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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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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

"Outdoor recreational activities are increasing worldwide and occur at high frequency especially close to cities"..............."Forests are a natural environment often used for such activities as jogging, hiking, dog walking, mountain biking, or horse riding"..............."The mere presence of people in forests can disturb wildlife, which may perceive humans as potential predators"................"Many of these activities rely on trails, which intersect an otherwise contiguous habitat and hence impact wildlife habitat"............... "A recent Swiss Ornithological research Study compared the effects of recreational trails on birds in two forests frequently used by recreationists with that in two rarely visited forests"............."It was found that in the disturbed (i.e., high-recreation-level forests) the density of birds and species richness were both reduced at points close to trails when compared to points further away (−13 and −4% respectively), whereas such an effect was not statistically discernible in the forests with a low-recreation-level"................"Additionally, the effects of human presence varied depending on the traits of the species"............"These findings imply that the mere presence of humans can negatively affect the forest bird community along trails"................"Prevention of trail construction in undeveloped natural habitats would reduce human access, and thus disturbance, most efficiently"

It's not trails that disturb forest birds, but the people on them

November 12, 2018, Frontiers

"The first study to disentangle the effect of forest trails from the presence of humans shows the number of birds, as well as bird species, is lower when trails are used on a more regular basis. This is also the case when trails have been used for many years, suggesting that forest birds do not get used to this recreational activity. Published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, the finding suggests the physical presence of trails has less of an impact on forest birds than how frequently these recreational paths are used by people. To minimize the impact on these forest creatures, people should avoid roaming from designated pathways.

Less of picture 1 and more of picture 2 below to optimize all 
biodiversity, not just birds



"We show that  are quite distinctly affected by people and that this avoidance behavior did not disappear even after years of use by humans. This suggests not all  habituate to humans and that a long-lasting effect remains," says Dr. Yves Bötsch, lead author of this study, based at the Swiss Ornithological Institute, Sempach, Switzerland and affiliated with Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University Zurich, Switzerland.

 "This is important to show because pressure on natural habitats and nature protection areas is getting stronger and access bans are often ignored."

Many outdoor activities rely on infrastructure, with roads and trails being most common. Previous research has shown that trails cause habitat loss and fragmentation, where larger areas of habitat are dissected into smaller pieces thereby separating wildlife populations. However it has been difficult to say for certain whether it is the presence of trails or humans that have the most impact on forest birds.
Bötsch explains, "Previous studies provide conflicting results about the effects of trails on birds, with some studies showing negative effects while others do not. We thought differences in the intensity of human use may cause this discrepancy, which motivated us to disentangle the effect of trails from the presence of humans."

The researchers visited four forests with a similar habitat, such as the types of trees, but which differed in the levels of recreation. They recorded all birds heard and seen at points near to the trails, as well as within the forest itself, and found that a lower number of birds were recorded in the forests used more frequently by humans. In addition, they noticed certain species were more affected than others.
"Species with a high sensitivity, measured by flight initiation distance (the distance at which a bird exposed to an approaching human flies away), showed stronger trail avoidance, even in rarely frequented forests. These sensitive species were raptors, such as the common buzzard and Eurasian sparrowhawk, as well as pigeons and woodpeckers," says Bötsch.

He continues, "Generally it is assumed that hiking in nature does not harm wildlife. But our study shows even in forests that have been used recreationally for decades, birds have not habituated to people enough to outweigh the negative impact of  disturbance."
Bötsch concludes with some advice, which may help to minimize the adverse effects on forest birds by people who use forests recreationally.
"We believe protected areas with forbidden access are necessary and important, and that new trails into remote forest areas should not be promoted. Visitors to existing  trails should be encouraged to adhere to a "stay on " rule and refrain from roaming from designated pathways."
More information: Frontiers in Ecology and EvolutionDOI: 10.3389/fevo.2018.00175 ,

