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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 30, 2010

Missouri starting to get confirmed sightings of Mountain Lions.........dispersers going farther and farther East from the Dakotas..........will a couple of female cats join the Toms in setting up family units?

Mountain lion sighting confirmed in northwest Missouri

The Missouri Department of Conservation has confirmed a mountain lion sighting in northwest Missouri.A landowner in southern Platte County near the Missouri River contacted the MDC with a photograph he took on Nov. 26 of a mountain lion in a tree on his property, according to the department.

"The photo is clearly of a mountain lion," said Jeff Beringer, resource scientist with the Mountain Lion Response Team. "We visited with the landowner, who wishes to remain anonymous, to confirm the location and to gather additional information."
The department receives dozens of reports each year from Missourians claiming to have seen a mountain lion. Of the more than 1,500 reports received since 1994, only 11 -- including the Platte County sighting -- have yielded enough evidence to confirm the presence of a mountain lion.
Mountain lions are nocturnal, secretive and generally avoid contact with humans.

Beringer said that there have been no documented cases in Missouri of attacks on livestock, people or pets by mountain lions.

Beringer added that he identified claw marks on the tree where the mountain lion was photographed and collected hair samples from where the big cat was perched to submit for DNA testing.

"We will use the DNA results to help us identify where the cat came from," explained Beringer. "We will compare the results with our database of captive mountain lions in Missouri and also look at mountain-lion DNA information from western states."

The Mountain Lion Response Team conducts field investigations in situations where there is potential physical evidence such as photographs, wildlife or livestock kills, scat, hair or tracks. The Team has investigated hundreds of mountain lion reports since it was created in 1996.

Beringer said most mountain lions confirmed in Missouri in modern times, such as two killed on highways, are thought to be young males traveling from western states looking for new territory to the east.

"While mountain lions occasionally wander into Missouri from other states, we have no proof of a self-sustaining, reproducing population," Beringer said.

The department has never stocked or released mountain lions in Missouri and has no plans to do so, he said.

Mountain lions are a protected species in the state under the Wildlife Code of Missouri. The Code does allow the killing of any mountain lion attacking or killing livestock or domestic animals, or threatening human safety

Natural Gas drilling moratorium in New York State...........Catskill Mountainkeeper weighs in on the chances of stopping drilling from happening in NYS.........what a fight this is going to be with the classic jobs and revenue positioning by industry versus the quality of drinking water and health of the land positioning by citizen groups and environmentalists...................we root for the land to prevail unblemished!

In a stunning development late last night, the New York State Assembly voted 93-43to pass a temporary moratorium on gas drilling using high volume hydraulic fracturing until May 15, 2011. This bill (A11443B/S08129B) was previously approved by the Senate last summer. It is expected to be signed into law by Governor Paterson. Last week the Governor said in a radio interview in reference to fracking that "even with the
tremendous revenues it would bring in, we're not going to risk public safety or water

This is unquestionably a big step forward for us, and for all those who are vitallyconcerned about fracking's substantial risks to our water, air and health. It clearly shows the power of what grassroots organizations like Catskill Mountainkeeper can do against powerful deep-pocketed forces such as the oil and gas industry.
BUT, this is only one step in a very long and hard fight. The moratorium will expire inMay 2011. Between now and then the gas industry and their pro-gas allies are going to roll out their incredible resources to try and change the minds of legislators, the public and the government.We can count on seeing a blanket attack including pro-drilling advertising, publicity,
lobbying and serious backroom arm-twisting. We should not underestimate our
adversaries or the depth of their resources. This is still "a David vs. Goliath battle".

This fight will get much bigger and more intense before it is over. The choice isextremely clear. We and all who understand what the science and the on-the-groundexperience tells us about the potential severe health, environmentaland socialconsequences of fracking, have to come together to push back with everything we've got.
We have gotten as far as we have because you and thousands upon thousands of other area residents have spoken up time and again. Now is the time to turn up the volume. Call Governor Paterson today at 518-474-8390 and tell him that you want him to sign the moratorium bill into law.
And you will be hearing from us very shortly about how you can help by:
· Asking Governor Elect Cuomo to declare his position as quickly as possible on all the risks and threats facing the people and the environment of NY State if fracking is allowed to commence as planned by the DEC.
· Petitioning the State Legislature to extend the moratorium until the EPA study on the effects of fracking is completed in 2012.
· Telling President Obama that he shouldn't allow fracking until it can be done safely

Squirrels show that when close relations are orphaned, adoption sometimes takes place...........almost unheard of in non-social animals like squirrels who live alone except to mate


Squirrels Show Softer Side by Adopting Orphans, Study Finds

 Those neighbourhood squirrels you often see fighting over food may not seem altruistic, but new University of Guelph research has found that the critters will actually take in orphaned relatives.The study by Guelph Prof. Andrew McAdam, along with researchers from the University of Alberta and McGill University, revealed that red squirrels will adopt pups that have lost their mother.
It's a significant finding because while such adoptions are typical among species that live in extended family groups, it's much less common among asocial animals, such as squirrels.
"Social animals, including lions and chimpanzees, are often surrounded by relatives, so it's not surprising that a female would adopt an orphaned family member because they have already spent a lot of time together," said McAdam, an evolutionary biologist. "But red squirrels live in complete isolation and are very territorial. The only time they will allow another squirrel on their territory is the one day a year when the females are ready to mate or when they are nursing their pups."
But the study, published in Nature Communications, also found that squirrels have their altruistic limits. They will adopt only if the orphans are related, and even then it's a rare occurrence.Over two decades, the research team has come across only five cases of adoption.
"That's five cases out of the thousands of litters that have been born since the project began," said McAdam. "Adoption does happen, but it's rare."Jamie Gorrell, a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta, identified 34 cases of potential adoption over 20 years. An adoption is possible only if the mother dies and a nearby squirrel is also nursing.
"We discovered relatedness plays a critical role in whether a neighbouring squirrel will adopt or not," said McAdam.In all five adoption scenarios, the pups were nieces, nephews, siblings or grandchildren to the adoptive mother.
"From an evolutionary perspective, the phenomenon of adoption raises the question of why an animal would adopt in the first place given that it jeopardizes the survival of their own offspring," said McAdam. "Under the right conditions, an animal can propagate more copies of its genes by helping relatives to raise their offspring than by producing offspring of their own. So in some cases it might be a good bet to adopt and accept these costs."
By examining the breeding records of thousands of squirrels over the past 20 years, McAdam was able to calculate the costs of adoption.
"What we found was that squirrels will only adopt an orphaned pup when the costs of adoption are low and when the orphans carry a large percentage of the same genes such as siblings, nieces or nephews rather than more distant relatives."
What's also remarkable is that squirrels are able to assess which pups are related or not, he added.As squirrels rarely interact, they learn who their nearby relatives are by hearing their unique calls, he said. If they fail to hear a relative's calls for a few days, they may investigate.
"We suspect that, if they find pups on the territory, they remember that their neighbour was a relative and carry the pups back to their nest. This would be quite intelligent behaviour for a squirrel."
The study was part of a long-term field experiment in Yukon aimed at investigating the importance of food abundance to the ecology and evolution of red squirrels. Under the Kluane Red Squirrel Project ( begun in 1987, scientists have monitored behaviour and reproduction of about 7,000 squirrels.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Animals that live in packs and socialize readily to optimize their existance are shown to have larger brains than solitary dwellers...........even if those solitary creatures have a history of living amongst humans...............Wolves, Coyotes, Foxes and domestic dogs all are more brainy than Cougars, Bobcats, Lynx and domestic cats

