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.

Moose of “Special Concern” in Minn.

mooseThe the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ list of endangered, threatened and special concern species is due to get its first update since 1996, a DNR press release reports. While 302 Minnesota species will be affected, moose are getting all the attention.

The iconic north woods animal is proposed for listing as a species of special concern. The designation reflects a 50 percent decline in the number of moose in the state since 2005, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. There are now about 4,000 moose in the state.

What is causing the rapid decline is still a bit of a mystery, but a combination of disease, parasites and a warming climate appear to be the causes, the Star-Tribune notes.

CBC News reports University of Minnesota Duluth biologist Ron Moen as saying that wildlife managers in Ontario should keep an eye out for their own moose. The southern part of western Ontario shares a border with Minnesota.

As for why the gray wolf’s delisting in the other direction, from special concern to not on the list, is not receiving much attention, that’s because this year’s wolf hunting season (and the federal delisting) packed more punch than this proposed delisting.

Read the Star-Tribune article here.
Read the Minn. DNR press release here.
Get more details about the list changes, here.

Photo: Moose, courtesy MN DNR

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

Wyoming Won’t Cull Deer After CWD Found

deer with chronic wasting diseaseChronic wasting disease (CWD), a prion disease affecting deer, has been found in a new region of Wyoming, about 40 miles away from an area in Utah where CWD had recently been found.

A Wyoming Game & Fish Department press release says that the state will not try to reduce the number of deer in the area where the diseased deer was found. This technique was successfully used in New York State, which may be the only place CWD has been eradicated after it had been found in wild deer populations.

The Wyoming release cites research from Wisconsin and Colorado showing that the technique doesn’t work as its reason for not using it.

Read the press release here.

Photo: deer with chronic wasting disease. It’s teeny tiny because nobody wants to get a good look at a sick deer. Courtesy of the US Department of Agriculture

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

Moose Have Deer Parasite in Maine

The lungworms found in Maine deer are more closely related to the lungworms of red deer and fallow deer in Sweden and New Zealand than they are to the lungworms previously found in moose, a Bangor Daily News article reports.

The DNA analysis was done by a University of Maine undergraduate as a senior project, but it has lead to an invitation to present her results at a national conference, the article states.

Read the Bangor Daily News article, here.
Read the paper itself, here.

In other lungworm news (and it is hard to believe that there could be other lungworm news), the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Center reports in its blog that a new species of lungworm has been discovered in northern Canada’s caribou, muskox and moose.

Read the blog post here.

Photo by by Alan Briere, NH Fish and Wildlife (I wanted a picture of a lungworm, but couldn’t find one. You can thank me later for not running one.)


New EHD Outbreaks and Other EHD News

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has been reported in Missouri and Wisconsin.

Find more information about the situation in Missouri through the Missouri Department of Conservation press release, here. In Wisconsin, the cause of death of 31 deer has not been confirmed, but EHD is suspected. If it is EHD, it will be the first outbreak since 2002 says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Read the blog in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, here.

In South Dakota, the EHD outbreak has been severe enough to curtail deer hunting licenses, according to the Mitchell Daily Republic. South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department is removing all the unsold hunting licenses from several of the state’s hunting units and is offering refunds to hunters who would like to voluntarily turn in their licenses. Read the whole story in the Mitchell Daily Republic.

Map: Antlered deer harvest in South Dakota in 2010. Darker color is higher number of antlered deer per 100 square miles. Courtesy South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

Moose Decline

Warmer temperatures and more parasites may be the causes of a sharp decline in moose in Montana, Wyoming and Minnesota, says an article in the Billings Gazette. The decline has been noted for at least 30 years, the article says, but just recently has the matter been studied in-depth.

Montana hired Rich Deceasre as a full-time moose biologist with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks just two months ago, the article says. Deceasre will conduct an eight- to ten-year study of moose. The protocol will be the same as for a recent Idaho study, so that the data can be compared.

Much more info, including an overview of the Minnesota moose decline, is in the Billings Gazette article. Read it here.

Photo by Alan Briere, courtesy NH Fish & Game

Cervid Disease Update

Add New Jersey and South Dakota to the list of states reporting an epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) outbreak in white-tailed deer this year. Find more info here:

New Jersey
South Dakota

Bluetongue has been reported in Missouri by CBS News. Bluetongue is another virus closely related to EHD, and is also spread by midges, a biting insect. However, some say that only cattle get bluetongue. Others say deer do too, but very rarely.

In Nebraska, the state veterinarian is saying that cattle in the state are getting EHD, which again is considered to be a rare occurrence. He is seeking more information from cattle owners whose animals are experiencing EHD symptoms (which are virtually identical to bluetongue symptoms, which is common in cattle). Read the press release here.

In Washington, hunters have been finding limping elk with deformed hooves since the 1990s. Now the disease is spreading, and Oregon Public Broadcasting has the story.

Finally, in Texas, officials had set up a containment zone when chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in deer on the border with New Mexico. However, the latest news from the San Angelo Standard-Times says that the new rules will be delayed until the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on November 7-8. According to the Austin Statesman, that’s after the archery season and a few days after the start of the standard deer season.

The Austin Statesman article has the most detail. Read it here.
The Standard-Times article is a re-print of the Texas Parks and Wildlife press release. Read the press release here.
An Outdoor Life blog also had a few words to say about the restrictions, putting them in national context. Read that here.


At Odds Over Critical Habitat for Caribou

Should a critical habitat designation include the species’ known habitat when it was more abundant, or just the area it was known to use when it was listed as an endangered species?

That’s the question the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is facing as it decides on a critical habitat designation for South Selkirk woodland caribou herd, says an article in the Spokane Spokesman-Review. The USFWS would like to protect 600 square miles of potential caribou habitat in north Idaho and eastern Washington, but Idaho’s two senators say, no, just the area where the caribou were last seen in the US should be protected.

The USFWS critical habitat designation for the caribou has been controversial, says the Spokesman-Review article. The agency received more than 300 comments on it.

Read more in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, here.

Photo: A woodland caribou, but not from the South Selkirk herd. rangifer caribou, by Erwin & Peggy Bauer, 7/93. 11444, 102.3.16