Bats and Wildfire

gray bat 2After the Wallow Fire, Arizona’s largest wildfire, burned 538,000 acres, a half-dozen biologists lead by Northern Arizona University researchers came in to study bats’ reaction to the changed ecosystem, an article in Bats Magazine, the magazine of Bat Conservation International, says.

It was no surprise that the team found that bats prefer unburned habitat to burned habitat. It was a little surprising that while bats generally avoided burned over areas, they would roost in burned snags. How burned a particular tree is compared to the other trees in the area seems to play a role in which burned snags are chosen as roosts.

The study will continue this summer.

Read more about the study and the bats’ roost selection criteria in the article in Bats Magazine article “Bats in the Burns,” here.

Photo: Photoshopped bat art, from  US Fish and Wildlife Service photo of a gray bat


More Feral Hog News

feral swine pigletIf you just can’t get enough feral hog news, eXtension, a network of university extension services has a resource for you: the Feral Hog Community of Practice Facebook page. This page not only has what has to be every single newspaper article published on feral hogs from across the country, also has expert tracking or trapping tips, and the occasional link to webinars and podcasts.

Visit the Feral Hog Community of Practice Facebook page here.

Photo:  A feral swine piglet. By Steve Hillebrand, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Ohio Waterfowl Were Poisoned

Ducks vs. EthanolHow do I put this nicely? Ducks drop dead every day. So do geese, grebes and other waterfowl. Several diseases, such as avian cholera, are capable of sweeping through large flocks, leaving many bodies behind. Most stories about waterfowl deaths end in the cause being something quite natural, if unpleasant for the neighbors.

That’s why this story out of Ohio is odd. About 50 mallards, domestic cross-breeds and Canada geese were poisoned in an urban area. Little blue pellets of poison were found. No suspects yet.

The NBC4i story has more details.
The WCBE story gets right to the point.

Photo: A healthy mallard duck drake, no where near Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Erwin and Peggy Bauer, courtesy USFWS

Mass. Court Upholds Priority Habitat

BOX TURTLE 2A central Massachusetts land owner sued for the right to build on his property without restriction, despite the fact that the land was deemed “priority habitat” for the state endangered Eastern box turtle. The case was first heard in court in 2009.

Last week the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled against landowner, upholding the concept of priority habitat in the state. The landowner, however, did not argue that his land was not actually habitat for the turtle (although that is implied in the newspaper articles about the case), but that the Department of Fish and Game’s use of a “priority habitat” designation and rules was not found in the state’s endangered species law.

Because the legal case splits the difference between state law and agency regulations, the local newspaper’s coverage dives right in to all the hairsplitting details. There are many lessons here for state wildlife agencies regarding habitat designations for endangered species, although the big lesson seems to be if a rich guy wants to build his retirement home on endangered species habitat, expect a stink.

The tone of the articles favors the landowner, and it appears that many readers missed the point that the landowner has always been allowed to build on the land, but there are conditions he objects to. It also appears that the land was known box turtle habitat before the landowner purchased it.

The Springfield Republican article announcing last week’s verdict.
A past article by the Republican on the case.

Photo: Box turtle, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Journal of Mammalogy

journal of mammalogy 2-14Here are the articles of interest in the most recent issue of the Journal of Mammalogy:

If you are in javalina country, learn more about where to find them, based on research in the southern San Andres Mountains, New Mexico

If you have an interest in Great Plains pocket mice, their taxonomy may be more confusing that you think.

If you work at high elevation, it may interest you that pikas may survive by eating things they usually don’t.

How will climate change effect the ecology of the Great Plains? Voles are strongly affected by snow cover, otherwise, it looks like other factors are more important to rodent survival.

If you are concerned with invasive species, particularly honeysuckle, white-footed mice will eat just about any native species before they go for the fruits of an invasive honeysuckle species.

If you work with Indiana bats: they congregate in larger numbers during colder winters, possibly tipped off by late summer weather patterns.

If you work with brown bears: even when they are able to eat an all-protein diet, they will select foods that keep the protein balance in line with the percentage found in other omnivores.

Or, read the entire issue. A subscription or fee is required to get beyond the abstracts.

Fish and Wildlife to the Rescue

Florida panther kitten FWCFish and Wildlife personnel rescue wildlife all the time. Sometimes they rescue rare wildlife. But this week there were two rescues of critically endangered species in adjoining states. Actually, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staffers were involved in both rescues.

Off the coast of Georgia, a rescue team that included Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologists cut over 100 yards of heavy fishing rope from a 4-year-old male North Atlantic right whale, allowing it to swim more easily. The young whale one of only about 450 remaining North Atlantic right whales.

Read the Georgia Department of Natural Resources press release here.

In Florida, biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida discovered an approximately week-old Florida panther kitten while conducting research at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County in mid-January.

There are 100 to 160 Florida panthers in the wild today, but this kitten will no longer be among them. Because it is too young to have learned survival skills from its mother, it will have to live in captivity. But with a gene pool this small, even captive individuals help with diversity.

Read the Florida Wildlife Commission press release here.

