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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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Monday, March 27, 2017

“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, "What good is it?",,,,,,,,,,,,,,, "If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not",,,,,,,,,,,,. "If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts?",,,,,,,,,,,,"To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” ― Aldo Leopold, from the Journals of of famed 20th century ecologist, Aldo Leopold...............And Leopold could not have been more right as we now learn that two bird species, the Pygmy Nuthatch and the Black Capped Chickadee are true "holistic healers of Western Ponderosa Pine forests........."These year round residents scour the bark, branches and needles of ponderosa pines for insects, boosting the growth rate of the trees by one-third"..........."Not only do the birds gobble insects, they also somehow prompt the tree to change the chemistry of the terpenes the trees produce to battle insects, fungus and mistletoe"....... "So the little birds effectively boost the trees’ immune systems"............... "Furthermore, the chickadees and nuthatches also disrupt the remarkable relationship between some species of ants and aphids".......... "The ants “herd’ the aphids, protecting them from predators like ladybugs and lacewings and even taking the tiny, leaf-sucking aphids back down into their ant hills for safe-keeping at night"..................."In return, the aphids produce a sweet drop of “honeydew” to feed the ants".................. "However, the chickadees and nuthatches prey on the ants and aphids, triggering big declines in the aphid populations — thereby enhancing the growth of the trees".........And even when the trees die, they are "safe houses" for the chickadees and Nuthatches against the killing cold of Winter............The Forest Service has come to learn that "cleaning up the forest" via removing dead snags and slash on the ground is counterproductive to optimizing the population of the very birds who bring life-giving and economic vitality to the Forest

The tiny friends of a forest giant

    by: Peter Aleshire 

The massive Ponderosa Pines dominate the forests of Northern Arizona, but recent research suggests they depend critically on the smallest of birds.

Spring dawns — heaven for birders. Some 200 species will flock through the Arizona high country on their way north, following the river corridors like the East Verde, the Verde and the Salt. They’ll drop from the bright blue sky in their brilliant plumage — yellow tanagers, scarlet cardinals, painted redstarts, sassy orioles. They winter in the tropics where life is easy — and venture north only when the cottonwoods and sycamores leaf out.
But despite the flash of color from our fair-weather friends, I vow to not forget the humble birds of winter — the hardworking chickadees and nuthatches.
After all, these plucky survivors deserve the credit for knowing and loving this forest — like the overlooked descendants of the ranching families who made a hard living in a stingy land.
Turns out, these overwintering, bug-eating, ponderosa pine loving itty, bitty brown birds contribute mightily to the health of the forest, according to researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, writing in the scientific journal Ecology.
Pygmy nuthatches spend all year hunting insects on the bark of ponderosa pines. In the process, the tiny birds boost the growth of the pines significantly, recent research shows

The researchers discovered that the efforts of these tiny birds to scour the bark, branches and needles of ponderosa pines for insects boost the growth rate of the trees by one-third.
Not only do the birds gobble insects, they also somehow prompt the tree to change the chemistry of the terpenes the trees produce to battle insects, fungus and mistletoe. So the little birds effectively boost the trees’ immune systems. Furthermore, the chickadees and nuthatches also disrupt the remarkable relationship between some species of ants and aphids. The ants “herd’ the aphids, protecting them from predators like ladybugs and lacewings and even taking the tiny, leaf-sucking aphids back down into their ant hills for safe-keeping at night. In return, the aphids produce a sweet drop of “honeydew” to feed the ants. However, the chickadees and nuthatches prey on the ants and aphids, triggering big declines in the aphid populations — thereby enhancing the growth of the trees.
Black-capped Chickadees enhance the growth of ponderosa pines by harvesting insects, but depending on things like the hollows in dead snags to get through the winter

