Thursday, March 31, 2016
Changing climate with no snow(this winter) and snows that melt quickly(recent years) has Wisconsin Snowshoe Hare territory migrating northward by some 5.5 miles per recent decade............""This is one of the first studies to really identify how changing climate factors influence a southern range boundary," notes Ben Zuckerberg, a UW-Madison professor of forest and wildlife ecology and a co-author of a recent U. of Wisconsin study..................."Lack of snow can pose serious problems for an animal that depends on its coloring to blend into its environment and avoid predation".............. "Color mismatch -- white fur on a brown background -- will continue to occur and have a significant impact" on the species"......... "For a snowshoe hare, being cryptic is a fundamental requirement for making a living"............. "It is a relatively fixed phenotype, so it is pretty clear that snow cover is one of the most important constraints in terms of where the animal can and can't be"............
Posted by Rick Meril at 9:47 PM
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Thank you PREDATOR DEFENSE chief Brooks Fahy for supplying the "wow moment" video below showing a Puma running straight past a woman on the elevated wildlife walkway at the Corkscrew Swamp in Florida...........The Puma wants nothing to do with the woman,,,,,,,,,,,,And from the scene that unfolds, you can feel the Puma more fearful of the woman than vice versa.................Our "long tailed" cat does not want to bother us.....................Let us encourage them back into the remaining wildlands up and down the Appalachian Spine of eastern North America
click on link to view video:This is a classic example of how cougars don't want anything to do with people:
Posted by Rick Meril at 9:27 PM
Thanks to RESTORE THE NORTH WOODS Chief, Michael Kellett for supplying the article below discussing how top Biologists are encouraging the USFW Service to follow through on their plan to prevent wildlife from being shot and trpped in the 16 Alaska National Wildlife Refuges(77 million acres) ................Of course, the state of Alaska is threatening to ignore the rule if it becomes law...............Let them threaten all they want..........Here is hoping that the Feds weigh heavy and get the land and it's wild creatures protected
Top scientists back federal plan to protect Alaska predators
New rules would ban ‘non-subsistence’ killing of bears, wolves and coyotes – some of the ‘most iconic yet persecuted species’– in the state’s 16 wildlife refuges
Tuesday 29 March 2016 12.44 EDT
A group of scientists has backed a federal plan to restrict the trapping and gunning down of bears and wolves in Alaska’s wildlife refuges, in the face of bitter opposition from the state government.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed an overhaul of hunting regulations for Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges, which span nearly 77m acres of wilderness in the state.
The new rules would effectively ban “non-subsistence” slaughter of predators within the refuges without a sound scientific reason. Practices to be outlawed include the killing of bear cubs or their mothers, the controversial practice of bear baiting and the targeting of wolves and coyotes during the spring and summer denning season.
Anyone hoping to take a plane or helicopter to shoot a bear will also be unable to do so. These changes have been backed by a group of 31 leading scientists who said the current hunting laws hurt some of the “most iconic yet persecuted species in North America: grizzly bears, black bears and wolves”.
In a letter sent for the USFWS’s public comment process, the biologists and ecologists from across the US point out that research shows that killing the predators of moose and caribou does very little to boost their numbers.
“Alaska’s many-decades program of statewide carnivore persecution has failed to yield more ungulates for human hunters,” the letter states. “Furthermore, the methods of predator persecution are seen as problematic by a clear majority of Alaska’s citizens.”
Alaska stepped up the trapping and shooting of predator animals after the Republican governor Frank Murkowski gained power in 2002. His successors, including Sarah Palin, have all supported a policy of “intensive management” that removes wolves and bears with the goal of boosting moose and caribou numbers for hunters.
The state has increasingly clashed with federal agencies over this policy. The situation escalated after the Alaska board of game removed a 122 sq mile buffer zone protecting wolves around the Denali national park – the US’s largest national park – and allowed the baiting of bears and the use of lights to rouse hibernating bears so that they can be shot as they emerge.
Alaska recently offered its support to a moose hunter who won a supreme court appeal against the federal government over his use of a hovercraft in an ecologically sensitive area.
“We have a fiscal crisis here in Alaska but we see a large amount of money spent on ineffective hunting policies,” said Francis Mauer, retired wildlife biologist at the USFWS and one of the letter’s signatories.
“The hunting guys have total control of the board of game, there’s no balance there. The state has aggressively increased the killing of predators to the point where anyone can kill 10 wolves a day for 345 days of the year.
“This kind of approach isn’t supported by the science, nor is it legitimate for these refuges to be converted into areas for hunting. We have seen wolf and bear numbers reduce in some areas at a time where there is increasing scientific evidence showing the value of them in maintaining healthy ecosystems.”
Alaska’s administration has said it “strongly opposes” the new USFWS regulations, arguing that they are federal overreach, undermine the state’s ability to manage wildlife populations and hurt native populations who rely upon moose and caribou for food.
