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Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Thursday, December 5, 2019

" Across the Americas, we kill more than 400,000 Coyotes a year"............"Despite this full-frontal assault, this adaptable predator is thriving beyond all expectations"............"Now, it's poised to enter South America!"............."Coyotes have dramatically expanded their range since 1900, carving out habitat in suburban and urban regions across the United States—including the greater Chicago, NYC and Washington, D.C, Montreal and Toronto. metro areas".............."Coyotes have colonized most of Central America in the past century".............."The DariĆ©n Gap, on the Panama-Colombia border is the final obstacle to their South American expansion"

We kill more than 400,000 a year, but this adaptable predator is thriving beyond all expectations. Now, it's poised to enter South America.

We kill more than 400,000 a year, but this adaptable predator is thriving beyond all expectations. Now, it's poised to enter South America.

Most Biologists prefer Eastern Coyote to the term Coywolf

The Eastern Coyote can range a good 15 pounds heavier than
the Western Coyote due to some 15% Eastern Wolf lineage

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

"Seismic lines, snowmobile trails, oil, gas and timber extraction and other human land altering activities fragment caribou habitat and facilitate their predator (wolf and black bear) movements(and killing success), simultaneously enhancing competition from white-tailed deer and moose".............."Restoring this altered habitat to optimum Caribou population carrying capacity is a long and drawn out affair that even when done in optimum fashion does not quickly mitigate predator impact on Caribou"............."Therefore, mitigation strategies that resist, or redirect Wolf, Bear, Deer and Moose movement where human land alteration has occurred can reduce the effects of those predators(and competing browsers) preying on Caribou".............."Therefore, by moving recreational snowmobiling trails, power lines et al. away from caribou habitat, may help draw wolves and bears away from caribou—thus, reducing those predators opportunistic killings of caribou-without the need to cull the Wolf and bear populations"

Disrupting wolf movement may be more effective at protecting caribou

More information: Jonah L. Keim et al, Estimating the intensity of use by interacting predators and prey using camera traps, Journal of Animal Ecology (2019). DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12960

Monday, December 2, 2019

COYOTES, WOLVES AND COUGARS BLOG reader Dave Messineo is an amateur Ornithologist who has participated in two New York State Breeding Bird Surveys with several published breeding discoveries under his belt..............In his New York home region, he is locally known as an experienced and expert birder...............He is also a student of the environmental changes that have occurred since European colonization began in the Eastern USA, circa AD1600...........An advocate of restoring this region to its 17th century Eastern Woodland environment as much as possible, he has actively encouraged his Upstate NY farm to recover from a cattle farming cycle of close to 200 years..............Dave passionately refutes with solid facts my most recent Blog Post entitled FOREST MANAGEMENT AND BIRDS that opined on the need to create prairie openings in Eastern woodlands to bring back bird populations that have been declining since the turn of the 20th century..............A solid Op Ed articulation from Dave for your reading pleasure below


   There have a number of articles that encourage
 opening the forest for the benefit of birds.

    Unfortunately while this is well intended, it is 
misguided and simply wrong.

    Wood thrushes and indeed all the thrushes are
 forest birds and any decrease in numbers is a 
result of
 decreasing winter habitat and/or various 
chemical pollutants here in the US.

    The Golden winged warbler was never a 
numerous bird, preferring open areas with
 brush and trees. They
 have plenty of that kind of habitat here in 
NY but are still limited so something 
else is at play keeping their numbers down.

   The great eastern forest is home to many
 birds that don’t need openings to nest and
 breed. Openings only
 serve as a detriment and decrease their 
breeding habitat and in fact are deadly for them.

  These forest birds are threatened by the
 fragmentation of that forest. Many studies 
have verified the 
decrease of native eastern forest birds due
 to forest fragmentation. Audubon annual 
surveys bear this out.

