeastern part of the state from Georgia and Tennessee.

There appear to be more black bears in southern New Jersey as well, but the situation there is different. According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“The population is too sparse to effectively survey them,” said Larry Herrighty, the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s assistant director of operations. Plus, he said, the cost to do so would be prohibitive because of the area involved.

This year is the third year that there has been a black bear hunting season in New Jersey, although that is only in the northwest corner of the state, the article says.

Read the Philadelphia Inquirer’s article here.
Read the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources press release here.

Photo: bear hair in a snare. (Could you even make something like that up?) Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Salamanders Shrink in Texas Drought

220px-Eurycea_tonkawae_IMG_3631Nathan F. Bendik of the City of Austin’s Watershed Protection Department and Andrew Gluesenkamp, the state herpetologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, were not surprised when the tails of an endangered salamander, Eurycea tonkawae, were thinner when measured during a drought.

Their mark-and-recapture survey was able to compare measurements of individuals, not just the population as a whole of this spring-dwelling salamander. They knew that the salamanders store fat in their tails, and that when times are tough, the tails are thinner.

It was a surprise, however, that the total length of the salamanders shrank during the drought. Once the water flow in the spring resumed, however, the salamanders grew again.

Their observations are now an article in the Journal of Zoology. Read the abstract here. The full article requires a subscription or fee.

Photo by Piers Hendrie of a Jollyville Plateau Salamander (Eurycea tonkawae), Travis County, Texas. Used through Wikimedia Commons.

Reindeer Games

Yes, we’re falling for it. When a wildlife conservation organization calls caribou “reindeer” on the day before Christmas, we are going to run with it. ‘Tis the season, after all.

What really happened was that the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada received a three-year grant to work in Ontario’s Far North and Northern British Columbia/Southern Yukon. The grant is from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation.

Now you see, caribou live in this region, and caribou, when domesticated in Eurasia, are called reindeer. Interesting trivia: while reindeer are culturally vital on the Russian side of the Bering Straight, native North American people didn’t domesticate caribou, and didn’t show much interest in raising reindeer when they were introduced in the region. (These facts from the National Museum of Natural History’s Arctic Studies Center.)

As for the grant: “The conservation challenges in Canada’s north are ever increasing and the supporters of those challenges are dwindling,” said Dr. Justina Ray, Executive Director of WCS Canada in the press release. It comes at a good time.

The Gift of Wildlife

2013_Calendar_cover_thumbPsst. Looking for a last-minute gift idea? Well, your state fish and wildlife (or game or natural resources) department has just the thing.

Never mind that the gift of wildlife doesn’t fit under a tree. Lots of state departments have sent out press releases with their own suggestions.

Oregon Fish and Wildlife suggests a hunting or fishing license. There is some fine print, however: “If you are giving a license as a gift, make sure you have the hunter’s or angler’s full name and date of birth (day, month, year). If the person has previously had a license, make sure you have their ODFW hunter/angler ID number, which is found at the top of their license. If you are purchasing a license for someone who has never had a license, you will have to provide his or her social security number in compliance with Federal and State laws.”

Uhhh. Better make that a gift certificate for a license. That’s what the Indiana Department of Natural Resources suggests. Just keep in mind that it can’t be returned. Idaho Fish and Game wants you to give a chance at a Super Hunt tag. Win and you can participate in any hunting season in Idaho. Lose, and… oh, never mind.

Who has calendars?
New Hampshire Fish and Game
The Missouri Department of Conservation

What about a magazine subscription?
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Arizona Game and Fish Department
(There are many wonderful state wildlife magazines out there. These are just the ones we received press releases from suggesting holiday giving. Same goes for calendars.)

Missouri and Minnesota are promoting their gift shops. With the Missouri Department of Conservation, you can shop on-line. (Navigate to different product types using the dark blue bar near the top.) The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has a gift shop in a state park. You need to go there in person, but there’s a big holiday sale.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has a free National Wildlife Refuge app, that it is suggesting for loading on that iPad that you’re giving.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is playing it the other way, and suggests that you donate to its Michigan Nongame Fish and Wildlife Fund. North Carolina suggests the same, with a donation to its Wildlife Diversity Endowment Fund.

What’s the most unique gift item available from your state wildlife department? Leave a comment and let us know.

Photo: New Hampshire Fish and Game’s 2013 wildlife calendar.