Monday, November 12, 2018

"Arthur Carhart’s book, “The Last Stand of the Pack” (1929) describes in grim detail the struggle to pursue and kill the last Colorado wolves ranging in the wild in the 1920s"...........Prior to European colonization of the state, it is estimated that thousands of lobos called Colorado home.........Might Colorado actually reverse three previous decisions to ban restoring Wolves?......... "With 5.5 million people, Colorado is essentially an urban state with suburban sprawl on the Front Range and less than 250,000 people on the Western Slope"............."A survey conducted by Colorado State University found that 73 percent of Coloradans, most living on the Front Range, support wolves in Colorado, and 20 percent do not".............."Obviously, that 20 percent includes ranchers who have a different perspective, but that’s all the more reason to begin a dialogue on wolves"

Can we learn to live

 with wolves again?

Event at Fort Lewis College to 
explore the possibility of reintroduction

Sunday, November 11, 2018

"Steelhead are a form of oceangoing trout endemic to some rivers draining to the Pacific from North America and Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula".......Some of the finest Steelhead habitat is found along the Skeena River which flows some 350 miles in a southwesterly direction from its headwaters in northwestern British Columbia to the Pacific near Prince Rupert"........"Along the way, it picks up tributaries that represent a “who’s who” of the world’s most celebrated steelhead fisheries — the Babine, the Bulkley/Morice, the Copper, the Kispiox, the Sustut"............"Some anglers will spend over $7,000 a week to visit fishing lodges on the Skeena’s rivers"..........Why spend a small fortune just to fish for Steelhead?........."Because Steelhead Trout exhibit a general reluctance to eat once they enter fresh water"......... "Unlike the resident fish, these vagrants of oceans and rivers can rarely be fooled by "matching the hatch"........... "Instead, Fly Fishers cast their flies with the hope only to find a fish in a mood to grab the fly out of aggression, frustration, hate, annoyance, or curiosity"..........Steelhead, "a true heavyweight adversary" for Fly Fisherman!

Click on this link to read full article

The Lure of 

the Steelhead Trout

The beautiful Skeena River

Path of the Skeena River

Chris Santella about to release a wild steelhead 
on the Morice River near Houston, 
British Columbia.CreditCreditMike Marcus

Saturday, November 10, 2018

"The 'Tree Murderer', our native Southern Pine Beetle, endemic to our southeastern states, is expanding its range northward as temperatures continue to rise..............NY, NJ, Connecticut, Rhode Island and perhaps Massachusetts now are home to one of our most aggressive tree eaters...................."Anticipated is that Vermont and New Hampshire will see the arrival of the Southern Pine Beetle soon, but colder temperatures there combined with less dense stands of white pine trees will likley not make the insect as worrisome"................"Cold winters have traditionally limited southern pine beetle’s range".............. "One night at zero degrees Fahrenheit and most beetles are killed"...................... "At five degrees below zero, they’re pretty much all dead"..............."The problem is that in the last 50 years, the coldest night of winter in the states previously named has warmed by 7 to 8 degrees"..............."The pitch-pine barrens along the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to Maine are very vulnerable"................"While the Red-cockaded Woodpecker evolved alongside the Pine Beetles in old-growth, open-understory pine forests of the southeastern United States, they do not provide a knock-out punch of the insect"............Also, will the Red-cockaded migrate north and follow the beetles????.............."Land managers further south have used adaptive strategies with limited success, mainly thinning of forests where tree density is high, or cutting out infested trees"................."The question is whether these strategies will work in the north"

Southern Pine Beetles March North

Southern Pine Beetles March North
Illustration by Adelaide Tyrol
As if the emerald ash borer’s incursion into northern New England wasn’t enough, now there’s another potentially devastating forest pest marching this way: the southern pine beetle.
Dendroctonus frontalis – the first name means “tree murderer,” we should note – is only a fraction of an inch long. But during outbreaks, they reproduce by the millions and can kill trees in a matter of weeks.
“They’re one of the most aggressive tree-killing insects in the world,” said Matthew Ayres, a biology professor at Dartmouth College who has studied the species for 25 years.
A relative of the mountain pine beetle, which periodically ravage the lodgepole- and ponderosa-pine forests of the intermountain West, the southern pine beetle is native to the vast pine forests in the southeastern US.
But now, thanks to a warming climate, the beetle is moving north. It’s established itself in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and probably Massachusetts, according to Ayres. In New York, it’s on Long Island and has been trapped near Albany.
“There’s no doubt that northern forests in New Hampshire and Vermont are going to be challenged in the next few years – sooner rather than later – by southern pine beetles,” said Ayres.