     The birds that will benefit most from
 openings are mostly birds that were
 originally absent or limited in
 the eastand took advantage of the
 cleared land, eg.  bobolinks, meadow 
larks, grasshopper sparrow,
 savannah sparrow. vesper sparrow. As
 the forest recovers those birds will
 decrease or disappear.

    Opening the forest allows cowbirds 
(from the west) to parasitize our native 
forest birds.  When I was an
 active bird bander we found that Goshawks
 that built nests near fire breaks or forest 
roads were often
 killed on the nest by horned owls or raccoons.

    Indeed horned owls thrive in broken forest 
ares to the detriment of the barred owl and
 many other hawks
 and owls.

    Most of the warblers want unbroken forest
 eg. northern water thrush want forest swamps,
 Louisiana water thrush want forested ravines.  

     Canada warblers are deep in the forest. 
Wood peewees and pileated woodpeckers as 
well as most of the vireos need forest. 

    Winter wrens are found in cool forested 
swamps and ravines.

   These are the birds we lose through forest
 clearing and openings 

  It is also a fallacy that birds need young trees
 to feed and breed. Some birds do like young
trees which occur naturally without help.  But
 each bird has a particular niche for feeding. 

   Warblers and vireos may glean insects from 
the bark, some from the leaves.   Each has a 
special place in the ecology and the trees
benefit from the removal of insects. Young
 trees do not have  more food than big 
older trees. More than likely less food for birds.

 We have become used to all the midwestern
 and prairie birds here on our artificial eastern
 prairies but if we are to return back to our 
natural environment  we will have to accept 
 that as  we gain backour forest birds
 we will see less of the open habitat birds.

 The people that open up their forest will see
 more birds but the true forest birds are almost
 never visible anyway and are only detected by
 their distinct calls.  Most of the average forest
 owners have no idea of the existence of 
Swainsons thrush or Cerulean warbler or black
 throated blue or black throated  green warblers.
 Most of our forest birds never come to feeders.
 Most of my birding is by call or song. 

It is indeed unfortunate that some 
foresters/loggers are encouraging thinning 
beyond what is good forest management.
 Good forest management keeps
 the forest dense and only allows minimal 
thinning to keepthe trees growing quality
 lumber. Most foresters/ loggers will gladly
 cut your trees and will seldom tell a
 landowner to leave more tress. I have had 
several lumber sales and dealt with numerous  
loggers and foresters and they will use any excuse to 
advise the landowner to let them cut as it is 
profitable for them. 

I have participated in two Breeding Bird Atlases
 here in New York State for a period of ten years
 and I cantell you with a good deal of experience
 that forest openings are usually pretty blah
 areas for bird life.

Dave Messineo

A few shots follow below of my wood lot which has many 
different habitats, wooded swamp, Hemlocks,cattails,
 ravines, steep slopes and river bottom and well 
as beaver ponds: 

Maple and cherry seedlngs will use increased sunlight 
to surge upward. Too much sun and all you get are
 blackberries and ferns which are of little use for wildlife.

Sugar maple and cherry shooting up in one area will restock the
future forest and offer habitat for hooded Warblers that prefer that 

A section of my wood lot showing uneven aged trees. A logging job
has opened the canopy to allow a limit amount sun to enter the forest
 but in a few years the canopy will close again as the trees grow
 larger from the increased sunlight

 A logging job has opened the canopy to allow
 a limit amount sun to enter the forest but in a few years the canopy
 will close again as the trees grow larger from the increased
bank account and I dare say  I have more bird species
 than any of the open forest advocates.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Most of you Blog readers would never guess that New York State is 67% forested............. "Much of this region’s(New England, Mid Atlantic and southeastern) forests grow on former croplands that were fallowed around the Great Depression in the 1930's".......... "The mixed hardwoods that are native here can live on for hundreds of years".............."Most of these eastern woodlands are around 100 years old, what ecologists would call middle-aged"............. "There’s precious little young forest and brushy habitat for songbirds that need it for nesting or foraging"............"Some of these birds—especially the golden-winged warbler and the Wood Thrush are in steep decline"............"To combat these bird population crashes, Conservation Groups like Audubon New York and The Nature Conservancy are working with landowners to knock some of these dense forests back into an earlier succession state that favors certain birds and the insects they eat"................ "Absent human influence, this wouldn’t be necessary"............."Storms, fires, insects or other disturbances would topple older trees here and there, letting sunlight to the ground and opening habitat for the species that live there"............"The idea is to create 5 acre patches that are unlike a working monoculture farm field or pasture"..........."Instead, creating a native, natural field, thick with waist-high goldenrod and grasses, interrupted here and there with patches of maples and young ashes, with those surrounded by shrubs and dogwoods"..............The perfect undergrowth, where grassland warblers and thrushes can nest and raise their young, out of sight from predators"

