Zombies vs. Wildlife

Can I be Boing Boing when I grow up? Last week it ran a post by National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski on how wildlife would save us if there were ever a zombie attack and if whatever caused zombification only affected humans.

“If there was ever a zombie uprising, wildlife would kick its ass,” Mizejewski says in the piece.

What follows is an overview of wildlife’s role in cleaning up the undead, from carrion eating birds, to carnivores that will go for anything slow-moving, to detritivores like maggots and beetles. It’s got lots of videos, so this is not lunchtime reading.

Our cultural zombie moment is peaking now, so enjoy. But when zombies finally jump the shark, remember, you heard it here first. (Well, second.)

“Zombies vs. animals” in Boing Boing, here.

Antibiotic Resistance Spreads to Wildlife

m_crow_5Antibiotic resistance isn’t just for humans and farm animals. An article in Environmental Health News says that antibiotic resistance has been found in crows, gulls, houseflies, moths, foxes, frogs, sharks and whales. You can follow links in the article to get to the journal article with the findings for each of those groups.

The big question raised in the article is, what is the implication for human health? Nobody really knows. But certainly, if you are handling wildlife, these findings give you a reason to be even more cautious. And they certainly have implications for wildlife rehabilitation.

Read the entire article in Environmental Health News.
The article focuses on a recent crow study, and you can find the abstract for that here.

Photo: Crow. By David Herr, courtesy US Forest Service

Windstorm Aids Rare Bird

golden-winged_warblerBill-HubickAn American Bird Conservancy press release explains how a 2011 windstorm in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area boosted efforts by the Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources to create young forest habitat for the imperiled

“Generally, most people saw the blow-down as massively destructive,” the release quotes Wisconsin DNR Wildlife Biologist Bob Hanson as saying. “However, with the correct management prescription, it actually has provided some great habitat for this potentially endangered species. The shotgun pattern the storm left created new areas of young forest, a requirement of the golden-winged warbler.”

You can read the American Bird Conservancy release here.

In 2012, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wrote about a coalition of state and federal agencies in the Upper Great Lakes Young Forest Initiative, which aims to help the golden-winged warbler and other birds, such as grouse, that rely on young forest habitat.

Read the WDNR Weekly News article here.

Photo: golden-winged warbler, by Bill Hubick, courtesy of American Bird Conservancy.

California Bans Lead Bullets

On Friday (Oct. 11), Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed the nation’s first law banning the use of lead bullets in hunting into law. The bill was written to slow the decline of the California condor, which ingests the lead bullets when scavenging at hunters’ gut piles or when eating the bodies of animals shot but not killed by hunters. The law contains an escape clause that will revoke the ban if the federal government bans non-lead bullets because of the armor-piercing abilities.

California had previously banned lead bullets in the areas of the state where there are condors. It is the first state in the nation to ban lead bullets.

One odd fact, the bill was signed in a group of 11 bills. Most of the other of the bills in the group focused on gun control. Protests against banning lead bullets for hunting have often portrayed the bill as a gun control measure rather than a wildlife conservation and human health measure.

Read the Los Angeles Times article here.
Read the KCET blog post here.
Find a Google list of other news articles here.

New Loon Study Announced

loonThe Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) of Gorham, Maine announced yesterday that it will begin the largest loon conservation study in North America.

The announcement was made in Wyoming, an interesting choice, since it is not exactly a hotbed of loon activity. Wyoming is, however, home to one of the many ventures of the study’s funder, Joe Ricketts. BRI was awarded a $6.5 M grant from the new Ricketts Conservation Foundation for the study.

A press release about the announcement sent to Society of Enviromental Journalist members said: “Underlying the Foundation’s mission is the reality that government no longer has sufficient resources to deal effectively with the growing environmental challenges we face. As a result, private individuals and corporations must increasingly shoulder the responsibility of conserving our wildlife and wilderness areas. www.joericketts.com” (The website says, among other things, that Ricketts is a part owner of the Chicago Cubs.)


