Are There Wolves in Maine?

Gray_wolfIt’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.

A blogger for the Boston Globe tackled a similar set of issues back in September.

Read the Bangor Daily News story here.
Read the Boston Globe blog here.

Photo: A gray wolf. Not in Maine. Gary Kramer, USFWS

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.

Fingers Crossed for East Coast Salmon

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.

Here’s an Associated Press story about the removal of the dam, scheduled for Monday, July 22.
And here’s a story from the Lewiston Sun Journal.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s northeastern section blog covered it here and here.

Find stories on last summer’s removal of the Great Works Dam, the second dam upstream from the ocean, here.


Stickers Help Fund 2015 Heron Survey

According to the Heron Observation Network of Maine (HERON) blog:

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.

The stickers can be purchased from the Burly Bird website or through the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s online store.

The Maine Sun-Journal covered the story, here.

Game Checkpoints Provide Data on Human Diseases

Hunter check-ins have always provided a bounty of information on the health of individual animals and the population profile of the species. In Maine this year and for the last few years, they are providing more. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has teamed up with the Maine Medical Center Research Institute’s Vector Borne Disease Lab to provide blood samples from moose, white-tailed deer and even some turkeys for the lab’s surveillance mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, according to a story from WSCH TV in Portland, Maine.

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.

Read and watch the story from WSCH TV here.

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.)


Light: The Forgotten Pollutant

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.

The City Dark, PBS web page.
The site for the film itself is here.
If you are interested in media coverage of the documentary, make sure to visit this post on the filmmaker’s blog.

Photo: Filmmaker Ian Cheney on rooftop, courtesy of Wicked Delicate Films

Counting Butterflies

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.

Training will be in June.

Read this brief from New England Cable News.

In Minnesota, the state Department of Natural Resources is planning to do a population survey of the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly. Training for this survey will be held this week.

Read a short item in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, here.

Photo: Karner blue butterfly by J & K Hollingsworth, courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service

March Roundup of New Research

Spring is here and a bunch of wildlife surveys are underway around the country.

In Delaware:
-It’s the fifth and final year of the Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas.
-A special effort is being made in 2012 to tally owls as part of the atlas.
Horseshoe crabs are being tallied again, and volunteers are being trained.
-The annual osprey count is offering a volunteer training for the first time since 2007.

Maryland is two years in to four years of surveys for an amphibian and reptile atlas and is looking for volunteers.

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 North Dakota, the Game and Fish Department has launched a two-year study of white-tailed deer in intensely farmed agricultural areas.

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.

And in Washington, commuters have been reporting wildlife sightings for over a year on the I-90 corridor in anticipation of road improvements. The project’s first annual report was released recently, generating articles in the Everett Herald  and The Seattle Times, and coverage other media.

Photo of I-90 Wildlife Watch billboard by Paula MacKay/Western Transportation Institute, used by permission.

Lynx in Idaho and Other Lynx Links

lynx in snowThe first Canada lynx in Idaho in over 15 years was inadvertently caught in a leg-hold trap, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said on Tuesday.

Read the article in the Chicago Tribune, here. The Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game release is here.

Elsewhere in the West, The Denver Post says that:

“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.

Read the whole article in The Denver Post, here.

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, there is evidence that the state’s lynx population is growing. (Growing from zero to something, maybe.) Read the blog entry in the Concord Monitor, here.

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.

Lynx photo courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service