 Dogs Have Bigger Brains Than Cats Because They Are More Sociable, Research Finds
ScienceDaily  — Over millions of years dogs have developed bigger brains than cats because highly social species of mammals need more brain power than solitary animals.
For the first time researchers have attempted to chart the evolutionary history of the brain across different groups of mammals over 60 million years. They have discovered that there are huge variations in how the brains of different groups of mammals have evolved over that time. They also suggest that there is a link between the sociality of mammals and the size of their brains relative to body size, according to a study published in the PNAS journal.
The research team analysed available data on the brain size and body size of more than 500 species of living and fossilised mammals. It found that the brains of monkeys grew the most over time, followed by horses, dolphins, camels and dogs. The study shows that groups of mammals with relatively bigger brains tend to live in stable social groups. The brains of more solitary mammals, such as cats, deer and rhino, grew much more slowly during the same period.
Previous research which has looked at why certain groups of living mammals have bigger brains has relied on studies of distantly-related living mammals. It was widely believed that the growth rate of the brain relative to body size followed a general trend across all groups of mammals. However, this study by Dr Susanne Shultz and Professor Robin Dunbar, from Oxford University's Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology (ICEA), overturns this view. They find that there is wide variation in patterns of brain growth across different groups of mammals and they have discovered that not all mammal groups have larger brains, suggesting that social animals needed to think more.
Lead author Dr Susanne Shultz, a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow at ICEA, said: 'This study overturns the long-held belief that brain size has increased across all mammals. Instead, groups of highly social species have undergone much more rapid increases than more solitary species. This suggests that the cooperation and coordination needed for group living can be challenging and over time some mammals have evolved larger brains to be able to cope with the demands of socialising.'
Co-author and Director of ICEA Professor Robin Dunbar said: 'For the first time, it has been possible to provide a genuine evolutionary time depth to the study of brain evolution. It is interesting to see that even animals that have contact with humans, like cats, have much smaller brains than dogs and horses because of their lack of sociality.'
The research team used available data of the measurements of brain size and body size of each group of living mammals and compared them with similar data for the fossilised remains of mammals of the same lineage. They examined the growth rates of the brain size relative to body size to see if there were any changes in the proportions over time. The growth rates of each mammal group were compared with other mammal groups to see what patterns emerged.

Arbroreal ancestory virtually guarantees a longer lifespan than for those creatures who make their living "on the ground" Spock would say in the original Star Trek Series: 'FASCINATING CAPTAIN"!!!

Tree-Dwelling Mammals Climb to the Heights of Longevity

 The squirrels littering your lawn with acorns as they bound overhead will live to plague your yard longer than the ones that aerate it with their burrows, according to a University of Illinois study.
Scientists know from previous studies that flying birds and bats live longer than earthbound animals of the same size. Milena Shattuck and Scott Williams, doctoral candidates in anthropology, decided to take a closer look at the relationship between habitat and lifespan in mammals, comparing terrestrial and treetop life. They published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The two hypothesized that, like flight, treetop or arboreal dwelling reduces a species' extrinsic mortality -- death from predation, disease and environmental hazards; that is, causes other than age.
"One of the predictions of the evolutionary theory of aging is that if you can reduce sources of extrinsic mortality, you'll end up exposing some of the late-acting mutations to natural selection, and therefore evolve longer lifespans," Williams said.
Williams and Shattuck found that for arboreality, the theory holds. Mammals who spend the majority of their time up a tree enjoy longevity over those who scurry along the ground. The pattern holds consistent both on the large scale among all mammals, and also in specific classes the pair studied, such as tree squirrels versus ground squirrels. However, the pair also uncovered two classes of mammals that buck the longevity trend -- marsupials, such as kangaroos, and primates, including ground walkers such as gorillas and humans and their branch-swinging counterparts. Aloft or not, these groups show no significant difference, although primates in general tend to lead long lives.
"These are the exceptions that prove the rule," Shattuck said. "The defining feature that seems to connect those two groups is a long history of arboreal ancestors. Other mammals started out terrestrially, and separate groups developed arboreality independently. Marsupials and primates seem to have started off in the trees, and then the terrestrial marsupials and primates have descended from arboreal ancestors."
This arboreal ancestry may partially explain why humans have such a long lifespan relative to other mammals. As primates descended from the trees, they had to develop new strategies for survival on the ground. Terrestrial primates, including humans, tend to be larger and more social, providing some security from predators and environmental obstacles.
"It's interesting to think that humans, at least in part, live so long and do well because we had this evolutionary history when we were in the trees," said Shattuck. "And now, we have the intervention of culture and medicine to help extend that further."
This work was sponsored by a Cognitive Science/Artifical Intelligence Grant from the U. of I.'s Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