habitat for songbirds<>


Surplus of “middle-aged” forests afflicts Northeastern songbirds

Sometimes cutting down a tree is the best prescription for saving a fast-disappearing bird.
In New York, at least, where two-thirds of the state is forested and most trees are what ecologists would call middle-aged, there’s precious little young forest for songbirds that need it for nesting or foraging. Some of these birds—especially the golden-winged warbler, a 4 ½-inch summer visitor—are in steep decline. The warbler’s Appalachian population, stretching as far north as the Champlain Valley, has lost 66 percent of its members in 50 years. It is projected to lose more than half of the remaining birds in the next decade.

Bruce Cushing is managing his woodlot east of Lake George for commercial timber and bird habitat. Photo by Mike Lynch

With that in the back of his mind, Bruce Cushing bent over a downed beech in September, revving his chainsaw to trim the limbs for stacking to the side of his access path—an old skid road from the logging that preceded his purchase of the land. Later he would paint the stump with an herbicide, hoping to kill the spindly beech shoots that radiated from the parent tree and threatened to close the forest canopy around it.
His plan is to create a patchy mix of hardwoods, evergreens and shrubs on his hundred-acre woodlot on the Adirondack Park’s southeast fringe, east of Lake George. It’s a retirement project for the former railroad engineer, and he has the Audubon Society’s help in planning it. Beeches in particular are fair game, as a bark disease that afflicts them across the Adirondacks causes them to send up reinforcements that can quickly take over the forest because deer won’t eat them.
Just down the path from the beech he felled, Cushing craned his neck to gaze at the top of a tall but dying maple, gnarly and hollowed. It would feed the bugs and house the bats, he figured. It would never earn him or his heirs a penny in lumber, but it could stay.
“I’m looking for balance,” he said. Besides working toward an eventual series of paydays from selective logging, he wants a place to walk, to snowshoe, and to enjoy nature. “I want the diversity. I do want to come up and see birds.”

Bruce Cushing trims limbs from a beech he downed with guidance from bird biologists and foresters. He’s working to increase timber yields while also creating young-forest habitat for birds. Photo by Mike Lynch

On this outing, he and an owl startled each other, the owl flushing from a hemlock limb overhead. Other times he has seen woodcocks dancing in the air, and many birds he can’t identify.
An hour from his home on the Hudson River, this property keeps him busy a few days a week, clearing brush and stacking wood, carrying out buckets of maple sap in season. “It’s going to keep me living until I’m 100,” the 62-year-old said. Then maybe his daughter can enjoy the rewards of the timber he’s growing—but not all at once, as he recalls his father’s anger at loggers who convinced him to sell trees from their old New Hampshire homestead and then cleared it indiscrimately.
He’s just the kind of landowner Audubon New York has in mind for its “Woods, Wildlife and Warblers” program.
Started in Vermont in partnership with the Tree Farm forestry certification program and other agencies, the warbler effort aims to knock some of the Northeast’s dense forests back into an earlier succession that favors certain birds and the insects they eat. Absent human influence, this wouldn’t be necessary. Storms, fires, insects or other disturbances would topple older trees here and there, letting sunlight to the ground and opening habitat for the species that live there.
Today, though, much of the region’s forests grow on former croplands that were fallowed around the same time—in the span of a lengthy human lifetime, since the Great Depression. These mixed hardwoods can live on for hundreds of years.