The Red-cockaded Woodpecker evolved in old-growth, open-understory pine forests of the southeastern United States—particularly in longleaf pine—that was naturally maintained by lightning-started fires every one to five years. This habitat was once extensive, but almost disappeared during logging in the twentieth century. The birds are now often found in mature loblolly, slash, shortleaf, Virginia, pond, and pitch pine forests......Will they follow their Southern Pine Beetle prey north into the mid-atlantic states?

Range of The Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change earlier this year, a team of researchers predicted “a plausible new threat” from the beetle “to vast areas of pine forest in eastern North America by 2050 and into subarctic Canada after 2080 under continued climate change.”
“It is a very big deal” for the northeastern US,” said Kevin Dodds, a forest entomologist with the US Forest Service and one of the authors of the article. “It’s definitely a considerable forest pest.”

Dead pines in northeastern Oklahoma, where some forests have been hit hard by beetles.
Credit: Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Cold winters have traditionally limited southern pine beetle’s range. One night at zero degrees Fahrenheit and most beetles are killed, said Ayres. At five degrees below zero, they’re pretty much all dead. The problem: “In the last 50 years [in our region], the coldest night of winter has warmed by 7 to 8 degrees,” said Ayres. In the next 50 years, it could rise another 10 degrees.
Adult female beetles are the ones who seek out new host trees. When they find a vulnerable pine, they burrow into the bark and release pheromones that alert other beetles, which swarm to the tree. Scientists call this a “mass attack.” The tree tries to fight back with resin, but the sheer number of invaders overwhelms its defenses. Beetles carve tunnels into the inner bark and lay eggs. After hatching, the larvae tunnel out and fly off to another tree. They can fly up to two miles and can produce multiple generations in a year.
During periodic outbreaks, the beetle’s numbers swell. They spread rapidly and kill pines in vast numbers. They then typically crash. In the south, outbreaks occur roughly on a 6-10 year cycle, though patterns can vary widely.
“The southern pine beetle has been recorded attacking and killing every species of pine with which they come into contact, and that’s more than a dozen,” said Ayres. It favors the “hard” pines like loblolly pine and shortleaf pine. It will kill pitch pines, and the pitch-pine barrens along the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to Maine are very vulnerable. It’s likely to go after jack pine and red pine, too.

Southern Pine Beetle larvae emerging from trunk of tree

The big unanswered question is how it will treat white pines.
Ayres said the beetle has killed white pines in Alabama, Kentucky, and New Jersey. “We know they’re susceptible. What we don’t know well is how well the beetles reproduce in white pines.”
Kyle Lombard, the forest health program coordinator for the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands, said his office is monitoring the bug’s progress. But “We are not overly concerned it will be a real threat to our New Hampshire forests. We just don’t have a lot of the preferred host, and the winter temps in New England would severely knock it back or completely control it.”
In their mass attacks, southern pine beetles tend to favor forests where the trees grow close together. In New England, white pine doesn’t usually grow in pure stands, but as single trees throughout the woods. That may discourage the beetle.
Unlike with emerald ash borer, where there’s virtually nothing humans can do but wring their hands, the thinning of uninfected pine stands can help control the southern pine beetle.
“The best management strategy to discourage southern pine beetle outbreaks is to maintain healthy pine stands, and that is another advantage New Hampshire has – we are not averse to managing forests,” said Lombard.
“We can manage it, and we should,” said Ayres. “But we should also take this as a harbinger of other changes and challenges that could be facing northern woodlands. This won’t be the last.”