The press invitation also says: “The loon is a key bioindicator of aquatic integrity for lakes and near shore marine ecosystems. These iconic birds are becoming more exposed and susceptible to serious threats from type E botulism, mercury pollution, lead poisoning, oil spills, and over development.”

Visit the BRI website’s loon program page, here.

Photo: Loon, courtesy of the State of Minnesota, where the loon is the state bird.

Getting the Lead Out

lead - periodic tableTwo stories today focus on two different states’ efforts to get lead out of the environment.

An article in the Portland (Maine) Herald Press literally goes behind the scenes of the recent legislative ban on lead fishing gear in Maine, which was passed earlier this year, but won’t totally ban the lead gear until 2017. It goes into the lab of Mark Pokras, a Tufts University professor of wildlife health, who played a role in encouraging that legislation. Pokras has been studying lead poisoning in loons for over 20 years.

Pokras says that lead poisoning is responsible for the deaths of over a third of the loons that find their way to his lab in Massachusetts.

Read the story in the Portland Herald Press, here.

In Minnesota, studies show that a bad shot with a lead bullet (such as one that hits a hip bone), can cause lead to splinter throughout a white tailed deer’s flesh to the extent that it would be difficult, or impossible, to remove all of it. For the sake of public health, and also for the sake of the state’s bald eagles, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages deer hunters to voluntarily use copper bullets.

The article details some of the differences between hunting with copper and lead bullets, which implies that a different technique may be more effective when using copper bullets.

Read the story in the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, here.

Birds Obey Speed Limits

How Did the Animal Cross the Road? The Shocking AnswerCanadian researchers found that European birds flee before an approaching car at an interval that is consistent with the road’s speed limit, but not with the actual speed of the approaching car. So birds on a highway fled sooner than birds on local, residential roads. The researchers studied roads in three speed categories.

There are conservation implications for this finding, as an article in AAAS’s ScienceShot says.

Read the ScienceShot article here.
Read the abstract in Biology Letters, here. (Full article requires subscription or fee.)

Burying Beetles and Goshawks Up

goshawk-259x300Here’s some good news for a Monday morning.

– Wildlife biologists with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have discovered Northern Goshawks successfully breeding in the State for the first time since 2006. Read the Maryland Department of Natural Resources press release, here.

– A second wild American burying beetle population now calls Nantucket, Massachusetts home, thanks to a successful captive breeding and reintroduction program, which began in 1996 at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. Read this Endangered Species Act Success Story on the US Fish and Wildlife Service website, here. Lots of photos.

Photo: Can I tell you how lucky you are that I went with the goshawk and not the burying beetle grubs? Courtesy of the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources.

Southwestern Naturalist Round-up

southwesternnaturalistcoverHere are some papers from the most recent issue of the Southwestern Naturalist that may be of interest to others outside the region, or of particular interest locally:

Fine-Scale Selection of Habitat by the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Temperature turns out to be very important.

Consumption of Seeds of Southwestern White Pine by Black Bear. Black bears steal from squirrel caches. Go figure.

Is False Spike (a freshwater mussel) Extinct? First Account of a Very Recently Deceased Individual in Over Thirty Years. This species may still be in Texas.

Horsehair worm: New to the Fauna of Oklahoma. A second species of horsehair worm is discovered in the state.

New Distributional Records for Four Rare Species of Freshwater Mussels in Southwestern Louisiana. It’s not easy being a mussel. These are hanging on.

Critical Habitat Assessment Tool for Lesser Prairie Chickens

lesser prairie chickenFrom a press release issued by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Kansas Biological Survey:

In cooperation with the five state fish and wildlife agencies that fall within the range of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (LEPC), and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), the KARS program has launched version 2.0 of the Southern Great Plains Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (SGP CHAT). The online map viewer hosts the SGP CHAT, which is the spatial representation of the LEPC range-wide conservation plan, and a tool that prioritizes conservation actions while assisting with the siting of industry development.

For the press release, click here.
For the tool itself, go here.

Photo: courtesy of the NRCS USDA