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Habitat Loss and Invasive Species Threaten Bird Populations, Report Finds

Wed, 2014-09-17 08:49

American oystercatchers at the Wolf Island National Refuge, Georgia. The new State of the Birds 2014 report found that coastal birds like the American oystercatcher are experiencing population increases for the first time in years (Credit: Brad Winn, Georgia Department of Natural Resources).

Last month, the U.S. Committee of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative released the State of the Birds 2014 Report — an extensive review of bird populations in North America including current threats facing species as well as ongoing conservation efforts. This is the fifth State of the Birds report to be released by the initiative — a 23-member partnership of government agencies and organizations such as Environment Canada, National Audubon Society, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This year’s report looked to birds as indicators of ecosystem health by analyzing population trends and threats to the species. Overall, the report found that Aridland birds are experiencing the greatest declines in population while coastal and wetlands bird populations are increasing. The report also noted that habitat loss appeared to be the primary cause for bird population declines with invasive species cited as another major threat. The report estimated that cats kill 2.4 billion birds annually in the U.S. and 196 million birds annually in Canada. Still, conservation investments such as the establishment of 160 national coastal wildlife refuges and nearly 600,000 acres of national seashore in 10 states have helped recover populations in those areas.

(Credit: Stated of the Birds 2014)

The report reiterates that the state of bird populations mirrors the state of habitat and marked improvements to bird species correlate to improvements in public lands. These improvements are due to the success of conservation programs and policies including the Farm Bill’s Conservation Reserve Program, revenue for conservation generated by the Duck Stamp, and projects implemented through the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act.

 

Sources: The State of the Birds Report 2014, Smithsonian Institution Press Release (September 9, 2014)

FWS Expands Protection for Canada Lynx

Tue, 2014-09-16 14:21

A Canada lynx (Lynx Canadensis) rests in its preferred snowy boreal forest habitat. FWS recently expanded federal protections to the lynx to wherever they occur in the lower 48 states (Credit: USFWS).

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently announced its decision to expand protection for the Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) under the Endangered Species Act. Originally listed as threatened in 2000 as a 14-state Distinct Population Segment (DPS), the lynx will now be protected throughout the lower 48 states.

The final rule also designates 38,000 acres of critical habitat for the species across the northern U.S. However, it excludes areas in northern New Mexico and the southern Rockies in Colorado where lynx now occurs—a decision that has led to debate and controversy. While FWS deems critical habitat designation in these areas unessential as lynx moved in after the original designation in 2000, some environmental groups contend these habitats need to be protected to ensure the long-term survival of the species and have threatened legal action if the rule is not changed. In fact, WildEarth Guardians recently filed a 60 day notice of intent to sue, challenging the habitat designation in the final rule.

Canada lynx in the U.S. were nearly extirpated by unregulated trapping starting in the 19th century and continuing into the 1980’s. The population in the lower 48 states has grown to an estimated 1,000 individuals, but continues to be threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation. The wild cats prefer boreal forests with persistent snow cover and plenty of snowshoe hares to hunt.

Sources: Federal Register (September 12, 2014), Energy and Environment News (September 11, 2014)

Now in Print:The Wildlife Professional Fall 2014 Issue

Sun, 2014-09-14 21:42

The fall issue of The Wildlife Professional is in print. Don’t miss our cover package on wildlife research in Pennsylvania, including an analysis of the impacts of shale-gas development, minimizing the risk to raptors from wind turbines, and efforts to develop habitat for golden-winged warblers. Also read about Boston’s efforts to tackle a growing population of wild turkeys, gender bias in science and technical fields, reflections on the extinction of the passenger pigeon, and more.

Shale Gas Development

Sun, 2014-09-14 21:42

The Marcellus Shale and its trove of natural gas have spawned a boom in the construction of well pads and roads, impacting area wildlife and habitat. (Credit: Lillie A. Langlois)

If you have spent any time in the forests of Pennsylvania over the past six years, you’ve noticed many changes — mainly in the form of well pads, drilling rigs, traffic jams, and compressor stations all related to shale gas development in the Marcellus Shale. What you may not have noticed is the impact of this development on plant and animal species. We are only just beginning to study and understand those impacts — but even in these early stages of development, we are seeing changes in our forests and the associated wildlife community.

According to a new report by the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), about 1.5 million acres of the 2.2-million-acre state forest system lie atop the Marcellus Shale, one of several shale plays in the Appalachian Basin and the largest in the United States. Of those 1.5 million acres, 44 percent are available for gas development (DCNR 2014). In “core gas districts”—defined as state forests subject to shale gas development—161 miles of road, 191 infrastructure pads, and 104 miles of pipeline corridor have been built or improved for the industry. And these are just the numbers for state forest land. Ninety percent of pads are going in on private land (Drohan et al. 2012), and since early 2010 alone, more than 6,700 wells have been drilled in the state and over 10,800 within the Appalachian Basin (see map on page 24).

This string of numbers becomes relevant when you consider where they occur. Pennsylvania’s public forest lands are comparable in size to Yellowstone. They are home to the largest elk herd in the northeastern U.S.; rich with economic resources (timber, minerals, and recreation); a source of ecological services such as insect control, climate regulation, and water purification; and prime habitat for forest-dwelling wildlife. This wildlife includes a diversity of neotropical migrant songbirds, many of which reach their highest abundance within these forests. Understanding how these valuable resources may be impacted by shale gas development is necessary to guide development in a manner that protects these resources for the long term and avoids an adverse environmental legacy.

Traffic associated with the shale-gas industry transforms quiet forest roads into corridors of congestion, noise, fumes, and dust. Researchers are at the early stages of studying how such elements may affect wildlife habitat use, abundance, road, mortality, and other factors. (Credit: Lillie A. Langlois)

Bigfoot of Energy
Pennsylvania is no stranger to resource extraction, but the new high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology used to fracture the shale and release natural gas differs substantially from conventional oil and gas development, and the well pads and associated infrastructure leave a much larger footprint. In Pennsylvania, conventional oil and gas wells are drilled vertically with a single well per pad, and well pads are typically less than 0.3 acres (0.13 hectare) insize (Thomas et al. 2014). They are cleared of vegetation for drilling, but natural succession is allowed to occur after the well has been drilled.

In contrast, shale gas is extracted through a combination of vertical and horizontal drilling that can reach as far as 9,000 feet deep and extend horizontally up to 10,000 feet. Each well uses between two and four million gallons of water for fracking (USDOE 2009). Where development occurs, every aspect of the infrastructure is larger and more industrial in nature than for conventional drilling. The shale pad footprint averages 6.6 acres (2.7 hectares) and is covered with a layer of crushed limestone or other rock to provide a stable surface needed to support the weight of the drill rig, heavy equipment, water storage, trucks, and other infrastructure (Drohan and Brittingham 2012, DCNR 2014). These larger pads may also include water impoundments for fresh or waste water, and when associated disturbance is included, can be up to 49 acres (20 hectares) in size (Drohan and Brittingham 2012).

The entire drilling and fracking process requires a great amount of infrastructure including larger, wider, and more permanent roads than those for conventional drilling. It also brings increased truck traffic, wider and lengthier pipelines and right-of ways, and larger compressor stations to move the gas along the pipelines (Johnson 2010, DCNR 2014). Consequently, the effects of Marcellus development on birds and other forest wildlife will likely differ substantially from the effects of conventional drilling and, in many areas, both types of energy extraction are co-occurring, each having an influence on forest habitat and wildlife.

Research in Progress
In recent years, as the pace of development has increased, we along with other colleagues have initiated studies to quantify effects of energy extraction on forest habitat and the wildlife that depends on it. Our focus has been on the large area of interior or core forest found in northcentral Pennsylvania. Interior forest is distinguished from edge forest as being at least 300 feet (about 100 meters) away from an anthropogenic disturbance such as a road or housing development, and provides important habitat for a variety of wildlife species including area sensitive or forest-interior songbirds and amphibians. These forests also provide protection to headwater streams and a wilderness experience for hikers and hunters.

Energy extraction is having numerous impacts on wildlife and habitat, with fragmentation being one of the most significant. Both conventional and unconventional gas development fragment forests. For example, in the Allegheny National Forest, high-density well sites had 10-12 wells per 61-acre (25-hectare) study site (Thomas et al. 2014). Road densities were four times higher on high-density well sites than on reference sites where no wells were present and, although the area remained primarily forest habitat, at high well densities the amount of core or interior forest decreased from over 65 percent to under 2 percent (Thomas et al. 2014).

The density of well pads tends to be much lower for shale gas development because multiple wells can be located on a pad and the well bore for an individual well extends horizontally and can drain an area up to a mile away. In Pennsylvania, by 2012 there were 1,465 pads with 75 percent having one or two wells per pad and 3 percent having seven or more wells (Drohan et al. 2012). To compare with the study on conventional gas, in a 61-acre (25-hectare) site you would rarely have more than one pad although clusters of pads do occur in some areas. Pads fragment the forest when they are established within interior or core forest, and about 23 percent of pads are going into core forest (Drohan et al. 2012).

A black bear pops up to inspect its surroundings along a gas-pipeline corridor in Pennsylvania. A camera-monitoring study being conducted to learn how wildlife species use these pipeline corridors and adjacent forest areas shows that deer, wild turkey, and black bears are the top three species photographed along the newly opened routes. (Credit: Jackson Martini)

Although pads can fragment forest habitat, it is the extensive network of pipelines and roads that service these pads that is the primary cause of forest fragmentation. A recent study by researchers with The Nature Conservancy (Johnson et al. 2011) estimated 1.65 miles of gathering pipeline for each pad with an expected number of new miles of pipeline at final build-out ranging from 10,000 to 25,000 miles. Many miles of these new pipelines are cutting through large blocks of extensive forest.

A number of recently completed studies have found that interior forest tends to be lost at two to three times the overall rate of forest loss because of the creation of new edge associated with pads, pipelines, and roads (Johnson 2010, Drohan et al. 2012, Sloenecker et al. 2012, 2013). For example, a report by The Nature Conservancy found that on average 30 acres of forest were impacted directly or indirectly by each pad with 21 acres associated with the loss of core forest adjacent to the gas infrastructure.

Wildlife Winners and Losers
So what does the boom in shale-gas development mean for Pennsylvania wildlife, especially for the forest specialists that breed within the state’s extensive forest network? No studies on effects of this development on wildlife in eastern forests have been completed at this time, but research is underway across the Appalachian Basin to test whether and how birds and other wildlife are responding to shale gas development. We have initiated a number of studies on forest birds designed to collect baseline data and to measure whether and how abundance, distribution, and species composition are changing with proximity to pads and pipelines and with the density of gas infrastructure.

In one study, we are surveying birds near pads and comparing species abundance and composition with reference sites located within interior forest habitat. Preliminary results suggest that species that tend to be associated with people and anthropogenic edges, such as American robins (Turdus migrators) and brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater), are benefitting from development while forest specialists like black-throated green warblers (Setophaga virens) are losing habitat.