Animals are adapting to climate change by either growing larger or smaller........if true, a remarkable epigenetic adaptation to changing environmental conditions


Animals Cope With Climate Change at the Dinner Table: Birds, Foxes and Small Mammals Adapt Their Diets to Global Warming

ScienceDaily  — Some animals, it seems, are going on a diet, while others have expanding waistlines.It's likely these are reactions to rapidly rising temperatures due to global climate change, speculates Prof. Yoram Yom-Tov of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology, who has been measuring the evolving body sizes of birds and animals in areas where climate change is most extreme.
Changes are happening primarily in higher latitudes, where Prof. Yom-Tov has identified a pattern of birds getting smaller and mammals getting bigger, according to most of the species he's examined. The change, he hypothesizes, is likely a strategy for survival. Prof. Yom-Tov, who has spent decades measuring and monitoring the body sizes of mammals and small birds, says that these changes have been happening more rapidly.
His most recent paper on the topic, focused on the declining body sizes of arctic foxes in Iceland, appeared in Global Change Biology.
Radical changes in body size
Animal populations in a wide variety of geographical areas -- birds in the UK, small mammals in the arctic, and most recently foxes, lynx and otters in cold Scandinavian regions -- are adapting to a shift in rising temperatures. Where temperature changes are most radical, such as those at higher latitudes, Prof. Yom-Tov has measured the most radical changes of these animals' body size over time.
"This change can be seen as an early indicator of climate change," says Prof. Yom-Tov. "There is a steady increase of temperatures at higher latitudes, and this effect -- whether it's man-made or natural -- is having an impact on the animals living in these zones."
In his most recent paper, Prof. Yom-Tov and his Tel Aviv University colleague Prof. Eli Geffen report that arctic foxes are being influenced by changing water currents in the oceans. These changes, likely a result of climate change, affects the foxes' food supplies. Hydrologists are confounded as to why the shifts in currents are happening, but the effect in foxes is evident: their bodies are changing along with the changing currents.
Scientists are finding changes in animals' bodies across the whole animal kingdom. "Climate change is affecting migration patterns and the behavior and growth of birds, mammals, insects, flowers -- you name it," says Prof. Yom-Tov. "The global warming phenomenon is a fact." What we do with this information may change our world.
Adapting to survive
Whether or not human beings are primarily responsible for climate change, Prof. Yom-Tov says, science shows that plants and animals are rapidly evolving in response to these changes. Smaller bodies allow mammals, for example, to cope with warmer temperatures, since a smaller body size gives the body a proportionally increased surface area for the dissipation of heat, he says.
"These animals need to adapt themselves to changing temperatures. In some regions the changes are as large as 3 or 4 degrees centigrade," says Prof. Yom-Tov. "If they don't adapt, their numbers may decline. If they do, their numbers remain stable or even increase."
Prof. Yom-Tov's method accesses many years' worth of data, comparing bones and skulls that natural history museums and individuals have collected over decades. He measures body sizes by studying various features (cranial size, for example) and then statistically analyzes how they have evolved.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Setting specific hunting day limits rather than the current bag limit on trophys that many F&WS Services currently employ would very likely optimize our wildlife populations......Taking out a targeted number of trophies regardless of time involved can seriously reduce populations to the breaking point

Setting Time Limits for Hunting and Fishing May Help Maintain Wildlife Populations

ScienceDaily  — Hunting and fishing quotas limit the number of game animals or fish an individual may take based on harvests from the previous year. But according to a new study co-authored by University of Minnesota ecologist Craig Packer, this strategy may jeopardize wildlife populations.The authors recommend that wildlife managers rethink policies for sustainable utilization. Setting limits on the number of days allowed for hunting and fishing rather than the number of trophies would be a more effective way to ensure continued supply and to prevent extinction.
"Quotas don't consider population fluctuations caused by disease outbreaks, harsh weather and other variables that affect animal abundance from year to year," Packer explains. "Hunters and fishermen can work harder to make their quotas when desirable species are scarce. The extra pressure can cause populations to collapse." Setting limits on the amount of time spent hunting could better protect fragile populations.
John Fryxell and Kevin McCann, from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, along with colleagues in Norway and the United States, developed a model based on mass action assumptions about human behavior and current hunting and fishing regulations. They tested the model using data from three populations of deer and moose from Canada and Norway over a 20- year period. Packer's work on the impact of trophy hunting on lion populations in Africa and cougars in the United States, helped to inspire the current study.
The problem is exacerbated by the traditional practice of open access, Fryxell noted. Hunters and fishermen tend to choose spots based on word of mouth, which travels slowly. By the time they are well known, popular sites may already have shrinking populations and visitors may need to work harder and longer to reach quotas, which further endanger the species. Once populations are depleted, restoring them is a challenge.
"It can take decades for large animal populations to recover from collapses, as we know from our disastrous experience with cod stocks off the coast of Newfoundland, Fryxell said. "We need to make strategic long-term changes to make a difference."

Even though there were no extinctions of small mammals 10,000 years ago during the Pleistocene wipe out of large mammals.........A big round 2 question mark for these little critters looms as we artificially heat up the planet in the 21st Century

How Warming impacted small mammals at the end of the Pleistocene 

 Small mammals  suffered no extinctions as a result of the warming that occurred at the end of the Pleistocene epoch..... populations of most species nonetheless experienced a significant loss of numbers while one highly adaptable species -- the deer mouse -- thrived on the disruptions to the environment triggered by the changing climate.

