It’s not news. Every once in a while someone sees something that either looks like a wolf or is proven to be a wolf in northern Maine. Sometimes this matters, such as when, as it did about 20 years ago, the US Fish and Wildlife Service kicks around the idea of returning wolves to Maine. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter. Most of the time, actually.
But now that the US Fish and Wildlife Service may remove all gray (aka timber) wolves from the federal endangered species list, it may matter if there are wolves in Maine. It may also matter if those wolves are gray wolves or eastern wolves (sometimes known as eastern Canadian wolves).
This column in the Bangor Daily News addresses the questions of whether there are wolves in Maine, whether the wolves that may wander into Maine occasionally are eastern wolves or something else, and why any of this matters.
Two 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.
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.
Dams — some built over 200 years ago — cut off Atlantic salmon from their spawning grounds from central Maine to Connecticut. An attempt to bring back the Connecticut River’s salmon has not been successful, but in Maine, on the Kennebec River, salmon surged back when dams were removed.
On the Penobscot River, also in central Maine, a few Atlantic salmon had always returned to the river, but dams blocked the way to most of their spawning grounds, in spite of a fish elevator that helped them past the first dam.
When first two dams on the river are removed, the way will be clear for the salmon to get to most of their historic spawning streams in New England’s second-largest watershed. Here’s a Nature Conservancy Magazine article detailing the situation three years ago.
The great blue heron was designated as a Species of Special Concern in Maine in 2007 due to a decline in breeding pairs along the coast. Little was known about the inland breeding population before 2009 when the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife ramped up its monitoring efforts by creating the Heron Observation Network.
Through HERON, volunteers across the state monitor known great blue heron colonies during the breeding season, collecting information that helps state biologists understand the species’ population trend and prioritize future conservation efforts.
In addition to the data collected by volunteers, it is important to periodically do a statewide aerial survey to find new heron colonies that may have recently popped up.
To help fund the next aerial survey, scheduled for 2015, HERON is partnering with Burly Bird (a Maine-based conservation sticker company) to create a UV-coated vinyl sticker that shows a black and white silhouette of a great blue heron.
By using blood samples from hunter check-ins, the lab is able to get information from remote areas that are difficult (and expensive) to monitor through traditional methods. And, according to the WSCH story, they are finding a surprising amount of these diseases out there.
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.
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.
Light pollution doesn’t get much respect. It is worst in urban areas, which most people in most places have pretty much given up on for wildlife conservation. Until recently, it hasn’t been well studied. And, like lots of other pollutants, human health and well-being are the focus of most of that research.
However, it seems likely that humans are among the species best adapted to light pollution (which may be why we create so much of it). It’s impact is more profound on other species.
A recent documentary, The City Dark, shown on PBS, focuses mostly on the human impacts of light pollution, but touches on wildlife issues as well. You can watch it on-line this weekend, here.
While we strive to give you “news you can use” in every post, this is more of a “something to think about,” with extra appeal since it is watching TV instead of more science journal reading.
Maine and Minnesota both have citizen science butterfly projects.
Maine is hoping to attract 100 volunteers to survey the state for a butterfly atlas. Neighboring states and Canadian provinces (Vermont.Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Brunswick) have recently completed surveys, and a Maine butterfly atlas would round out the regional coverage.
In Kansas, they are searching for lesser prairie chicken breeding areas, or leks, from the air with helicopters. Field crews will train on March 29-31 and conduct official survey work across all of western Kansas until the middle of May. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is also asking people to report leks. The survey is part of a five-state effort, and the survey technique will be evaluated.
In Maine, biologists at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have visited up to 100 dens each winter for 37 years, making the survey in the nation’s oldest radio-collar monitoring program for bears. This year the Maine Sunday Telegram wrote a story about it, with lots of pics. Read it here.
“Federal lawyers have backed away from fighting a federal judge’s ruling that favors lynx, clearing the way for possible broader protection of the quick-pawed predators in Colorado and other Western states.”
The article goes on to say that the Colorado Division of Wildlife didn’t wait for the federal critical habitat designation. They’ve already reintroduced lynx to the state.
In Maine, they have so many lynx (600-1,200) that keeping them out of bobcat traps is becoming a problem. Recently, six lynx were trapped and another was killed. Read the story in the Bangor Daily News.