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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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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Of Wolves, there are two"--New England Rarities

John Josselyn early 17th Century decriptions of the animals of New England...............Perhaps as his
NEW ENGLAND RARITIES eye witness descriptions state..................there were two wolf species occupying our North East circa AD 1500.

Epigenetics and how they might account for what we now call our Eastern Wolf (Canis lupus/lycaon)

My previous email postings(which have come to an end as this blog commences) have focused heavily on the question of what wolf species inhabited our Eastern woodlands at the initiation of European exploration and colonization circa AD 1500. There are several esteemed teams of Wolf/Coyote researchers who are currently in heavy debate over whether our Eastern Wolf(lupus/lycaon) has always existed in the East or whether our Gray Wolf(Canis lupus) existed sympatrically with lycaon................or whether our Southeastern wolf(c.rufus) is actually one and the same with lycaon or whether lupus and rufus hybridized at some point resulting in lycaon................or whether(ususally agreed upon) that Rufus descended from a Coyote ancestor at some point in the distant past and that is the reason for coyote markers to show up in our Eastern wolves(whether they be lycaon or rufus)..................Confused, I still am and I have made it my business to read as many analyses as there have been published on this subject over the past 5 years(i am pleased to say that a crosssection of these talented scientists have become pen pals of sorts as I have postulated my laymans perspective on all things wolf).  Bottom line is that two of the most revered wolf biologists, John and Mary Theberge have postulated that all of the above theories may have validity because environmental stresses on wolves  might have had lasting impact on their genes(Epigenetic markers) causing our Eastern wolf to be both Western Wolf and Eastern Wolf simultaneously. Pick up a copy of the Theberge's upcoming new book, The Ptarmagin Dilemma for more on this fascinating subject.

The Fisher is returning to the Mid Atlantic States

While the Fisher is struggling to maintain its historic population in our Rocky Mountain West and California, this ferocious little predator is expanding it's range up and down our Eastern Appalachian Mountain spine. The only animal that can successfully prey on porcupines, this "climbing cat", a member of our weasel family, is tenaciously beginning to re-occupy maturing woodlands in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and now even heavily urbanized New Jersey.  Able to successfully prey on small rodents, birds eggs and "porkies", the Fisher is a meso-predator that has an active role in maintaing the health and vitality of our woodlands. Welcome back Fisher-Cat.............the "Garden State" is a better place due to your presence!

Why are Moose in the Great Lakes Region struggling whereas Moose are returning to New England and New York?

We have a conundrum as it relates to our Great Lakes Moose population, once so vibrant and now seemingly in  severe decline. Simultaneous to this decline is the acceleration of the Moose population in New England and New York State........................Moose have recolonized this region in ever growing
numbers............perhaps 4000 in Vermont alone........................New York, New Hampshire, Maine...................even outside Greenwich and Stanford Connecticut, Moose are being spotted in wooded suburbs!  Our Moose biologists have identified warming temperatures as primary reason for Moose decline in the Upper Midwest. Warm temps allow ticks to breed and multiply--a very harmful bloodsucker of Moose! Simultaneously, the warmth allows whitetail deer to expand their range Northward. Deer carry a brain worm that kills combine the ticks and the worm with the occasional snowy winter(food hard to come by) and you have the perfect storm for Moose decline. What is so fascinating is that these same variables are at play in the Northeast and still the Moose population expands there!.......

In the Rocky Mountain West, what type habitat do lynx need to prosper?

While there has been many discussions about how logging impacts the ability of Lynx to thrive or perish, evidence in the West suggests that dense horizontal cover, a haystack of wind throwed logs adjacent to dense forest cover is the perfect habitat for lynx to thrive. This type vegetation matrix breeds an abundance of snowshoe hare, the lynx primary foodstuff. The more hare, the more lynx. In fact in good hare habitat, lynx can breed a couple of times a year successfully. That edge habitat, whether caused by storm induced high winds or a loggers clear cut makes for a comfortable home for lynx. Let it be known that the clearcut becomes favorable for lynx a good 20 years into regrowth as the dense thicket understory develops. So, our paper companies and commercial loggers need to take into account the size of clearcuts so as to leave necessary dense forest cover adjacent for lynx. A forest specialist our big pawed lynx cat is and our humanity is on display as we find ways to allow this snowshoe hare specialist to thrive and endure into the 21st century and beyond.

Wolves, Moose and Biodiversity

My friend Camilla Fox of Project shared the attached article with me describing how top down, trophic predators like the wolf actually contributes to soil fertility through culling the Moose herd. We have all begun to hear about how the wolves that have been re-introduced to Yellowstone have caused a revival of stream banks and Willow trees by causing the Elk herds to "be on the move" and not browse day after day in the same streamside locations. By Elk easing back their consumption of Willow browse, Willows are actually growing up to be trees............bringing back the beaver who now have wood for their dams........................with Elk, Moose and some bison kills on the ground due to Wolf predation, Grizzly Bears, the remaining coyotes, ravens and scores of other wildlife now have another food source(the remains of the wolf kill). Now it has also been established that as the remains of these prey creatures decompose into the ground, the soil in that particular location gets enriched allowing for easier tree and shrub regeneration.................allowing for more shelter and foodstuffs for all the animals who inhabit Yellowstone.....................Re-wild with our native carnivores and benefits cascade through the system for all animals including man!