For three years, the researchers swathed trees in mesh to exclude the birds from ponderosa pine limbs of 42 trees in an experimental Forest Service plot in northwest Colorado. They also could exclude ants — so they could separate the impact of the birds from the impact of the ants, which also prey on other insects.
They found the trees without their bird protectors had 18 percent less foliage and 34 percent less wood growth over the course of the three years. The dogged researchers collected some 300,000 insects representing 300 species, a measure of the complexity of the world created by the ponderosa
Now, here’s another interesting little footnote to the study, which underscores the complexity of playing God in managing a complex system like a ponderosa pine forest.
Those overwintering birds barely make it through most winters and die in droves in cold years. They survive the cold by dramatically slowing their metabolism at night and huddling together in hallows and beneath layers of bark — found mostly on dead snags. Sometimes 100 birds will pile into such refuges in squeaky bundles of feathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins — once and twice removed. In addition, they stash seeds in the easy times in hidden places for those bleak days of winter — again often taking advantage of the nooks and crannies of the snags.

Dead standing trees(snags) are
critically important homes and
safe havens for birds and animals

However, for decades the Forest Service paid loggers extra to cut down dead snags, thinking they would attract lightning strikes and start fires. Only after decades of pursuing this wrong-headed strategy did researchers discover that these dead snags and fallen trees offer those most important and productive wildlife habitat in the forest.

White Headed Woodpecker making a home
for itself in Ponderosa Pine snag

So, I can’t promise I won’t get distracted by the showy cardinals, with their flaming head pieces and their piercing call.
But I’ll still listen for droll, rubber-ducky calls of the pygmy nuthatches, knowing you can’t judge a bird by its feathers and owe the most in the end to the friends of the hard times.

Friday, March 24, 2017

A friend of this Blog, Dave Skryja turned me onto the recent John Benson led U. of Nebraska Study reinforcing the fact that Eastern Coyotes, while capable of preying on deer, are not a viable substitute to Eastern Wolves as it relates to being a true trophic predator of Deer, Moose, Elk and Caribou......................In Benson's own words------------"Wolves rely on large prey to survive whereas the smaller size of coyotes appears to give them dietary flexibility to survive on a wider variety of food and prey sizes, making them less predictable predators of large prey"............The eastern wolf weighs between 50 and 65 pounds; the eastern coyote typically hits 40 to 50".......... "Though the extra weight gives eastern wolves a greater chance of killing a moose, it also demands the greater caloric intake that moose and other meaty prey can provide".........."Because wolves need to feed on large prey, their populations tend to rise and fall together"............."In contrast, the buffet-style menu of the eastern coyote means that its numbers can remain steady or even rise without large prey if alternative food is abundant"..............."If coyotes start hammering white-tailed deer, and deer start to decline, then (coyotes) can just eat rabbits or squirrels or garbage"............."Our work suggests that there's an ecological role that wolves play that won't be played by other animals"............. "That's probably a role that's worth conserving on landscapes"


Big-game jitters: Coyotes no match for wolves' hunting prowess

Eastern coyote lacks the chops to replace wolves in the ecosystem

Lincoln, Nebraska -- It may have replaced the dwindling eastern wolf atop many food chains, but the eastern coyote lacks the chops to become the big-game hunter of an ecosystem, new research led by a University of Nebraska-Lincoln ecologist shows.

Eastern wolves once roamed forests along the Atlantic coast, preying on moose, white-tailed deer and other hooved mammals collectively known as ungulates. As the wolf population plummeted via the rifle and the trap, however, the eastern coyote inherited the status of apex predator in those habitats.

Eastern Wolf killing White Tail Deer

But a study from John Benson and colleagues provides evidence that the eastern coyote hunts moose and other large prey far less frequently than does the eastern wolf -- instead preferring to attack smaller game or scavenge human leftovers.

The findings help resolve long-standing questions about whether eastern coyotes have filled the ecological niche left vacant when the eastern wolf became threatened, Benson said.

"Wolves rely on large prey to survive," said Benson, assistant professor of vertebrate ecology who conducted the research as a doctoral student at Trent University. "But the smaller size of coyotes appears to give them dietary flexibility to survive on a wider variety of food and prey sizes, making them less predictable predators of large prey.

