Changes to Wisconsin Endangered Species List

Snow EgretThe Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has proposed changes to the state’s endangered species list.

According to a DNR press release, it recommends removing seven animals from the list: greater redhorse (fish), barn owl, snowy egret, and Bewick’s wren, pygmy snaketail (dragonfly), Blanding’s turtle and Butler’s gartersnake. The proposal recommends nine plants also be removed from the list: American fever-few, bog bluegrass, Canada horse-balm, drooping sedge, hemlock parsley, prairie Indian-plantain, snowy campion, yellow gentian, and yellow giant hyssop.

The state is also recommending that eight other species are in need of greater protection by being listed as endangered or threatened. Those species include: three birds — black tern, Kirtland’s warbler, upland sandpiper; one freshwater mussel — fawnsfoot; and four insects — beach-dune tiger beetle, ottoe skipper, a leafhopper (Attenuipyga vanduzeei), and an issid planthopper (Fitchiella robertsoni).

The DNR will host two open house discussions of the proposal in early May.

Read the DNR press release here.

Photo: Snowy egret, photo by Lee Karney, courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Sage Grouse on the Brink

A recent study of sage grouse in northeastern Wyoming says that the population there is just one severe weather event or West Nile outbreak away from extirpation. The study was conducted by three University of Montana wildlife biologists on behalf of the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Read the report, a 46-page PDF, here.
Here’s the BLM web page with links to other info about the report
And here’s the story in the Casper Star-Tribune.

Despite the dire forecast, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will not close the three-day hunting season in northeastern Wyoming. The reasoning, says a Field & Stream blog post, is that because it is primarily energy development and disease, not hunting, that is causing the birds’ decline, hunters should not be penalized.

The blog post leans heavily on another article from the Casper Star-Tribune. Read that one here. That article notes that state biologists proposed closing the hunting season, but were over-ruled when dozens of people attended the Game and Fish Commission meeting to protest the closing. The article does not note the irony of the citizens who disagreed with the over-ruled scientists saying that the scientists’ recommendation was based on politics.

More troubling than even the possible extirpation of this population, or the politics behind the species’ management, is the fact that the Wyoming sage grouse management plan is the model for the nation. We’ve written about Wyoming’s plan being the national model before:
When a newspaper editorial praised the Wyoming sage grouse management plan;
And when the BLM took the lead on coordinating sage grouse management efforts across its range.

Photo: Greater sage grouse by Stephen Ting. Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Disease Round-up: Rare, Rabid Bear; Desert Fox Distemper Spreads & more

Canada goose in AlabamaRabid bears are “almost unheard of” in the eastern half of the United States. After all, transmission is typically through the bite of infected animal, and what’s going to bite a bear?

Apparently something bit a black bear in Albermarle, Virginia, because after it attacked a man, it was tested and found to have rabies.

This is gotten more coverage since, but the first article I saw on this was on GoDanRiver.com

In the Mojave Desert, an outbreak of canine distemper in desert kit foxes near a solar power installation is spreading, with dead foxes found 11 miles from the original site. Read more in the Victorville Daily Press.

We’ve written about this distemper outbreak twice before. Read the first post here. The second post, with possible causes, is here.

And while we just posted news about bullfrogs spreading chytrid fungus between continents a few days ago, yet another study shows that geese — both escaped domestic and Canada geese — can spread chytrid fungus between water bodies, either as they migrate, or simply as they visit ponds and lakes in their own neighborhood.

Read the article in ScientificAmerican.com
Or read the scientific paper with the findings in PLoS ONE.

Photo: Canada goose in Alabama, by Gary M. Stolz, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

State Biologist Profile: Utah’s Frog Lady

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wTqwATzW7s]

Paula Trater has been monitoring frogs near Utah’s Provo River since 1992. As this article in the Salt Lake Tribune notes, her business card says biological technician for the Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission, but folks on the river have come to call her “the Frog Lady,” a title that, she admits, is easier than her official one.

Find out about Paula Trater’s work, including a 3+ minute video and a slide show in the Salt Lake Tribune, here.

Note about video: There will probably be an ad. Sorry about that. It’s YouTube’s ad, not mine, though.

Tool: Infrared Monitoring

Thermal image of wolf with a spot mimicing mangeIn a recent study on the origins of the fungus that causes white nose syndrome in bats, the bats in the study were monitored with infrared cameras. This allowed the researchers to see when the bats were rousing (they need to warm up first).

Read a mention of the infrared monitoring in this Associated Press story on the Yahoo News site.
You can also find the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper here, but you need a subscription or to pay a fee to read the whole paper.

A more common use for infrared imaging has been for wildlife surveys. For example, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has used thermal imaging to survey the ratio of bucks to does and does to fawns for deer management. But this technology can do more.

Scientists are using infrared thermal imaging cameras to detect sarcoptic mange in Yellowstone wolves. The patches of bare skin caused this form of scabies stress the animal because the calories used up to compensate for the heat loss can doom the animal.

