A prairie rattlesnake basking on a warm fall day on the edge of its winter den.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Happy New Year to all you Blog readers,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,On this first day of 2015, we report on The CHARLES RUSSELL WILDLIFE REFUGE in northeastern Montana where 15 collared Pumas are being studied to determine the habitat that they utilize and the prey they eat............At a million acres and assuming a male home territory radius of 100 square miles, one can estimate that some 15 adult males and 30 adult females could call the CHARLES RUSSELL home(2 females generally occupy the home territory of one adult male Puma)....................So far, findings suggest that adult "Cats" typically have a short 3 year lifespan in the Refuge(possible lifespan of up to 15 years if an individual Puma leads a charmed life) and that dispersing animals are heading east to North Dakota ...............Findings also lead one to see how important protected wildlife corridors are to long term survival of trophic carnivores like Pumas..............Very difficult for the "prospecting Pumas to successfully get to North Dakota or any other locale where "the opposite sex" and viable habitat exist with so many of our protected areas no better than large zoos due to the lack of interconnected corridor protection
Posted by Rick Meril at 9:47 PM
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
While we all were just heartened by the reprieve given by the D.C. federal Judge to the Great Lake Wof population(back on the Fed. Endangered List, they are), we must be sobered by the fact that the only reproducing Puma population east of the Misssissippi River in Florida is being decimated by auto collisions............17 of the record high 30 Puma deaths this year in the Sunshine state were the result of auto collision,,,,,,,,,,,With the USFW service refusing to follow through on its original plan to create at least three populations of 100 Pumas each in the southeastern states and wiith perhaps only 100 adult "Cats" roaming the southern Colier, Lee and Hendry Counties, "trouble in paradise" is forecast for the Pumas............. Of the 23 kittens born this year in Florida, it is likely that only 25 to 40% of them will reaching their first birthday........Combined with the increasing "car kill rate, the Florida Puma is in a deficit replacement paradigm,,,,,,,,,,,,,Are we dooming this critical trophic carnivore to a slow march to "blink out"?........ Unless additional critical habitat is provided for their recovery, some biologists fear that the Florida Puma population could become a relic zoo creature in our lifetime..............Let us fight to prevent this travesty from occurring
FRISCO — Panther deaths in Florida climbed to a record level in 2014, as the wild cats continue to succumb to collisions with vehicles on highways in southwest Florida.
In all, 30 panther deaths were reported by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission this year, topping the previous record of 27 deaths tallied in 2012. More than half of this year’s deaths were the result of collisions with vehicles.
Panther mortality this year could represent as much as one-fourth of the entire population, which the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission estimates at between 100 and 180 animals. The reason for this wide variation is that the number of cats monitored through radio collars has steadily declined.
“The management of the Florida panther is biology by body count,” said Jeff Ruch, director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “The true condition of the Florida panther today remains what biologists call a ‘SWAG’– a scientific wild-ass guess,” said Ruch, whose group watchdogs public agencies.
The Florida wildlife commission says 32 panther kittens were born this year, but considering that the low survival rate, it’s likely that panther mortality will exceed recruitment this year.
The Florida panther is the only known population of North American cougar east of the Mississippi. While cougars once had the broadest distribution of any terrestrial mammal in the Western hemisphere, Florida panthers today are confined to only a small fragment of their former range in southwest Florida.
The latest mortality numbers reflect this cramped vestigial habitat – 27 of 30 deaths occurred in just three counties (Collier, Lee and Hendry) and the majority of which (17) were caused by vehicles.
Radio telemetry is the principal means of tracking elusive panthers, as well as determining habitat needs and the dispersal of cats seeking new territory. Of the 30 panthers that died this year in the wild, only 7 had radio collars. The latest FWC reports only 16 females are currently radio-tracked, and the agency collared only ten cats in the year prior to July 2014.
The Florida panther has been listed as an endangered species for more than 40 years. The long-term prognosis for the recovery of the Florida panther is bleak, however, largely because the available habitat will continue to shrink.
According to PEER, the rare animals face an uncertain future in Florida because:
- Florida continues to approve sprawling new developments in panther habitat;
- The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has resisted legal efforts to force it to designate critical habitat for the Florida panther, as has been designated in recovery plans for hundreds of other species; and
- Prime panther areas, such as the vast Big Cypress National Preserve Addition Lands, are being opened up to off-road vehicle traffic.