"Having a top predator that preys consistently on large animals like deer and moose may be an important part of maintaining stable predator-prey dynamics and healthy, naturally functioning ecosystems."

Eastern Coyote with Canadian Goose kill

After GPS-tracking 10 packs of eastern wolves and analyzing their kill sites in Ontario, the team estimated that the wolves consumed 54 percent of their ungulate meat from moose and 46 percent from white-tailed deer. By contrast, eight packs of eastern coyote ancestry that occupied separate but neighboring territories got just 11 percent of their ungulate meat from moose and 89 percent from deer.

Eastern Wolf with White Tail Deer kill

The eastern wolf weighs between 50 and 65 pounds; the eastern coyote typically hits 40 to 50. Though the extra weight gives eastern wolves a greater chance of killing a moose - or at least surviving the encounter - it also demands the greater caloric intake that moose and other meaty prey can provide.

Because wolves need to feed on large prey, their populations tend to rise and fall together, Benson said. Wolves may kill many moose during a winter, for instance, depleting their numbers. With fewer moose available, the wolf population declines, boosting the moose population, which in turn boosts the wolf population, and so on.

Eastern Coyote killing mouse

Yet the buffet-style menu of the eastern coyote means that its numbers can remain steady or even rise without large prey if alternative food is abundant. This opportunistic diet, Benson said, might also be driving erratic population swings among those lower on the food chain.

"It's important to understand the role that wolves play in ecosystems and to not assume that smaller predators ... perform the same ecological functions," Benson said. "If coyotes start hammering white-tailed deer, and deer start to decline, then (coyotes) can just eat rabbits or squirrels or garbage but continue to prey on deer, too. So we think that could be a destabilizing element.

Eastern Wolf with Moose Kill

"There are some areas where you've got way too many white-tailed deer in the east, and then you've got other areas where hunters are concerned because the deer are declining. That speaks to the fact that coyotes are an unpredictable predator."

The study is timely: Canada recently designated the eastern wolf as threatened, with the vast majority of eastern wolves living protected in Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park.

Human-caused mortality has limited efforts to expand the population beyond Algonquin Park, Benson said, which is made worse by the fact that wolves there are likely naïve to the dangers posed by humans. Another issue: Eastern wolves readily breed with eastern coyotes in the wild, making it difficult to maintain a pure lineage.

 Eastern Wolves hunting Beaver

"Is there a way to get them to expand numerically and geographically outside of the park? We're not sure at this point," said Benson, who provides advice to a team now developing a recovery plan. "One thing that can be managed is human-caused mortality, so if we can provide additional protection, that should put them on equal demographic footing.

"It's an incredibly challenging situation that is complicated by the interactions of these wolves with coyotes and humans. If the park stays the same, there's no immediate reason that they would go extinct. However, we wouldn't want to go forward with that as our only plan because it offers little chance for expansion."

Eastern Wolf

Though large-scale reintroduction across eastern North America will probably not occur soon, Benson said the study emphasizes the value of preserving delicate predator-prey balances that ecosystems have calibrated over millennia.

"Our work suggests that there's an ecological role that wolves play that won't be played by other animals," he said. "That's probably a role that's worth conserving on landscapes, even outside protected areas. If we're interested in restoring landscapes to a more natural, functioning ecosystem, this would be an important part of that."


Benson authored the study with former doctoral adviser Brent Patterson, a research scientist at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry; Karen Loveless of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and Linda Rutledge of Trent. The team's paper was featured in the journal Ecological Applications.  