These preliminary results are similar to results from a study on the effects of conventional gas development on forest birds in the Allegheny National Forest (Thomas et al. 2014). The researchers found that forest specialists (such as Blackburnian warbler [Setophaga fusca] and black-throated green warbler) declined in abundance near conventional wells while generalists and early successional species (including American robin and brown-headed cowbird) increased in abundance. At moderate to high well densities, the cumulative effect of the many small-scale disturbances fragmented the forest, resulting in a loss of core forest specialists while generalists and species that readily coexist with people, and in developed habitats, increased in abundance.

This process of specialists being replaced by generalists is known as biotic homogenization and is associated with many types of disturbance ranging from urban development to climate change (e.g. McKinney and Lockwood 1999, Davey et al. 2012). Predictions are that shale gas development will have a similar effect on forest bird communities with forest specialists and species sensitive to disturbance tending to decline while generalists and those that tolerate people increasing in abundance.

In a second study, we are looking at bird abundance prior to shale gas development and comparing it to abundance in the first three years after development began. We do this using roadside point counts, where a surveyor drives down a road and stops at regular intervals to survey birds. Preliminary results do not show major changes in bird abundance associated with shale development, suggesting that large-scale shifts in bird communities have not occurred at this time.

We have also initiated a camera monitoring study along pipelines and within the adjacent forest habitat to determine wildlife response to these new linear features, which species are using the pipelines, and how this compares with reference sites within the forest interior. In surveys completed on eight sites, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginiana) were the species most commonly reported with the majority of observations occurring within the pipeline right-of-way. Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and black bear (Ursus americanus) were tied for second place. Bears used the pipeline but were not more abundant in the pipeline corridor than in the adjacent forest. Other species photographed traveling along the pipeline included coyote (Canis latrans), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), and domestic cat (Felis catus). Because this last group of species can also act as nest predators, there are concerns that predation rates may be high for any prey species nesting near these corridors. Studies on reproductive success adjacent to corridors will need to be done before we fully understand the effects of these corridors.

Other studies have reported the potential for altered predator-prey relationships as both predators and prey change the way they use space and are distributed across the landscape when linear corridors are present (Latham et al. 2011, Boutin et al. 2012, Tigner et al. 2014). In Alberta, Canada, for example, wolf (Canis lupus) use of seismic lines and corridors has resulted in an increased predation risk to woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou), a species of conservation concern (Latham et al. 2011, Boutin et al. 2012).

Credit: Margaret C. Brittingham

The stone pad of a completed drill site (above) is surrounded by restored habitat. About 16 percent of pads in Pennsylvania have been restored, usually with a mix of grass and clover. Such growth can provide cover for wildlife such as young fawns (left), but does not serve species dependent on regenerating forests. (Bottom Credit: Margaret C. Brittingham)

Pad Restoration
Only about 16 percent of pads have undergone some type of restoration (Drohan and Brittingham 2012). Companies are not required to complete full restoration until drilling is completed. Many pads remain open on the chance that additional wells may be drilled or an existing well re-fracked to improve gas production. Final restoration may be 40 or 50 years away or as long as there is an active well on the pad. What this means for wildlife is a direct loss of habitat from those pads.

Where pads have been restored, the area of disturbance has been reduced by more than half. Yet most of the pads have only been restored to a mix of non-native cold-season grass and clover or, in the case of agricultural land, back to agricultural use. This may provide a place for wildlife to hide, but does not provide the young forest growth associated with a regenerating forest important to many early successional forest habitat specialists, including game species like ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbrellas) and American woodcock (Scolopax minor), and for songbirds such as the golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera). Similarly, pipelines are primarily seeded with grass and clover, which provide travel corridors for bear and deer but do not replicate true early successional habitat, which has been declining in eastern forests as they have matured. Developing strategies and techniques to restore pads and pipelines to functional early successional habitat is necessary, as is a plan to restore pads at least temporarily once the first set of wells has been completed.

Impacts of Noise
Beyond habitat fragmentation, exploration and development of the shale resource is associated with both short- and long-term increases in noise from sources such as compressor stations and road traffic. Noise can have numerous costs to wildlife and long-term effects on habitat quality (Francis and Barber 2013). For example, studies on the effects of noise from compressors on songbirds in the western U.S. and Canada found a range of impacts. In a study of ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla), pairing success of males near compressors was 77 percent as compared with 92 percent pairing success of males near pads without compressors (Habib et al. 2007). The researchers hypothesize that the noise makes it hard for females to hear the males and consequently harder for a male to attract a female to his territory. Other studies have reported lower abundance, changes in reproductive behavior and success, altered predator-prey interactions, and altered avian communities (e.g., Habib et al. 2007, Bayne et al. 2008, Francis et al. 2011).

Monitoring and Mitigation
In Pennsylvania, the DCNR has established an extensive program to monitor plants, wildlife habitat, water, soil, air, and recreation, with the objective of using results to direct future development. Despite such efforts, the pace of gas development has not allowed for adaptive management, where the results from monitoring can inform gas development decisions. Instead, managers are scrambling to make decisions about where gas development infrastructure should be distributed across the landscape, while having much less input on how much development occurs. They know there are local impacts from shale gas development but don’t know the level of development or threshold that may result in major or even irreversible changes. Should the infrastructure be spread over the landscape at potentially lower densities, or clustered to potentially keep some areas off limits from drilling? How do we balance shale gas development with the other important values of our public lands? These are some of the many questions land managers are dealing with.

On private land where most of the drilling is occurring, there is little if any organized monitoring, but many landowners are interested in restoring wildlife habitat. On private land, we need to work with landowners to provide them with different management options for restoring pads and pipelines beyond grass and clover. The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI) designed to provide research and outreach for restoring forests on coal mined lands in the eastern U.S. is an example of the type of initiative that is needed. To address educational needs, we have developed an electronic field guide to provide landowners and land managers with information on everything from site development to restoring and creating wildlife habitat.

As more and more private forest lands are developed, our public lands will become increasingly important for wildlife and for ecological, aesthetic, and recreational values they provide. Our eastern forests provide a host of ecological services including clean water, climate control, and habitat for wildlife in addition to aesthetic, recreational, and timber resources. As natural resource professionals, we need to raise awareness about the vital ecosystem services of our forests, engage public and private partners in new research and outreach, and foster a more informed discussion of the actual costs and benefits of shale gas development as new proposals to expand this development on public land occur. Development must be done in a way that protects the integrity of this priceless ecosystem.

The Wildlife Professional Fall 2014 Table of Contents

Sun, 2014-09-14 21:41

Shale Gas Development
Bringing Change to Pennsylvania Forests and Wildlife
By Margaret C. Brittingham, Lillie A. Langlois, and Patrick J. Drohan

Coming Soon
Quest for Safer Skies
Modeling Golden Eagles and Wind Energy to Reduce Turbine Risk
By Todd Katzner, Tricia Miller, and Scott Stoleson

Combating the Rage
Attracting Rabid Bats with Artificial Sound
By David A. Jessup

A Turkey Tale from Massachusetts
Wild Turkeys in Boston No Cause for Thanksgiving
By Julie Duke

Golden Opportunity
Conservation of Golden-Winged Warblers in Pennsylvania
By Mike Pruss, Jeff Larkin, Tammy Colt, and Barry Isaacs

Discovering Life in the Smoky Mountains
Major Effort to Tally Species Helps Guide Conservation
By Michael M. Schofield

Glass Ceilings and Institutional Biases
A Closer Look at Barriers Facing Women in Science and Technical Fields
By Jessica A. Homyack, Sara H. Schweitzer, and Tabitha Graves

Meeting of the Minds
TWS Working Groups Share Ideas at Annual Conference
By Andrew R. Little, Kristina Boyd, and Heath M. Hagy

Choosing Lands for Conservation
Tips on Evaluating Conservation Banks
By David A. Bunn

Sad Demise of the Passenger Pigeon
Learning from — or Repeating — the Past?
By John H. Schulz, David L. Otis, and Gary E. Potts

A “Bird Lost” and a “Doubt Gained”
Aldo Leopold on the Passenger Pigeon’s Extinction
By Stanley A. Temple

Leaders in the Making
How the Welder Wildlife Foundation Shapes Future Wildlifers
By Sarah N. Kahlich

Editor’s Note
Leadership Letter
Guest Editorial
Science in Short
State of Wildlife
Field Notes: Practical tips for field biologists
In Memory
Gotcha!: Photos from readers

The Wildlife Professional Letters to the Editor, Fall 2014

Sun, 2014-09-14 21:41

Wolf Recovery: A Response to Bergstrom
Professor Bergstrom’s “Wolf Recovery: A Response to Mech” (summer 2014) offers an excellent opportunity to empirically test which approach to Northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) wolf-recovery planning is more “science-based” — his population viability analysis (PVA) or the Delphi method of collective, experienced, professional judgment. Bergstrom’s et al. (2009) PVA predicted extinction for the NRM wolf “in less than 10 years,” i.e. by 2018.

This is not to criticize PVAs, although they are not without their critics (Caughley 1994). Brook et al. (2000) answered PVA critics with an analysis of PVA use with endangered species demonstrating high reliability with most of 21 species they examined. Notably, the fit between PVA prediction and reality was “noticeably poor” with the single wolf population they used — that of Isle Royale. Still the fits of most of the populations were good. PVAs do have their place.

However, PVAs are highly sensitive to assumptions and values of inputs (Ludwig 1999) so are not infallible. As it is, Bergstrom (2014) relied on Creel and Rotella (2010) without considering the findings that challenged that paper (Gude et al. 2012). In addition, believing that the relatively few wolves in eastern Wyoming are important for maintaining connectivity to the rest of the NRM population, Bergstrom (2014) also criticized Wyoming’s wolf management plan that allows unlimited taking in that part of the state. However, most of the NRM wolf population lies west of Wyoming, not east. Any Wyoming wolves dispersing eastward would enter the Dakotas, a proven sink for wolves (Licht and Fritts 1994).

Bergstrom (2014) also stated that “wolf populations of fewer than 200 are especially vulnerable to mortality of greater than 25 percent and reduced dispersal (Carroll et al. 2014).” However that reference does not support the statement, and the statement is irrelevant to the NRM population, which has exceeded 200 since 1996.

It is true that Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana would like to reduce their wolf populations. They are trying, but have not been very successful, as expected (Mech 2010). Meanwhile the NRM population has expanded its range into Washington and Oregon, where they are mostly protected. The population of 1,650 wolves that Bergstrom et al. (2009) assumed for the NRM in 2009 and predicted extinction for by 2018 numbered at least 1,690 at last count in 2013 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2014). Neither the Bergstrom et al. (2009) PVA nor the legal requirements for delisting recognize the important biological fact that the NRM wolf population is contiguous with the entire Canadian wolf population of 60,000 wolves.

Perhaps in four years the PVA will prove more “science-based.” Time will tell, of course, but my bet is on the collective judgment of professional wolf biologists that since 1987 has proven correct.

L. David Mech, USGS
Jamestown, North Dakota

The Relevance of Evolutionary Biology
In a format similar to that of Losos et al. (2013), Michael Hutchins et al. (2014) recently provided examples of applications of evolutionary biology in the field of wildlife management. In their concluding paragraph, Hutchins et al. (2014) suggested that The Wildlife Society modify certification requirements to include some formal coursework in evolutionary biology. The relevance of evolutionary biology to the field of wildlife conservation was pointed out more than a decade ago in a special issue of The Wildlife Society Bulletin edited by Paul Krausman, which addressed education in the field of wildlife management and conservation (Krausman 2000).

Previous calls for expanded training in evolutionary biology appear to have gone unnoticed by Hutchins et al. (2014). For example, Bleich and Oehler (2000) emphasized that, “The concept of evolution is common to all aspects of science related to living resources. As such, evolutionary theory provides a common link between those interested in, among other things, habitat management, population ecology, or conservation biology.” Further, Bleich and Oehler (2000) noted that certification by The Wildlife Society did not require, “… completion of courses in the specific fields of evolutionary biology, evolutionary ecology, or population genetics…” and they concluded that, “… strong backgrounds in natural history and in evolutionary biology form the most important educational foundation for aspiring wildlife biologists.” Indeed, Peek (2000) emphasized that, “Courses in basic biology and ecology should not be eschewed for courses in applications, which logically build from basics.” Moreover, Gavin (1989) had noted 25 years ago that most wildlife biologists lack training in evolutionary biology, and emphasized that understanding why populations perform the way they do is requisite to making management decisions that affect more than proximate situations, a concept has its very foundations in evolutionary biology.

Although they mentioned Olaus Murie’s (1954) famous statement, Hutchins et al. (2014) failed to acknowledge other advocates of the importance of training in evolutionary biology to wildlife conservation; that is unfortunate, especially since those calls had appeared in the Bulletin. It is even more unfortunate that formal training in evolutionary biology is not yet a requirement for certification by The Wildlife Society. I am hopeful, albeit not optimistic, that such will occur in the future.

Vernon C. Bleich, CWB
Bismark, North Dakota
(See complete bibliography.)

The Wildlife Professional Bibliography, Fall 2014

Sun, 2014-09-14 21:40

Shale Gas Development
By Margaret C. Brittingham, Lillie A. Langlois, and Patrick J. Drohan

    Bayne, E. M., L. Habib, and S. Boutin. 2008. Impacts of Chronic Anthropogenic Noise from Energy-Sector Activity on Abundance of Songbirds in the Boreal Forest. Conservation Biology 22:1186-1193.
    Boutin, S., M. S. Boyce, M. Hebblewhite, D. Hervieux, K. H. Knopff, M. C. Latham, A. D. M. Latham, J. Nagy, D. Seip, and R. Serrouya. 2012. Why are caribou declining in the oil sands? Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 10:65-67.
    Davey, C. M., D. E. Chamberlain, S. E. Newson, D. G. Noble, and A. Johnston. 2012. Rise of the generalists: evidence for climate driven homogenization in avian communities. Global Ecology and Biogeography 21:568-578.
    Devlin, D. A. 2014. Shale-Gas Monitoring Report. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
    Drohan, P., and M. Brittingham. 2012. Topographic and Soil Constraints to Shale-Gas Development in the Northcentral Appalachians. Soil Science Society of America Journal 76:1696-1706.
    Drohan, P., M. Brittingham, J. Bishop, and K. Yoder. 2012. Early trends in landcover change and forest fragmentation due to shale-gas development in Pennsylvania: A potential outcome for the Northcentral Appalachians. Environmental Management:1-15.
    Francis, C., J. Paritsis, C. Ortega, and A. Cruz. 2011. Landscape patterns of avian habitat use and nest success are affected by chronic gas well compressor noise. Landscape Ecology 26:1269-1280.
    Francis, C. D., and J. R. Barber. 2013. A framework for understanding noise impacts on wildlife: an urgent conservation priority. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11:305-313.
    Habib, L., E. M. Bayne, and S. Boutin. 2007. Chronic industrial noise affects pairing success and age structure of ovenbirds Seiurus aurocapilla. Journal of Applied Ecology 44:176-184.
    Johnson, N. 2010. Pennsylvania Energy Impacts Assessment Report 1: Marcellus Shale Natural Gas and Wind. The Nature Conservancy, PA.
    Johnson, N., Gagnolet, R. Ralls, and J. Stevens. 2011. Natural Gas Pipelines. The Nature Conservancy, PA.
    Latham, A. D. M., M. C. Latham, N. A. McCutchen, and S. Boutin. 2011. Invading White-Tailed Deer Change Wolf-Caribou Dynamics in Northeastern Alberta. Journal of Wildlife Management 75:204-212.
    McKinney, M. L., and J. L. Lockwood. 1999. Biotic homogenization: a few winners replacing many losers in the next mass extinction. Trends in ecology & evolution 14:450-453.
    Osborn, S. G., A. Vengosh, N. R. Warner, and R. B. Jackson. 2011. Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108:8172-8176.
    Slonecker, E., L. Milheim, C. Roig-Silva, A. Malizia, D. Marr, and G. Fisher. 2012. Landscape consequences of natural gas extraction in Bradford and Washington counties, Pennsylvania, 2004-2010. Report Open-File Report 2012–1154.
    Slonecker, E. T., L. E. Milheim, C. M. Roig-Silva, A. R. Malizia, and B. H. Gillenwater. 2013. Landscape consequences of natural gas extraction in Fayette and Lycoming counties, Pennsylvania, 2004–2010. Report Open-File Report 2013-1119.
    Thomas, E. H., M. C. Brittingham, and S. H. Stoleson. 2014. Conventional Oil and Gas Development Alters Forest Songbird Communities. Journal of Wildlife Management 78:293-306.
    Tigner, J., E. M. Bayne, and S. Boutin. 2014. Black Bear Use of Seismic Lines in Northern Canada. Journal of Wildlife Management 78:282-292.
    U. S. Energy Information Administration. 2011. Review of emerging resources: U.S. shale gas and shale oil plays. U.S. Department of Energy.
    Vidic, R. D., S. L. Brantley, J. M. Vandenbossche, D. Yoxtheimer, and J. D. Abad. 2013. Impact of Shale Gas Development on Regional Water Quality. Science 340.
    Warner, N. R., R. B. Jackson, T. H. Darrah, S. G. Osborn, A. Down, K. Zhao, A. White, and A. Vengosh. 2012. Geochemical evidence for possible natural migration of Marcellus Formation brine to shallow aquifers in Pennsylvania. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109:11961-11966.
    US DOE (US Department of Energy). 2009. Modern shale gas development in the United States: a primer. Wash ington, DC:US DOE. DoE-FG26-04NTl 5455.
    DCNR, Shale Gas Monitoring Report. 2014

Quest for Safer Skies
By Todd Katzner, Tricia Miller, and Scott Stoleson

    Manly, B. 2002. Resource selection by animals: statistical design and analysis for field studies. 2nd edition. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands.
    Miller, T.M. R.P. Brooks, M. Lanzone, D. Brandes, J. Cooper, K. O’Malley, C. Maisonneuve, J. Tremblay, A. Duerr & T. Katzner. 2014. Assessing risk to birds from industrial wind energy development via paired resource selection models. Conservation Biology, 28:745 – 755. doi: 10.1111/cobi.12227.
    Milsap, B.A., G.S. Zimmerman, J.R. Sauer, R.M. Neilson, M. Otto, E. Bjerre, R. Murphy. 2013. Golden eagle population trends in the western United States: 1968 – 2010. Journal of Wildlife Management 77(7): 1436 – 1448.
    Smallwood, K.S. & C. Thelander. 2008. Bird mortality in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, California. Journal of Wildlife Management. 72(1):215–223.
    US Department of Justice. 2013. Utility company sentences in Wyoming for killing protected birds at wind projects.
    US Fish and Wildlife Service. 2013. Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance. Module 1 – Land-based Wind Energy. Version 2, April 2013. USFWS – Division of Migratory Bird Management. 118p.

Golden Opportunity
By Mike Pruss, Jeff Larkin, Tammy Colt, and Barry Isaacs

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    Starr, L.E., 1963, Rabies, in Diseases of Cattle (Gibbons, W.J., ed.), Wheaton, Ill., American Veterinary Publications, Inc., p. 523-534.
    Stebbings, R.E., 1988, The conservation of European bats, London, Christopher Helm Ltd., 246 p.
    Streicker, D.G., Turmelle, A.S., Vonhof, M.J., Kuzmin, I.V., McCracken, G.F., and Rupprecht, C.E., 2010, Host phylogeny constrains cross-species emergence and establishment of rabies virus in bats: Science, v. 329, p. 676-679.
    Stuewer, F.W., 1948, A record of red bats mating: Journal of Mammalogy, v. 29, p. 180-181.
    Tabel, H., Corner, A.H., Webster, W.A., and Casey, C.A., 1974, History and epizootiology of rabies in Canada: Canadian Veterinary Journal, v. 15, p. 271-281.
    Talaulicar, P.M.S., 1977, Persistent priapism in rabies: British Journal of Urology, v. 49, p. 462.
    Thoman, B., and Thoman, K., 2007, A most unusual photo: Bats, v. (fall), p. 16.
    Tierkel, E.S., 1975, Canine rabies, in Baer, G.W., ed., The Natural History of Rabies, v. II, New York, Academic Press, p. 123-137.
    Tuttle, M.D., 1988, America’s Neighborhood Bats, Austin, TX, University of Texas Press, 96 p.
    Udall, D.H., 1947, The Practice of Veterinary Medicine, Menasha, WI, Banta Publishing, 751 p.
    Udwadia, Z.F., Udwadia, F.E., Rao, P.P. and Kapadia, F., 1988, Penile hyperexcitability with recurrent ejaculations as the presenting manifestation of a case of rabies: Postgraduate Medical Journal, v. 64, p. 85-86.
    Van der Poel, W.H.M., Van der Heide, R., Verstraten, E.R.A.M., Takumi, K., Lina, P.H.C., and Kramps, J.A., 2005, European bat lyssaviruses, the Netherlands: Emerging Infectious Diseases, v. 11, p. 1854-1859.
    Venters, H.D., Haffert, W.R., Scatterday, J.E., and Hardy, A.V., 1954, Rabies in bats in Florida: American Journal of Public Health, v. 44, p. 182-185.
    Verts, B.J., 1967, The biology of the striped skunk, Urbana, Ill., University of Illinois Press, 218 p.
    Webster, L.T., 1942, Rabies, New York, The MacMillan Co., 168 p.
    Wilcox, F.P. and Hubbard, R.C., 1957, Rabies epizootic in dairy cattle: Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, v. 130, p. 63-66.
    Wilkinson, L., 2002, History, in Rabies, Jackson, A.C., and Wunner, W.H., eds., New York, Academic Press, p. 1-22.
    Williams, E.S., 2001, Canine distemper, in Williams, E.S., and Barker, I.K., eds., Infectious Diseases of Wild Mammals, 3rd ed., Ames, IA, Iowa State Press, 558 p.
    Williams, T.C., Ireland, L.C., and Williams, J.M., 1973, High altitude flights of the free-tailed bat, Tadarida brasiliensis, observed with radar: Journal of Mammalogy, v. 54, p. 807-821.
    Wilson, D.E., 1997, Bats in Question. Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press, 168 p.
    Wilson, D.E., and Reeder, D.M., eds., 2005, Mammal Species of the World, 3rd ed., 2 vol., Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2142 p.
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    Wong, A.J., Constantine, D.G., Armstrong, O., Wong, W.Y., and Comb, J.C., 2004, A novel technique to eliminate cross-contamination when making wells on slides for rabies diagnosis: Journal of Virological Methods, v. 115, p. 117-122.
    World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Rabies Surveillance and Research, 2004a, The oral vaccination of foxes against rabies: vaccination strategy (first part): Rabies Bulletin Europe, 3/2004, v. 28, p. 5-9.

Choosing Lands for Conservation
By David A. Bunn

    Bunn, D.A., P. B. Moyle, and C. K. Johnson. 2014. Maximizing the Ecological Contribution of Conservation Banks. Wildlife Society Bulletin. Accessed online 2-20-14.
    California Department of Fish and Game [CDFG]. 2003. Atlas of the Biodiversity of California. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento.
    Dudgeon, D., A. H. Arthington, M. O. Gessner, Z. Kawbata, D. J. Knowler, C. Leveque, R. J. Naiman, A. Prieur-Richard, D. Soto, and M. L. J. Stiassny. 2007. Freshwater biodiversity: importance, threats, status and conservation challenges. Biological Review 81:163–182.
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Sad Demise of the Passenger Pigeon
By John H. Schulz, David L. Otis, and Gary E. Potts

    Bucher, E. H. 1992. The causes of extinction of the passenger pigeon. Current Ornithology 9:1–36.
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    Rosen, J. 2014. The birds: why the passenger pigeon became extinct. The New Yorker
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    Schulz, J. H., D. L. Otis, and S. A. Temple. 2014. 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon extinction: lessons for a complex and uncertain future. Wildlife Society Bulletin – In Press.
    Temple, S. A. 2014. Reflecting on a lost bird. Wildlife Society Bulletin – In Press.
    Yeoman, B. 2014. Why the passenger pigeon went extinct. Audubon Magazine

Wildlife News Roundup (September 6-12, 2014)

Sun, 2014-09-14 20:45

The following clips reflect recent wildlife-related news coverage in the media. The Wildlife Society does not independently verify any statements or assertions in these articles. The statements expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official TWS policy unless so stated. Likewise, products mentioned herein are not endorsed by The Wildlife Society unless so stated.

A Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) looks on at a Massachusetts zoo. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife decision to expand protections for the species in the Southern Rockies and parts of New England, but not designate critical habitat, means there will be less stringent reviews of human activities that could affect their habitat. (Credit: Eric Kilby)

Lynx Protections Expanded, But New Habitat Denied
(The Associated Press via ABC News)
Canada lynx gained federal protections in New Mexico, but U.S. wildlife officials again declined to designate critical habitat for the elusive animal in the Southern Rockies, parts of New England and other areas considered non-essential to their survival. The two-part finding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service means the forest-dwelling wild cat will be protected as threatened throughout the lower 48 states. More

U.S. NEWS

Scientists: Ozone Layer is Recovering, But Greenhouse Gases Are on the Rise
(The Associated Press via WLS-TV)
Earth’s protective ozone layer is beginning to recover, largely because of the phase-out since the 1980s of certain chemicals used in refrigerants and aerosol cans, a U.N. scientific panel reported in a rare piece of good news about the health of the planet. Scientists said the development demonstrates that when the world comes together, it can counteract a brewing ecological crisis. More

Sweeping New Rule for Alaska’s Predator Control
(High Country News)
When Jim Stratton, deputy vice president for the National Parks Conservation Association, heard that the National Park Service had announced a sweeping new rule banning the manipulation of predators and prey in Alaska’s national preserves, his reaction was — to put it mildly — unfettered joy. “This is totally exciting news,” he says. “I’ve only been working this for 10 years. Game on.” More

Sage Grouse Plan ‘Something We Can Live With’
(The Montana Standard)
A state plan to prevent the sage grouse from being listed under the Endangered Species Act is being met favorably by politicians and environmentalists in southwest Montana. Gov. Steve Bullock unveiled that state’s proposal for managing the bird, a species that’s pitted environmentalists, landowners and energy companies against each other across the West. More

Florida FWC Could Cut Lagoon Algae Monitoring
(Florida Today)
Potential budget cuts next year would severely curtail or end a state investigation into what killed so many Indian River Lagoon manatees, dolphins and pelicans, according to Florida’s top wildlife agency. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lists a possible 50 percent cut to the agency’s harmful algae bloom monitoring program, according to a budget report. More

US to Spend $328 Million on Conservation Easements
(The Associated Press via The Des Moines Register)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $328 million in funding to protect and restore farmlands, grasslands and wetlands across the country. The initiative, using money provided in the new five-year farm bill, will buy conservation easements from farmers to protect the environment, help wildlife populations and promote outdoor recreation, the USDA said. More

Florida Votes to Ban Breeding of Lionfish
(WFOR-TV)
Florida wildlife officials have banned the breeding of lionfish in the state as a last ditch effort to eradicate the invasive species. Lionfish are a non-native, invasive species of fish that have no natural predators in the Atlantic. Experts have stated the fish is a menace to the native wildlife. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to ban the breeding of lionfish in captivity, which takes effect in December. More

Groups Seek Protection for Monarch Butterfly
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch via The Columbian)
A coalition of environmental and food-safety groups is asking the Fish and Wildlife Service to grant endangered species protection to the monarch butterfly, whose U.S. population, the groups say, last year fell to 90 percent below its 20-year average. In a petition asking for the designation, the petitioners blamed Monsanto Co.’s Roundup herbicide and Roundup Ready crops for much of the decline. More

Diversified Farming Practices Might Preserve Evolutionary Diversity of Wildlife
(Phys.org)
As humans transform the planet to meet our needs, all sorts of wildlife continue to be pushed aside, including many species that play key roles in Earth’s life-support systems. In particular, the transformation of forests into agricultural lands has dramatically reduced biodiversity around the world. A new study shows that evolutionarily distinct species suffer most heavily in intensively farmed areas. More

NEWS FROM CANADA

Report: Canada Leads World in Forest Decline
(Postmedia News via Canada.com)
The world’s virgin forests are being lost at an increasing rate and the largest portion of the degradation is in Canada, according to a new report. No longer is Brazil the main villain in the struggle to stop forest destruction. “Canada is the number one in the world for the total area of the loss of intact forest landscapes since 2000,” Peter Lee, of Forest Watch Canada, said in an interview. More

Ottawa’s New Aquaculture Rules Would Permit Harmful Dumping
(CBC News)
Canada’s federal government is proposing new aquaculture regulations that would permit the dumping of harmful substances on the ocean bottom beneath fish farms. Ottawa says the proposed rules resolve a contradiction — some say an impediment — to the growth of the industry in Canada. “We are providing more clarity to Canadians on how we manage the sector,” says Eric Gilbert, director general of aquaculture for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. More

WILDLIFE HEALTH AND DISEASE NEWS

How Pollutant Risk is Affected by Different Insect Stages
(Environmental News Network)
The food chain is a hierarchical series of organisms that are interrelated in their feeding habits. The chain starts when the smallest being like an insect is fed upon a larger prey species, which in turn feeds an even larger species. So if a species among the lower ranks of the chain has accumulated toxins such as pesticides or other organic chemicals, there is potential for these toxic substances to affect the species that prey upon them. More

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Giant Spinosaurus Was Bigger Than T. Rex — And First Dinosaur Known to Swim
(National Geographic)
The biggest and the baddest among meat-eating dinosaurs, Spinosaurus may have also been the first dinosaur to take to the water, swimming in North Africa’s rivers some 97 million years ago, researchers reported. Floating like a crocodile to stalk prey, the 50-foot-long predator bore a massive sail on its back that would have risen from the water like a shark’s fin. More

Mozambique Cracks Ivory Poaching Ring
(Phys.org)
Wildlife campaigners in Mozambique say police have cracked an ivory poaching ring believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least 39 elephants. The Wildlife Conservation Society said six suspects were arrested in Niassa National Reserve at the weekend, in what is seen as a major breakthrough in the anti-poaching fight. More

World’s rarest frogs saved from extinction and released in the Caribbean
(Wildlife Extra)
One of the world’s rarest frogs, the mountain chicken frog, bred as part of an international project to save the species from extinction, has been successfully returned to its Caribbean home ahead of the global day to highlight the plight of their species. Fifty one Critically Endangered mountain chicken frogs were released back onto Montserrat this summer. More

Badger Culling Resumes For Second Year in UK
(BBC)
A second year of badger culling has begun in parts of England (Gloucestershire and Somerset) in a bid to tackle bovine TB. Last year, 1,800 badgers were killed in the pilot areas of west Gloucestershire and west Somerset. Just under 1,000 are due to be killed this year. The government insists culling is necessary but protesters argue shooting is not “effective or humane”. More

USDA Approves $328 million in Agricultural Conservation

Fri, 2014-09-12 14:52

The Nine Pine Ranch wetland easement in Washington State was protected with funding from the Wetland Reserve Program (now part of ACEP). ACEP’s wetland component provides technical and financial assistance to protect and restore wetlands for habitat, flood control, water filtration, and other benefits. (Credit: NRCS)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will invest $328 million in conservation easements as part of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) — a new Farm Bill initiative designed help landowners preserve productive farmland, ranchland, wetlands, and other working lands from non-agricultural uses through easements and restoration.

Administered by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, ACEP was created in the 2014 Farm Bill as a consolidation of three easement programs — the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grasslands Reserve Program, and Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program. Its two components, Agricultural Land Easements and Wetland Reserve Easements, focus on working lands and wetlands respectively. Landowners can submit potential projects for funding; this year 380 projects were chosen out of 5,000 applications.

As part of ACEP projects this year, 129,000 acres are slated to be protected, encompassing agricultural lands, grasslands, and wetlands in every state and some territories. Protecting working lands and wetlands is especially important in urbanized areas where open space is at a premium. The conserved land can provide crucial ecological services such as flood mitigation, soil retention, and wildlife habitat.

Sources: Energy and Environment News (September 8, 2014), USDA website (Accessed September 10, 2014)

Wildlife News Roundup (August 30-September 5, 2014)

Mon, 2014-09-08 12:35

The following clips reflect recent wildlife-related news coverage in the media. The Wildlife Society does not independently verify any statements or assertions in these articles. The statements expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official TWS policy unless so stated. Likewise, products mentioned herein are not endorsed by The Wildlife Society unless so stated.

Response crews attempt to control the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 people and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. A new ruling found British Petroleum guilty of gross negligence, showing a “conscious disregard of known risks” during the drilling operation. (Credit: U.S. Coast Guard)

Ruling Against BP Could Mean $18 Billion in Fines
(The Associated Press via Houston Chronicle)
BP could be looking at close to $18 billion in additional fines over the nation’s worst offshore oil spill after a federal judge ruled that the company acted with “gross negligence” in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier concluded that the London-based oil giant showed a “conscious disregard of known risks” during the drilling operation and bears most of the responsibility for the blowout that killed 11 rig workers and spewed millions of gallons of oil over three months. More


U.S. NEWS

California Blue Whales Bounce Back to Near Historic Numbers
(BBC)
Researchers believe that California blue whales have recovered in numbers and the population has returned to sustainable levels. Scientists say this is the only population of blue whales to have rebounded from the ravages of whaling. The research team estimate that there are now 2,200 of these giant creatures on the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean. More

Feds Seek Input on Maintaining Red Wolf Recovery
(The Associated Press via Rocky Mount Telegram)
Federal wildlife officials asked the public to weigh in as the government reviews whether to continue maintaining the world’s only wild population of the red wolf in eastern North Carolina. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it had awarded a contract to the Virginia-based nonprofit Wildlife Management Institute to evaluate its 27-year experiment to restore the endangered species to the wild. More

New Bull Trout Plan No Numbers Game
(The Associated Press via The Register-Guard)
The Obama administration is offering a new approach to saving the bull trout, a fish whose need for clean and cold water has put it in conflict with logging, mining and grazing in the Northwest. The draft recovery plan posted online by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service eliminates numerical goals for rebuilding populations, recognizes that climate change makes losing some populations inevitable, and focuses on fixing threats to habitat and genetic diversity. More

Groups, Agencies Protect Key Habitat Near Yakima, Washington
(The News Tribune)
A partnership of conservation groups and state agencies have worked together to protect almost 2,900 acres of key wildlife habitat near Yakima, Washington. The state departments of Fish and Wildlife, and Ecology, as well as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Cowiche Canyon Conservancy have secured 2,893 acres in two parcels 15 miles northwest of the city. More

Death of Rare Croc has Wildlife Managers Rethinking Capture Policies
(Miami Herald)
The unexpected death of a rare crocodile at the hands of state trappers has wildlife managers rethinking capture policies for the protected species. Though familiar to many residents in a waterfront Coral Gables, Florida, neighborhood, a longtime resident croc nicknamed “Pancho” found itself unwelcome after biting two late-night swimmers in the first documented attack on a human by an American crocodile in Florida. More

NEWS FROM CANADA

Canadian Beekeepers Sue Bayer and Syngenta Over Neonicotinoid Pesticides
(CBC News)
Canadian beekeepers are suing the makers of popular crop pesticides for more than $400 million in damages, alleging that their use is causing the deaths of bee colonies. The class action lawsuit was filed in the Ontario Superior Court on behalf of all Canadian beekeepers by Sun Parlor Honey Ltd. and Munro Honey, two of Ontario’s largest honey producers, the Ontario Beekeepers Association announced. More

Polar Bear Trade, Hunting Spark Controversy
(The Washington Post)
U.S. officials are pressing for a ban on the global commercial trade in polar bear parts. The proposal — which will come up for a vote in March when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora convenes in Bangkok, Thailand — has divided polar bear advocates and pits the United States against Canada. More

At-Risk Species Program Renewed
(Niagara This Week)
Species at risk have a friend in Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The two organizations have announced the renewal of the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program, organized by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. The program sees a cost-sharing system for farm businesses for several on-farm programs. More

WILDLIFE HEALTH AND DISEASE NEWS

Dolphin Virus Spreading to Rivers
(First Coast News)
A deadly virus affecting dolphins for the last year shows no signs of slowing down. In Florida, the morbillivirus is being found in dolphins that are not just in the ocean. Dolphins in the Intracoastal Waterway and rivers are dying from the virus as well. Since last fall, the morbillivirus has killed dolphins along the East Coast — from New York to Florida. More

Scientists From Across Europe Meet to Discuss Spread of Disease in Wildlife
(Western Morning News)
Animal experts are calling for better health surveillance of wild species to help stop the spread of diseases. With the controlled pilot cull of badgers about to restart in Somerset and Gloucestershire, England, there is renewed focus on disease among wild animals. The government’s chief vet warned recently that some 30 percent of the badger population in the South West is believed to be infected with the disease. More

Official: Mesa, Arizona, Duck Deaths Could Be Tied to Botulism
(The Republic)
Anywhere from 12 to 20 ducks died at a Mesa, Arizona, pond this weekend, and investigators believe the deaths are tied to an outbreak of avian botulism, according to an Arizona Game and Fish spokeswoman. Officials are investigating the exact cause of death, but early reports seem to indicate that the birds died of botulism, said Anne Justice-Allen, a veterinarian for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. More

Study: Sick Gopher Tortoises are Unusually Mobile, Could Be Leading to Disease Spread
(Phys.org)
Assumptions about how much and how far chronically ill gopher tortoises move around could be wrong, a new University of Georgia study has found. Following the movements of tortoises sick with upper respiratory tract diseases showed that the ailing reptiles migrate farther and could be spreading diseases more than originally thought. More

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Deep Sea ‘Mushroom’ May Be New Branch of Life
(BBC)
A mushroom-shaped sea animal discovered off the Australian coast has defied classification in the tree of life. A team of scientists at the University of Copenhagen says the tiny organism does not fit into any of the known subdivisions of the animal kingdom. Such a situation has occurred only a handful of times in the last 100 years. More

South Asian Countries Keen to Close in on Wildlife Crime
(Republica)
South Asian law enforcement agencies have sought strong collaboration among member countries working to combat wildlife crime and vowed to streamline and standardize the legal policies of their respective countries. Concluding a three-day second annual conference of the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network, the participants from member countries also endorsed its statute, but could not finalize a proposed action plan to combat wildlife crime in the region. More

Rare Frog Gets Federal Protection

Fri, 2014-09-05 09:51

The Oregon spotted frog is found in Pacific Northwest perennial marshes. Historical declines in wetlands, changing hydrology, and invasive species have moved FWS to list the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. (Credit: William Leonard)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced last week that it has finalized its decision to list the Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This rare species — currently found on fewer than 100 sites across eastern Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia — has lost over 78 percent of its historical range due to exotic predators like the bullfrog, changing hydrology from irrigation and hydropower, and habitat loss.

FWS first identified the Oregon spotted frog as a candidate species for federal protection in 1991. Named for the black spots on their head, body, and legs, these aquatic frogs depend heavily on large perennial wetlands for reproduction and survival.

As part of the federal listing, management actions will likely include control of exotic predators and removal of invasive plants to protect wetland habitat. FWS intends to announce critical habitat designations for the frog this fall and will possibly include protections for essential wetlands in Willamette and Klamath basins in Oregon where 95 percent of historic marsh habitat has been lost.

Sources: Greenwire (August 29, 2014), Federal Register (August 29, 2014), USFWS (Accessed September 4, 2014)

FWS Announces Grants to Fight White Nose Syndrome

Thu, 2014-09-04 10:21

Northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis) are one of several bat species seeing precipitous declines due to White Nose Syndrome. FWS has apportioned grants to several states to combat the spread of this deadly disease. (Credit: Michael Patrikeev)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced last week that it will direct nearly $1.3 million in grants to state natural resource agencies to help fight the rapidly spreading bat disease known as White Nose Syndrome (WNS). The grants will be apportioned to 30 states and directed toward developing more accurate bat counts and creating monitoring systems.

The highly contagious and fatal disease has killed nearly seven million bats across 25 states and five Canadian provinces. First discovered in New York in 2006, it is caused by a fungus that grows on the nose, ears, and mouths of the bats. Federal officials say having more accurate population data will help them track the spread of the disease and hopefully combat it.

The announcement comes during intense debate over potential listing of one of the bat species affected by WNS as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), which is found in 39 states and most Canadian provinces, has been devastated by WNS, declining by as much as 99 percent in key hibernating areas. In a federal study, 14 populations surveyed in the species’ core range in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts became locally extinct within two years due to WNS.

Northern long-eared bats can range through most of eastern and north central United States and all Canadian provinces. The extensive range of the bat species adds to controversy surrounding a potential listing under the Endangered Species Act. (Credit: The Smithsonian Institution)

The potential listing is controversial due to the effect it could have on forest management practices and logging industries throughout the East and Midwest, as several Republican congressmen pointed out in a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. But some environmental groups such as Defenders of Wildlife contend that bats provide essential ecosystem services. Defenders points to a U.S. Geological Survey report that found that bats are worth at least three billion dollars every year simply for pest control to agriculture. FWS delayed the listing decision, which was scheduled for June 2014, until April 2015 citing conflicting interpretation of data.

Sources: Greenwire (June 25, 2014), Greenwire (August 26, 2014), Federal Register (June 30, 2014), USGS (March 2011), The Wildlife Society (December 2, 2013)

Wildlife News Roundup (August 23-29, 2014)

Mon, 2014-09-01 09:00

The following clips reflect recent wildlife-related news coverage in the media. The Wildlife Society does not independently verify any statements or assertions in these articles. The statements expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect official TWS policy unless so stated. Likewise, products mentioned herein are not endorsed by The Wildlife Society unless so stated.

A manatee rests at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. USFWS is considering reclassifying the species as “threatened,” to give officials more management flexibility while still affording manatees protections they currently have as an “endangered” species. (Credit: Keith Ramos/USFWS)

Manatees May Soon Lose Endangered Species Status
(The Associated Press via The Washington Post)
As they do whenever they visit Florida, Greg Groff and his young daughter stopped by the manatee pool at Miami Seaquarium, where the speed bump-shaped marine mammals placidly swim in circles. They noted the pink scars and disfigured tail on one manatee, damage from a boat propeller that left it unable to survive in the wild. Florida’s manatees need even more stringent protections than their listing on the federal endangered species list, Groff said. More

 

U.S. NEWS

Utah Celebrates Big Conservation Success Story with Tiny Fish
(Deseret News)
State wildlife officials are celebrating a big success story in conservation efforts of a tiny fish found only in Utah and dating back to ancient Lake Bonneville times. The relatively rare nod of approval by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removes the least chub from the candidate list under an endangered species listing, meaning efforts to address threats to the least chub have proven successful. More

Michigan Wolf Hunt Opponents Plan Capitol Rally
(MLive.com)
Michigan’s long-simmering debate over wolf hunting may come to a boil Wednesday, when the Republican-led state House is expected to enact a citizen-initiated law paving the way for future seasons. Senate approval earlier this month was punctuated by accusations of special-interest influence on both sides of the issue and anti-democratic maneuvering. More

Conservation-Based Oyster Harvesting Changes Take Effect in Florida Sept. 1
(WMBB-TV)
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission implemented conservation measures in an effort to help the Apalachicola Bay oyster population recover from the effects of low river flow. Apalachicola Bay oyster populations have significantly declined in recent years due to lack of sufficient fresh water flows in the Apalachicola River. This new suite of conservation measures enhances those the FWC put into place for the 2013 winter and 2014 summer seasons. More

Staten Island Zoo Capitalizes on the Small and Obscure
(The New York Times)
In a city where lions, tigers and — yes — bears are only a subway ride away, the Staten Island Zoo is betting on the binturong. Founded in 1933, the zoo is the only one of New York City’s six animal parks not under the auspices of the internationally regarded Wildlife Conservation Society. And with only eight acres, the zoo has in recent years decided to pursue the allure of obscurity by recruiting some of the more diminutive and lesser-known members of the animal kingdom. More

Shark-Fishing Debate Hooks Florida Town Leaders
(Florida Today via USA Today)
Mayor Jim Simmons of Melbourne Beach, Florida,has encountered kayak-paddling fishermen off the end of Avenue B who attract sharks by dumping “buckets of blood and guts and grouper heads” into the waves — a mere 30 feet from his surfboard. And while surfing in March, Simmons was startled by a group of out-of-town spring-break surfcasters near Avenue B. They had chartered a shark fishing guide for the week. More

NEWS FROM CANADA

Saskatchewan Clarifies Ban on Drones Used for Hunting
(CBC News)
A specific ban on hunting using drone aircraft has now been added to Saskatchewan’s wildlife regulations. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, are becoming increasing popular with hobbyists, and there have been some cases in the United States where hunters have used them to locate animals. But the Saskatchewan government, along with hunting groups, believe UAVs cross the line of what is considered a “fair chase.” More

Park in British Columbia Gets Funding to Reduce Wildlife Collisions
(Calgary Herald)
It’s a busy mountain road with frequent wildlife-vehicle collisions, but a plan to fence another stretch of Highway 93 S. in British Columbia aims to improve safety for both motorists and animals. On Wednesday, Canadian officials announced $9.6 million to build four wildlife crossing structures and fence another 6.5 kilometers along the road to Radium in Kootenay National Park. More

Zoo Releases Captive-Bred Endangered Frogs Back to Wild
(Aldergrove Star)
In continuing their scientific work and conservation efforts for the endangered Oregon spotted frogs, last week the Greater Vancouver Zoo released more frogs back into the wild. This is the second release of the year. The 127 frogs were bred in a captive environment while studying and marking them before finally releasing them back into their natural wetland environment. More

WILDLIFE HEALTH AND DISEASE NEWS

Wildlife Officials Monitor Disease Found in Snake
(Associated Press via Idaho Statesman)
State wildlife officials say an emerging snake disease similar to one that has killed millions of bats has been found in a wild Georgia snake. Officials from the Department of Natural Resources say an emaciated mud snake in Bulloch County tested positive for snake fungal disease — which can cause scabs, crusty scales and more on a snake’s skin. More

Fish and Wildlife Service Urged to Speed Protection for Bats
(The Chattanoogan)
Two dozen conservation and animal-welfare groups sent a letter urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete its plan to protect the northern long-eared bat, a species found primarily in the eastern and midwestern United States. Opposition to the bat’s protection under the Endangered Species Act prompted the Fish and Wildlife Service to postpone a final decision on protecting the bat until spring 2015. More

Atop Food Chain, Ospreys Ingest Many Poisons, Revealing Environmental Dangers
(National Geographic)
On an early spring morning, the Pitt River flows so calmly that the peaks of the Coast Range seem to admire themselves in its glassy waters. A motorboat lifts a wake, and the docks of the marina moan. Standing on the riverfront dike, Sandi Lee quickly locates a soon-to-be mom. “There’s a nest in the scope,” says Lee, offering a look. John Elliott peers into the telescope. “What stage are we at?” he asks. More

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Top 10 Reptiles and Amphibians Benefitting from Zoos
(Phys.org)
A frog that does not croak, the largest living lizard, and a tortoise that can live up to 100 years are just some of the species staving off extinction thanks to the help of zoos, according to a new report. The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums, has compiled a list of the top 10 reptiles and amphibians benefitting from the aid of zoos in the U.K. and Ireland. More

Potential Environmental Impact of New Undersea Fiber Optic Cable

Fri, 2014-08-29 15:58

An underwater cable stretches along the ocean’s floor. Underwater cable networks are rapidly expanding to support our global world. Careful construction and maintenance of cables helps to preserve delicate marine habitats and wildlife. (Credit: Sean Nash)

A rose fish and lobster hide within a cold-water coral reef. These deep-sea habitats are especially sensitive to construction or fishing disturbances. (Credit: United States Geological Survey)

Google and five other companies recently announced their plans to invest in a $300 million undersea cable called FASTER. The new FASTER cable will connect the U.S. West Coast to Japan, offering unprecedented internet speeds for countries throughout Asia.

Undersea cables like FASTER make up the backbone of the internet. Over 250 of these fiber optic cables already traverse the ocean floor. The underwater networks — which collectively span over 600,000 miles — connect entire continents and support our global world. Construction and maintenance of these underwater cables is increasing at a drastic rate as the demand for internet access and faster speeds spreads across the globe. But, how do these expansive undersea networks impact the environment?

Cables and the Environment
Undersea cables have improved drastically since their construction first began in the 1850s. Early cables needed constant maintenance and their poor installation sometimes led to the entanglement of unsuspecting whales. Today, the cables are sturdier and are typically buried within the seabed to prevent run-ins with fishing ships and marine life. Although only a few comprehensive studies exist, most seem to indicate that the cables pose a minimal risk to marine environments near the shoreline.

Much less is known about how the cables impact ecosystems and wildlife in deeper waters. These deeper waters are known to be more sensitive to environmental changes and can take longer to recover from any disturbances. Some countries have therefore begun to establish laws to protect sensitive deep-sea environments—like those containing cold-water coral.

Many researchers and lawmakers believe that cables could even help marine environments. Since the underwater networks are so crucial to our global economy, Australia and New Zealand have begun establishing protective zones around the cables. The zones prohibit fishing and other marine activities to prevent cable damage. The hope is that these protective areas will double as marine wildlife sanctuaries. It’s too soon to tell if these inadvertent preserves have helped improve ecosystems or marine wildlife biodiversity. However, it’s likely that more countries will adopt cable protection zones as the underwater networks continue to expand.

Cables and the Law
Despite their apparent minimal environmental impact, the laws surrounding cables trouble many lawmakers and scientists. A single cable can extend past the shorelines of multiple countries and even venture into international waters beyond a coastal state’s jurisdiction. This means that the environmental laws governing a lengthy cable’s construction and maintenance can quickly become complex.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea divides expansive oceans into different zones based on distance away from the shoreline of a coastal state. A state has more rights and control over zones that are closest to its shoreline. There are few provisions under this law that affect cables crossing multiple zones. For example, one article charges states with the general responsibility to protect and preserve the marine environment. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is one tool that states use to meet this obligation.

Nippon Electric Company (NEC) begins construction on an underwater cable. The laws surrounding underwater cables are complicated and may leave marine habitats at risk. (Courtesy of NEC Corporation’s Media Library.)

EIAs examine how a proposed development project — like cable construction — will impact the environment and marine life. These EIAs can be a powerful tool, but not all coastal states require the assessments for cable construction. The level of detail and quality of data can also vary drastically between countries. North America, Europe, Australia, and parts of Asia and Africa have well-established protocols for environmental assessments. In the United States for example, cables proposed in marine sanctuaries undergo extensive review by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. In addition to typical EIAs, companies have to provide a detailed analysis of why cable construction within the sanctuary is the best option.

Everything becomes even more complicated in international waters. “Modern conservation norms such as environmental impact assessment, marine protected areas, marine spatial planning and development mechanisms … are underdeveloped in [marine areas beyond national jurisdiction]” writes Robin Warner, an associate professor with the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security at the University of Wollongong in a recent report.

Warner is one of several experts advocating to incorporate changes into the current international law framework for conservation in international waters. An informal United Nations working group studying the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (The UN BBNJ Working Group) is at the center of these efforts. The hope for the group — which was formed almost a decade ago — is that implementing more comprehensive laws will better protect marine wildlife in international waters.

The FASTER cable and the Future
How will all of this affect the FASTER cable? The cable will connect the U.S. West Coast with Japan, but specifics about its route haven’t been released yet. The cable will likely travel through international waters along with waters under the jurisdiction of several Asian coastal states. This means that Nippon Electric Company — the supplier contracted to build the undersea cable — will have to navigate complicated overlapping environmental laws. How the company chooses to plan and construct the cable in areas with fewer environmental laws will help set the tone for future development projects.

Planning and construction for FASTER is expected to begin shortly and the cable should be ready for use in the second quarter of 2016.

Sources:
ICP/UNEP Report

The Hidden Works of J. N. “Ding” Darling

Thu, 2014-08-28 10:59

A triple-frame “Ding” Darling cartoon from 1930 shows the artist’s despair about how over-harvest of wildlife had the potential to push some species toward extinction. Such works helped ignite a conservation ethic. (Credit: J. N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society) 
 

Anyone who has ever marveled at the sight of ducks in flight should appreciate the legacy of Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling — the Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist and pioneering conservationist whose link to The Wildlife Society goes backto its beginnings. Soon, many of you will have the opportunity to see newly discovered artifacts from Darling’s life and work at a special exhibit during TWS’s annual conference in Pittsburgh this October. These treasures help reveal the character and vision of a true Renaissance man, whose work in wildlife conservation changed the face of the nation.

During last year’s conference, I had the honor of receiving TWS’s 2013 Conservation Education Media Award for my film about Darling’s life. In researching that film, I gained unprecedented access to the archives of the Des Moines Register, where Darling worked as a reporter and cartoonist from 1913 to 1949. There we discovered 21 cases of original Darling cartoon plates — some 5,000 in all — which the paper is now allowing me to digitize, archive, and exhibit. Most of these have never been exhibited, and I’ll be bringing some of the best to Pittsburgh and then to the Ward Museum in Maryland in 2015.

In the course of my research I had other thrilling moments of discovery, thanks to the generosity of private collectors and individuals who knew Darling well. One collector gave me the honor of allowing me to exhibit some of Darling’s previously unseen studies, including exquisite sketches of ducks in flight. I was also able to explore the archives of Darling’s Wisconsin alma mater, Beloit College, where I saw early drawings he did in the late 1800s as art editor of the yearbook. These early drawings and cartoons provide glimpses of Darling’s evolving social conscience and conservation ethic.

For all the power of this man’s work, some of the greatest gifts I discovered on my filmmaking journey lie in the relationships I built with people I met along the way. Without them there would be no film or exhibit, and without them I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Opening the Door to Discovery
I was wet behind the ears when I agreed to bring Ding Darling’s extraordinary story to life. The idea was born in 2003, when I was producing a film on Sanibel Island in Florida. There I visited the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and began to learn about the man who helped pioneer the nation’s refuge system. It was also during that time in Florida that I had the good fortune to meet “Kip” Koss, Ding Darling’s grandson. The two had been uniquely close until Darling’s death in 1962, and Kip could talk for hours about his grandfather’s life and legacy.

Kip and I began talking about producing a documentary on Darling’s life, and those discussions launched an odyssey. I was on the phone daily with Kip, and with every call came a new story about one of America’s greatest national treasures. I learned that not only was Darling a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, he was also an artist who always had a sketch book at hand, a writer who could move audiences, a sculptor whose “impatient hands” (as Kip’s wife Andrea noted) could bring delight to any child’s eyes, and a great leader and advocate for the wise use of our natural resources.

Appointed in 1934 as director of the U.S. Biological Survey, Darling launched the Federal Duck Stamp Program and designed the first stamp. He also brought science to conservation by effectively establishing the university-based Cooperative Research Unit program, a federal-state collaboration to enhance wildlife science education. And let’s not forget Darling’s stroke of inspiration in promoting and vastly increasing the size of the National Wildlife Refuge System, thus changing America’s landscape.

After that first meeting with Kip, I put 160,000 miles on my cars, listened to 300 hours of audiotape, viewed 15,000 cartoons and drawings, and met remarkable people. I will never forget the summer day I was greeted by Carolyn Hunter, the gentle and private woman who purchased Darling’s Iowa home from him many years ago. When she kindly opened her door to me, I shook the hand that had shaken Darling’s hand, an unforgettable moment in my unfolding adventure

With an impish grin that captures the spirit of his biting political satire, a young “Ding” Darling (above in 1904 at about age 28) sketches a cartoon at the Sioux City Journal in Iowa. Winning two Pulitzer Prizes for his political cartoons, Darling also distinguished himself as an advocate of wildlife stewardship, earning honorary membership in The Wildlife Society in 1938 (bottom photo) for his “outstanding service to wildlife conservation and management.” (Top Credit: Courtesy the late Christopher “Kip” Koss; Bottom Credit: University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections)

Bringing a Life to Light
With the support of friends, generous underwriters, and a dedicated team, America’s Darling: The Story of Jay N. “Ding” Darling made its debut in 2012, the 50th anniversary of Darling’s death. The tremendous response to the film continues — with emails, requests for screenings, and artifacts continuing to come in, including a few of Darling’s unfinished studies from the 1930s. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas Lendt, son of Darling’s noted biographer David Lendt. Thomas gave me accessto his father’s research files, a treasure trove that yielded some of Darling’s personal letters, including one he wrote in 1953 about his relationship with Aldo Leopold. “Those who are fortunate enough to be among Aldo Leopold’s friends,” wrote Darling,“communed with nature under one of the rarest of gentle interpreters. Not knowing him would seem to me to have been a great misfortune.”

Darling’s friendship with Leopold went back to the early 1930s when both were creating experimental training programs for scientifically skilled wildlife professionals. As head of the Iowa State Fish and Game Commission, Darling simply could not find people with the scientific knowledge he needed for his conservation projects. Inspired by Leopold’s work and sharing his commitment to education, Darling dug into his own pockets to start the Cooperative Research Units that still train conservationists today. It was also during this decade that Darling was distinguished with an honorary membership in The Wildlife Society. Later, in 1950, he was fittingly awarded The Wildlife Society’s first Aldo Leopold Memorial Award.

Darling’s legacy still lives on, not only in his cartoons and writings, but in projects that honor a commitment to conservation through public and private partnerships that practice consensus and compromise. Two in particular are close to my heart: A major renovation at Lake Darling (named for Ding) in Brighton, Iowa, to restore water quality and reduce algal blooms, and the creation of Mahr Park in Madisonville, Kentucky, designed to unite a community and bring young people outdoors. Both projects will become models of stewardship as they unite the best of science and community involvement, principles upheld by The Wildlife Society.

It is a privilege to continue my involvement with the life and work of Ding Darling, particularly in light of recent personal losses. Between November 2013 and May 2014, I lost three people very dear to me: Darling’s grandson Kip Koss, my father Sam Koltinsky, Jr., and Randy Brubaker, the Des Moines Register senior news director, who allowed me to explore and share Darling’s life. It is largely because of their help that I’m able to bring Darling’s hidden works to light.

Study Reveals Actual Numbers of Illegal Elephant Kills

Wed, 2014-08-27 09:00

An elephant killed for its tusks. New research indicates elephant poaching has reached unsustainable levels, and populations are swiftly declining. (Credit: ENOUGH Project)

Ivory-seeking poachers are exhausting Africa’s elephant populations at an alarming rate, according to new research recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study provides the first reliable estimate of illegal elephant kills for the entire continent.

Africa’s poaching problem isn’t new, but only recently has it reached crisis levels. Historically, quantifying exactly how many elephants are illegally killed has been a challenge. Poaching often occurs surreptitiously under the cover of darkness, and sometimes it is difficult for authorities to distinguish between natural and purposeful deaths. Five years ago during field observations of elephants in Kenya, assistant professor at Colorado State University and member of The Wildlife Society George Wittemyer and his team began noticing increased rates of illegal killings in their core study area. “Beyond reporting this increase at the site level, it became clear that to elicit change and action, we had to expand our analysis to the continental level,” Wittemyer said.

Combining field-based carcass monitoring data with demographic data from their long-term study of a wild African elephant (Loxodanta spp.) population in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve, the team distinguished between natural deaths and poaching deaths. Then, using CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) survey data on illegally killed elephants at 45 monitored sites around Africa, modeled poaching across the continent based on observed rates.

Wittemyer and his team found that overall, Africa’s elephant population—which the IUCN estimates to be between 427,000 and 690,000 individuals—is declining at a rate of about two percent annually. Starting in 2009, illegal killing reached unsustainable levels for the species as the amount of deaths began outnumbering births. Poaching peaked in 2011 with 40,000 elephant deaths and an estimated 3 percent reduction of the entire population—the worst year on record. Altogether, poachers killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012. And preliminary data from 2013 indicates that overharvesting continues. “About 75 percent of the populations are now declining at very fast rates,” said Wittemyer. “Some are being extirpated, or may already be extirpated and we just don’t know about it,” he said.

However, elephant deaths aren’t happening at the same rate across Africa. Central Africa was hit the hardest, losing 64 percent of its elephants in a decade. Other seriously affected areas include Mozambique in Southern Africa and Tanzania in East Africa. Meanwhile, Botswana’s population remains stable and poachers in South Africa have rarely attacked elephants, instead focusing their efforts on rhinos.

Feeling the Impacts

A herd of elephants travels through Chobe National Park, Botswana. Social creatures, elephants are deeply impacted by the rise in poaching. (Credit: Paolo/Flickr Creative Commons)

Although the study results reveal the elephant poaching epidemic to be larger than previously thought, Wittemyer said the results don’t speak to the impact of poaching on an ecological and behavioral level. The effects of elephants’ absence ripple throughout ecosystems. This keystone species plays a critical role in maintaining the balance between grassland and forest habitats, and dispersing seeds. When elephants disappear from the landscape, the species composition of the affected area changes.

Large declines of elephant populations also significantly impact the individuals left behind. Like most species in decline, decreasing genetic diversity leaves shrinking populations vulnerable to inbreeding, disease, and the effects of climate change. Elephants are social animals that form complex communities. Poachers generally target elephants with the largest tusks—primary breeding males and established matriarchs—disturbing elephant society and leaving orphaned juveniles in their wake. Wittemyer is continuing his research on the population in Samburu National Reserve, but is now focusing on the repercussions to the remaining elephants, especially juveniles.

An Uphill Battle

A driving force behind the surge in poaching is China’s rising demand for ivory. A hot commodity, just one pound of “white gold” can fetch approximately $1,500 in international markets—for reference, a male tusk can weigh more than 100 pounds. Poaching rates in Wittemyer’s study correlated strongly with rising ivory prices and seizures by Kenyan authorities of ivory destined for China. However, the country is taking steps to curb its insatiable ivory appetite. In January, officials crushed 6 tons of ivory tusks and carvings in part to raise public awareness. And in May, Hong Kong began the process of destroying 30 tons of confiscated ivory, which will likely take a year to complete.

U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife officials prepare to crush six tons of confiscated ivory in 2013. Some critics say destroying ivory does more harm than good by driving up black market prices. (Credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie)

But the desire for ivory reaches far beyond East Asia. “There are significant ivory markets in most major cities in the world; we have ivory consumption in the western world,” said Wittemyer. “A lot of illegal ivory is being sold in legal markets. It’s unacceptable,” he said. Last year, the U.S. government began destroying tons of confiscated ivory. And in February, the Obama administration announced a ban on the commercial trade of ivory as part of the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking. Both strategies have their fair share of controversy. Some economists say that destroying ivory only drives up prices, while politicians and lobbyists believe the ban isn’t enough to drive down demand and is detrimental to antique businesses in the U.S. and African economies that rely on tourism and big game hunting (see related story).

The commercial trade of endangered species is a global problem. At an IUCN elephant conservation summit held in Botswana in December 2013, delegates from countries in Africa and Asia agreed to 14 urgent measures aimed at stemming illegal killing and ivory trade, including imposing maximum sentences and fines for wildlife trafficking crimes, bolstering law enforcement and wildlife protection agencies, creating public awareness programs, and reducing demand by implementing strategies to change consumer behavior. Meanwhile, millions of dollars have been pledged by the U.S. government, the European Union, and NGOs such as the Clinton Global Initiative to protect elephants and other species from the wildlife trade.

The researchers emphasize that enhancing conservation efforts, enforcement, and curbing demand for ivory is paramount to stemming the rate of illegal killing. But finding strategies that are effective is another challenge. “Appropriate commercial trade is a fundamental issue for the wildlife profession,” said Wittemyer. “It’s an important topic and something that wildlife professionals need to understand and think about holistically. We have to determine best practices.”

Thoughts from the Executive Director

Tue, 2014-08-26 10:51

I want to mention a few things that you can expect at our upcoming TWS Council meeting and national conference at the David Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA. I direct your attention to our conference web site at www.wildlifesociety.org. There you will find the conference agenda along with detailed information about symposia, special sessions, receptions, field trips, and other items of interest that are planned for the conference. We have worked with our conference planning team and the convention center staff to organize a conference this year that will be unlike others you may have attended, starting with the David Lawrence Center on the waterfront of the Allegheny River. The Center provides convenient access to and from the conference hotels, and it offers some breathtaking views of the river and skyline. Much of the conference layout has been designed to take advantage of the scenic possibilities; our trade show, poster session, coffee breaks, and much more will be held in a large commons area with high windows and open views with the river as a backdrop.

In an effort to improve your opportunities for networking with colleagues and sharing information, we have rearranged some of the conference events that typically occur at our conferences and added some new ones, including Ignite TWS featuring a variety of speakers who will enlighten you with 5-minute talks supported by 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. We will have two plenary sessions focusing on especially pertinent topics at this time, namely making science relevant in today’s society, and linkages between wildlife and energy in North America. There will also be the popular quiz bowl, numerous receptions where friends and colleagues can meet and greet, and lots of opportunities for interactions at the working group meetings. We’ve even arranged for a very special Closing Night Riverboat Cruise Reception. We hope to attract some 1700 attendees to this year’s Conference, including 500 or so students. The conference will host some 400 educational and 50 networking opportunities, along with numerous opportunities for field trips and other recreational opportunities. I hope and expect that you’ll find the conference this year to be an especially good experience. And don’t forget – the early registration will close on August 31, so sign up now and take advantage of the $50 savings on any full registration.