Re-Wilding New England

As most of us drive across America's countryside and view the woodlands East of the Mississippi, Upper Midwest, the Rocky Mountain Spine, and West Coast.............they typical comment from those traveling with us is "wow, look at all of that wild land.............not built on..................seemingly virgin."  When you share with your passengers that only about 1% of the entire USA including Alaska and Hawaii is old growth, never built on open space, you are met with disbelief........"How can that be?......look at that beautiful forest!" Well, in fact it is beautiful and in fact it has probably been cut down 3 to 5 time since European colonization..........................We are blessed with sections of the USA having enough rainfall to "re-seed" disturbed land and re-grow forests. Most of our woodlands East of the Mississippi are no older than 125 years. When you look closely, you notice the slender trunk circumfrance of most of the trees. Here and there a "wolf tree"(wide and tall) stands out, a byproduct of an old farmers field where he had left a tree or two standing for shade or some other purpose. These wolf trees and other isolated woodland pockets were the seedbank for the last 100 to 150 year re-growth of our Northern woodlands..............Vermont and
neighboring East Coast States 55 to 80% wooded today versus 25-40% a Century ago...........and with the woodland re-growth, forest wildlife starts to return................Give nature a chance and she will respond! 
Enjoy David Foster's(Harvard Forest) insightful analysis of "Wildlife Dynamics in a changing New England Landscape....a great read---attached.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gray Foxes Are Expanding Their Range

Donald McAlpine evaluates the possible reasons for why Gray Foxes are expanding their range northward into Southern Canada and Northern Maine. He cites warming temperatures as a possible explanation. Instead of Spruce/fir woodlands, the warmer weather might be encougaging northern hardwoods (beech/birch, etc) which the Gray Fox finds comfortable to inhabit. Another possibility for this range expansion is that red foxes might be being culled by coyotes.  It is well known that red foxes tend to outcompete Gray foxes when the two inhabit the same region. I postulate that with the arrival of the Eastern Coyote(Coywolf), Gray foxes began to reclaim their historical Southern Canadian habitat. The gray fox is able to climb trees whereas the Red fox lacks this ability. As a result, the "Grays" can often escape their Coywolf foe by hiding in the branches(coyotes do not climb trees) and have been able to take over vacant red fox territory during these past 30 years. One creatures woes is another creatures gain.....................and so goes the ebb and flow of mother nature.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Schwartz and Vucetich perspective on the status of the wolves that occupy the Great Lakes Region

Back and forth..................back and forth our teams of Wolf - Coyote biologists, researchers and geneticists
debate on whether our Eastern Wolf is distinct from our Gray Wolf...............whether coyotes hybridized recently or in the distant past with their various wolf cousins......................does it matter?  Perhaps what we should focus on is whether the wolf/coyote species on the ground accomplishes it historical task of preying on moose, beaver, deer and elk.

click here to read article

Rick Meril commentary on Rabinowitz thumbs down on jaguar protection in USA

Alan Rabinowtiz is regarded as the foremost Jaguar Scientist in the World today. Alan leads the charge
for protecting the Jaguar throughout it's most modern day range(Mexico to Patagonia) and forging rewilding
corridors as well as core preserves for The Americas largest and most majestic Cat. He has come out
against extending that protection into the USA on the basis that El Tigre has been absent from our landscape
for the last 150 years and that it would be to expensive to resurrect critical habitat for "The Jag"...Click and
read this laymans passionate "point/counterpoint" and rebuttal.

We root for El Tigre's return to the USA!

Another revealing article on the Jaguars dogged plight to reclaim it's historical USA homeland, where
at the time of European contact, circa 1500 A.D., it roamed from San Francisco South across the Southern tier of North America to Florida.

El Tigre returns to the USA!

Revelations on the Jaguars return to the Southwestern USA and it's implications for wildlife protection

Jaguar critical Habitat to be created in the USA

With Jaguars having been sited in the Southwest over the past few years, Fish and Wildlife Services has decided to set aside "critical habitat" for El Tigre"........As with every issue we humans face, there are those in favor and those opposed.....I come out in favor of the habitat...supporting Defenders of Wildlife and the Center For Biological Diversity..... versus the respected "opposed" opinion of famed Jaguar Scientist, Alan Rabinowitz.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Coyotes hybridizing with Eastern Wolves-initial point of contact

Point/Counterpoint  with two of our preeminent coyote and wolf biologist teams debating the location of contact where Coyotes actually hybridized with Eastern wolves as they migrated eastward at the turn of the 20th Century………………Like those two terrific heavyweight boxers of the 70’s..Ali and Frasier in Manila……………….spirited commentary and excellent perspectives from both coyote/wolf camps!