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Environmental groups say more research is needed on reintroducing jaguars to Southwest

Rintroducing the jaguar into the United States is an idea whose time has come, says a Tucson-based environmental group.
A national conservation group says it’s at least an idea worthy of more analysis than the federal government has given it.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages endangered species, doesn’t agree. It says the best use of its resources is to focus on what it sees as the jaguar’s core areas in Mexico, not on “secondary” jaguar habitat in the southwestern U.S.
The debate over bringing jaguars from Mexico to the Southwest comes as part of a larger discussion of the federal government’s draft jaguar recovery plan. That plan, released in December, advocates putting the most energy toward jaguar recovery in Mexico, where most borderlands jaguars live.
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Defenders of Wildlife said in their written comments on the plan, and in a separate report by Defenders, that more attention needs to be paid to bringing back jaguars in the Southwest, including possible reproduction.
Reintroduction of predators has always been a hot-button issue here. It took more than a decade for environmentalists and federal biologists to get a Mexican wolf reintroduction program started because of controversy over the wolf’s impacts on livestock. It remains controversial today although wolf populations are slowly recovering.
Jaguars are in better shape in the U.S. today than wolves were before reintroduction started. Only seven Mexican wolves remained in 1980 when the last five were pulled out of the wild to be put in captive breeding facilities. About 4,000 jaguars are known to live in Mexico today, but only seven, all males, have been confirmed to be living in Arizona and New Mexico since 1996.
Defenders doesn’t advocate reintroduction now, but “we are calling on (Fish and Wildlife) to do a scientific, objective analysis and we’d like to see their work reviewed by an independent, scientific body,” said Rob Peters, Defenders’ Southwestern representative. The 508-page jaguar recovery plan didn’t discuss reintroduction, he noted.
The seven known Southwestern male jaguars are believed to have come from northern Mexico. But “I think it’s very unlikely” that natural jaguar migration from Mexico alone will bring this country a breeding population soon, Peters said.
Younger female jaguars “set up their home ranges next to mom,” and don’t disperse at anywhere near the rate of young males, Peters said. In a paper, the late Peter Warshall, a longtime Tucson scientist, calculated that it would take 44 to 200 years for females to migrate north to the U.S., Peters noted. Warshall was science coordinator for the Northern Jaguar Project, which runs a major jaguar preserve in northern Sonora.

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Bringing jaguars into Arizona could help the northern Sonora population, which faces threats from poaching, said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate for the center. Assuming the animals can travel back and forth between the two countries, having a U.S. breeding population could improve the Mexican population’s genetic diversity, he said.
The jaguar’s increased presence here at the top of the food chain could also benefit the overall ecosystem, Robinson said.
“They evolved in the United States with all other animals and plants, over many thousands of years and the ecosystem adapted to their presence over that time,” he said.
When the recovery team conducted rigorous jaguar population and habitat studies, it concluded resources are best spent in core areas in Mexico, “and not to the translocation of jaguars in secondary areas and certainly not in areas outside of where they can most meaningfully contribute to recovery of the species,” service spokesman Jeff Humphrey said Tuesday.
The recovery team, including U.S. and Mexican biologists, focused their strategy on sustaining habitat, eliminate poaching and improve social acceptance of the jaguar in Mexico, Humphrey said.
“Their rationale is that our limited dollars are best spent on making those populations as robust as possible rather than manufacturing new populations in a range that may no longer be appropriate,” Humphrey said.
With the Mexican jaguar population in some jeopardy, “it seems like we ought to take care of what’s already here first,” agreed Bill McDonald, executive director of the Malpais Borderlands Group, which seeks to promote open space conservation and “working landscapes” for ranchers and others along the border.
The group has no position on reintroduction, “but I think you should stabilize the population that gets the occasional male up here,” he said. “It’s ridiculous to hopscotch jaguars hundreds of miles north to try to make that work. It’s putting the cart way before the horse.”
But Sergio Avila, a longtime jaguar biologist, said while more specific analysis of jaguar behavior is needed for reintroduction to be seriously considered, it’s one of many “tools in the toolbox” worth considering.
“Because we have open space where they can set up territories, protected areas and environmental laws here, because we have healthy populations of wild prey here, and because we have connections to the south and we have habitat,” reintroduction could be worth it ecologically, said Avila, an Arizona Sonora Desert Museum research scientist.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

So FAKE NEWS about Wolves harboring parasites that cause disease in humans................The Wolf haters have pushed this type propaganda for years and good to know that the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany have recently debunked this hogwash.....................Their peer reviewed research in the online journal SCIENTIFIC REPORTS emphatically states "The good news: wolf parasites do not pose a threat to human health!"