"If we only focus on extinction, we are not getting the whole story," said Jessica Blois, lead author of a paper detailing the study published online by Nature. "There was a 30 percent decline in biodiversity due to other types of changes in the small-mammal community."
The double whammy of late Pleistocene warming, coupled with the coinciding arrival of humans on the North American continent, took a well-documented heavy toll on the large animals. Almost a third of the big, so-called "charismatic" animals -- the ones with the most popular appeal for humans, such as mammoths and mastodons, dire wolves and short-faced bears -- went extinct. But until now, little had been done to explore the effects of that climate shift on smaller fauna.
"We were interested in the small animals because we wanted to know about the response of the survivors, the communities of animals that are still on the landscape with us today," said Elizabeth Hadly, professor of biology and a coauthor of the paper. "We focused not only on the Pleistocene transition, but also the last 10,000 or so years since then."
Blois and Hadly excavated deposits in Samwell Cave, in the southern Cascades foothills. They also sampled the modern small-mammal community by doing some live trapping in the area of the cave. Blois was a graduate student in biology when they did the work and Hadly her adviser. Radiocarbon dating of the samples was done by Jenny McGuire, a graduate student at the University of California-Berkeley.
The biggest change they saw in the fossil deposits was the manner in which different small-animal species were spread across the landscape. "In the Pleistocene, there were about as many gophers as there were voles as there were deer mice," Hadly said. "But as you move into the warming event, there is a really rapid reduction in how evenly these animals are distributed."Some species became extremely rare, others quite common. And the species that became king of the landscape -- by virtue of its very commonness -- was the deer mouse."That is a pretty big, somewhat startling result," she said, noting that deer mice are so common in western landscapes that most people assume they have virtually always been so. "What these data tell us is that in the Pleistocene they were not dominant at all."
Prior to this study, Hadly said most researchers would not have expected species that survived the warming to show any effects. After all, they survived. "What we are saying is there was a big effect," she said. And as some species such as deer mice flourished, many other species declined.
"Local declines of species are the precursor of local extinction," said Rodolfo Dirzo, a biology professor at Stanford who was not involved in the study. Local population declines also imply disruption of the local ecosystem even without extinctions, he said.
"Small mammals are so common, we often take them for granted," Blois said. "But they play important roles within ecosystems, in soil aeration and seed dispersal, for example, and as prey for larger animals." And different small mammals play those roles differently."Deer mice just kind of eat everything, they live everywhere and they don't operate with the same complexity in an ecosystem that these other animals take as their roles," said Hadly. She said deer mice are considered a "weedy" species and, like the plants, don't have a strong habitat preference -- they are generalists that will move in wherever there is an opening. When they replace other small-mammal species, the effects ripple through the ecosystem.
Deer mice don't dig the elaborate deep burrows that gophers do, so the mice don't aerate soils as effectively. They also don't disperse seeds the same way as tree squirrels, the consummate hoarders -- and forgetters -- of seeds; each forgotten cache is another colonization opportunity for the trees.Nor do the nocturnal mice feed predators the same way as ground squirrels or chipmunks, which are active in the daytime. If those species are supplanted by deer mice, the change can affect the food supply of hawks and other creatures that feed in the daytime.
"Even though all of the species survived, small-mammal communities as a whole lost a substantial amount of diversity, which may make them less resilient to future change," Blois said.
And according to Hadly, an extraordinarily rapid change is looming."The temperature change over the next hundred years is expected to be greater than the temperature that most of the mammals that are on the landscape have yet witnessed as a species," she said. "The small-mammal community that we have is really resilient, but it is headed toward a perturbation that is bigger than anything it has seen in the last million years."

Lymes Disease is not just an Eastern USA phenomenon any longer...............Impacting the total USA............Not only deer and mice host the ticks.........chipmunks, shrews, birds and probably most small mammals spread the ticks across the landscape

Chipmunks And Shrews, Not Just Mice, Harbor Lyme Disease

ScienceDaily  — A study led by a University of Pennsylvania biologist in the tick-infested woods of the Hudson Valley is challenging the widely held belief that mice are the main animal reservoir for Lyme disease.
The paper demonstrates that chipmunks and two shrew species, not just mice, are the four species that account for major outbreaks. According to the study, white-footed mice account for about a quarter of infected ticks. Short-tailed shrews and masked shrews were responsible for a quarter each and chipmunks for as much as 13 percent. According to the team, vaccination strategies aimed solely at mice are unlikely to bring the disease under control. Efforts to control Lyme disease and prevent its spread, the team said, must include strategies that account for multi-species carriers.
"The majority of zoonotic diseases, those that can be transmitted from wild or domestic animals to humans, are generally assumed to have one natural animal host," Dustin Brisson, professor of biology in the School of Arts and Science at Penn, said. "For Lyme disease, this host has been the white-footed mouse. Data are beginning to accumulate to suggest that the story is much more complex, mice being one of an assemblage of vertebrate species contributing to feeding ticks and transmitting B. burgdorferi. Deer, a popular culprit of the Lyme disease epidemic, play a rather minor role in transmitting the bacteria to feeding ticks, although they are a major cause of the elevated tick densities that are important for the spread of the disease to humans."
Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, is transmitted to humans by infected, blacklegged ticks. The ticks, infected as larvae during their first meal — the blood of a vertebrate — are middle men. Mice were thought to be the primary natural reservoir of the disease because nearly 90 percent of ticks feeding on an infected mouse contract the disease, nearly twice as much as any other species. In addition, mice are common, conspicuous and easy to research in the field and in the lab, promoting their status as primary natural reservoir. Yet other factors, such as population densities and tick burdens of other disease-carrying species, led investigators to rethink mice as the principal reservoir species for the disease.
The team employed genetic and ecological data, including dynamics of an outer surface protein of Lyme disease that provides clues about how the disease was transmitted, to discover that mice feed only 10 percent of all ticks and 25 percent of B. burgdorferi-infected ticks in the northeastern Lyme disease endemic zone. Shrews feed 35 percent of all ticks and 55 percent of infected ticks.
Emerging zoonotic pathogens, the 132 infectious diseases that cross the line between animal and human species, like Lyme disease, are a constant threat to world health.
 The research team, focused on improving existing strategies to protect the public health, is promoting the notion that targeting a single host species, in this case the white-footed mouse, may have been a faulty assumption.
While public-health strategies to control Lyme disease in North America have focused on interrupting transmission between blacklegged ticks and white-footed mice, Lyme disease infects more than a dozen vertebrate species, any of which can infect feeding ticks and increase human Lyme disease risk.
The research was performed by Brisson of the Department of Biology at Penn, Daniel E. Dykhuizen of Stony Brook University and Richard Ostfeld of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies. It was supported by the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
This research was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Exotic Honeysuckle that is native to Europe is 5 times more likely to harbor deer ticks then other structural habitat in woodlands and fields.....Invasive non-native plants that create monocultures and crowd out natives repress biodiversity and create disease zones for all animals including humans

Invasive Honeysuckle Increase Risk of Tick-Borne Disease in Suburbs

ScienceDaily  — "You don't have to go out into the woods anymore," says tick expert Brian F. Allan, PhD, who just completed a postdoctoral appointment at Washington University in St. Louis. "The deer are bringing tick-borne disease to us.So, it stands to reason that anything deer like, might increase the risk of tick-borne disease for people.