“In South Florida, the panther literally is a speed bump to sprawling development,” Ruch said. “Many believe we have already reached the tipping point where a viable population of Florida panther can no longer exist in the wild and the future of this alpha-predator is as a zoo species.”
2014 FWC panther report:
Posted by Rick Meril at 10:14 PM
Monday, December 29, 2014
The tule elk (Cervus canadensis) is endemic to California, found nowhere else in the USA..........In the early 19th century, they numbered a half million strong but were severely reduced in the mid-1800s due to uncontrolled market hunting and displacement by cattle ranching........... By some accounts, fewer than 30 remained in a single herd near Bakersfield in the mid-1870s............. A conservation minded cattle rancher named Henry Miller had the foresight to preserve this last isolated group discovered on his ranch in 1874.......... All of the estimated 3,900 tule elk present in 22 herds across California (as of 2012) were derived from this small remnant herd, thanks to his initial efforts. ......Wherever the Elk are found, positive land enhancing processes are taking place................ Coyotes, foxes, ravens, mice and beetles dine on the rotting carcasses of elk within a day after a Puma makes a kill............ Barn owls feast on the mice.............. Birds, including loggerhead shrikes, eat the beetles................Can you imagine the further positive "circle of life" benefits that the land would absorb if along with the growing Elk herds, their two other historical "dance partners", Wolves and Grizzlies were restored to these ecosystems?.............We would have another Yellowstone full suite of predator and prey at work optimizing all the other animal and plant species!
TULE ELK HERD IN CALIFORNIA, ONCE NEARLY EXTERMINATED, GROWING AGAIN
read full article by clicking on this link:
Posted by Rick Meril at 9:53 PM
Sunday, December 28, 2014
THE CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY'S Andrea Santarsiere making a sound case for why the Selway/Bitteroot ecosystem is a must link for Grizzlies if indeed the species is to become fully recovered in the Northern Rockies------Had President Bush(the younger) not cancelled the USFW planned rewilding of this region in AD 2000, it is possible that the natural reproduction cycle of the Griz would have the Bitteroots marching toward a population of 300-600 animals in 2015................The Bitteroots are the next "step up" the Rockies for connectivity with the Greater Yellowstone population and the small number of Bears in the Yaak
THE SELWAY-BITTEROOT; PERFECT FOR GRIZZLIES
THE SELWAY-BITTEROOT; PERFECT FOR GRIZZLIES
Posted by Rick Meril at 9:48 PM
Saturday, December 27, 2014
The Western Arctic Caribou Herd has been falling at 5 % per year from a high of 490,000 in 2003 to an estimated 235,000 in 2013..............Biologists predict an even steeper 15% annual decline over the next few year for the herd which will take it to the point where the State of Alaska will begin to implement predator control(wolf killing) programs as well as hunting cutbacks for non residents............Every reason including predation, severe weather, climate change and hunting is cited as contributing factors in the decline of the Caribou..............One never hears anything about human land alteration as a factor or even if the shrinkage of the herd is a good thing for land regeneration................Food for thought these factors are and they must be elevated in the management discussion if we are to have a mosaic of predator and prey in Alaska that is sustainable
With caribou population declining, hunting restrictions on the horizon
Posted by Rick Meril at 9:14 PM
Friday, December 26, 2014
Our longtime friend Michael Kellett(along with Jym St.Pierre) of RESTORE THE NORTH WOODS checked in today with information about how the Penobscot Indian Nation of Maine has endorsed the 150,000 acre National Park that RESTORE, Roxanne Quimby and her son Lucas St. Clair have been pushing to create.................Opposition continues from the town governments of East Millinocket and Millinocket with the overwhelming majority of residents living there feeling that their traditional way of life will be overrun by out of state tourists, congestion and low paying service jobs................I would like to put forth the suggestion that a Maine Woods National Park be modeled not on a Yellowstone or Yosemite "disneyworld" paradigm, but instead be crafted to mimic the Voyageur National Park up in Minnesota which does not push retail and amusement establishments but instead focuses on more traditional hunting, fishing and camping aspects----a much lower key footprint(few roads) and less intrusive on long time area residents sense of place................Thoughts from those up in Maine and environs to this idea?