Researchers study wolf parasites
January 30, 2017

Since the year 2000, the Eurasian grey wolf, Canis lupus lupus, has spread across Germany.
Ines Lesniak, doctoral student at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), and her colleagues, have taken a closer look at the parasites of this returnee to determine whether the number and species of parasites change with an increasing wolf population.

 This was the case, because the number of parasite species per individual wolf increased as the wolf population expanded. Furthermore, cubs had a higher diversity of parasite species than older animals. The good news: wolf parasites do not pose a threat to human health. The results of this study were published in the scientific online journal Scientific Reports.

In the course of a long-term study of  health in Germany, the internal organs of 53 wolf carcasses were studied in detail. They came from wolves that had died in traffic accidents or were illegally killed between 2007 and 2014. "Whereas tapeworms are recognisable with the naked eye, the identification of single-celled Sarcocystis  was a real challenge, since the  of this genus do not differ morphologically," explains Lesniak.
According to their developmental cycle, endoparasites can be grouped into two types: Some, such as many tapeworms, infect their hosts directly. Others, such as Sarcocystis parasites, first live in an intermediate host, specifically the prey animal of the wolf. These parasites are released back into the environment in the wolf faeces. Potential prey animals of the wolf feed on vegetation contaminated with the parasites. The parasites thereby invade the intermediate host and settle in the muscle flesh. Roe deer, red deer and wild boar are such intermediate hosts in central Europe. When these are eaten by a wolf, the parasites infect the wolf and reproduce in its intestines.
By applying sophisticated molecular genetic analyses, the scientists identified 12 Sarcocystis species in the wolf carcasses. They also found four tapeworm species (cestodes), eight roundworm species (nematodes) as well as one fluke species (trematode). In order to examine parasite infections also in the wolf's large prey species, the team collected internal organs of shot prey animals from hunting parties.
In Germany, wolves mainly feed on roe deer, but also red deer and wild boars. Small mammals, such as hares, voles or mice, are very seldom on the menu. The identified parasites provide indirect evidence for this insight, since fox tapeworms were found in only one of the 53 wolves. Fox tapeworms are transmitted by mice and can occur in all canids, but particularly frequently in foxes. This is good news, Lesniak says, because the larvae of fox tapeworms can cause severe diseases in humans.
he scientists found that the infestation of wolves with parasites varied over their lifetime. "Cubs carry many more  than yearlings or adults." According to Ines Lesniak, such variation in parasite species prevalence can be explained by the more robust immune system of older wolves. Wolves, just like any other wild canid – other than domestic dogs – are never dewormed, after all.
Wolves that died at the beginning of the study period had a lower parasite diversity than those who died later. "The bigger the population, the more often wolves are in contact with each other and their prey, and the more often they became infected with different parasites," Lesniak says.
Currently, there are 46 wolf packs settled within Germany. A pack consists of the parents as well as the cubs of the current and the previous year and can comprise up to ten individuals. "Genetic analyses conducted by our cooperation partners for this study show that the ancestors of the Central European lowland population, which nowadays ranges from Germany to Poland, originated from Lusatia in eastern Germany," Lesniak says. This population was probably initiated by individuals who migrated from the Baltic region at the beginning of the millennium and settled between southern Brandenburg and northern Saxony. From there, they began to spread across northeastern Germany and southwestern Poland, a process which continues to this day.
"Wolves are shy, wild animals. Thus, contact between people and wolves is rare," Lesniak emphasises. "Nevertheless, hunters should boil the leftovers of shot game thoroughly before feeding this to their hunting dogs, in order to avoid possible parasite infections," warns Lesniak. It is also essential to regularly deworm hunting dogs in regions occupied by wolves.
Occasionally, it has been reported that wolves come closer to residential areas; sheep farmers are complaining about losses. "It may well be that today's  have learnt that it is easier to find food closer to humans – those, who once eradicated their wolf forefathers," says Lesniak. Of course, it is more convenient for a wolf to break into a sheep enclosure than to chase  in the forest. Therefore, the implementation of appropriate protective measures of domestic animals is very important and now also financially supported by the government in Germany.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Dad used to tell me and my brother never to kill the spiders that we saw inside and outside of our home................Rick he would say: "Spiders in the house = a healthy house", meaning that there were no toxins preventing small insects from living in our home, and thus Spiders to eat them..........And as the article below depicts, "Spiders food consumption likely dwarfs the meat and fish consumption of all of us 7 billion human animals on the planet.........................With over 45,000 species of Spiders worldwide, these arthropods are some of the most successful carnivores on Planet earth, found literally everywhere from the arctic to deserts, grasslands, forest, prairie and chaparral................"Insects and springtails (collembolans) make up about 90 percent of spiders' prey".............. "A few large species eat worms and small vertebrates like birds or bats (or even snakes)................It cannot be overemphasized the important role that spider predation plays in minimizing pest and disease vectors across our natural systems