Audubon New York Forest Program Manager Suzanne Treyger stands among goldenrod plants growing in a patch of young forest near Lake Champlain’s south end — shrubby habitat that’s ideal for ground-nesting birds such as the golden-winged warbler. Photo by Brandon Loomis

“A lot of our bird species don’t have that much time,” said Suzanne Treyger, forest program manager for Audubon New York.
The golden-winged warbler is one of them, living around the edges of the Adirondacks near Lake Champlain and, in a larger but also plummeting Great Lakes population, in the St. Lawrence Valley. But its needs coincide with others that are widespread in the park, such as the indigo bunting or the wood thrush. Some of these species nest in the grassy openings, then move into dense forest after their young fledge. Others do the opposite, nesting in deep forest but then moving into the open to feast on caterpillars or berries. They need a diverse landscape, and a stair-stepping transition zone instead of abrupt forest edges.
Treyger demonstrated the ideal this summer by visiting a warbler haven owned by the Nature Conservancy, east of Champlain’s narrow South Bay and just across the Vermont line. Stepping from her car, she heard an indigo bunting’s song. Then a red-shouldered hawk’s cry. Then a common yellowthroat’s chatter. “This is a really diverse area,” she said.
She marched along the forest’s edge to an opening into what she called an old field—the rare habitat Audubon seeks to emulate. Unlike a working farm field or pasture, though, its 5-acre expanse grew thick with waist-high goldenrod and grasses, interrupted here and there with patches of maples and young ashes, with those surrounded by shrubs and dogwoods. Grasshoppers rattled around in the undergrowth, where golden-winged warblers nest out of sight from flying predators.

Cushing leaves untouched any milkweed plants he finds — even in the middle of his haul road. The plant provides habitat for caterpillars, which birds eat. Photo by Mike Lynch

This kind of habitat is rare in the Adirondack interior, Clarkson University biologist Tom Langen said. Working forests on the park’s private lands can encourage diversity. In much of the park, though, it’s village and hamlet edges or the clearings under power lines that provide it. Elsewhere, forest density pushes some species out. It’s one reason spruce grouse are so restricted here.
That’s not to dismiss the Adirondack Forest Preserve’s logging prohibitions. Species such as goshawks shy away from forest edges, Langen said. For them, the state’s “forever wild” provision on public lands offers rare security. “There’s not a lot of old protected forest in the eastern United States.”
“We don’t want to cut into healthy forests at all,” Treyger said. Broadly speaking, though, there’s a dearth of young growth for warblers and other species who need it.
Encroaching middle-aged forests aren’t the only threats to these birds, by a long shot. They winter in Central and South America, where coffee production eliminates habitat (buying shade-grown coffee can help). Along their migration route they face challenges from climate change and pesticides, the same as most bird species. Cornell University biologist Kenneth V. Rosenberg and collaborators this fall published a study in Science estimating a 29 percent loss of all North American wild birds since 1970. That’s a crash of some 3 billion birds.

The wood thrush is among species that benefit from shrubby forest openings in the interior Adirondacks. Photo by Larry Master

“They’re not making it (back north),” Treyger said. “Or, once they get here, they’re not healthy enough to produce healthy young.”
The American Forest Foundation identified 30 Northeast watersheds with habitat deficiencies, and provided grants toward programs like Woods, Wildlife and Warblers, said Mary Jeanne Packer of New York Tree Farm, which works with landowners to promote resilient forests.
In the Champlain and upper Hudson watersheds there are 1,400 owners with at least 100 acres, but only 800 have New York mailing addresses, Packer said. Their middle-aged woodlots sit mostly untouched, while many local owners merely trim occasionally. Only 14 percent work with professional foresters (something Audubon and Tree Farm aim to remedy).
The top reason that surveyed owners give for keeping woodlots is to help and enjoy the wildlife, she said.
“We think we’re doing something by clearing out underbrush, or leaving all these tall trees,” Packer told landowners who attended an Audubon forestry workshop this summer at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake. “Come to find out, (birds) like differences.”