The invasive plant bush honeysuckle, for example.

Yes, that leafy shrub with the lovely egg-shaped leaves on arching branches, fragrant white or yellow flowers and the dark red berries so attractive to birds.
Called bush or Amur honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii derives from the borders of the Amur River, which divides the Russian Far East from Manchuria. Its Latin name honors Richard Maack, a 19th-century Russian naturalist."I've spent a lot of time in honeysuckle," Allan says, "and I can tell you there are deer tunnels through it. So if you get down low, you can actually move through honeysuckle pretty efficiently. And you pick up a lot of ticks while you're back in there."

An interdisciplinary team made up of ecologists, molecular biologists and physicians from Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Missouri-St. Louis tested Allan's suspicions by experiment in a conservation area near St. Louis.

As Allan and his colleagues report this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the density of white-tailed deer in honeysuckle-invaded areas was roughly five times that in areas without honeysuckle and the density of nymph life-stage ticks infected with bacteria that cause human disease was roughly 10 times higher.

Hard as it may be to believe, given the long chain of interactions needed to get there, the presence of bush honeysuckle substantially increases the risk of human disease.

"But that's exactly what is happening," says Jonathan M. Chase, professor of biology in Arts & Sciences and a collaborator on the project. The big question now, says Chase, who is also director of Washington University's Tyson Research Center, is whether what holds for honeysuckle holds for other invasive plants as well. "This may be something that's occurring quite broadly, but we're really just starting to look at the connection between invasive plants and tick-borne disease risk."

"The deer used the open areas less than the honeysuckle patches and we don't think it's because they're eating the honeysuckle; we think they're using it for physical structure," says Allan. "They like to bed in it because it's the densest thing out there, the best structure in town. No native species comes close to achieving the same density."

Allan and Dutra measured vegetation density by counting how many leaves touched a string between two poles. By this criterion, honeysuckle patches were 18 times denser than patches of native vegetation.

Moreover, Allan says, bush honeysuckle retains its leaves longer than most native species do. It's the first thing to leaf out in the spring and it's the last thing in the understory to drop its leaves in the fall, so it creates structure for a large portion of the year."This includes really important times of the year from the perspective of tick biology," Allan adds. "Larval ticks, the first lifestage ticks, are out from August until October. Come late October, honeysuckle is the only thing providing green cover, so deer probably bed in honeysuckle throughout the larval tick season.

Wherever you find white-tailed deer, you are likely to find ticks, Allan says. Lone star ticks need blood meals to power their metamorphoses from larva, to nymph, to adult and to fatten up for egg laying.They sometimes bite coyotes, foxes and other animals, but their favorite hosts are wild turkey and white-tailed deer.

The team did two assays on tick DNA: one to identify pathogenic bacteria and the other to identify the animal that provided the tick's last blood meal.The results showed that more blood meals were taken from deer in honeysuckle-intact plots.

.Win-Win Ecology?
The irrepressible Allan is more encouraged than not by the new findings.
"We're really simplifying our environment, he says. That's what the diversity crisis is leading to -- humans living in monocultures. That's exactly what bush honeysuckle is, a human-caused monoculture.""But as ecologists like to say, nature abhors a monoculture. Monocultures are unstable, and they often have negative consequences for human health

"Many studies around the world are showing an increase in the risk of infectious disease as a result of the loss of biological diversity.""It's hard to get people to focus on invasive plants. That's why these invaders are so successful. They're basically more persistent than we are."

"But people are more likely to pay attention when their health is at stake."
"So this may be a case of win-win ecology. Honeysuckle control would benefit native species but it would also benefit human health. I think that's the really encouraging message to have
come out of this study. "

Retiring grazing leases.................releasing additional wolves to broaden the genetic footprint......all excellent strategies to increase the Mexican Wolf population if the Ranchers and Fish & Wildlife can broker a peace treaty that allows wolves to exist as neighbors...................