Spiders Eat Up to 880 Million Tons of Insects Each Year

By  | 

Each year, about 27 million tons of spiders consume somewhere between 440 million and 880 million tons of insects, new research finds.
Yeah, that's a lot of bugs.
The new study, published in the journal The Science of Nature, finds that spiders' food consumption rivals — or perhaps dwarfs — the 440 million tons (400 million metric tons) of meat and fish all the humans in world eat each year. Spider prey consumption is similar to the amount of food that all whale species (Cetacea) eat annually, which has been pegged at between 300 million and 550 million tons (280 million and 500 million metric tons), biologist Martin Nyffeler of the University of Basel in Switzerland and ecologist Klaus Birkhofer of the Brandenburg University of Technology in Germany wrote in their paper.

Jumping Spider killing a fly

"By contrast, the annual food consumption of all the world's seabirds is estimated at 70 million tons," the researchers wrote.

Spiders are a very successful group of arthropods. They're found everywhere from deserts to grasslands to forests to Arctic tundra. More than 45,000 individual species have been identified so far, Nyffeler and Birkhofer wrote. Scientists estimate that there are around 131 spiders per every square meter of land on the globe, and in some places up to 1,000 individuals in that area (about the size of a single mattress).
With a few rare exceptions, spiders are carnivores, but it's hard to directly measure their impact on their prey because spiders often hunt at night or in nooks and crannies that are difficult to observe, the researchers wrote. To estimate how much spiders eat, then, the researchers had to start by figuring out how much spider tonnage is out there.
To estimate spider biomass (essentially, the weight of all the spiders in the world), the researchers drew from published data on spider biomass from tropical forests, temperate forests, tropical grasslands, temperate grasslands and shrublands, agricultural land, deserts and Arctic tundra. They then used global land cover for each type of environment to estimate the total weight of spiders on the globe, arriving at 25 million metric tons (about 27 million U.S. tons).
To figure out how much food it takes to keep 27 million tons of spiders creeping and crawling, the researchers used two methods. In the first, they simply estimated the food needs of a spider per the spider's mass. For most spiders, they pegged this at around 0.1 milligram of food per milligram of spider, or about 10 percent of a spider's body weight, each day. For desert spiders, which live notoriously spartan lives, the researchers used estimates of between 0.01 and 0.04 milligrams of food per milligram of spider.