The golden-winged warbler is among birds Audubon New York hopes to conserve by promoting young forests. Its Appalachian population extends as far north as the Champlain Valley, but has declined by two-thirds in 50 years. Photo Courtesy of Audubon New York

Important as it is to promote young-forest habitat, bird conservation is no call for clear-cutting the Adirondacks.
“You want clumps,” Audubon conservation biologist Andy Hinickle told the landowners. “They evolved with this disturbance.”
Still, he showed a slide of a field trimmed of most of its trees, and said it would provide for many bird species in the same way that beaver meadow do. Outside, Audubon staffers led a bird-banding demonstration, netting purple finches—a conservation priority in New York, and one that favors Tupper Lake’s mix of hardwoods and pines.
To help create diversity on private lands, Woods, Wildlife and Warblers has enlisted industry.
Lyme Adirondack Forest Co. is managing its 3,000-acre Kunjamuk Young Forest Demonstration Project near Speculator for wildlife diversity. Audubon invites landowners on tours there to see how a mix of early- and late-succession tree stands can provide for both wildlife and timber revenues. Treyger considers it some of the best bird habitat she has seen, hosting several species of warblers plus woodcock, ruffed grouse and wood thrush.
International Paper’s mill in Ticonderoga has signed on to buy trees from small landowners as a Woods, Wildlife and Warblers partner. Foresters with the company believe what’s good for the birds is also good for the forests that will provide products in the future, fiber said Wayne Majuri, the mill’s fiber supply manager. Staggering age classes and tree species can help the region’s forests adapt to environmental shocks.
“In this period of climate change we say that it’s very important to have healthy forests,” he said.
International Paper has bought wood from a couple of small forest tract owners in Vermont, and is discussing purchases from a couple more in New York. This represents an initial step toward what the company expects could become a larger program in which it helps connect owners to professional foresters who can manage for both timber and habitat, Majuri said.
The mill employs about 600 and buys wood in a zone from Albany north to the Canadian border and west to Watertown—a zone dominated by the Adirondacks. To participate, owners would need at least 25 acres, and preferably 50, Majuri said. Deploying logging and trucking equipment is expensive, and requires a certain payoff.
Families with even smaller woodlots can make a difference, though, Packer told Cushing and several other landowners who attended the Tupper Lake workshop. “Your 20 acres can make a big difference” by setting an example, she said.
Audubon will visit willing landowners and assess forest conditions in relation to a 2,500-acre block around them. If at least 5 percent of that block is young forest, Treyger said, a forester might recommend simply removing some individual trees or slowing the proliferation of afflicted beeches. If there’s less young forest, they might suggest creating a patchy clearing of up to 5 acres. This is true even in the heart of the Adirondacks, where golden-winged warblers don’t live, because it can benefit other species, such as wood thrushes, that use openings after fledging in mature stands.
Most people who participate own 50 acres or more. For backyard birders who want to improve an acre or two, Treyger suggests consulting Audubon’s Bird-Friendly Communities program.
Cushing is doing everything he can to make his 100 acres count.
He carries 5-gallon buckets of rocks to where they can prevent erosion on his work path, so he can keep accessing and cutting new areas. “You want to talk about getting your arms stretched out!”
He plants chestnuts in places where he finds nut trees growing naturally, and is putting tubes on young maples to protect them from deer. “If it grows into something, great. If not, it’s a day’s work.”
He douses his pants in “tick juice,” hitches them up with suspenders and wades into patches of brush with a weed mower after ground-nesting birds leave for the season. “I still like to (hike), but here I can feel it. I get my hands into it.”
And he is enlisting a cadre of experts to help him balance a future harvest of oak, maple and white pine with what the birds need today. Prominent among them is Treyger, who stopped by to advise him this summer.
They plucked and savored some raspberries from one of his shrubby draws, and admired some standing dead trees that should entice birds and bats alike. Then they walked up the skid path, skirting a broad-leafed milkweed plant that Cushing had left for the butterflies.
“There’s a big beech,” he said, pointing to a tall but ailing tree that had sent up dozens of smaller shoots to replace itself. “Should I leave it, or take it out?”
“I would say take it out,” Treyger answered.
“Good. I’m looking for something to do.”
“If you cut that and paint the stump (with herbicide) it should take a lot of that growth out,” she added. “It sounds like such a diabolical plan.”
Diabolical for that tree. Heavenly for the birds.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Raccoons and Porcupines – and Porcupines and Porcupines – shacking up together?"............... "True roommates or just accessing a shared entrance to a complex of spaces beneath tree roots or rock outcropping?"............"See below for recent evidence from a game camera of two porcupines and two raccoons, repeatedly loitering around the same rock crevice entrance".............."Interesting to note that Uldis Roze's excellent new book, The North American Porcupine, reported that only 12 percent of his study animals shared space, and then only on a temporary basis, with clear signs of irritation such as squawking and showy urine trails"..........."Is the example of potential co-habitation below a sign from the heavens: the dawning of a new and kinder age?"