From: Michael Kellett firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Penobscot Indian Nation supports Quimby's Maine national park plan, Bangor Daily News, 20141225
Nation President Kirk E. Francis called upon U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, to introduce a bill to Congress supporting the creation of the park and recreation area.
https://bangordailynews.com/2014/12/25/news/penobscot/penobscot-indian-nation-announces-support-of-roxanne-quimby-national-park-plan/POLL QUESTIONPenobscot Indian Nation announces support of Roxanne Quimby national park planBy Nick Sambides Jr., BDN StaffPosted Dec. 25, 2014, at 3:36 p.m.Last modified Dec. 25, 2014, at 7:09 p.m.INDIAN ISLAND, Maine — The Penobscot Indian Nation has endorsed a proposed 150,000-acre national park and recreation area, saying the parks would protect the Penobscot River and associated waterways much the way the tribe has "since time immemorial."
"Residents of the Katahdin region and tribal members alike would benefit, not only from the long-term protection of the lands surrounding the rivers, but also from the economic activity that a new national park and national recreation area would bring to the greater Bangor and Katahdin regions," Francis said in a statement released earlier this week.
"Visitors coming to Acadia [National Park] would have a reason to spend a few extra days to go explore the new national park and national recreation area in the Katahdin region," Francis added. "They could fish, camp, hunt, watch birds and other wildlife, snowmobile and see spectacular views of Katahdin."Francis and leading park advocate Lucas St. Clair, entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby's son, did not immediately return telephone or email messages left Thursday. Nor did a spokesman for the Quimby family foundation, Ian Grady.Quimby and her son St. Clair in 2011 proposed creating a 75,000-acre national park and nearby 75,000-acre multiuse recreation area. The park and recreation area would be located on Quimby lands east of Baxter State Park. The family's foundation proposes to create a $20 million endowment and raise another $20 million to fund park maintenance.
Attempts to reach the spokespersons for Collins and King were not immediately successful on Thursday. The Indian nation is the first group to publicly endorse a park since the last election, in which four of 11 East Millinocket and Millinocket candidates for public office said they favored the park for what they said would be its positive impact on the Katahdin region's economy, which had its mills' last two paper machines shut down in 2008 and 2013. Two of the four, East Millinocket Selectman Mark Scally and Millinocket Town Councilor Anita Mueller, were elected.
The Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce and several environmental groups endorsed the idea, but East Millinocket and Millinocket governments and residents have staunchly opposed the proposed park. Officials in Medway, which elects its selectmen during town meetings in the spring, have said they favor a park feasibility study. An independent committee of town officials and residents formed to support the study but later withdrew its support.
Opposition to the park remains daunting. The Penobscot County Board of Commissioners, Gov. Paul LePage, the Maine Legislature, gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud and Collins have opposed the park. King told the New York Times that he was "opposed and skeptical but listening." East Millinocket residents voted 513-132 in 2011 against a feasibility study of the park.Francis said that about 25 miles of the East Branch of the Penobscot River would flow through park lands, as would several associated streams. A bill offered by a member of Maine's federal delegation would be a crucial element to the creation of a park.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The bill would have to pass in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate and be signed into law by President Obama before a park could be created.
Voyageurs National Park
Located in the wild country of northern Minnesota, and perched along the United States/Canadian border, Voyageurs National Park is one of the few parks in the national park system which is primarily oriented to water. Although there are thick forests and interesting landforms, it is the lakes and waterways which make the park especially noteworthy. A full third of the park is accounted for by lakes, ponds, channels, and other waterways.
Voyageurs National Park features some 30 lakes and 900 islands in its 218,054 acres. It's a fairly large park, about 55 miles long, and sits on the US/Canada Border, which runs through some of the major lakes in the park.
The park offers a number of amenities for visitors, including several visitor centers, an historic hotel, and concessionaires who rent canoes, kayaks, and other kinds of boats, or provide excursions and tours on the lakes in the park.
Many of the country's most famous national parks are extremely popular, but this popularity can unfortunately compromise the experience for the visitor, since it is the natural beauty and not the sight of other tourists that draws most to the park. While many people visit Voyageurs, the tranquility of the wilderness experience can certainly be enjoyed in this lovely park, as it is possible to get away from other folks very easy.