Wolf Spider killing a catapillar

This method led to a range of between 507 million and 772 million U.S. tons (460 million and 700 million metric tons of prey a year).  
The second method involved extrapolating from data taken from the field in which scientists actually counted the number of insects spiders ate. This method led to an estimate of between 435 million and 887 million U.S. tons (395 million and 805 million metric tons).
Insects and springtails (collembolans) make up about 90 percent of spiders' prey, the researchers wrote. A few large species eat worms and small vertebrates, like birds or bats (or even snakes). Forest and grassland spiders are responsible for 95 percent of the prey kill each year, in part because these areas contain the most ground cover and in part because these habitats aren't frequently disturbed. Spiders living in agricultural fields, for example, have to contend with human activities and pesticides. [Goliath Birdeater: Images of a Colossal Spider]
It's impossible to say how many individual insects it takes to get to some 800 million U.S. tons or how many spiders put together weigh 27 million tons, Nyffeler, a senior lecturer in biology, told Live Science. There is too much variation in the estimates, he said. For example, no one knows how many juvenile (and thus smaller) spiders there are per every larger adult. A British arachnologist did estimate in 1947 that there were approximately 2.2 trillion spiders in England and Wales alone, Nyffeler noted.  
The only other group of arthropods that can compete with spiders, pound-for-pound, are ants, Nyeffeler and Birkhofer wrote, but ants are not overwhelmingly carnivorous like spiders are.
"These estimates emphasize the important role that spider predation plays in semi-natural and natural habitats, as many economically important pests and disease vectors breed in those forest and grassland biomes," the researchers wrote. "We hope that these estimates and their significant magnitude raise public awareness and increase the level of appreciation for the important global role of spiders in terrestrial food webs

Monday, March 20, 2017

When I was a kid romping through the woods in Northern New Jersey,, no one ever heard of Lyme Disease,,,,,,,,,,,,,,No one that we knew was debilitated by this now dreaded disease that has spread out from Wisconsin and the East Coast over the past 30 years to cases in virtually every state in the USA...............Yes, my Doctor tells me he is seeing Lyme Disease in Southern California over the past decade!........The significant alteration of our natural landscape that has created small islands of "green" surrounded by our human habitations has virtually eliminated the carnivore suite that kept hoofed browsers(e.g. White Tailed deer) and rodents(e.g. White Tail Mice) at population levels that kept tick populations in check.......................There is still no "shot" to take to prevent Lyme......................Best advice is to not "bushwahack" through brushy areas when hiking, do not go barefoot on your lawns and after being outside, shower thoroughly with particular attention to your scalp, armpits, back of ears where ticks like to hide

Forbidding Forecast For Lyme Disease In The Northeast

March 6, 2017

White-footed mice are efficient transmitters of
 Lyme disease in the Northeast. They infect up 
to 95 percent of the ticks that feed on them. But
 it's people who create the conditions for Lyme
 outbreaks by building homes in the animals'
Stephen Reiss for NPR

Last summer Felicia Keesing returned from a long trip and found that her home in upstate New York had been subjected to an invasion.

"There was evidence of mice everywhere.

 They had completely taken over," says Keesing,
 an ecologist at Bard College.
It was a plague of mice. And it had landed right
 in Keesing's kitchen.
"Not only were there mouse droppings on our
 countertops, but we also found dead mice on
 the kitchen floor," says Keesing's husband,
 Rick Ostfeld, an ecologist at the Cary 
Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.
The Hudson River Valley experienced a mouse
 plague during the summer of 2016. The critters
 were everywhere. For most people, it was just
 a nuisance. But for Keesing and Ostfeld, the
 mouse plague signaled something foreboding.
"We're anticipating 2017 to be a particularly
 risky year for Lyme," Ostfeld says.
Keesing and Ostfeld, who have studied Lyme
 for more than 20 years, have come up with 
an early warning system for the disease. They
 can predict how many cases there will be a
 year in advance by looking at one key
 measurement: Count the mice the year before.

The number of critters scampering around
 the forest in the summer correlates to the 
Lyme cases the following summer, they've
The explanation is simple: Mice are highly 
efficient transmitters of Lyme. They infect 
up to 95 percent of ticks that feed on them.
 Mice are responsible for infecting the majority
 of ticks carrying Lyme in the Northeast. And
 ticks love mice. "An individual mouse might
 have 50, 60, even 100 ticks covering its ears
 and face," Ostfeld says.
So that mouse plague last year means there
 is going to be a Lyme plague this year.
 "Yep. I'm sorry to say that's the scenario
 we're expecting," Ostfeld says.