Joe Rankin lives in Maine.

New knowledge for managing tree-killing bark beetles

Outbreaks of the southern pine beetle can't be stopped by its main predator, but risks to forests from this tree-killing insect can be predicted with a simple, inexpensive monitoring program, according to a study by Dartmouth College and other institutions.
The findings appear in the journal Ecography. The study included researchers from Dartmouth, the U.S. Forest Service and Texas A&M University.

The northward march of the southern pine beetle can't be stopped by its main predator, but forest risks can be predicted and better managed with a simple, inexpensive monitoring program, according to a Dartmouth-led study.
Credit: Dartmouth College

The southern pine beetle has coexisted with North American pines for millions of years, but recent warming of winter temperatures has allowed the beetle's range to extend as far north as New York and Massachusetts.
The researchers used data from a forest monitoring program to evaluate how forest risk varies from location to location and to evaluate whether the southern pine beetle's natural predator, the checkered beetle, can stop outbreaks. Their results show that southern pine beetle outbreaks rise and fall remarkably synchronously across hundreds of miles. This means that the risks in any year and any region can be predicted with a simple, inexpensive monitoring program that measures their abundance by using traps baited with the pheromones that the southern pine beetles use themselves to find each other. The results also provide further evidence that weather, such as the coldest night of the winter, influences pest abundance and affects epidemics.
"The checkered beetle tracks the abundance of the southern pine beetle very closely," says senior author Matt Ayres, a professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth. "Unfortunately, the pest affects the predator more than the predator affects the pest. Thus, the predator cannot be relied upon to stop outbreaks and epidemics can persist for years, kill enormous numbers of pine trees and change forests in ways that last for decades or longer."
Pine beetle outbreaks have historically affected virtually all aspects of southern pine ecosystems and caused incalculable costs to local communities, state economies and the enormous forest products industry based on southern pines. Now, the pest is killing pine trees much farther north, raising major challenges to natural resource management and the maintenance of ecosystem services.
"Our study provides a rare empirical assessment of how local processes scale up to produce landscape patterns that influence forest ecology and forest management," says lead author Aaron Weed, a former postdoctoral researcher at Dartmouth and now an ecologist with the National Park Service "Our findings confirm that inexpensive monitoring that measures the abundance of southern pine beetles using traps baited with the pheromones is an effective method of assessing forest risks. Since the 19th century, the checkered beetle has been considered as a possible natural biological control for suppressing southern pine beetles, but our findings indicate that the predator cannot be relied upon to stop outbreaks."
Fortunately, entomologists and forest managers have developed techniques that do not require insecticides and can greatly reduce impacts from southern pine beetles. These include removing individual trees that are crowded with beetles and thinning overstocked forests before they are infested.
"One challenge is that climate change has allowed the pest to expand its range into more northerly regions, where landowners and forest managers do not have experience with these techniques nor the resources to implement them," Ayres says.
Story Source:
Materials provided by Dartmouth CollegeNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. Aaron S. Weed, Matthew P. Ayres, Andrew M. Liebhold, Ronald F. Billings. Spatio-temporal dynamics of a tree-killing beetle and its predatorEcography, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/ecog.02046
March 24, 2016
Dartmouth College

Friday, November 9, 2018

"Today’s abundance of backyard prey may be causing some hawks to forgo fall migration".......... "When migrating Sharpie Hawk numbers dropped steeply off Cape May, New Jersey from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, many feared it signaled a declining population"............"But ornithologist Charles Duncan, then at the University of Maine at Machias, had “a hunch that hawks had less pressure to migrate because they could prey on birds who frequent bird feeders in winter"............"To test the hypothesis, he analyzed 18 years of CBC data on New England’s sharpies"........... "Duncan discovered that between 1975 and 1992, the number of hawks that overwintered in the region increased by more than 500 percent"............“The raptors were surviving on bird seed once-removed"............"Might feeder birds be suffering from increased hawk predation?".............. "There is no evidence that hawks have caused declines in any prey species taken at feeders".........."Feeder birds such as sparrows, juncos and mourning doves are all doing well"............. “People should be happy to witness these cool, natural predator/prey interactions in their own backyards"

Woodland hawks flock to urban buffet

November 6, 2018 by Terry Devitt, University of Wisconsin-Madison

For the nearly 35 million Americans who faithfully stock their feeders to attract songbirds, an increasingly common sight is a hawk feeding on the birds being fed.