Posted by Rick Meril at 10:48 PM
A decade of Rattlesnake research by Texas A & M researchers have revealed: 1)Snakes must find dens that are deep enough to protect them from freezing winter temperatures; most ground squirrel, woodrat and other rodent burrows do not meet this requirement,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,2)Snakes will emerge from winter dens anytime outside temperatures exceed the low 50 degree levels,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,3)Prairie rattlers will share dens with hundreds of other snakes as suitable and deep enough underground dens are not easy to come by in the wild
A prairie rattlesnake basking on a warm fall day on the edge of its winter den.- See more at: http://www.pantex.com/news/blog/Pages/WP-Wintertime-Rattlesnakes.aspx#sthash.ds60FF1y.KgdrGuer.dpuf
For more than a decade Pantex and West Texas A&M University studied the ecology of our resident prairie rattlesnakes. We captured hundreds of them and marked them with subcutaneous microchips.
Around 40 of them carried radio-transmitters, which we carefully surgically implanted into their body cavity. These snakes then went about their business, and their transmitters allowed us to follow them around and learn more about their behavior and general ecology. We quickly confirmed the location and characteristics of winter dens, or hibernacula as they are referred to scientifically. Prairie dog holes are an obvious choice, as are sinkholes associated with old landfills and pipelines. Hibernacula must be deep enough that the snakes can escape freezing temperatures, and most animal burrows (ground squirrels, woodrats, etc.) evidently do not meet this requirement – snakes moved to dens of more significant depth prior to the onset of the coldest weather.
Rattlesnakes cannot be subjected to freezing temperatures; thus, as the nights get colder in the fall they begin to use burrows at night to escape this danger. After a few light freezes (usually in October or November), they make a quick trip back to the den in which they will spend the winter.
From our research, we learned that rattlesnakes can be on the surface during every month of the year. Rattlesnakes are cold-blooded and have a need to bask in the sun, and thus warm to the point that all tissues and organs work properly. In fact, chances are pretty good that some snakes will surface to bask in the sun anytime during the winter that temperatures exceed the low 50s, especially provided there are clear skies. At warmer temperatures, the snakes can actually bask even under cloud cover.
One aspect of wintering snake ecology that we did not get to was how many snakes might congregate in these dens. Just from experience, we think most Pantex hibernacula host up to a dozen or two snakes, but the prairie rattlesnake is known to congregate in numbers in the hundreds. I have seen as many as five or six basking around a den entrance at once. Oftentimes, the 9-inch young-of-the year will be coiled up on the backs of larger snakes.
Hibernacula receive historic use, and it is believed that the young snakes follow the scent of the older, experienced snakes to the dens. In our area, outside of prairie dog colonies, winter dens may be scarce and thus limit rattlesnake populations. Here at Pantex, snake populations from large areas oftentimes end up in a single available winter den, thus making that den site very important to the snakes of that area.
So what does this all mean? Well, I hope you enjoyed the ecological aspect of this blog. But, if it is just the safety aspect that you are interested in, be sure to be very observant when you are working or otherwise out in the field when wintertime temperatures warm.
A prairie rattlesnake basking on a warm fall day on the edge of its winter den.
Posted by Rick Meril at 10:22 PM
Thursday, December 25, 2014
Ecologist and good friend Cristina Eisenberg jsut published her latest HUFFINGTON POST article entitled: WOLVES IN A TANGLED BANK................Cristina focuses on not whether some scientists are right or wrong about Wolves trophic impact on the regeneration of natural systems but rather picks up on where carnivores like Wolves fit into nature's schematic as described by Charles Darwin as a "tangled bank"..........With Cristina going on to say that "nature's complexity(that tangled bank) results from myriad species and their relationships with other species and all the things that can possibly affect them such as disease, disturbance and competition for food"........So rather than arguing about exactly what impact Wolves have on elk and herbivory, Cristina suggests that we instead focus on the fact that "large, meat-eating animals improve the health of plant communities and provide food subsidies for the many species that scavenge on their kills"........... "A system with wolves in it is far richer than one without and can support many more grizzly bears, coyotes, wolverines, and eagles".......... "There are things we don't know and disagreements about what we do know".............."Given the accelerated human-caused extinctions we are experiencing today, a precautionary approach to creating healthier ecosystems means conserving large carnivores"
Posted by Rick Meril at 8:58 PM