Photo: When you look at this Florida panther kitten, make sure you are thinking, “populations, not individuals.” Photo by Carli Segelson, courtesy Florida Wildlife Commission.


Moose Health in Montana and Minnesota

Minn moose collaringMontana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has begun a 10-year study of moose in the state to try to determine the cause of a 75 percent over the last 20 years, says an article in the Ravalli Republic. The article follows Montanta FWP biologist Nick DeCesare as he tracks one of his collared moose and finds that the moose is haggard, has blue eyes and appears to be blind — all symptoms of arterial worm.

Arterial worm is carried by mule deer, the article notes, and is carried by horseflies. (A situation similar to the brainworm that infects moose in the East, carried by white-tailed deer, although a snail is the vector there.) The arterial worm is a top suspect in moose declines in the West.

Read the whole article, with details of the study, in the Ravalli Republic, here. The article appeared in the newspaper through Science Source, a project of the University of Montana School of Journalism.

Last week a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources press release said that, “Aerial moose survey results for 2014 show no significant change in Minnesota’s moose population even though more animals were seen than last year.” Last year the estimate was 2,760, while in 2014 the estimate is 4,350. The department says the difference is statistically insignificant.

“The higher estimate this winter likely is related to ideal survey conditions rather than any actual increase in the population,” said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager for the DNR. “This year’s heavy snows across northeastern Minnesota made it comparatively easy to spot dark-bodied moose against an unbroken background of white.”

The press release also mentions an adult and calf mortality study that is in its second year, and shows 21 percent mortality among adult moose and 74 percent mortality for calves. DNR will collar additional adults and calves to replace the ones that died in the study.

Read the Minnesota DNR press release here.
Read an article in the Austin (Minn.) Daily Herald, here.

Photo: courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Georgia Nongame Annual Report

georgia license plateThe Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section recently released its 2013 annual report. It released two versions: a 40-page full report and a six-page summary.

Surveys were the main research done in 2013, including surveys of wood stork nests, bald eagle nests, swallow-tailed kite nests and roosts, gopher tortoises, indigo snakes, and eastern hellbenders. They also did a study of the the trapping effort needed to accurately judge bog turtle populations.

They released captive-bred striped newts, reared gopher frog eggs and released the young, spent a lot of time on red-cockaded woodpecker conservation, and hired a new freshwater mussel biologist.

The big news, though, was lack of funding from special nongame program license plates. A new revenue-sharing method introduced in the last few years has meant a cut in funding for the department from the plates.

You can find links to both versions of the report here.

NYS Creates Recovery Plan for Northern Cricket Frog

Northern_cricket_frog_at_Neal_Smith_National_Wildlife_RefugeThe northern cricket frog is one of New York State’s two endangered amphibians. New York State law does not require recovery plans for endangered species, but the state Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed one for this species, a recent department press release says.

The plan includes conserving appropriate, but unoccupied habitat. The plan also included reintroducing frogs to unoccupied habitat, but only “if suitable habitat still remains, northern cricket frog habitat requirements are understood, and a funded and scientifically sound protocol is in place to monitor northern cricket frog abundance and assess potential causes of decline at any re-introduction site.”

In other words, more research is needed. There is a very brief paragraph about data gaps, and an even briefer one about recovery partnerships. A long list of potential tasks, includes sections on research and recovery tasks.

The comment period on the plan closes a week from today, Feb. 21, 2014.

Download the recovery plan here.
Read the NYS DEC press release about the plan here.
Read a Reptile Magazine article about the plan here.

Photo: Northern cricket frog at  Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. Photo by Sara Hollerich, used courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Acoustic Method Best for Sampling Bats

State Wildlife Biologists Wanted for Bat SurveyFrom a US Geological Survey press release:

Recording bats’ echolocation “calls” is the most efficient and least intrusive way of identifying different species of bats in a given area, providing insight into some populations that have been decimated by white-nose syndrome.This new research by scientists from Virginia Tech, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army is published in the Journal of Ecology and the Natural Environment.

White-nose syndrome, an unprecedented disease of cave hibernating bats caused by a cold-loving fungus, has caused the deaths of more than six million bats. It has spread from central New York to at least 22 states and five Canadian provinces since 2006. In addition to the endangered Indiana bat, populations of the formerly abundant little brown bat and northern long-eared bat have experienced severe disease-related declines, particularly in the Northeast and central Appalachians.

“Acoustic sampling is a noninvasive sampling technique for bats, and its use often allows for the detection of a greater number of bat species in less time than traditional sampling methods such as netting,” said study co-author W. Mark Ford, a USGS scientist at the Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Virginia Tech. “Low population numbers make netting both time and cost prohibitive. Netting also has low capture rates for WNS affected species. Moreover, acoustic sampling minimizes the handling of bats, which lessens the chance of unintended cross-contamination and exposure to the white-nose fungus from one bat to another or from equipment and personnel to uninfected bats.”

Read the rest of the USGS press release here.
Read the paper (open access;PDF) here.

Photo: An acoustic bat detector in a roof-top car mount. Courtesy New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the bat survey coalition