Windrows Help Mammal Diversity in Clear-cuts

slash in california m_martinA study out of British Columbia, published in the Journal of Mammalogy, says that creating either large piles or windrows of coarse woody debris during timber harvesting helps forest-specialist small mammal species, such as the red-backed vole, stick around after a clear-cut.

The study found that the piles or windrows of branches and twigs should be at least two meters (six feet) tall and five meters (25 feet) wide to be effective. The piles and windrows were more effective than scattering the branches and twigs evenly across the clear-cut space, the paper says.

Carnivores, such as coyotes, lynx and weasels, were also more likely to stick around in clear-cuts were woody debris had been placed in piles or windrows, the study found. The study also found that there were just as many small mammals in the clear-cuts as there were in the uncut forest. The difference was that in the clear-cuts there were many more generalist species, such as white-footed mice, while the forest specialists had disappeared.

The paper is open access, so read the whole thing in the Journal of Mammalogy, here.

Photo of woody debris or slash being used to stop sediment from flowing into a trout stream. By Jon Jue, courtesy of US Forest Service.

Moose of “Special Concern” in Minn.

mooseThe the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ list of endangered, threatened and special concern species is due to get its first update since 1996, a DNR press release reports. While 302 Minnesota species will be affected, moose are getting all the attention.

The iconic north woods animal is proposed for listing as a species of special concern. The designation reflects a 50 percent decline in the number of moose in the state since 2005, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. There are now about 4,000 moose in the state.

What is causing the rapid decline is still a bit of a mystery, but a combination of disease, parasites and a warming climate appear to be the causes, the Star-Tribune notes.

CBC News reports University of Minnesota Duluth biologist Ron Moen as saying that wildlife managers in Ontario should keep an eye out for their own moose. The southern part of western Ontario shares a border with Minnesota.

As for why the gray wolf’s delisting in the other direction, from special concern to not on the list, is not receiving much attention, that’s because this year’s wolf hunting season (and the federal delisting) packed more punch than this proposed delisting.

Read the Star-Tribune article here.
Read the Minn. DNR press release here.
Get more details about the list changes, here.

Photo: Moose, courtesy MN DNR

Bat Fungus Sticks Around

WhiteNoseBat_scientist08Wisconsin researchers have confirmed that Geomyces destructans, the fungus that causes white nose syndrome (WNS) in bats, persists in caves long after all the bats in the cave have died off.

A paper published ahead of print in Applied and Environmental Microbiology also says that because the fungus has been found in all the caves that have had WNS outbreaks, but is not found in caves beyond the region where WNS has been found, the findings support the hypothesis that the fungus is an exotic species in North America.

The paper is particularly bad news in light of recent reports of bats repopulating caves where WNS had struck years ago.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison press release offers one tiny bit of good news. Bats that hibernate in near-freezing conditions seem to fare better than bats hibernating in conditions a few degrees warmer. David Blehert, a microbiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center in Madison and a lead researcher on the paper, says that the fungus grows much slower at those low temperatures.

Read the abstract in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. (The full article requires a subscription or fee.)Read the University of Wisconsin press release here.

Photo: A biologist takes samples from a cave in an early attempt to determine the cause of the deadly white-nose syndrome in hibernating bats. Courtesy of  USGS National Wildlife Health Center

Michigan Confirms U.P. Mountain Lion Photos

cougar_mqt_county_nov_2012_404621_7Not sure how we missed this in our recent wild cat news round-up, but a Michigan Department of Natural Resources press release says:

Three recent trail camera photos of cougars in the Upper Peninsula have been verified by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Two of the photos, both of a cougar with a radio collar, were taken in October in Menominee County – one near Cedar River and one near Menominee just north of the Wisconsin border. The third photo was taken in northern Marquette County in November. The cougar in the Marquette County photo is not wearing a radio collar.

The DNR does not place radio collars on cougars; North Dakota and South Dakota are the nearest states where wildlife researchers have placed radio collars on cougars to track their movement. The DNR has not yet been able to determine the origin of the radio-collared cougar that is in Michigan.

Cougars are otherwise known as mountain lions, Puma concolor to scientists.

Read the Michigan DNR press release here.
Read the UpNorthLive.com report here.
And read The Mining Journal article here.

Photo: trail cam photo of a mountain lion courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources