News Center

Subscribe to News Center feed
Online center for Society, publication, and other wildlife news
Updated: 59 min 46 sec ago

Obama Signs Bill Reauthorizing Conservation Stamp

Tue, 2014-09-30 09:08

The first Save Vanishing Species Stamp designed by Nancy Stahl depicting an Amur tiger cub. President Obama recently signed a bill reauthorizing the sale of the stamps until 2017. (Credit: USFWS)

President Barack Obama signed a bill earlier this month reauthorizing the sale of postage stamps that raise money for wildlife conservation.

The Save Vanishing Species Stamp was created by the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Act of 2010 (H.R. 1454). The stamp functions as a First-Class postal stamp that is sold at 55 cents—higher than the normal rate. The extra revenue raised is used to finance international conservation projects and leverage matching funds from other sources including non-profit groups and foreign governments.

The finance mechanism of the stamp is viewed positively because it raises money entirely through voluntary contributions at a time when congressionally appropriated funds are difficult to achieve. The stamps were sold from 2011 to 2013 until the U.S. Postal Service elected to terminate sales. The new bill (S.231) returns the stamp to USPS shelves and mandates its sale until 2017.

The stamp has raised more than $2.5 million dollars through the sale of 25.5 million stamps. Combined with an additional $3.7 million in matching funds, this stamp has financially assisted 47 projects in 31 countries including Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh.

Sources: Greenwire (September 26, 2014), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Accessed September 26, 2014)

Tribes and First Nations sign “Buffalo Treaty”

Mon, 2014-09-29 15:05

A herd of bison on the National Bison Range in Montana. Recently, 11 U.S. Indian tribes and Canadian First Nations signed a treaty declaring their intent to bring more bison onto their lands. (Credit: USFWS)

Last week, 11 U.S. Indian Tribes and Canadian First Nations signed a treaty that established an intertribal alliance aimed at restoring bison in their territories located throughout the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains. The resolution, which is the first intertribal treaty of its kind in over 150 years, declares a shared vision and intent to repopulate wild bison herds and to allow the animals to roam freely across international and intertribal borders.

The Northern Tribes Buffalo treaty is creates a powerful and coherent message, allowing the tribes and nations to leverage the 6.3 million acres of land they control in North America into more translocations of bison from Yellowstone National Park to tribal lands. Tribal leaders cite recent successful translocations to reservations—Fort Peck in 2012 and Fort Belknap in 2013, both within Montana—and are working to one day have thriving populations on all of the signatory lands.

Still, not everyone is in favor of moving bison populations out of Yellowstone. Several ranchers are opposed to reintroducing the animals near where they graze cattle because of competition and potential for disease transfer. In fact, ranching interests fought — albeit unsuccessfully — against the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap translocations.

Free-roaming bison serve as ecosystem engineers in their ability to benefit insects, birds, and mammals by disturbing grassland. Although they numbered in the tens of millions at the time of westward expansion in the 1800s, unregulated hunting and wasteful use of the animals brought the species close to extinction in the late 19th century. Conservation efforts initiated in the early 20th century, such as captive breeding and reintroductions to Yellowstone and the National Bison Range in Montana, have brought the number of wild bison in the U.S. to around 20,000.

Sources: Greenwire (September 24, 2014), Associated Press (September 23, 2014), Environmental News Network (September 24, 2014)

President’s Podium

Mon, 2014-09-29 12:05

Last fall I established an ad hoc committee charged with investigating membership in TWS. The Wildlife Society is the professional society of wildlife biologists, and strives for membership of all wildlife biologists. Council needs to better understand why a substantial number of wildlife biologists are not members of TWS. Do many biologists not know about TWS, and would they be interested in being members if they knew more about us? Are there benefits or services that we don’t currently offer that would help expand our membership? Are there ways that we can increase the value of TWS to our current members? All of these are important questions to which we seek answers.

The ad hoc committee is trying to answer these questions and to specifically determine what members value most about TWS, why some biologists are members of local chapters but not of the parent society, why other biologists aren’t members of TWS at all, and what benefits would encourage greater membership in the parent society. The committee developed a questionnaire that has been sent out to a wide distribution list, including members of the parent society. We are very interested in the views of all recipients of the survey, and I encourage you to complete the survey if you have not already done so. The deadline for completion is the end of October.

As I write these comments, our annual conference to be held in Pittsburgh is only a month away. I am very excited about the conference, and think that it will offer a wealth of information and networking opportunities. My term as President will end at the conference and I will then serve a year as past president. It has been a privilege and honor to serve as President of TWS. While it has been a very busy year, I will cherish the opportunity it provided to me. Thank you to all who helped TWS this year and especially to those who responded to my requests for assistance and provided such great service to TWS. You are essential to keeping TWS as a strong functioning organization, and your contributions and commitment are greatly appreciated.

News from Headquarters

Mon, 2014-09-29 12:04

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

Staff Changes

Mon, 2014-09-29 12:02

Professional Development Coordinator

Katie Edwards left her full-time position as Professional Development Coordinator in mid-August and accepted a new position as the Fairfax County Wildlife Management Specialist in Northern Virginia. She will remain as a consultant for the TWS Certification and Professional Development Program and can be contacted at Subunit business will now be managed by Mariah Simmons, our new Wildlife Programs Coordinator.

Wildlife Programs Coordinator

Mariah Simmons joined The Wildlife Society in August 2014 as the new Wildlife Programs Coordinator. She works with TWS’ state chapters, student chapters, sections, and working groups. Mariah received her B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of Maryland College Park, with a concentration in wildlife ecology and management. While at the University of Maryland, she was a co-founder and President of their student chapter of The Wildlife Society. She is very passionate about raising the visibility of TWS’ subunits and helping members in any way possible. Outside of TWS, Mariah enjoys being outdoors and visiting her hometown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Publications Director and Editor-in-Chief

A Note from Departing Publications Director and Editor-in-Chief Lisa Moore

Departures are often bittersweet, and that’s especially true for me as I leave The Wildlife Society to take a new job as Editorial Director at the National Wildlife Federation. Since I arrived at TWS in early 2008, I have had the great pleasure of working with a talented staff to produce 26 issues of The Wildlife Professional. It’s a “member magazine” in the truest sense—written by, about, and for all of you, and your contributions have made it an award-winning publication of which we can all be proud.

I’ve had the honor of meeting many of you at our annual conferences and working with many of you on your articles for TWP. You’ve given me an eye-opening education in what it takes to manage and sustain wildlife populations—work that takes brains, unparalleled dedication, and herculean effort that most people who say they love wildlife will never see and may not fully appreciate. That’s why it has been such a privilege to publish your stories in The Wildlife Professional. Keep telling those stories—the world needs to hear them. And thank you for these nearly seven years of friendship, education, and growth.

Annual Conference News

Mon, 2014-09-29 11:57

TWS Fall Council Meeting

The fall meeting of TWS Council will be held October 24 – 25, 2014 and October 29, 2014 in Pittsburgh, PA at the Westin Hotel in conjunction with The Wildlife Society 21st Annual Conference. Members are welcome to attend. The Council meeting will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, October 24 at the Westin Hotel – Westmoreland Room and will continue in the same room at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 25. The Council meeting will continue on Wednesday, October 29 at 8:00 am. Please visit for more information.

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

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!


Professional Development

Mon, 2014-09-29 11:55

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 The deadline for applications is October 20, 2014.

Policy News

Mon, 2014-09-29 11:53

TWS Speaks at International Conference on Conservation Practices of U.S. Farm Bill

TWS’s Keith Norris, Assistant Director of Government Affairs, presented at the 13th IUPAC International Congress of Pesticide Chemistry. Norris’s presentation titled U.S. Farm Bill Conservation Programs: benefitting agriculture, wildlife, and ecosystems was largely based on the 2007 TWS Technical Review, Fish and Wildlife Response to Farm Bill Conservation Practices. His presentation contributed to a symposium on Agroecosystems: Sustaining Biodiversity and Key Ecosystem Services. A suite of international presenters and audience members from around the world, including Europe, Australia, and several parts of North America discussed various policies and practices used to conserve biodiversity within agricultural landscapes.

TWS Provides Recommendations to the Natural Resources Conservation Service

TWS and several other conservation organizations wrote to Chief Jason Weller of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to provide recommendations on the implementation of Wetland Conservation Compliance. TWS encouraged NRCS to address a number of issues critical to the overall effectiveness of Wetland Conservation in order to ensure conservation compliance remains a strong conservation tool. TWS advised NRCS to clarify wetland mitigation standards, create effective and transparent mitigation banks, and set standards for wetland determinations.

Testimony Provided to National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board

TWS provided comments to the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board during their meeting in Wyoming. TWS is a founding member of the National Horse and Burro Rangeland Management Coalition, whose goal is to help the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manage for healthy herds on healthy ranges. TWS and the coalition is concerned that the BLM horse and burro management program is not making sufficient progress towards this goal – the population of horses and burros on rangelands is over 49,000 individuals, well above BLM’s goal of less than 27,000 individuals.

TWS asked the Advisory Board to recognize the ecological risks associated with the current overpopulation of feral horses and to encourage the BLM to respond with all appropriate and necessary actions, including roundups and fertility control, to reduce feral horse and burro populations to manageable and healthy levels.

TWS Provides Recommendations to the Farm Service Agency

TWS and other partner organizations provided recommendations in a recent letter to Juan Garcia of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) for his agency’s rule implementing conservation compliance provisions from the Agriculture Act of 2014 (Farm Bill). TWS encouraged the FSA to draft rules that reflect the original intent of the historic compromise between conservation and agriculture groups that led to the linkage of crop insurance and conservation compliance. TWS wants to ensure that conservation compliance continues to serve as a sufficient deterrent to wetland drainage, and that implementation of new policies does not trigger broad weakening of conservation compliance.

TWS Attends the American Wildlife Conservation Partners Meeting

TWS’s Keith Norris, Assistant Director of Government Affairs, attended the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP) summer meeting at the Camp Fire Club of America in Chappaqua, NY. This coalition meeting brought together several national conservation, scientific, and sportsmen’s organizations to discuss policy concerns and strategies related to wildlife conservation priorities including endangered species listings, state wildlife funding initiatives, hunter recruitment and retention efforts, proposed Clean Water Act regulations, and the reauthorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), among other issues.

Publications and Communications News

Mon, 2014-09-29 11:46

TWS Members in the News 

Jean Polfus

University of Manitoba Biologist Jean Polfus’ research, which unites traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of the First Nation and western science in wildlife management, was featured in a New York Times article about preserving biocultural diversity. Polfus and her colleagues modeled caribou habitat data collected from radio-collars and TEK, and found that the combined data provided a more robust and comprehensive representation of caribou habitat than either data sets could provide alone. The study was recently published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.    

Have You Been Featured in the Media?

Have any of you done a study or given a speech that was mentioned in the press? Have you submitted an op-ed that was published, appeared on a TV or radio program, provided wildlife-related testimony? If so, we’d like to highlight your efforts in a new feature in the monthly Wildlifer, TWS’s electronic newsletter that goes to all members of the Society.

If you have been in the news or the public arena, please send a brief note to, and put “In the News” in the subject line. Include your name, your agency or university, and a sentence or two about your press coverage or other relevant activity, with links to the news clip, study, video clip, or other such reference. Include a small headshot if you can.

You—the members of The Wildlife Society—are out there every day making a difference in the health and sustainability of wildlife and habitats. Help us tell the story of the great work you’re doing! 

Johns Hopkins University Press – New, Larger Book Discount for TWS Members

Members of The Wildlife Society (TWS) can now get a 30 percent discount on all books published by Johns Hopkins University Press (JHUP). To date, JHUP has published five books about wildlife management and conservation in collaboration with TWS:

Valuable as textbooks or for general research and reference, these are important works for wildlife practitioners. In addition, portions of each sale come back to The Wildlife Society to support our programs and our mission.

To order, go to the links above or to and use code HTWS.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Considers Delisting Delmarva Fox Squirrel

Mon, 2014-09-29 11:37

The Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel — among the first species to receive federal protection — may be removed from the Endangered Species List due to recovery of its population and range. Today, the Delmarva fox squirrels range includes most counties on the Maryland Eastern Shore and a few places in Delaware and Virginia. (Credit: USFWS)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently announced its proposal to remove the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereusas), commonly known as the Delmarva fox squirrel, from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. One of the first species to receive protection under the Endangered Species Preservation Act (a precursor to the Endangered Species Act), the Delmarva fox squirrel was listed in 1967 as a result of an almost 90 percent decline in its range, which included the entire Delmarva Peninsula and parts of southeastern Pennsylvania due to development, agriculture, and overhunting.

Since then, however, the species has recovered largely because of translocations along with the discovery of additional natural populations. Further, efforts in Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia to provide forested habitats combined with other conservation measures such as putting an end to targeted hunting seasons and providing suitable habitat on private lands have also contributed to population increases. The squirrel’s population is currently estimated to be between 17,000 and 20,000 individuals.

FWS is accepting comments on the proposal to delist the species and establish a post-delisting monitoring program until November 24, 2014.

Comments may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking portal at under docket number FWS-R5-ES-2014-0021. By hard copy, submit to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R5-ES-2014-0021, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Headquarters, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

Sources: Greenwire (September 19, 2014), Federal Register (September 23, 2014)

Wildlife News Roundup (September 20-26, 2014)

Mon, 2014-09-29 11:37

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 gray wolf walks along a path in Washington State. A federal judge recently restored ESA protections for gray wolves in Wyoming, ruling that the state’s management plan was inadequate and unenforceable. (Credit: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Judge Restores Protections to Wolves in Wyoming
(USA Today)
Overruling U.S. wildlife officials, a federal judge restored protections for gray wolves in Wyoming but left intact a determination that the species has recovered and is not endangered or threatened “in a significant portion” of its northern Rocky Mountains range. Relying on Wyoming data, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service declared that the gray wolf had recovered from near extinction by humans and removed it from the list of threatened or endangered species in late August 2012. More


Obama Creates Vast Pacific Ocean Marine Reserve
President Barack Obama has signed a memorandum to expand a vast marine reserve in the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument will become the largest network of oceanic protected areas in the world. The memorandum bans commercial fishing, deep-sea mining and other extraction of underwater resources in the area. More

As Colorado’s Mule Deer Decline, So May Conservation Funding
(Colorado Public Radio)
They have white tufts of fur on their chests and noses, a springy step, and big pointy ears. Mule deer are plentiful in Colorado — one of the nation’s largest herds is in northwestern Colorado. But wildlife officials are concerned about them. In 2012 the Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimated there were 408,000 mule deer, or muleys, as they’re called, statewide. That’s well below the goal of 525,000 to 575,000 animals. Numbers are also down in several other western states. More

A Call to Action Against a Predator Fish with an Import Ban, App and Even Rodeos
(The New York Times)
They eat anything that fits in their mouths. They reproduce copiously and adapt effortlessly. And they have become as ubiquitous and pesky as rats — only prettier and more conniving. Nearly three decades after a lone venomous lionfish was spotted in the ocean off Broward County — posing as a bit of eye candy back then and nothing more — the species has invaded the Southern seaboard, staking a particular claim on Florida, as well as the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and even parts of South America. More

Florida Ag Commissioner Calls for State Aid If Oyster Harvesting Halted
(Tallahassee Democrat)
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said state officials must be ready to assist thousands of families whose lives would be impacted if the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shuts down oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay. Putnam wouldn’t go so far as to say he’d support closing the Northwest Florida bay to harvesting. But he expressed confidence in the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s biologists who are working to revive the waterway. More

Lab Results Pending for ‘Oily’ Seals Harvested Off Alaskan Island
(Alaska Dispatch News)
Two seals recently harvested near Gambell in the Bering Sea were found coated in a dark, oily substance. While the hunters on Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island believed it was oil, testing by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has not yet confirmed that. “They tested the flipper samples that were sent in from each seal — a front flipper, and there was no petroleum product on the flippers that were tested,” said Gay Sheffield, Marine Advisory Program agent for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. More

10 Things in Nature That Could Vanish Before Your Kids See Them
(The Washington Post)
In their losing battle with television and digital devices, conservationists have urged parents to get the kiddies to the great outdoors. But even if parents managed to pull their children away from cellphones, what would they find in America’s wilderness? A new report by the Endangered Species Coalition, an alliance of 10 environmental activist groups, says they’ll see fewer things in nature than their parents did. More


First Orca Birth in Salish Sea Since 2012 Cause for Cheer, Caution
(Vancouver Sun)
A killer whale has given birth to a calf in the Salish Sea, first such birth there since 2012. The new calf is a sibling to a whale born off Victoria’s breakwater. Biologist Dave Ellifrit, of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbour, Wash., spotted the calf in the Salish Sea — an area off the south coast of British Columbia and home to the southern resident killer whale. More

Squirrels’ Taste for Grain May Be Contributing to Grizzly Deaths
(Calgary Herald)
It’s well known that grizzly bears eat squirrels, but a team of scientists is trying to determine whether squirrels are also contributing to the death of bears. Researchers are studying the environment and animal behavior to determine why bears have been dying on the railway tracks in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks. More

Bill Introduced to Ban Oil Tankers from Northern BC Coast
(Vancouver Observer)
New Democratic Party MP Nathan Cullen introduced a bill designed to stop the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, a 1,100 kilometer pipeline proposal that would carry 535,000 barrels of diluted bitumen across British Columbia to a terminal in Kitimat. “It will ban the passage of supertankers off BC’s north coast — this is an explicit response to the experience that we’ve had through the hearings around Enbridge Northern Gateway,” said Cullen in a press conference. More

Cape Breton Bats Hit with Devastating White-Nose Syndrome
(The Chronicle Herald)
Bats in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, may no longer be safe from the devastating impact of white-nose syndrome, which can wipe out colonies within a few years. Until this summer, scientists had hoped that Cape Breton bat populations would be spared from the disease that has killed off nearly all of the bats on the mainland, but new lab results show white-nose syndrome has reached the island. More

Toxic Seagulls: Montreal’s Contaminated Bird Colony Offers Clues About Flame Retardants
There are no homes, few trees, and no real reason for any human to visit the 18-hectare hunk of clay and dirt that is Deslauriers Island, Quebec­­. Gulls run this island, their screaming audible for miles, their guano covering every square foot. “There are about 100,000 of them,” says Jonathan Verreault. “And they’re pretty loud.” An avian toxicologist, Verreault has ventured to this island in the St. Lawrence River about two miles off the eastern tip of Montreal dozens of times over the past four years. More


Color Variability in Crimson Rosellas is Linked to a Virus
Despite its name, the Crimson Rosella is perhaps Australia’s most color-variable bird and a cause of this striking and beautiful diversity seems to be a disease that’s potentially deadly to many other parrots. Hybrid forms of the Crimson Rosella have lower loads and lower prevalence of this virus than the parental subspecies, according to our research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. More


In Chile, An Animal Whose Numbers Please No One
(New York Times)
The guidebooks for South America’s Tierra del Fuego somehow fail to mention the gunfire. From the mist-shrouded Patagonian steppe to the dense beech forests, shots pierce the air here for months on end each year. Hunters armed with telescopic rifles roam this archipelago at the southern tip of South America in pickup trucks as they pick off their prey: the guanaco. More

A Sanctuary for Malawi’s Broken Wildlife
Malawi is in the midst of a population explosion. In 1966, the country boasted a meager four million citizens. Today, that number hovers around the 15 million mark and could reach 37 million by 2050. That’s a big number for a country half the size of the United Kingdom, and could spell trouble for indigenous wildlife. More

Ancient African Fish Dust Nourishes Amazon
The Amazon is being fertilized by the remains of ancient fish from Africa. The nutrient-rich material is being carried in millions of tons of dust blown across the Atlantic from the Sahara every year. Scientists have long recognized the importance of this airborne train to the rainforest’s health. But now a U.K. team has been able to show that much of the essential phosphorous in the dust is derived from the bones and scales of fish and other organisms. More

News from Subunits

Mon, 2014-09-29 11:35

Rangeland Wildlife Working Group – Megan Clayton, Chair

The Rangeland Wildlife Working Group is still looking for interested members! We are meeting during the TWS Conference on Monday, Oct 27th at 4 pm in DLCC 313. Also, join us on Wednesday afternoon for our sponsored symposium on Eastern Grasslands. If you’re not attending the meeting, email to see how you can still be involved during the next year. For more information, contact

San Francisco Bay Area Chapter – Matthew P. Bettelheim, Past-President/Chapter Representative to the Section

Making good on our promise to keep chapter members engaged, this summer saw a reprisal of last year’s tule elk hike in August and a September evening hike along the slopes of Mount Diablo to catch a glimpse of tarantulas as the males braved it above ground in search of a mate. Participants were lucky enough to catch male tarantulas on the move, web-lined burrows, and females tending their egg sacks along the trail-edge. On the return hike, attendees turned their attention to scorpions which, with the help of black-lights, glowed like fireflies in the pitch black.

This October, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter is hosting the next in a series of workshops – the already-sold-out Advanced Camera Trapping Workshop set for October 3-5th at Pepperwood Preserve. This workshop takes camera trapping to the next level, including how to design a camera trapping study, managing, summarizing, and analyzing data, developing a useful database, and how to report results. Instructors include Dr. Susan E. Townsend and guest lecturers Ken Hickman and Jerry Roe. Hot on the heels of the workshop is the chapter’s first annual Gourmet Greens and Beasts Feast October 12 in Tilden Park, the much-talked-about, fabled fête pitting wildlife biologists (The Wildlife Society S.F. Bay Area members) against botanists (The Native Plant Society members) in a battle of wits, muscle, and gourmet grub. Feast attendees will each be asked to bring a potluck dish featuring a native (or non-native) ingredient. This family-friendly event will feature games galore – treasure hunts, tug-of-war, gunny-sack races – as well as a raffle. Visit the event’s website to learn more ( Other upcoming events include owling in Point Reyes (November 1), kayaking Big Break (November 9), and a trip to Santa Cruz to see butterflies and barnacles (January 17).

We’re also pleased to announce our new chapter-sponsored mentorship program between S.F. Bay Area chapter members and the San Francisco State University and U.C. Berkeley student chapters. The mentorship program will facilitate interactions between professional wildlifers and students looking for guidance as they move toward their professional careers. Mentors will be asked to volunteer their time to visit and present at student chapter functions, provide guidance on career options and resume review, and involve or help place students in fieldwork opportunities to give them experience outside of the classroom.

And if you haven’t already visited our new website – it is up and running at long last. Visit us to learn more about any of our upcoming events, to purchase chapter merchandise (stickers, t-shirts, mugs, bottles, and bags), or to join! (

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Student Chapter – Isha Robertson, President

The UIUC Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society has had some exciting experiences since our last update! At the end of the last academic year, we participated in a fun and interesting firearms training activity. Certified range instructors from the University of Illinois PoliceTraining Institute volunteered their time to teach us how tosafely handle and fire over 20 models of handguns and long rifles. Every student had the opportunity to fire each type of gun supplied. We fired revolvers, semi-automatic handguns, and shotguns just to name a few.This was a really tiring yet inspiring day! Not too long after our firearms day, we visited the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Center Point, Indiana. We were privileged to go behind the scenes and observe how food was prepared and to get very close to lions, leopards, tigers and servals!

In addition to our field trips, we also organized some smaller events, such as documentary nights (with popcorn included!) and hosted a couple more guest speakers at our general meetings. Jordana Meyer, a UIUC grad came and talked with us about a study abroad program in Tanzania she facilitated last summer, as well as, her research on the mating systems and hormones of elephants. We also heard from Dr. Jen Fraterrigo who spoke with us about plant-soil relationships, the application of GIS and Remote Sensing Applications, and how these topics can be applied to wildlife management. So far this semester we had our annual introductory BBQ during the first week of September. We all got acquainted with new members and ate a lot of good food. Our next event is helping out with the annual Sangamon River clean-up in conjunction with the Upper Sangamon River Conservancy. We are also in the process of planning a fishing day with the student chapter of American Fisheries Society and we are looking forward to many other exciting trips and events in the upcoming semester!

Western Section of The Wildlife Society

The Western Section of The Wildlife Society is excited to announce a call for submissions for consideration in The Wildlife Confessional, an anthology of stories by wildlife professionals about their adventures, misadventures, revelations, reflections, mishaps, and pivotal experiences in the field.

In its finished form, The Wildlife Confessional will serve three primary purposes: (1) to record the oral histories, memories, and experiences of wildlife professionals in a way that promotes collegiality and camaraderie, (2) as a recruiting tool to educate and attract students to enter the field of wildlife biology and join The Wildlife Society,  and (3) to apply money raised through book sales to support student involvement in the society by funding scholarships, grants, and training opportunities.

The Wildlife Confessional will endeavor to show the humor and poignancy in the day-to-day adventures that sometimes define and enlighten us or that, sometimes, we’d rather forget.

Submissions Guidelines

Who Can Submit: Anyone in the wildlife profession (wildlife biologists, game wardens, land managers, researchers, students) with a good wildlife story to tell. If you’ve told – or been told – a good yarn over a campfire or a cold beer or a long car ride… yep, *those* are the stories we’re looking for.  Now’s the time to put your story on paper or to nudge that old-timer collecting dust in the corner office to tell theirs…

Subject Matter: Submissions can be humorous, reflective, poignant, inspirational, but should ultimately embody professionalism and a respect for the natural world; submissions should be non-fiction, but  should *not* be technical or how-to in nature.

Submittal Deadline: Submissions must be received no later than May 15, 2015.

To Learn More:

Quest for Safer Skies

Fri, 2014-09-26 10:19

Credit: Michael Lanzone

Turbines on a ridge in West Virginia generate renewable energy but also pose a potential risk for migrating raptors like golden eagles (top). New research on eagle flight behavior may help guide turbine placement to reduce risk to wildlife. (Bottom Credit: John Terry)

In a patch of sky above Pennsylvania, a golden eagle moves languidly, never flapping but passing quickly as it cruises southward on a cushion of air. It is migrating to its wintering grounds after a season of breeding in Quebec. As part of a team studying eagles on a daily basis — a project supported by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), West Virginia University, and other partners — we never tire of watching these iconic birds soar. The fall migration is especially notable here in the central Appalachians, where golden eagles often migrate at low altitudes, close to those of us who watch them from atop the region’s long linear ridges.

The central Appalachians of Pennsylvania and West Virginia hold many U.S. Forest Service lands in the East and are also a focus area for wind energy development, as they provide wind suitable for power generation and locations close enough to urban centers to allow efficient transmission of electricity. The region’s long north-south ridges are well suited to the placement of wind turbines, yet these same ridges also channel thousands of migratory raptor every spring and autumn — a potentially dangerous combination.

Large soaring birds, especially eagles and vultures, are known to be at risk from the rotating blades of wind turbines. In some parts of the world, scores of eagles and vultures are killed every year by turbines (Smallwood and Thelander 2008, DeLucas et al. 2012). To assess risk in the central Appalachians, in 2005 our team began a large project to track golden eagles in the region, hoping to understand how their flight behavior might expose them to risk from turbines. We used telemetry to track eagle flight behavior, and modeled the birds’ movements with respect to topography and updraft potential. We then compared modeled output to potential siting of wind energy turbines. Our work has led to the creation of detailed risk maps that can help planners optimize turbine placement while minimizing risk to golden eagles (Miller et al. 2014). As production of wind energy continues to grow, this research could have potential applications for other species and energy projects both in the U.S. and abroad.

Eagles and Wind Turbines
Distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada, golden eagles are enigmatic apex predators of high public and ecological value. Though protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and many state and provincial laws, the species is poorly understood and of conservation concern nationwide (Millsap et al. 2013). Factors contributing to death of eagles include lead poisoning, capture in leg-hold traps, habitat loss, and wind energy.

Wind energy is a special case that in recent years has defined the problem of golden eagle conservation in North America. One reason for this relates to golden eagle ecology. The species’ distribution is primarily defined by the availability of three essentials: food, nesting habitat, and lift. Reaching up to 13 pounds, golden eagles are too heavy to use flapping flight for long periods of time, so they require updrafts from thermals or deflected winds to keep them aloft for extended flight.

The potential risk of mixing wind power and golden eagles in flight has been well-studied at Altamont Pass in California, a region with an abundance of eagle food (primarily California ground squirrels in that area), nesting and perching habitat, and conditions that generate significant updrafts. Because it is so windy, Altamont also has thousands of wind turbines, which have killed significant numbers of golden eagles and a host of other raptors. Peer-reviewed science suggests that on an annual basis from 1998 to 2002, about 65 golden eagles and about 1,100 other raptors were killed in the pass (Smallwood and Thelander 2008). In spite of recent efforts at “repowering” — replacing large numbers of small turbines with fewer, bigger turbines in the hopes of killing fewer birds—the numbers of deaths are still high and, for a low-density apex predator such as the golden eagle, it is unlikely that this mortality is simply compensatory.

To help address problems associated with wind energy mortality, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in 2013 developed its “Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance” to provide “specific in-depth guidance for conserving bald and golden eagles in the course of siting, constructing, and operating wind energy facilities” (FWS 2013). The Service developed a risk model, founded in Bayesian statistics, to predict an annual fatality rate for eagles at a given wind facility. The model is built using generalized collision and fatality probabilities and site-specific observational data on eagle exposure. It also accounts for uncertainties in estimating all these input parameters.

The FWS model is the standard given the agencies’ statutory obligation to manage eagles across the nation at facilities with hugely varying degrees of eagle density, environmental characteristics, and risk. However, at a more local scale, there are opportunities to predict risk to birds using detailed knowledge of flight behavior and eagle biology. So far this has been done in two different ways. At Altamont,Shawn Smallwood, Doug Bell, and their collaborators have placed observers in the turbine fields and recorded flight behavior of eagles and other raptors as they passed through the observers’ field of view and within range of turbines. With thousands of records, the team can now estimate the topographic and meteorological conditions under which specific species of birds are most at risk, and they can thus guide turbine locations using that knowledge.

The Altamont risk maps are extremely useful, but they are built for a specific site and have also required investment of time to observe bird flight. It is nearly impossible to collect such observational data when eagle densities are lower, as they are in the central Appalachians. As an alternative approach, our team developed a plan based on GPS-GSM telemetry systems, giving us a similar product to what the researchers at Altamont have produced, but designed at a much broader spatial scale and based on GPS-derived flight altitude information.

Relating Flight Height to Risk
The conceptual approach we took was broad based (Miller et al. 2014). First, we outfitted about 35 golden eagles with advanced GPS-GSM telemetry systems. These tracking devices collect GPS data with remarkably short time between fixes, usually at 30-to-60-second intervals. Each of those GPS fixes is similar to what you would get on your personal GPS: it provides not only x and y coordinates, but also a position in 3D (flight altitude above sea level) and information on heading, instantaneous flight speed, fix accuracy, and a host of other important details.

We can also derive additional information by using the GPS data to calculate characteristics of flight described by multiple GPS fixes and external datasets, such as topography and land cover. These types of derived data include speed between points, flight altitude, and distance to predicted wind resources for energy development. For additional detail, we can obtain weather characteristics — such as temperature, wind speed, and humidity — that the bird experienced at the specific altitude it was flying.

Using a subset of these external predictors, our team then built models of resource selection functions (RSFs; Manly 2002) for eagles, to characterize and predict the situations when eagles fly below 150 meters above ground throughout three physiographic regions of the central Appalachians: the Allegheny Mountains, the Allegheny Plateau, and the Ridge and Valley region. Since flight altitude is directly correlated to risk from 150-meter-tall turbines, characterizing such behavior can aid management. The RSFs were then used to predict distribution of sites across regions where eagles would engage in low-altitude, high-risk flight. Understanding the circumstances of this low-altitude flight is the key to understanding when eagles could interact with, and be at risk from, turbines.

The remains of a golden eagle hit by a turbine lie in California’s Altamont Pass. (Credit: Doug Bell)

Location Matters
Predicting this low-altitude flight, though, is not enough for effective management of risk to eagles. We also want to understand the characteristics of the areas that wind developers select for turbine placement in various regions of the country. Since every company has its own wind development policies, the second conceptual step we took in our research was to characterize the turbine locations in a similar manner to that done for eagle telemetry locations. Once again, we mapped the location of every turbine within those same three topographically distinct physiographic provinces, and we then used those locations to develop resource selection probability functions (RSPFs) and predictive maps for wind turbines, using the same external predictors as in our eagle model.

We overlaid maps of resource selection for low-altitude eagle flight and for wind turbine placement to produce a risk map for golden eagles.We classified areas that eagles rarely selected as low risk, regardless of the area’s utility to turbines. We classified as moderate risk the areas eagles selected with intermediate frequency but that were chosen infrequently or frequently for turbines. We categorized as highest risk the areas that were selected most frequently for both turbines and eagles. As it turned out, the physiographic province with the greatest number of long, linear ridges (the Ridge and Valley region) was the province with the highest risk habitat. Those areas with more diverse and less linearly organized topography were comparatively lower risk to eagles. Such a classification system allows us to provide feedback to wind-energy developers and conservation planners. It identifies not only areas of high risk to eagles, but alternative sites of relatively lower risk to eagles but of still potentially high value to wind developers.

In addition to producing large-scale guidance on what physiographic provinces are relatively high and low risk to eagles, our model lets us zoom down to specific sites and advise on siting of individual turbines anywhere within the modeled region. Thus, when agency staff or developers request details on a proposed facility, we are able to provide risk categories for every turbine within the facility and, for high-risk turbines, suggest potentially safer siting alternatives. The next step of course — for our model and for every other risk model — is to use real fatality data from existing turbines to validate and improve the model’s predictions.

The partnership formed by the USFS and the academic community provides a framework for problem solving that can help address key management issues in the U.S. The potential for conflict between wind energy and eagles is one that requires careful attention from developers, regulators, managers and researchers of all types. This is increasingly important as our country faces a suite of challenges associated with environmentally-friendly energy development. The recent prosecution of Duke Energy by the U.S. Department of Justice for taking of eagles demonstrates the serious stance on this issue taken by federal wildlife and regulatory agencies (U.S. Department of Justice 2013).

It is unlikely that anyone — agencies, developers, operators, or the general public—wishes for eagles and other protected species to be killed at wind facilities. Thus, development of risk models presents an opportunity for improved siting within the low-altitude flight corridors of the Appalachians and also provides a template for developing partnership based risk models in other areas, nationwide and internationally.

Senator Proposes Southern Prairie Potholes National Wildlife Refuge

Wed, 2014-09-24 09:30

The Prairie Pothole Region extends across five U.S. states and several Canadian provinces, supporting 75 percent of North America’s waterfowl. Iowa Senator Harkin recently proposed legislation that would protect the northern Iowa portion of this region. (Credit: USFWS)

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation this month that would protect some of the most productive wetlands in the United States. The Southern Prairie Potholes National Wildlife Refuge Act (S. 2845) would restore and preserve approximately 23,500 acres in northern Iowa, including important grasslands and wetlands.

The proposed refuge in northern Iowa is part of North America’s Prairie Pothole Region, which extends through large portions of Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and several provinces in Canada. Northern Iowa is at the southeastern edge of this international region and along important migratory flyways.

The Prairie Pothole Region is critical for migratory birds, with approximately 75 percent of North America’s waterfowl dependent on this region for breeding, nesting, and resting during migration. The proposed refuge would provide habitat for many at-risk species including the Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus), listed as an endangered species in Iowa and the Blanding’s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii), listed as a threatened species in Iowa. In addition, outdoor enthusiasts benefit from this region’s excellent hunting, hiking, and wildlife viewing opportunities.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, but a path forward is unclear. Congress is in recess until the election, and no co-sponsors have been listed. Senator Harkin is set to retire from Congress in January 2015.

Sources: Greenwire (September 19, 2014)

Wildlife News Roundup (September 13-19, 2014)

Mon, 2014-09-22 11:18

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 dying whitebark pine tree in Crater Lake, Oregon. Ravaged by mountain pine beetles and fungus, this endangered tree species is also threatened by a warming climate. In an attempt to save it, researchers are experimenting with transplanting the trees north of its historic range. (Credit: Howard Ignatius)

For Trees Under Threat, Flight May Be Best Response
(The New York Times)
The whitebark pine grows in the high, cold reaches of the Rocky and Sierra Mountains, and some individuals, wind-bent and tenacious, manage to thrive for more than a thousand years. Despite its hardiness, the species may not survive much longer. A lethal fungus is decimating the pines, as are voracious mountain pine beetles. Making matters worse, forest managers have suppressed the fires that are required to stimulate whitebark pine seedlings. More


Study: Colorado Bear Population Much Bigger Than Expected
(Summit Daily)
Putrid, slowly liquifying fish mung. Burlap strips soaked in butterscotch and strawberry extracts. Colorado Parks and Wildlife researchers used the horribly pungent and the sickly sweet to bait bears in the backcountry north of Summit County this summer. The two-month study was the latest addition to an ongoing project that wildlife managers hoped would give them a more accurate measure of the state’s bear population and a better gauge of the bears’ behavior. More

Want a Burmese Python? Florida FWC Needs You
(Florida Today)
Ever consider taking on a Burmese python, maybe a monitor lizard? How about a cockatoo, or something else a bit more warm and cuddly? Now’s the time to touch base with the state. Florida wildlife officials are seeking qualified people willing to adopt exotic pets through the state’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Program, to keep invasive species from proliferating at the expense of native wildlife. More


Chicks Starving in Newfoundland as Warmer Sea Water Imperils Food Supply for Birds
(Postmedia News via
Northern gannets are good parents. The seabirds mate for life, lay just one egg a year and dutifully feed and protect their chick until it leaves the nest in September. But this year, thousands of gannets on Newfoundland’s south coast — on North America’s most southern gannet colony — abandoned their nests during the last few weeks of August. Many of the hungry chicks soon began tumbling off rocky cliffs and into the sea. More

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Could Cross BC Parks
(CBC News)
Kinder Morgan, which ran into conflict with the City of Burnaby in British Columbia over pipeline surveying work it began on municipal parkland, has submitted plans showing its new pipeline routed through a protected grassland and three provincial parks in B.C. In what’s called a Provincial Protected Area Boundary Adjustment application, the company is asking the province to allow it to route the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline line through four protected areas. More

Wolf Hunt Starts in East-Central Saskatchewan
(CBC News)
Beginning this week, licensed hunters are allowed to hunt wolves in a forest-fringe area in the east central part of the province of Saskatchewan. The area extends along the forest from Carrot River, Sask. to Greenwater Lake Provincial Park, then east to Hudson Bay. One hundred licenses will be available in environment ministry offices in Nipawin, Sask., Hudson Bay, and Greenwater Lake Provincial Park. More

Coyote Problem Declining in Parts of Nova Scotia
(CBC News)
Some farmers in Nova Scotia are crediting a coyote cull for the declining number of attacks during the past few years. Maggie Perry has a happy herd of sheep at her farm in Hilden, but that wasn’t the story in 2009. “When the coyotes started moving in, we didn’t believe it until it happened to us. And then we went out one day and within a couple of days there was 46 of our sheep dead,” she said. More


Minnesota DNR: Bird Disease Closes Pigeon Lake Islands
Minnesota DNR officials say the islands in Meeker County’s Pigeon Lake have been closed to the public due to discovery of a disease in double-crested cormorants. The disease is Newcastle Disease Virus, and the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., confirmed it. The closure comes after 30 cormorants were recently found dead. Newcastle Disease Virus rarely affects humans, the DNR said. More


Japan to Resume Whaling Next Year, Defying International Whaling Commission
(National Geographic)
Japan announced that it will restart its scientific whaling program next year in response to a new resolution adopted by the International Whaling Commission placing stricter regulations on scientific whaling. This new nonbinding resolution — proposed by New Zealand — adopts the criteria used by the UN’s International Court of Justice earlier this year when it ruled that Japan’s current whaling program was not scientific. More

Mozambique Logs a Rare Victory Against Poachers
(The Associated Press via Yahoo)
The recent arrests of six suspected poachers on a vast wildlife reserve in Mozambique are seen by conservationists as rare good news in a country where elephants and other species are under extreme threat. The poaching ring had been operating in the Niassa National Reserve, which is twice the size of South Africa’s flagship Kruger National Park, where the rhino population has been hit hard by poachers, many of whom cross over from Mozambique. More

A Tiny Lizard Adapts to Become Faster, Stronger to Survive in a Warmer Climate
(The Washington Post)
For years, scientists have said global warming will doom most lizards. Rising temperatures in some of their habitats are already wearing them down, limiting their search for food and putting a damper on their mating, earlier studies have shown. But a new study of the sleek little brown anolis lizard in the Bahamas is challenging the notion that tropical lizards can’t stand the heat. More

Study: Lethal Violence in Chimps Occurs Naturally
(The New York Times)
Are chimpanzees naturally violent to one another, or has the intrusion of humans into their environment made them aggressive? A study published in Nature is setting off a new round of debate on the issue. The study’s authors argue that a review of all known cases of when chimpanzees or bonobos in Africa killed members of their own species shows that violence is a natural part of chimpanzee behavior and not a result of actions by humans that push chimpanzee aggression to lethal attacks. More

Study: Wildlife Thriving in Protected Area
(Epoch Times)
Protected areas are working. That’s the conclusion of a new analysis of over 80 different studies on the efficacy of parks and nature reserves in safeguarding wildlife. Published in the open access journal, PLOS ONE, the new study finds that in general protected areas house higher abundances of wildlife as well as greater biodiversity than adjacent areas. More

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