Read an article on an early stage of the study in the Billings Gazette.
Read information from the US Geological Survey, here.
And a tip of the hat to Wired Magazine, which dedicated a full page to the story in its May 2012 issue. (Sorry, no direct link because the May issue wasn’t online when this was posted.)

While the Billings Gazette article describes the scientists renting a $40,000 camera, in the Wired Magazine update, $4,000-$5,000 per camera is the price mentioned. There seem to be a lot of possibilities for using infrared thermal imaging in wildlife management that go beyond surveys.

Photo: Thermal image of a wolf with a small bald spot on its rear leg, from the initial test of concept. Courtesy of the US Geological Survey.

Swift Decline: Chimneys or Beetles?

chimney swiftChimney swifts decline 95 percent in Canada between 1968 and 2005. After studying a six-foot deep pile of swift guano in a now-capped chimney on the campus of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, researchers believe that DDTs impact on the beetle population played an important role in the swifts’ decline.

Studying the hard remains of insects in the pile, they found that the birds switched from a diet rich in beetles to one where true bugs (which include cicadas and stink bugs) were dominant.The researchers believe the switch from the energy-rich beetles to the less caloric true bugs was the worst kind of crash diet.

Read the news brief in ScienceNow.
Read the paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (Open access.)

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Bat Numbers Rise in 1st WNS Caves

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) released today the results of its winter survey of bat hibernacula. The most encouraging results were from the five hibernacula in the Albany area, where the disease was first discovered. The press release says:

Previous reports have suggested that little brown bat counts at these sites seem to be stabilizing in recent years. This year’s surveys saw substantial increases in little brown bats at three out of five of these caves. The largest and best documented of these sites saw an increase from 1,496 little brown bats in 2011 to 2,402 this year.

It goes on to say that it’s too soon to say whether this represents a recovery or just the fact that bats literally like to hang out together, and may moving from other hibernacula to form a larger group.

Read the NYS DEC press release, here.

Quite a few media outlets picked up the story immediately.
Read the Albany Times-Union article, here.
Read the Associated Press article in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, here.

Listings: Mussels on Fed. List; Eagles off Oregon’s

Mature and juvenile spectaclecase mussels

Last month the US Fish and Wildlife Service added two more freshwater mussel species, the sheepnose and the spectaclecase, as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Read the press release here.Ā 

According to the press release, sheepnose are currently found in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Spectaclecase mussels are currently found in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

(This is not to be confused with the addition, in February, of two other freshwater mussel species, rayed bean and the snuffbox, to the list as endangered species. That press release is here.)

Also in March, the state of Oregon removed the bald eagle from the state’s Endangered Species List. Read the press release here. (Only the first paragraph is about the de-listing.) The eagle was removed from the federal list in 2007.

Read a (brief) story about it in the Albany (Or.) Democrat-Herald.

Photo by USFWS; Tamara Smith

Research: Screech Owls, Urban Coyotes and Social Mountain Lions

Forest cover is the best predictor of screech owl presence, and citizen scientists doing call-playback surveys compared well to professionals, says a paper in the March issue of the Northeastern Naturalist. The research was conducted in the metropolitan New York tri-state area.

Read the abstract here. (Fee or subscription required for the full article.)

Teton Cougar Project, which has been studying mountain lions (Puma concolor) in the Jackson Hole region for years, recently documented two adult female mountain lions feeding at the same kill on three different occasions. Once, a male also joined the group. Four years ago the research team documented one female mountain lion adopting another’s kittens.

The observations refute the conventional wisdom that mountain lions are solitary and only spend time together to mate.

Read more details in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, here.

Researchers in Denver, Colorado will begin radio-collaring up to 60 coyotes in the metro area with the goal of tracking them for the next two years. Stewart Breck, a researcher with USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services, will lead the effort.The researchers would like to know how the coyotes are using settled landscapes, and if community-based hazing programs are working.

Read the Colorado Division of Wildlife press release, here.

Oregon and Florida Propose Bear Plans

Black bearThe first update to Oregon’s bear management plan in 14 years was announced late last month. Most of the bears killed in Oregon last year were hunted, an article in the Oregon Mail-Tribune reports:

1,772 bears were killed statewide, with 1,346 of them killed by sport hunters and another 352 bears killed as a result of damage incidents, the draft states. Along with the 22 bears killed over safety complaints, another 52 died as a result of miscellaneous categories such as roadkill, accidental death or poaching.

The plan is expected to be approved in June.

Read the Oregon Mail-Tribune article, here.
Find a 60-page PDF of the draft management plan from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, here.
Read the ODFW press release, here.

Florida has revised its draft black bear management plan after receiving 2,500 public comments on the original draft of the plan. The plan will remove the species for the state’s list of threatened species. It will also create seven black bear management units. This plan is also expected to be accepted in June.

Read an article in the Palm Beach Post News.
Read the Florida Wildlife Commission press release, here.
Find the draft management plan, here.

Photo: Black bear, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service