Dollars and Sense at NETWC

deb markowitz VTANR“What we did to protect animals actually protected roads,” said Vermont Agency of Natural Resources secretary Deb Markowitz at a general session at the Northeastern Transportation and Wildlife Conference this week (Sept. 21 – 24) in Burlington, Vermont. In places where culverts had been resized to allow wildlife to walk along the banks during low flow periods, the culverts have held during floods like the one caused by Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont.

A documentary on the Highway Wilding project that built wildlife passages along the TransCanada Highway in Banff National Park said that the cost of hitting a moose with a vehicle averages $30,000. Hitting a deer averages over $1,000. It doesn’t take many wildlife collisions to cost-justify a wildlife crossing, the documentary said, and some highway locations are the scene of hundreds of collisions.

Photo: Camera fail. None of my photos of Markowitz speaking even made it onto my camera’s memory card. Here’s her official portrait off the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources website.

WNV And Shrikes

From the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre’s 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.

19 New Protected Species in Nova Scotia

plymouth gentianNineteen new species have been added to Nova Scotia’s list of species at risk, bringing the total listed in the province to 60, according to a Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources press release and a CBC News report.

Three bat species are on the list, including the little brown bat, the northern bat and the tri-colored bat, which are all listed as endangered. Three bird species have been added to the list as endangered: the barn swallow, Bicknell’s thrush, Canada warbler, and the rusty blackbird. The olive-sided flycatcher and the eastern whip-or-will have been listed as threatened.

The black ash tree is listed as threatened. There are only 12 known mature trees in the province, the department press release says.

For the complete list of species, see the Nova Scotia DNR website, here. (New species are marked with the year 2013.)

Read the Nova Scotia DNR press release here.
Read the CBC News story here.
The web page with the complete list of at risk species is here.

Photo: The Plymouth gentian has been listed as endangered in Nova Scotia. Courtesy of the Nova Scotia DNR.

WNS: Gray Bat Trouble, and Canada Gets Organized

gray bats WNSAn Alabama cave that contains contains the largest documented wintering colony of federally listed endangered gray bats — about a million of them — has been struck by white nose syndrome (WNS), the US Fish and Wildlife Service reported yesterday. The good news is that WNS is not known to cause death in gray bats.

The infected bats found in the cave were tri-colored bats (aka eastern pipestrelles).

“With over a million hibernating gray bats, Fern Cave is undoubtedly the single most significant hibernaculum for the species,” said Paul McKenzie, Endangered Species Coordinator for the Service in the press release. “Although mass mortality of gray bats has not yet been confirmed from any WNS infected caves in which the species hibernates, the documentation of the disease from Fern Cave is extremely alarming and could be catastrophic. The discovery of WNS on a national wildlife refuge only highlights the continued need for coordination and collaboration with partners in addressing this devastating disease.”

Read the entire release, which has lots of details about the cave and how the infection was found, here.

In Canada, Environment Canada has committed to an additional $330,000 over four years for national coordination, surveillance and response to WNS. The US has had a national WNS coordinator (Jeremy Coleman, USFWS) for five years. The Canadian funds will go to the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre.

“Canadian biologists and managers have done an incredible job responding to the threat of this disease with the resources they have,” said Katie Gillies, Imperiled Species Coordinator at Bat Conservation International in a letter to that organization’s members. “But hiring a formal WNS coordinator will certainly streamline those efforts and maximize their impact on this tragic disease. This is a very important step.


Read the Environment Canada press release here and here.

Photo: Gray bats, courtesy USFWS

Moose: CWD in Canada and New Study in Montana

mooseThe Edmonton Journal reports that chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been discovered in an adult bull moose that was killed in a vehicle collision in southern Alberta last year. It is the first case of CWD in a moose in Canada, the article says, adding that the disease has previously been found in moose in Colorado and Wyoming.

Read the Edmonton Journal article here.

In Montana, the moose population has been in decline in the last several years, with last year’s moose hunt seeing the lowest numbers in 50 years. An article in the Flathead Beacon says that Montana has joined the states initiating a long-term research project to try to uncover the cause of the decline.

Twelve cow moose have been radio collared for a 10 year study, the article in the Flathead Beacon says. The study will also include analyzing blood samples. Nick DeCesare is the lead biologist for the study, assisted by Jesse Newby.

Read the complete store in the Flathead Beacon, here.

Photo: Not Canadian, eh? A New Hampshire moose by Alan Briere, courtesy of NH Fish and Wildlife

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.

Raptor-Killing Poison Ban Starts Soon in Canada

Bald_EaglePotent second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs; aka, rat poisons) kill birds, particularly raptors in the United States and Canada. Canada will ban sales of these poisons on January 1, while in the U.S. talk of banning consumers from using the poisons has been around for a while, but never seems to be enacted.

“In a study of more than 130 dead birds of prey found in and around Vancouver, Canada, ‘virtually 100%’ of the owls and a large proportion of the hawks had residues of at least one second-generation AR in their livers,” said a news story in the journal Nature last month.

The Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre blog illustrates just how tough it can be to diagnose AR poisoning in raptors. A toxics screen of the bird’s liver may be the only sign that AR poisoning was the cause of death, the blog says.

Read the Nature article, here.
Read the CCWHC blog post, here.

We’ve covered this subject before. Read one of our previous posts, here.

Photo: bald eagle by Dave Menke, USFWS

Hunting and Food Safety

hunting at sunsetMost of the news from state wildlife agencies across the country this week are about hunting: seasons opening and closing, whether the numbers are up or down for a particular season. For the folks at the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Center, that’s a good reason to take a look at food-safety issues associated with hunter-killed wildlife.

For the most part, the news is good. Taking care when field dressing and butchering the meat avoids the most common problems, they say. The occasional wound or parasite is to be expected, the entry says, and is no cause for alarm.

For all the details, plus a link to common sense wild meat handling guidelines, see the CCWHC blog entry, here.

We’ll hear more from the CCWHC blog on Monday.

Photo courtesy US Fish and Wildlife

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

Rattlesnakes and Grizzlies: Endangered?

Face to face with an eastern rattlesnake or a grizzly bear, you might not feel that it was the animal that was endangered. However, the eastern rattlesnake came closer to a possible Endangered Species Act listing earlier this month when the US Fish and Wildlife Service began a 12-month review of the species’ status.

Read more in the Chicago Tribune.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada found no solid evidence of decline in the nation’s grizzly bear population overall, so it denied the species endangered species status, instead designating the western population a species of “special concern.”

Read all about it in the Ottawa Citizen.