“Ultimately, the new regulations would have significant impacts on Alaskans, particularly those living a subsistence way of life,” said Bruce Dale, director of the division of wildlife conservation.
Posted by Rick Meril at 9:22 PM
Can we create enough bona fide and connected habitat to grow the 55-80 Ocelots that are left in the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and in in Willacy County, Texas?...............At the time of European colonization in the 16th century, Ocelots roamed from what is now Arkansas to Arizona utilizing the dense Tamaulipas thorn scrub habitat that existed before 95% of it was cut, burned and chewed up for agriculture and human habitation.........Like cousins, the Bobcat, Lynx and Puma, when male Ocelots reach maturity, they bolt from their mothers natal territory to seek their own 7 square mile habitat and mate with females............Unfortunately, the remaining scrub habitat is so splintered by roads, that a high % of prospecting male cats get killed by cars..........."One of the problem roads for ocelot mortality is Texas State Highway 100, which runs from I-69E/77 east to Port Isabel"................. "The Texas Dept. of Transportation has recently pledged $5 million to retrofit four separate wildlife crossing areas along the highway to reduce wildlife mortality"......... There is also going to be fencing along the road that prevents the cats from crossing and helps to funnel them toward the culverts where they can cross under the road safely.............Let us hope that any necessary additional funding and building of these underpasses occurs quickly enough to prevent the Ocelot from disappearing from the USA
Ocelots battle for survival
Posted: Sunday, March 27, 2016 9:52 pm
By RICK KELLEY | Staff Writer
HARLINGEN — Ocelots have never had it easy.
First, almost all of the habitat they roamed prior to Europeans’ arrival in North America has been consumed by agriculture and development.
Then there was the popularity of using ocelot pelts in what passed for high fashion in the 1960s. Since the only usable part of an ocelot pelt was the strip along the back, it took 40 ocelots to make a single coat.
If that wasn’t enough humiliation, ocelots became popular as pets. You’ve probably seen photos of painter Salvador Dali with his ocelot, Babou. Opera singer Lily Pons also had a pet ocelot named Ita.
Ocelots, as you’re no doubt wondering right now, make awful pets.
“They’re super cute when they’re small and you can cuddle them,” biologist Hilary Swarts says. “Then they start to grow up and they want to take your face right off your head, and they want to shred all your furniture. They want to eat your dog. They want to do all kinds of things that are terrible.”
Swarts knows what she’s talking about, even if she’s never had an ocelot of her own.
The wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is stationed at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, which is one of two areas where the endangered Texas subspecies of ocelot remains. The other is in WillacyCounty.
She spoke last week at the annual dinner of the Valley Sportsmen Club at Ol’ D’s Soda Shop in downtown Harlingen, cataloging the current state of the wildcat in Texas.
Her expertise in ocelots involves the cats hanging on in Cameron and Willacy counties. At one time, ocelots ranged from Arkansas to Arizona.
Today, Swarts said, there are 55 “identified” ocelots in South Texas that have been caught on game or trail cameras the cats have tripped while ambling through their preferred habitat of nearly impenetrable Tamaulipas thorn scrub.
Each ocelot has a unique pattern of rosettes on its coat, which biologists use to identify and track the cats, some of which are radio-collared. Swarts said biologists project the total ocelot population in Cameron and Willacy counties to be 80, since some are likely to be living on private land with suitable habitat where the biologists don’t have access.
“As the pet trade and fashion trade subsided, there are other threats that the ocelot are still facing or still kind of suffering from now,” Swarts said. “Probably the biggest ones are … habitat loss and fragmentation. And those are two different concepts.”
Swarts expanded on that theme, explaining the problem with loss of habitat is compounded by remaining habitat being a patchwork of land that doesn’t connect. In other words, there are no corridors for cats and other wildlife to safely travel to and from what remains of the appropriate habitat.
“Ninety-five percent of that habitat has been wiped out … what habitat that is left over is not in one big beautiful piece, it’s in all these different patches. And that means that when an ocelot wants to move from one to the other, it’s going to have to go through dangerous, human-occupied territory to get there, and that has a lot of risks associated with it.”
After habitat loss, perhaps the most immediate threat to the ocelot population in South Texas is the automobile. The lack of genetic diversity within the South Texas ocelot group is another issue.
In fact, Swarts said, five ocelots biologists know about were killed by vehicles within the past eight or nine months.
“When you have a population of 80, five is a serious number; it’s a serious loss. Not only are you just losing those individuals, you’re losing all the babies that those individuals would have. So it’s a really powerful problem … fragmentation.
“If I’m an ocelot that lives here, and I want to get down here, I’ve gotta go through here and I’m undoubtedly going to have to cross a road. And I’m little, and I’m running fast, and I’m out at night, so it’s very hard for cars to see me and spot me, and so you get a lot of mortality that way.”
So why does the ocelot cross the road?
Part of the answer is ocelots are highly territorial and also wide-ranging. Biologists say an ocelot needs a range of seven square miles, which is not an easy homeland to carve out when habitat loss and fragmentation mean it must be the right “kind” of seven square miles.