A Raccoon and a Porcupine Walk into a Crevice…

In winter, raccoons will sometimes take on roommates. Shared space means shared body heat, and avoiding conflict over desirable real estate. Porcupines may also spend time together in winter dens, although perhaps less graciously; Uldis Roze, in his excellent book, The North American Porcupine, reported that only 12 percent of his study animals shared space, and then only on a temporary basis, with clear signs of irritation such as squawking and showy urine trails.
Which is why I was surprised to find recent evidence from a game camera of two porcupines and two raccoons, repeatedly loitering around the same rock crevice entrance. There are plenty of potential den sites in the area, and as far as I can determine, not many porcupines. There has been squawking, both from within the rocks and at least one time recently, from a nearby tree, but that’s been continuing, off and on, for months. I’d assumed it was commentary about annoying, camera-checking humans.
Roze recorded many instances of raccoons and porcupines perched near each other in apple trees, “without a sign of discord.” His observations jibe with that of a friend, who told me that she recently watched a raccoon walk within a few feet of a porcupine, which was busy gnawing on her porch. The animals ignored each other.
But raccoons and porcupines – and porcupines and porcupines – shacking up together? Maybe they’re not true roommates, just accessing a shared entrance to a complex of spaces beneath the rocks? Or is this a sign from the heavens: the dawning of a new and kinder age? I’m curious to hear of readers’ observations of communal denning, and raccoon/porcupine interactions.

 At the end of October/beginning of November porcupines den up for the winter in the Northeast, with up to a dozen porcupines sharing the same den. While some adult males will spend days at a time in a conifer, most porcupines seek out rocky crevices in which to spend the day, with a smaller number finding shelter in hollow trees. Porcupines are hardy creatures – while dens do protect porcupines from heat loss, they contain no insulation, the entrances are open and the porcupines don’t huddle together for warmth. In addition, porcupines emerge from their dens to feed at night, when outside temperatures are lowest. (And yes, that is porcupine scat that is stuck in/on the porcupine’s quills.

Raccoons and Porcupines like the same type Winter Dens,,,,,,,,,,tree crevices and rock outcrops..........perhaps bedtime partners under certain conditions?

Thursday, November 21, 2019

"The 4500-strong, pure-bred, native Yellowstone bison herd are nature's lawn mowers".............. "Every spring, a “green wave” spreads through Yellowstone, as grass ripens at higher and higher elevations"............"Deer and elk take heed, “surfing” the wave to keep up with the freshest grass"............ "Bison don’t follow the “waves” of ripening grass"............."Rather, they stay put — and the areas where they do, become “grazing lawns” where the grasses keep regenerating"....................."By trampling and nibbling away in such massive numbers, the bison herd keeps the plants shorter, and denser, forcing them to keep growing and re-growing"............ "This, intense grazing gives the bison a steady supply of fresh, nutritious grass"............"When we had 50 million bison roaming North America, circa AD 1500, our grasslands were in a “Perpetual Spring” of health!"

