Worse Year for Monarchs

Monarch_butterflyDepending on where you live, you may have noticed it in autumn. There were very few monarch butterflies around. It wasn’t unexpected. Numbers were low last winter in Mexico, and the weather over the summer didn’t favor the hatching of new monarchs.

World Wildlife Fund, Mexico’s Environment Department and the Natural Protected Areas Commission just announced that the numbers of monarch butterflies overwintering among the Transvolcanic mountains of central Mexico are the lowest since they started keeping records back in 1993. They measure the butterflies in the number of hectares that they cover in the park. This winter they covered 0.67 hectares. At their recorded high, in the winter of ’95-’96 they covered over 20 hectares.

Why, oh, why, do you ask? At one time the forest where the monarchs roost over the winter was being cut down, but that problem seems to have been solved. Climate change is in the mix. But the big problem, according to MonarchWatch, at the University of Kansas, is that herbicide tolerant (HT) crops have removed milkweed from a part of the country vital to the monarchs’ migration: the Midwest.

Read the report from MonarchWatch, here. It includes all the details on the HT crops theory.
Read the Associated Press news story in SF Gate, here.

Photo: by Mark Musselman, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Symptoms Show in Arkansas Bats

WNS in ArkansasAfter detecting the fungus that causes white nose syndrome, but not seeing any bats with the disease, for two winters in a row, dead bats showing the symptoms caused by the white nose syndrome fungus were found in an Arkansas cave on January 11, an Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) press release says.

A total of five dead bats were found during a survey of the Marion County cave. Two of the bats were collected and submitted to the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center where it was confirmed that both bats had the fungus. Both bats had damage to wing, ear and tail membranes consistent with white-nose syndrome, the press release says.

This makes Arkansas the 23rd state to confirm white nose syndrome in bats.

Read the AGFC press release on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s white nose syndrome web page. (The release was not on the AGFC website when this item was posted.)
Press reports have merely reprinted the press release. See an example here.
See State Wildlife Research News‘ coverage of this past summer’s fungus discovery in Arkansas, here.

Map by Cal Butchkoski, PA Game Commission, used courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service. This year’s findings are in red.

Wiscondsin Adjusts Endangered & Threatened List

Blandings_TurtleFifteen native birds, plants and other animals have been removed from Wisconsin’s endangered and threatened species list effective Jan. 1, 2014, says a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) press release. Eight other species, including the black tern, the federally endangered Kirtland’s warbler, and the upland sandpiper, have been added to the list, the release goes on to say, as well as five invertebrates — the beach-dune tiger beetle, ottoe skipper, a leafhopper, an Issid planthopper, and fawnsfoot mussel.

The 15 species removed from the list include seven animals: the greater redhorse, a fish; the barn owl, snowy egret, and Bewick’s wren; the pygmy snaketail, a dragonfly; and two reptiles, the Blanding’s turtle and Butler’s gartersnake.

While Blanding’s turtle no longer meets the scientific criteria for listing, the release says says, the population is vulnerable to harvest and collection. To address this, the DNR has started a new administrative rule process to add the Blanding’s turtle to the Protected Wild Animals List.

Read the WDNR press release here.
A preliminary draft of the economic impact analysis and a draft of the proposed rule order are available for download at the DNR’s proposed permanent rules page or at Wisconsin’s administrative rules page.

Photo: A Blanding’s turtle in Massachusetts, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Ducks Unlimited Likes New Farm Bill

“The 2014 Farm Bill is arguably one of the best agriculture conservation bills for sportsmen and ducks that we’ve seen in a long time,” said Ducks Unlimited (DU) CEO Dale Hall in a press release distributed yesterday.

Ducks Unlimited likes that the bill re-couples conservation compliance to crop insurance and preserves at least part of the important Sodsaver program. Though DU advocated for a national Sodsaver program, the release says, the final bill includes a regional program that will affect the nation’s top duck producing states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Read the rest of the DU press release on the 2014 Farm Bill, here.
Read other news about the Farm Bill, here and here.

Feds Offer Wind Training

previous wind broadcastHas reviewing wind power project siting proposals become part of your department’s responsibilities? The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is holding a training on Weds., Jan. 29. Other broadcasts in the series cover other aspects of wind turbine siting. Here’s the announcement from USFWS:

Register now for the 4th Broadcast of Wind Energy Training Series for Voluntary Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines:

January 29, 2-4 pm ET

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hosting a training broadcast series to cover the voluntary Land-based Wind Energy Guidelines (WEG) and other relevant wind energy topics.

The fourth broadcast will air on Wednesday, January 29, 2014, 2:00 to 4:00 pm ET. Host Christy Johnson-Hughes will be joined by Kathy Boydston (Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies), Charles Newcomb (Distributed Wind Energy Association), and Jennifer Norris (Ohio Department of Natural Resources).  The broadcast will focus on how the WEG apply to distributed wind energy projects; coordination with State agencies; and the identification of “species of habitat fragmentation concern” as defined in the WEG.

E-mail windbroadcast@fws.gov with the subject “register” to register for this broadcast.

View previous broadcasts and related materials.

Photo: Screenshot of previous wind training broadcast, courtesy USFWS. Video is not embedded however. (See “View previous broadcasts…” for link.)