Mice and ticks get along swimmingly. Other animals, such as possums, groom away ticks — and sometimes kill them. But white-footed mice tolerate ticks covering their faces and ears. Blacklegged ticks, like the adult female on the right, are tiny — about the size of a sesame seed

He's not exactly sure which parts of the Northeast

 will be at highest risk.
But wherever Lyme exists, people should be vigilant,
 says epidemiologist Kiersten Kugeler at the Centers
 for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Whether it's a bad season or not, there's still going 
to be a lot of human cases of tick-borne diseases," 
she says. "What's important for people to know is 
that the ticks are spreading to new areas — and
 tick-borne diseases are coming with them."
Back in the early '80s, the disease wasn't that big
 a problem. Cases were confined to two small 
regions: western Wisconsin and the area from 
Connecticut to New Jersey
Since then, Lyme cases have shot up in number
 and spread in all directions: "The only place 
that they haven't really spread is into the
 Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean, for 
obvious reasons," says biologist Rebecca Eisen,
 who's also at the CDC.
Now Lyme is present in more than 260 counties,
 the CDC reported in 2015. The disease shows
 up in Maine, swoops down the East Coast into
 Washington, D.C., and southern Virginia. 
Then it hops to the Midwest into northern
 Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. 
There are also small pockets of Lyme on the West Coast.

The number of confirmed and probable Lyme disease cases

 in the U.S more than doubled from 2001 to 2015. In 2015,

 95 percent of confirmed 

cases were reported in the 14 states labeled below.

2001 reported cases

2015 reported cases

"They also cut down trees for commercial use," 
Ostfeld says, "to make masts for ships, and for
Since then a lot of the forest has come back —
 but it's not the same forest as before, he says.
 Today it's all broken up into little pieces, with
 roads, farms and housing developments.
For mice, this has been great news.
"They tend to thrive in these degraded, 
fragmented landscapes," Ostfeld says
, because their predators need big forests 
to survive.
Without as many foxes, hawks and owls
 to eat them, mice crank out babies. 
And we end up with forests packed 
with mice — mice that are chronically
 infected with Lyme and covered with ticks.
So all these little patches of forest dotting 
the Northeast have basically turned into 
Lyme factories, spilling over with infected ticks.
Then people come along and do the darndest
 thing, Keesing says: They build their dream
 homes right next door. "So we see that
 humans are putting themselves in these 
areas where they're most at risk," she says.

To figure out why Lyme has become more
 prevalent, researchers at the Cary Institute 
of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., have
 trapped hundreds of thousands of rodents
 in the woods over the past 20 years. 
Research assistant Francesca Rubino checks
 a squirrel for ticks.
Stephen Reiss for NPR

And that means people, in some areas, may be
 putting themselves at risk for Lyme every single
 day without even knowing it, says the CDC's
 Kiersten Kugeler. "In the Northeast, most 
people catch Lyme around their homes," 
she says. "People out gardening. People playing
 in their backyard. Mowing the lawn."
So what can you do to keep from getting
 infected? Add a tick check to your daily
 routine, Kugeler says. When you're in the
 shower check your body for tiny ticks, 
especially the places they like to hide.
"That's the scalp, behind the ears, the 
armpits and in the groin area," she says.
If you do find a tick, get it off as quickly as 
possible. The longer an infected tick stays
 on your skin, the greater the chance it will 
pass the Lyme bacteria on to you. Generally,
 it takes about 24 hours for the tick to infect
 a person after it starts biting.
Then be on the lookout for Lyme symptoms —
 like a red rash or a fever. It anything crops
 up, go see a doctor immediately. Don't wait:
 The earlier you get treated, the better
 chance you'll have for a full recovery.

How to remove a tick

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  4. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.

   clipart image of a tickAvoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible--not waiting for it to detach.