Study: Yellowstone bison nature's lawn mowers

Patrick Reilly; 11/19/19

Yellowstone National Park hasn’t just been shaped by simmering magma and ancient glaciers. Its famous landscape is kept green, in part, by its herds of bison.

Mark Hebblewhite, a professor of ungulate habitat ecology at the University of Montana, talks to students on Tuesday in one of his graduate labs about the study he co-authored on bison in Yellowstone National Park and the grass they feed on. The study found that bison prolong plant growth by feeding on it in numbers.

A new study by scientists at the University of Montana, the University of Wyoming and the federal government have found that bison don’t follow “waves” of ripening grass, the way deer and elk do. Rather, they stay put — and the areas where they do become “grazing lawns” where the grasses keep regenerating.
“Bison are capable of, in essence, engineering a highly nutritious landscape for themselves,” said Mark Hebblewhite, a professor of ungulate habitat ecology at UM and one of the study’s co-authors. Its lead author was Chris Geremia with Yellowstone National Park; other co-authors were Daniel Eacker at the University of Montana, Jerod Merkle at the University of Wyoming, Rick Wallen and P.J. White with Yellowstone, and Matthew Kaufmann at UW and the U.S. Geological Survey. The research was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The data that led to this discovery were a long time coming. Yellowstone’s roughly 4,500 bison are the largest herd in North America. When the National Park Service started tracking their movements with GPS collars in the mid-2000s, they noticed something odd about their movements.
Every spring, a “green wave” spreads through Yellowstone, as grass ripens at higher and higher elevations. Deer and elk take heed, “surfing” the wave to keep up with the freshest grass.

“We paired the (bison) collar data with satellite imagery to assess how they surf the green wave,” explained co-author Jerod Merkle, Knobloch Professor of Migration Ecology and Conservation at the University of Wyoming. “They surf the green wave early in the spring.” he said, but “at some point, they stopped." Tracking their migration routes from March through August, the paper’s authors found that “many bison did not reach their highest summer ranges until well after the green wave had passed.”
Things got stranger when the researchers zoomed in. As the bison trailed the “green wave,” passing up what appeared to be the freshest, healthiest grass, their dung showed no signs of nutritional deficiencies.
Could the bison herds themselves be affecting the quality of the forage? To see if this was the case, from 2012 to 2017 the researchers fenced off plots of grass along the bison migration corridors, then areas they had and hadn't grazed. They found that by staying in an area and trampling and nibbling away in such massive numbers, the bison herds kept the plants shorter, and denser. They also forced them to keep growing and re-growing, giving the bison a steady supply of fresh, nutritious grass.

“Basically, they just start lawn mowing it … and keeping it in a state of perpetual spring,” Hebblewhite said. And in high-grazing areas, the "green wave" came earlier and more intensely.
Yellowstone’s grasslands are a vestige of the North American prairies prior to the 19th century, when tens of millions of bison thundered unimpeded across the landscape. This study, the UM biologist ventured, gives a window into the ecological niche bison once played. “It makes us think a lot about how this grassland system worked at continental scales, when we had tens of millions of bison roaming around,” Hebblewhite said.
It could also, he added, bolster efforts to rebuild some of those herds. Hebblewhite’s currently involved with one of those projects, the reintroduction of bison to Banff National Park in Alberta. In western Montana, the Iinnii initiative is working to rebuild a bison herd on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Now, Hebblewhite said, they have evidence that these ungulates can nurture a grassland — provided they're able to gather and move in a way that will allow them to serve as nature's lawn mower.
“Bison impacts in Yellowstone aren’t just bad,” he said. “Having too many bison isn’t just a bad thing.”