Now, in a new study published Nov. 7, 2018, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a team of Wisconsin researchers documents that woodland hawks—once in precipitous decline due to pollution, persecution and habitat loss—have become firmly established in even the starkest urban environments, thriving primarily on a diet of backyard birds attracted to feeders.

According to the researchers, the birds are doing so well that an increasing number of rural woodland hawks are, in fact, city-bred.

"Top predators are beginning to use  more frequently and establish breeding populations, and hawks are a nice example of this," explains Benjamin Zuckerberg, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of wildlife ecology and a senior author of the new study. "For hawks, the secret is out: There is a hyperabundance of prey" in the city.

The availability of food—in this instance, backyard birds—is the single most important factor in drawing avian predators such as Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks to the city, says Jennifer McCabe, a UW-Madison postdoctoral fellow who led the new study.

As pesticides such as DDT were curbed and new protections from human hunters came into play beginning in the 1960s, populations of woodland avian predators like Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks have soared. As populations rebounded, hawks began to move into urban areas and the study concludes that, at least for Chicago, prey availability at feeders significantly influenced colonization and persistence in the city, explains McCabe.
While the new study uses Chicago as its laboratory, the phenomenon of top predators establishing themselves in urban environments is a global trend, say the Wisconsin researchers.
"Across the world stories are popping up about predators expanding into cities," says McCabe. "Bear and cougars in the U.S., leopards in India, and red foxes in Europe, to name a few."
The new study depended on more than 20 years of citizen science data gathered by participants in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch, where people who feed birds document avian activity in their backyards.
"Project FeederWatch is the perfect program for this kind of research because you can use that information not only to document hawks, but also their prey," says Zuckerberg of the landmark  project.
Quintessential woodland predators, Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks are what wildlife biologists call "perch and scan" hunters, sitting quietly on a tree branch and swooping in when a meal comes within striking distance. "Bird feeders," says Zuckerberg, "are like buffets. It is an easy meal."
The new insight from the Wisconsin study is that for the hawks it is all about food. Once established in cities, the urban environment and the absence of trees made little difference.
"I was surprised that tree canopy cover was not important in colonization by these woodland hawks," McCabe says. "However, they aren't nesting in the winter, meaning they are more concerned about their own survival and not raising young. So it makes sense that food availability would be so important."
Using 20 years of Project FeederWatch data from 1996 to 2016, McCabe and her colleagues portray a steady advance of the predators from outlying rural areas to the hardened center of Chicago, a pattern that also occurs in many other North American metropolitan areas and also in Europe, where sparrow hawks have aggressively colonized urban landscapes.
One other surprising finding, according to McCabe and Zuckerberg, is that prey size did not seem to be an important factor. The informed assumption, says McCabe, was that larger prey would be preferred menu items for the hawks.
"Prey biomass wasn't an important driver of colonization or persistence," she notes. "Much of the literature states, at least for Cooper's hawks, that they prefer larger-bodied prey like doves and pigeons. Perhaps these hawks are cueing in on the sheer number of birds and not particular species."
An important take-home message, says McCabe, is that cities, which in the United States are adding an estimated 1 million acres of urbanized land each year, are increasingly important wildlife habitat: "Don't discount urban areas as habitat. The more we know about which species and what landscape factors allow those species to colonize and persist in urban areas, the better we can manage wildlife in an ever-developing world."
More information: Prey abundance and urbanization influence the establishment of avian predators in a metropolitan landscape, Proceedings of the Royal Society Brspb.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rspb.2018.2120