“More males are getting killed. The reason for that is when a male is born and he’s little, he’s cute, he doesn’t bother anyone, he’s in nobody’s way.
“He starts to grow up, right, so he becomes a handsome young man. All of a sudden, the older males don’t want the competition and they boot him out of the area. And so he’s forced to go out on the landscape to try to find somewhere to live where the older males aren’t going to kick his you-know-what.
“And in doing so, they get out and they get on these roads, and they just get completely slammed.”
But the future is not all a gloomy night on a lonely highway for the ocelot. There are some signs of hope for the Texas subspecies.
One is WillacyCounty landowner Frank Yturria, who put 7,400 acres of prime ocelot habitat into easement within the past couple of years.
“What that means is that the Yturrias still own this property, but attached to the title of the property is a commitment to never develop the land. So it can have an affect on land values but it also (shows) where your priorities are. I mean if you want to put in a mall, this is not a piece of land you want to buy,” Swarts said.
Another reason to be optimistic about the ocelot is cooperation from the Texas Department of Transportation, Swarts says. TxDOT has been willing to work closely with biologists on constructing underpasses allowing ocelots and other wildlife to avoid crossing roads and highways.
“The best way is to keep cats from getting hit by cars is to keep them off the roads altogether. So these highway underpasses … this is what we’re aiming for.
“Whenever TxDOT is doing new road projects in ocelot areas, we’re trying to work with them to get these underpasses in so that the cats never really have to get on the asphalt, they can walk right under and they’re safe.”
One of the problem roads for ocelot mortality is Texas State Highway 100, which runs from I-69E/77 east to Port Isabel. TxDOT recently pledged $5 million to retrofit four separate wildlife crossing areas along the highway to reduce wildlife mortality.
“There is also going to be fencing all along there, so basically if I’m a cat and I walk over and I get to the road, there’s a fence there. And if I go right or if I go left, it’s going to lead me to an underpass. I can go under the road safely, be happy on the other side, and have never run the risk of getting hit by a car,” she said.
“For this partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation, it’s probably going to be one of the main things that keep these cats here in Texas.”
Posted by Rick Meril at 9:18 PM
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
OUTDOOR LIFE MAGAZINE'S readership is principally hunters..............On Monday of this week they put forth their perspective(selective research cited) on whether KILLING PREDATORS INCREASES PREY(GAME) SPECIES---"(Some))regions (of the USA) are experiencing declines in prey populations like deer and game birds"............ "The natural instinct is to blame prey declines on the recent increases in predators"............ "In some instances predators may be responsible for the decline, and in other cases it may be environmental change (for example, drought)"............ "In some regions, prey species have been overabundant due to the lack of predators and as predators make a comeback, the prey is put in check"............. "To investigate whether predators are impacting prey populations, researchers are conducting (studies) involving predator exclusion or removal"............. "All are trying to answer the question: does predator control benefit game populations, or is it a waste of time and money?"................."(In) Coyote removal research(conducted) by Gulsby et al. (2015), researchers came to the conclusion that additional environmental factors, such as habitat quality and abundance, were also influencing the prey population".................In fact, as most researchers will tell you, human habitat alteration and winter weather severity are two of the initial factors in prey recruitment and survival.........Yes, Wolves, Bears, Pumas, Bobcats, Lynx and Coyotes do in fact kill hoofed browsers, but that has been the case for the millenia that all of these creatures have been on the planet.................Our manipulation of the environment(as in the case of forest removal in Caribou habitat) so often combined with "stiff winters" can lower the population equilibrium of prey species..............Carnivores can in fact dampen these stressed populations further in a particular series of years.........However, if habitat is sound, weather tends to even itself out with predator and prey once again finding a rough balance for survival for all(including the health of the habitat-always seemingly ignored by the "Kill-predator crowd")...............No, we should not have bloated herds of deer denuding forests and No, we should not be felling our forests so that prey switching occurs(e.g. deer coming north into Minnesota Moose country with debilitating tics impacting moose and then wolves finishing off the weakened Moose)...........As Ecologist George Wuerthner puts it---- "I have no doubt that for many pro wolf(and other carnivore)-hunt supporters’ predators represent all that is wrong with the world"............... "Declining job prospects, declining economic vitality of their rural communities, changes in social structures and challenges to long-held beliefs are exemplified by the wolf(and other carnivores)"............ "Killing wolves is symbolic of destroying all those other things that are bad in the world for which they have no control"............. "They vent this misdirected anger on wolves(and other carnivores)– that gives them the illusion that they can control something"............... "Nevertheless, making wolves and other predators scapegoats for the personal failures of individuals or the collective failures of society is not fair to wolves or individuals either"................. "The premises upon which western wolf-hunts are based either are the result of inaccurate assumptions about wolf impacts or morally corrupt justifications like relieving hunter anger and frustrations over how their worlds are falling apart"
Posted by Rick Meril at 4:32 PM