On the Ground Strategy
Advocates push to retire grazing permits on wolf recovery land
Laura Paskus
A variety of conservation groups, including WildEarth Guardians, launched to educate the public on the recovery of the Mexican gray wolf; the site includes a "lobo activist toolkit." - Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife ServiceJust home from a camping trip within the territory of the Hawk's Nest wolf pack in eastern Arizona, activist Jean Ossorio complains that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has released only one new wolf into the wild within the past four years. Worse, she says, the federal agency heading up the reintroduction and recovery effort of the Mexican gray wolf has delayed the planned release of a pack of wolves she calls the Engineer Springs Eight. 
"These animals have been waiting patiently at Sevilleta all summer and fall, after being paired specifically in order to reproduce and be released into the wild to enhance the genetic diversity of the wild population," Ossorio says, referring to Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, where captive wolves are held. "They did their part, producing five healthy pups." (The eighth wolf is another pack's male that was placed with the other adult pair while in captivity.) 
For a time this summer, it seemed as though political and administrative decisions would benefit the wolves. At the urging of environmental groups, Gov. Bill Richardson issued an executive order directing the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to temporarily ban commercial trapping within the wolf recovery area. 
Then, in August, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would study whether the Mexican gray wolf deserved reclassification as an endangered species. The move came in response to a legal petition from the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. Fish and Wildlife listed the Mexican gray wolf for protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1976. But decades of political, legal and inter-departmental wrangling left the gray wolf's status unclear. If the agency follows through with reclassification, Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest would be protected even if the general population of gray wolves nationwide were removed from protection under the act. 
But staffing issues at Fish and Wildlife are currently up in the air. Key personnel have left the wolf program in recent months, including the leader of the field team in Alpine, Ariz. And, in mid-November, the recovery coordinator of the Mexican gray wolf program was reassigned to another position within Fish and Wildlife Service's Ecological Services Field Office in Albuquerque: Bud Fazio had joined the gray wolf team only recently, in April 2009. 
Not only that but, so far this year, two Mexican gray wolves have been illegally shot, while the deaths of three others remain under investigation. All told, at the end of October, there were only 24 wolves with functional radio collars dispersed among 10 packs within the recovery area that straddles Arizona and New Mexico. Biologists believe some uncollared wolves associate with those wearing radio collars, and still others may be separate from known packs. But the number of Mexican gray wolves living within the recovery area is far less than what biologists envisioned when they first released wolves into Arizona's Apache National Forest in the early spring of 1998. According to the plan, by 2006, there should have been a minimum population of 100 wolves. The numbers have also dipped in recent years; in 2003, there were 55 wolves in the wild.
 "I know this might sound a little Pollyannaish, but I do think the program has had some degree of success," Fish and Wildlife Service Public Affairs Specialist Tom Buckley says. "First of all, it's still in existence—and that's something in an area where it's been so controversial—and we do still have wolves out in the wild. Even considering the small numbers, I think that is an accomplishment." He points out that Fish and Wildlife just mailed letters inviting stakeholders to participate in the creation of a new recovery plan. Currently, the service relies on a recovery plan released in 1982. Fish and Wildlife is also working on an "interdiction program" that will not only compensate ranchers for livestock lost to wolves, but distribute money for projects that might keep cattle and wolves separate and therefore reduce livestock kills. Such projects include hiring extra range riders, removing cattle from nearby wolf dens and offering an alternative grazing area. 
Beyond how controversial the program has been—many ranchers have consistently opposed reintroduction efforts, and most of the illegal shootings have undoubtedly occurred at the hands of anti-wolf gunmen—agencies have faced unforeseen biological challenges, Buckley says. 
The biggest problem is identifying why so few pups are being born and surviving in the wild. "It's a struggle to maintain the numbers when you don't have the recruitment in the wild," he says, adding that genetics are a concern, as well. When captive-bred wolves are released into the wild, biologists have to ensure they aren't making a "bad genetic mix" with nearby wolves with whom they might pair. 
This year has been somewhat of a roller coaster, John Horning, executive director of the nonprofit WildEarth Guardians, says. But he's hopeful the January 2011 population count will show an increasing number of wolves living within the recovery area. 
 "Any good news will be largely because of the resilience of wolves, not because of the benevolence of government," he says. "Fish and Wildlife could be putting lots of wolves back out on the ground, and making it clear from a political perspective and an ecological perspective that there is a commitment to see wolves thrive on this landscape and wolves fully recovered on this landscape." 
There are other ways to help the wolves, he notes—most significantly, by retiring grazing leases within the recovery area. The best way to reduce conflict between cattle and ranchers is to remove cattle from within the recovery area. Over the past couple of years, WildEarth Guardians has met with approximately a dozen permittees—ranchers who pay small fees for the right to graze their cattle on public lands—and talked with them about retiring their grazing permits with the US Forest Service.
The organization has money in the bank and interested ranchers, Horning says. But the Forest Service has resisted the idea, even though it has worked in areas adjacent to Yellowstone National Park. There, efforts by the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan have yielded an estimated 1,500-2,000 wolves. (In 2008, in fact, Fish and Wildlife decided that recovery efforts were so successful that the wolves could be removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act, except in certain places—southern Montana, Idaho south of Interstate 90, and all of Wyoming—where they were classified as an experimental population. Just this year, a federal court reinstated that protection.)
"We have a couple of very motivated ranchers on allotments that are within the wolf rec area—one of which is 90,000 acres and has pretty good wolf habitat—just outside an existing pack's range," Horning says. "We're disappointed at the moment, but it's the single most important strategy over the long haul." 
It's only a matter of time, he says, until they successfully retire a grazing allotment. "And once we're successful executing it on one area, we'll do it on two," he says. "And once we've done it at four, then six, eight and on up."

Jen Jackson of High Country News acknowledging that our Mexican Wolf Recovery Efforts in New Mexico and Arizona are potentially doomed unless some form of collective bargaining agreement is reached with the Ranching Community of this region