White Nose Syndrome Inches West

wns in western MOSorry for the double dose of white nose syndrome (WNS) news, but I didn’t want this to get lost in yesterday’s post on the the new WNS protocol, even though it was included in the same Wildlife Health Bulletin. Here’s the announcement:

In December, WNS was confirmed in a tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) from Jackson County, Missouri, which borders Kansas. This detection represents the western-most location of WNS in North America and is also the first detection of WNS during winter 2013/2014. The nearest confirmed cases of WNS from the previous winter are located in east-central Missouri.

I couldn’t find anything on this case in a newspaper or a general interest publication.
Again, the Wildlife Health Bulletin (PDF)

Map: This year’s first WNS report in red. Map by Cal Butchkoski, PA Game Commission, used courtesy USFWS

New White Nose Syndrome Protocols

WNS regions 2014The National Wildlife Health Center (in Madison, Wisc., part of the US Geological Survey) has updated the Bat Submission Guidelines for the 2013/2014 white nose syndrome (WNS) surveillance season.These are the protocols that you, a state wildlife biologist, would use to submit a bat or other sample to the center for WNS diagnosis.

The new protocol breaks the country into three regions (WNS prevalent, some WNS, no WNS yet) and has slightly different procedures for each region. One new aspect is the availability of swab kits, so that whole dead bats don’t always have to be sent to the center.

The notice for the new protocol also include the advice not to survey for WNS before mid-winter. The fungus is typically not recognizable before mid-winter and the extra disturbance harms the bats.

The supporting documents include a lot of PDFs:
The National Wildlife Health Center Bulletin announcing the new protocol. (PDF)The new protocol itself (PDF; 29 pages)
A non-PDF version of the new protocol announcement from whitenosesyndrome.org (which is a US Fish and Wildlife Service site)

And, if you are a state wildlife biologist, and you haven’t signed up for the National Wildlife Health Center’s Wildlife Health Bulletin, you should. It comes out as-needed, and that has never been more than once a month, usually much less. Here’s the link to back issues. Information for subscribing is in tiny print at the end of the bulletin.

Graphic: Map from WNS protocol; USGS

Utah Crossings Pay Out in 3 Years

Wildlife crossings are expensive. They can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to a highway renovation project — and that’s the cheapest option for creating them. However, a new study from Utah State University has found that by preventing expensive vehicle accidents, wildlife passages pay for themselves in three years.

An article in the Deseret News described the research and the findings.

The way the math works is this, according to the article: wildlife collisions cost an average of $7,000. Collisions were reduced by 90 percent by the passages in the study.

Read the report itself, here. (You can also go to the UDOT website and search for “Report UT-12.07”)**
Read the Deseret News article here.

**Thanks to Susan, a subscriber, who knew where this was even though I couldn’t find it.

WNV And Shrikes

From the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre’s healthywildlife.ca blog:

This was also a somewhat higher year for West Nile virus infection in birds in Saskatchewan. This past summer the CCWHC Western Northern region diagnosed WNV deaths in a Cooper’s hawk, two northern goshawks and two nestling loggerhead shrikes, as well as nine crows. Some diagnostic testing is still pending so those numbers may increase. The death of the loggerhead shrike nestlings is particularly noteworthy as the number of shrikes has declined dramatically throughout their range and in some parts of Canada they face local extinction. In Canada, eastern loggerhead shrikes are considered endangered and prairie loggerhead shrikes are threatened. The population of shrikes has been declining for the last century and the causes for the declines are multiple and varied. As their numbers dwindle, WNV is just one more threat faced by this vulnerable species.

Read the blog, here.

NH Studies Declining Moose

Moose-and-calves-USFWSBetween January 20 and February 2, 2014, the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game will be collaring moose in the northern part of the state to study moose decline, a department press release says. The state has contracted with Aero Tech Inc. to collar moose for the study.

The moose population in New Hampshire has declined about 50 percent in the past 20 years. While that decline is worrisome, it is no where near the decline seen in Minnesota, where in some parts of the state the population has declined by 50 percent in a single year. New Hampshire still sets an annual moose hunting season.

“While regional moose populations are indeed facing some serious threats, moose are not on the verge of disappearing from the New Hampshire landscape, but they are declining,” says Kristine Rines, NH’s moose team leader, in the release.

The press release says: “The current study will span three years. Over a two-year period, radio collars will be placed on about 80 moose cows and calves. A graduate student from the University of New Hampshire (UNH), which is partnering with Fish and Game in the study, will track the moose.

“The collared animals will be tracked for four years and monitored for as long as the collars keep transmitting…. Researchers will be looking closely at whether the increase in moose mortality and reduction in reproductive success in New Hampshire is because of winter tick, or if additional disease and parasite problems or other causes of mortality are in evidence.”

“If this trend is driven primarily by winter tick, then every year will be different, because weather is such a big player” [in the number of winter ticks and in winter tick moose mortality], Rines says in the release.

Read the NH Department of Fish and Game press release, here.
Read and watch the WBZ-TV story, here.

Photo: Moose and calves, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service. This is the photo in the NH press release, although I previously got it from the source.