Immediately before the start of the conference, on Friday and Saturday October 24-25 the Council will hold its annual meeting in the Westmoreland Room at the nearby Westin Hotel. Most of the meeting will be open to the public, so you are encouraged to come by and hear the discussions among Council members. This year a number of important issues on the agenda may be of interest to you. For example, at the meeting the Council will discuss the final draft of the TWS 2015-2019 Strategic Plan, along with any comments from members. The Council expects to finalize the Plan and hopefully approve it at the meeting. In addition, the Council will review and hopefully approve recommended changes to the certification process from the Certification Change Committee. It will review our 2014-15 budget and the financial status of the Society, along with projections for the rest of the year. We will have an in-depth discussion about our e-communications strategy, including developments and plans for our website, our e-newsletters, and the use of social media. We will discuss trends and initiatives for membership, including a new member survey designed to provide important information to better focus benefits and services to meet member needs. We’ll be discussing efforts to reach out to potential members, including the rollout of our new Wildlife Partners Program to connect with non-member wildlife professionals and supporters and encourage their membership in the Society. There will be considerable discussion about the future of our journals and The Wildlife Professional, and in particular the newly signed contract with Wiley Publishers to continue as our publishers for the Society’s journals. There will be discussion as well about our new Conservation Affairs Network – where we are in its implementation and how it will work.

Finally, I remind you that there will be a TWS Members Meeting with the Council on Wednesday October 27, 8:30am – 10:00am in the Spirit of Pittsburgh Ballroom B/C in the Convention Center. This is an opportunity to gain and share up-to-date information on TWS activities, including the Council discussions that will have occurred at the Council meeting on the previous weekend.

All in all, the conference this year promises to be an exciting event with excellent engagement opportunities for attendees. So register now to take advantage of the early registration savings, and get ready for a great conference experience.

News from Headquarters

Tue, 2014-08-26 10:49

Request for 2014-2015 Volunteers for TWS Committees 

One of the primary responsibilities of the President of TWS is appointing all of the committees that help to make important decisions for TWS, such as our award recipients. As the incoming president for 2014-2015, I will be appointing members to committees in October. Specifically, the committees that need to be filled are the following:

  • Aldo Leopold Award Committee
  • Caesar Kleberg Award Committee
  • Conservation Education Award
  • Donald H. Rusch Memorial Game Bird Research Scholarship
  • Honorary Membership and Special Recognition Service Awards
  • Investment Review Committee
  • Jim McDonough Award
  • Retired Wildlife Professionals Committee
  • Wildlife Publication Awards

If you are interested in serving on any of these committees, I would like to hear from you. Please send me an email indicating your interest, and if you have a preference for specific committees, let me know that as well. Unfortunately there are often more volunteers than can be appointed to committees, so please understand if I am not able to include you in this year’s appointments. Thanks in advance for your willingness to volunteer to help your professional society. I look forward to hearing from you.

Rick Baydack

2014-2015 President of The Wildlife Society

rick.baydack@umanitoba.ca 

TWS Online Membership Survey Coming Soon

As part of The Wildlife Society’s strategic plan for 2014-2019, we intend to improve member services, organizational integration, and the sustainability of the Society. As a valued member, you will be receiving a link to an online survey with questions that cover six major categories related to membership: demographics, membership benefits, certification, publications, meetings, and communications. This survey, for both wildlife professionals and students, is the first step in helping the Society’s leaders identify how to improve specific aspects of membership services and benefits. TWS members have not been invited to participate in a detailed membership survey effort for over a decade; your participation will provide valuable insight to help the Society’s leaders to best serve TWS members. Key findings of the survey will be provided on the TWS website once they are available.

Gary Potts, Chair of the Increasing Agency Membership Ad-hoc Committee

TWS President Haufler attends International Wildlife Management Symposium in China

TWS President Jon Haufler was invited to provide opening comments and a keynote address at the International Wildlife Management Symposium and International Deer Biology Congress held in Harbin China from July 27-30. The meetings attracted approximately 300 delegates from around the world. Considerable interest was expressed in expanding the international role of The Wildlife Society. Ideas for increasing TWS’s presence in China were discussed with attendees as well as with the Northeast Forestry University in Harbin which hosted the symposium. The important role that TWS’ journals play in disseminating high quality science on wildlife management was recognized and interest was expressed in expanding the international contributions of our journals.

During the meeting, President Haufler also met with the leadership of the China Wildlife Conservation Association, an organization with a membership of approximately 360,000 whose focus is on conservation of many of China’s rare and declining species. The Association has programs for species conservation, wildlife conservation education, and a wildlife trade program. The Association is interested in developing better communication and partnership opportunities with The Wildlife Society.

The symposium and meeting demonstrated the interest and opportunities that exist for TWS to expand its international role and involvement. Follow-up discussions will occur with Council.

Vth International Wildlife Management Congress Trip

TWS President Elect Rick Baydack spent the first week in August conducting planning meetings for the Vth International Wildlife Management Congress (IWMC) in Tokyo and Sapporo, Japan. Along with planning meetings, Rick conducted two talks during his visit. The symposiums were organized by IWMC partner, the Mammal Society of Japan (MSJ).

On August 4, Rick spoke to over 60 employees of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment in Tokyo. During his one hour talk, Rick focused on the education and career development programs offered by TWS. Rick fielded questions for over 30 minutes following his talk.

Rick also participated in a larger symposium on August 9 in Sapporo and gave a talk titled, Ecological and Social Considerations for Managing Human Wildlife Conflicts: Case Studies of Urban White-tailed Deer and Polar Bears in Manitoba, Canada. About 200 wildlife biologists and students took part in this symposium.

During his week in Japan, Rick, along with representatives from MSJ met with representatives from government agencies, universities, and other potential sponsors such as banks and consulting companies.

The Vth IWMC is taking place July 26-30, 2015 in Sapporo, Japan. The theme of the Congress is “International Models of Wildlife Biology and Management: Beyond Cultural Differences. “ For information on the IWMC and dates for the Call for Symposia and Call for Papers visit http://iwmc2015.org. You can view photos of Rick’s visit on the Vth IWMC Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/IWMCinSapporo.

Strategic Plan

As mentioned in the Executive Director’s address and in the May Wildlifer, The Wildlife Society draft 5-year strategic plan is provided here.We welcome feedback from members and encourage you to provide input to your Council representatives and TWS staff regarding the plan. Council and staff anticipate approving a final plan at the fall 2014 Council meeting in Pittsburgh.

Annual Conference News

Start Planning Your Conference Experience Today!

With our new Schedule At A Glance and our detailed Program Planner through OASIS , you can start mapping out which of the more than 400 educational opportunities you want to attend this October 25-30 at the 21st Annual Conference in Pittsburgh. You’ll also be able to figure out which of the more than 50 networking opportunities will be most helpful to your work and career. For the full look at this year’s conference in Pittsburgh, PA, visit our conference website at www.wildlifesociety.org.

Ignite TWS

An exciting new addition to our conference lineup is Wednesday’s Ignite TWS! Similar to TED talks, a diverse set of speakers will reflect on careers in science, challenge our wildlife paradigms, excite us with tales from the field, and share cutting edge research…with 20 slides auto-advancing every 15 seconds for 5 minutes. Our dynamic lineup of speakers includes David Drake, Ashley Gramza, Jen Forbey, Ryan Long, Scott McWilliams, Brent Rudolph, Carol Chambers, and more. Prepare to be quickly enlightened, informed, inspired…. and ignited this October in Pittsburgh!

$50 Early Registration Ends on August 31

Why pay an additional $50 for the Annual Conference in September or October? Register by August 31 and lock in your savings!

Professional Development

Tue, 2014-08-26 10:41

U.S. Forest Service Native American Professional Development Research Assistantship

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), through partnership with The Wildlife Society, is sponsoring a professional development program for Native American students. The program will facilitate mentoring opportunities for USFS Research & Development (R&D) scientists with the students and promote student advancement and training for careers in natural resource and conservation-related fields. The USFS uses an ecological science-based approach to make informed decisions on the multiple-use management of the National Forests and Grasslands.

A short-term assistantship is available for Native American students interested in wildlife and forest resources and excited to learn and work with an interdisciplinary team of researchers. Applicants must be members of a Native American, First Nations, or Indigenous Tribe. Applicants should be either currently enrolled as an upper-level undergraduate (junior/senior) or graduate (M.S. or Ph.D.) student at an accredited academic institution, be taking classes in non-degree status, or a recent graduate with intent to pursue graduate school. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in wildlife biology, ecology, forestry or other closely related natural resource discipline is preferred.

Potential project topics include:

  1. Restoring California black oak to support tribal values and wildlife habitat in the Sierra Nevada
  2. Tracking post-emergence movements of Myotis spp. to uncover habitat preferences and potential migratory routes
  3. Examining long-term changes in stream habitats on Dzil Ligai Sian (Mt. Baldy)
  4. Kings River Fisher Project – Ecology and Habitat Requirements

Projects are anticipated to begin March – August 2015 and last approximately 4 months in duration depending on the project. For more information and to download an application, please visit http://www.wildlife.org/Native-American-Program-Assistantship. The deadline for applications is October 20, 2014.

 

Policy News

Tue, 2014-08-26 10:37

TWS and Coalition Thank Senator for Supporting Refuge Bill 

In a letter to Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), The Wildlife Society (TWS), as part of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), expressed support for a bill aimed to provide the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) the ability to seek compensation for destroyed National Wildlife Refuge resources.

CARE is a coalition of 23 sportsmen, conservationist, and professional organizations united in their support for funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Currently, any damage or vandalism on refuge property must be restored using FWS funds, often at the expense of important programs. Cardin’s bill (S.2560) would allow FWS to require the parties responsible for the damage to pay for restoration so the refuges can operate without unexpected costs.

The letter also notes that other park management agencies such as The National Park Service and The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration have the authority to seek compensation.

Comments Submitted to FWS Urging Regulation of Invasive Snake Species

In a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), The Wildlife Society (TWS) expressed support for the listing of five invasive snake species as injurious under the Lacey Act. TWS cited recent studies that linked the constrictors, python, and anaconda species to decimated wildlife populations and other serious ecological consequences. Other studies implicated that these reptiles could easily become established in a variety of natural systems.

The five species were originally under consideration as part of a proposed rule to list nine total species in 2010. Despite comments from TWS and other conservation groups, only four of the snake species were listed.

Injurious status under the Lacey Act allows FWS to limit importation and interstate sale of the species, reducing the risk that they will spread and impact native habitats. The devastating effect the Burmese python has had on the Everglades shows the need for controlling invasive snakes.

TWS also sent a separate letter as part of the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS), a diverse collaboration of conservation groups dedicated to protecting wildlife by reducing the threat of invasive species. The NECIS letter comments on the destructive nature of the species and refutes the claim that the listing will have a large impact on the reptile pet industry.

Take Action: Ask Your Representative to Join the Invasive Species Caucus

Invasive species are one of the largest threats to native wildlife around the world. The U.S. alone experiences economic losses in the billions of dollars every year due to invasive species and their often destructive and disruptive impacts. Further, approximately 42 percent of threatened and endangered species are placed at an increased risk by non-native, invasive species.

Solutions to the invasive species problem – based on sound science – are achievable. Congress and other policymakers need to be made aware of the pervasiveness of the issue, how it affects their constituents and local economy, and how they can enable wildlife professionals and help create solutions.

Take action today by asking your representative to join the recently formed Congressional Invasive Species Caucus! As a member of the caucus, your representative will be regularly updated on the most recent invasive species issues and are much more likely to participate positively in legislative solutions.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:
https://www.votervoice.net/link/target/tws/J94bgNig5.aspx

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