The price of keeping Mexican wolves from extinction
By jen jackson
 With the opening of their holding pens 12 years ago, wolves stepped into their historic home on the Southwestern desert for the first time in over 50 years.So began the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf into southern Arizona and New Mexico. It was a culminating moment for the state and federal agencies that had spent several decades planning for it.
Canis lupus baileyi was retrieved from the brink of extinction in the late 1970s when the last known remaining Mexican wolves — all five of them — were found in the wilds of Durango, Mexico, and placed under human care. The 300 Mexican wolves now in captivity, and the fewer than 50 that roam free, are all descendants of that small, lonely pack.
Now, a dozen years into an on-the-ground recovery effort, it is failing, and I can't help but wonder if we are we righting a wrong or resurrecting a tragedy. In recent months, four wolves have been illegally shot, and there may only be one breeding pair remaining in the wild. As wolf numbers continue to decline, just one new wolf has been released into the wild since 2007.
The lobos' perilously generated genetic diversity is diminishing as key wolves are killed, and the deleterious effects of inbreeding are apparent in small litter sizes and low survival rates. Meanwhile, area ranchers are no closer to embracing resident wolves than they were decades ago. To date, 36 wolves have been criminally slaughtered, 151 have been removed by the very agency responsible for their recovery, and 46 have disappeared into thin air, their status labeled "fate unknown."
This condition — fate unknown — could be applied to the entire subspecies. First, the federal plan ensuring the lobos' survival has not been updated since 1982. Second, its provisions are designed for failure. The wolves are not allowed a livestock-free area to roam without heavy-handed management (as they are in Yellowstone), and wolves are not allowed to colonize beyond the recovery area's boundaries. No changes were required in livestock husbandry practices to mitigate wolf encounters, and the subspecies is designated a "nonessential, experimental population."
This final provision allows for the destruction of any animal deemed a threat to livestock — even though the Mexican wolf is an endangered species. Nonessential. Experimental. Worth less than non-native cattle. These are the terms by which a Mexican wolf lives. One can't help wonder if this so-called recovery plan is crueler to the canids than the swift extinction from which they were saved.
  • As one who has been moved by wolves howling on the wind — a sound that is haunting, mournful, alive and keening — I want to see wolves restored to their historic range. I want to see atonement for the human-authored tragedy of wolf eradication.
But I would rather find silence in the land of the lobos if the alternative means that we repeat a bitter history. I would rather not have wolves at all than subject new generations to past paradigms.
Is it right to insert an animal — especially one carrying so much emotional and mythical baggage — into the lives and livelihoods of a people not yet willing to accept it? Is it appropriate to force a predator to colonize a livestock-laden patch of ground, essentially ensuring conflict and failure? Is it fair to subject wolves to translocation and the murder of their pack mates, thus devastating family ties and ancient instincts?
Can we possibly do right by an animal we are not yet willing to weave into the fabric of our lives?
I won't judge those who are unable to embrace the wolves in their midst. Though I am sympathetic to the plight of the wolves, ranching is not my livelihood. Perhaps I would feel differently if my profits walked among wolves, even though it is true that international livestock markets, bovine respiratory disease and domestic dogs are far more likely to drive a rancher out of business than are lobos.
Ranching is a life of uncertainty. Wolves have become a symbol of all that can't be controlled.
But the truth is that the myth of the bloodthirsty wolf stands larger than its reality, and in the battle between our deep-seated fears and our hopes, the wolves bear the greatest burden. There is no new narrative of coexistence, of respect for all creatures on the land. We seem stuck in the stories of the old days, when wolves were the enemy that must be eliminated.Until we change that perception, wolves in the Southwest won't have a prayer.
Jen Jackson is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News ( She lives in Moab, Utah, where she works several jobs, including librarian and editor.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wolves demonstrate that they can add Salmon to their diet----First time ever recording of a Wolf catching fish anywhere in the world.......Fantastic pictures below.............

Anything you can do... incredible moment a wolf catches a salmon using fishing technique copied from a bear

By Daily Mail Reporter

His powerful jaws clamped around a huge salmon, this wolf looks mightily pleased with himself.This wonderful photograph captures the rare moment that a wolf was caught on camera fishing after learning the technique from bears.
With a massive grizzly in the foreground the wolf can clearly be seen setting itself, leaping and then grabbing the huge fish from the water.The amazing sequence - which some even dubbed a hoax or photoshopped - was captured in just minutes by wildlife photographer Paul Stinsa.
Gotcha: The wolf wrestles with his catch within just yards of a brown bear as he looks to bring in his own
Gotcha: The wolf wrestles with his catch within just yards of a brown bear as he looks to bring in his own
Along with a party of enthusiasts Mr Stinsa was on actually on an expedition to see bears not wolves in Katmai National Park, Alaska.
But it turned out some of the best shots of his life were waiting for him at a spot named Brooks Falls - when out of the blue a wolf appeared from the trees.Just feet from the far more powerful grizzly bear the incredible moment unfolded before Mr Stinsa's eyes as he watched from a viewing platform.
Paul and others had been standing on the platform looking at a large and a small male bear fishing, but when the action stopped some decided to leave.
The party were also surprised to see a wolf at the river earlier but it had been chased off by the bears.
The wolf plunges into the freezing water after learning the technique from bears fishing on the same river
The wolf plunges into the freezing water after learning the technique from bears fishing on the same river
He said: 'Nothing was happening at the falls, and some of the viewers left the platform to head back to camp.
'This would prove to be a mistake, as the wolf soon came trotting down the riverbank and into the water across from the viewing platform.
'I stood on the platform, scrambling to set the camera properly to photograph a dark, moving subject against a black background on an overcast day.
'I watched intently as the wolf slowly crept through the shallow water along the rock wall below the falls, sneaking up on the resting salmon from downstream.'As the wolf neared the base of the falls, it dove headfirst into the pool. In a flurry of splashing water, it pulled its head out of the river with a salmon, desperately flopping, clamped in its jaws.
'The wolf then cautiously walked downriver and ran up the trail into the woods.'
Mr Stinsa and the rest of the group were left stunned - none of the rest of the group had been quick enough to get their camera out.
Success: Wet but triumphant the cunning wolf
Success: Wet but triumphant the cunning wolf steps out of the river with a huger salmon clasped in its jaws
Mr Stinsa, 42, from Chicago, USA, said: 'Nobody on the platform, including the park ranger, had ever heard of this behaviour from a wolf, much less witnessed it.
'We all felt as though we had received a unique bonus on our bear- viewing trip.
'Apart from a local paper in the US no one else has seen these pictures, but a lot of people have said they are a hoax on the internet.
'When I think of the risk and difficulty for the wolf required to evade territorial brown bears to either feed pups or hide the dead fish in the woods without being attacked, I'm amazed at the intelligence shown by the wolf while fishing at Brooks Falls.
'What appeared obvious to everyone watching that afternoon was that this wolf had fished like this before.'Its fishing skill was not an accident but rather a repeatable, successful process. The wolf had no intention of scavenging the leftovers from the bears.'It had managed to catch all 15 fish and take them into the woods, returning each time by the same trail, without coming into contact with the bears walking in the forest above the river.'


By Matthew Renda
North Lake Tahoe Bonanza

Proposed Nevada bear hunt polarizes Tahoe communities as hearing looms

This big black mother bear was hanging out at the home of Dan Gaube and Kara Fox off Highway 267 in Kings Beach a couple weeks ago, while her two cubs sniffed around their porch. After Gaube scared them off, Fox said they ended playing in Griff Creek, where this photo was taken. A proposal stands before the Nevada Department of Wildlife to allow bear hunts in Nevada. The practice already is legal in California.
This big black mother bear was hanging out at the home of Dan Gaube and Kara Fox off Highway 267 in Kings Beach a couple weeks ago, while her two cubs sniffed around their porch. After Gaube scared them off, Fox said they ended playing in Griff Creek, where this photo was taken. A proposal stands before the Nevada Department of Wildlife to allow bear hunts in Nevada. The practice already is legal in California.
This big black mother bear was hanging out at the home of Dan Gaube and Kara Fox off Highway 267 in Kings Beach a couple weeks ago, while her two cubs sniffed around their porch. After Gaube scared them off, Fox said they ended playing in Griff Creek, where this photo was taken. A proposal stands before the Nevada Department of Wildlife to allow bear hunts in Nevada. The practice already is legal in California.