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

"Alien/Exotic Asian Carp are decimating the Mississippi River’s Native Fish population"—"Are the Great Lakes next?"............."Asian carp were introduced to the United States in the 1970s as an agricultural fish used to combat algae in catfish ponds".............."They escaped into the Illinois River during the floods of the 1990s"..............."Ecosystems have a delicate balance in which native organisms work in harmony, each occupying their own little niche".............."When an alien organism (without their natural predators present) enters the system and occupies a native’s niche, the native species tends to be the loser"............."Not only is it a fast-growing fish physically, but the Carp population itself grows very quickly".............."A female can lay well over a million eggs a year, with no known predators present"..............."The carp are voracious feeders and breeders and eat all the plankton that other fish rely on"............."Analysis of nearly 20 years of population data suggests the carp are out-competing natives such as yellow perch, bluegill, and black and white crappie".............."A mature Asian carp can grow up to 50 kg and consumes about 40 per cent of its body weight daily"................."In competition for food and space, the Asian carp has a significant size advantage over native fish species"

Study links Asian carp with Mississippi River fish drop

Sport fish have declined significantly in portions of the Upper Mississippi River infested with Asian carp, adding evidence to fears about the invader's threat to native species, according to a new study.

Analysis of nearly 20 years of population data suggests the carp are out-competing  prized by anglers, such as , bluegill, and black and white crappie, the report said.
Scientists have long suspected Asian carp of starving out other fish in the Mississippi and many of its tributaries. The peer-reviewed study this month in the journal Biological Invasions is among the first to establish a solid link, lead author John Chick said in an interview Friday.

Alien/exotic Asian Carp have invaded the river systems 
indicated in red below

"The alarms have been out there for a long time now," said Chick, a fisheries biologist who directs a University of Illinois field station in Alton, Illinois. "This adds further mustard to the argument that we need to be taking these things seriously. The trends that have been established here are not the trends we want to see in other places."
Four varieties of Asian carp were imported in the late 1960s and early 1970s to clear algae and weeds from sewage ponds and fish farms. They escaped into the Mississippi and have migrated northward.
Bighead and silver carp are the most troublesome. They gorge on tiny animals and plants known as plankton, which virtually all fish eat as juveniles. For some filter-feeding species, it's a lifelong staple.
Federal and state agencies have spent heavily on research and technology to keep them out of key waterways.
In their paper, Chick and colleagues there's rarely enough data to document how invasive species harm natives.

But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been monitoring fish in the Upper Mississippi system for more than two decades, including several years before the carp arrived, using electrofishing to collect samples.
Analyzing Corps numbers compiled between 1994 and 2013, Chick's team found sport fish dropped about 30 percent in two carp-infested areas on the Mississippi River and one on the Illinois River.
Meanwhile, sport fish numbers grew nearly 35 percent in three sections of the Mississippi farther upstream that the carp hadn't reached.
The trends have continued, said Chick, who still monitors Corps data.
The study focused on silver carp, notorious for leaping from the water when startled, because they're more abundant in the Upper Mississippi than bighead carp.
It found that sport fish probably are losing out during early life stages, when they're dependent on plankton the carp are gobbling up.
The researchers considered other factors including flooding, water temperatures and sediment pollution. But none was found to have played a significant role in the sport fish trends in the upper Mississippi.

The region has drawn less attenti on in the carp battle than the Great Lakes, researchers said, but its outdoor recreation economy is valued at about $2.2 billion.
The study is valuable because it's based on direct observation of fish populations over an extended period, said Tammy Newcomb, a fisheries biologist and Asian carp expert with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
"It's another piece of science that contributes to the overall sense of urgency" to stop the carps' advance, said Newcomb, who was not part of the study.
Kevin Irons, aquatic nuisance species manager with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, who also didn't take part in the study, said he generally agreed with its findings.
But he said it didn't prove invasive carp had caused the sport fish drop-offs and that differences between river sections such as vegetation also can affect fish numbers.