Where: Nevada Department of Wildlife, 1100 Valley Road, Reno
 The hearing on the proposed black bear hunt is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 4
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — As a hearing nears regarding a proposal to legalize the hunting of black bears for the first time in Nevada's nearly 150-year history, some regional wildlife advocates are gathering petitions and urging state officials to reject the idea.

The Nevada Wildlife Commission — composed of representatives throughout the state that governs the Nevada Department of Wildlife — meets next weekend in Reno. The black bear hearing is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 4.
Nevada is home to an estimated 200 to 300 bears along the eastern Sierra, according to NDOW, with most in the Carson Range on Lake Tahoe's East Shore. There also are an unknown number of bears in the Wassuk and Sweetwater ranges to the south.The particulars of the hunt, including a tag quota and length of season, will not be decided during the December meeting should the hunt be approved, according to the commission, but would be settled in the spring of 2011.

Carl Lackey, a biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife who has worked for years with the state's black bear population, specifically at Lake Tahoe, said the initial recommendation for a tag quota was 20 bears per season."The bear population in Nevada could easily withstand a limited hunt," he said. Lackey pointed out, however, that bears do not recognize borders, and overall, the Sierra Nevada supports a population of 10,000-15,000 bears."There's no large fence separating California from Nevada, and bears are accustomed to moving back and forth," he said.

Lackey said the black bear is the most successful species of bear in the world, with an estimation of more than 900,000 in North America alone.

"It is an extremely healthy population," he said.

While Lackey said he was not responsible for recommending the hunt be approved — it was initiated by the wildlife commission — his viewpoint as a biologist states the bear population will continue to be stable and even grow if a limited hunt is permitted by the state."All the other Western states allow black bear hunting, including California," he said. "In Nevada, we hunt every single big-game species with the exception of the bear. The only thing that is shocking is why Nevada has not allowed a bear hunt up to now."

According to the meeting agenda, the black bear hunt proposal contains the following provisions:

• It would be illegal to kill a black bear cub or a female black bear accompanied by a cub.
• A hunter who successfully kills a black bear is not eligible to apply for another black bear tag for the next five years.
• The fee for a resident tag is $100. The fee for a nonresident tag is $200.
• Hunters must report their kills within 72 hours.
• Using bait to lure bears will not be permitted.
• The limit on bears taken during a given season and the length of season will be decided by the commission at a later date.
— Source: Nevada Wildlife Commission

Public outrage

Nevertheless, the possibility of a legalized hunt has stoked outrage throughout the Tahoe community, particularly on the Nevada side of the lake.

Incline resident Mary Ansari expressed concerns that hunting in the Carson Range — a popular recreation destination — could present unnecessary dangers to bystanders.

"Does it make sense to have a bear hunt in a mountain range that is so heavily used by recreationists and so close to urban areas?" asked Ansari, who added Lake Tahoe residents are not properly represented on the wildlife panel.

The nine-member wildlife commission features three members from Las Vegas, two from Reno, one from Carson City, and one each from Eureka, Ely and Dyer.

"I'm wondering how much input they have from those of us living with the bears at Lake Tahoe," Ansari said.

Kathryn Bricker, a Zephyr Cove resident who has collected more than 500 signatures on a petition opposing the bear hunt, said the commission has "an imbalance of voices."

"The nine-member wildlife commission is (composed) of five 'sportsmen', two 'rancher/farmers,' one 'citizen at large' and one 'conservationist,'" she said. "It is no wonder the commission demonstrates such a narrow (viewpoint)."Bricker said many living in Tahoe have formed a deep emotional affinity with the animals.

"As the wild mustangs are to many and ... gorillas were to Diane Fossey, the Nevada black bears are to many of us who reside in bear habitat — intelligent, awe-inspiring creatures that we consider a part of our extended family," she said. "We learn from them and love them and we want to see them treated kindly."

Lackey, Bricker and Ansari all agreed on one point — a bear hunt will not help reduce the number of bear/human interactions. Lackey said if a hunter kills a bear in the backcountry, it would be pure luck if the bear happened to be a nuisance bear accustomed to looking for meals in Tahoe's urban interface."The only thing that will stop bears from breaking into houses is individuals who reside in bear habitat taking responsibility for securing their trash and reducing bear attractants," Lackey said.If the bear hunt is approved, Lackey there are already ordinances dictating where hunters can pursue big game such as mountain lions and mule deer; therefore, new legislation or ordinances will not be necessary.

"There is a big misconception that hunting is not allowed in the Lake Tahoe Basin," he said. "Hunters are currently allowed to hunt big game in certain areas, so it already regulated. To my knowledge, there has never been an incident."

The California side
Bear hunting is legal in California. The areas approved for hunting bears are subject to county ordinances. The season opens on the second Saturday in October and extends for 79 consecutive days, unless the California Department of Fish and Game determines 1,700 bears have been killed before the season concludes. Hunters are required to present the killed bear's skull to fish and game officials within 10 days of taking the bruin.

Hunters are allowed one adult bear per season. Cubs and females accompanied by cubs may not be taken (cubs are defined as bears less than one year of age or bears weighing less than 50 pounds).

No feed, bait or other materials capable of attracting a bear to a feeding area shall be placed or used for the purpose of taking or pursuing a bear. No person may take a bear within a 400-yard radius of a garbage dump or bait.

— Source: California Department of Fish and Game

Critical Habitat for Polar Bears established ................Is it.enough to sustain the Bears in a warming climate?

'Critical habitat' set aside in Alaska for polar bears

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The Obama administration sets aside polar bear "critical habitat"
  • A federal agency had been sued by environmental groups
  • The announcement may have impact on oil and gas exploration
(CNN) -- The setting aside of 187,000 square miles in Alaska as "critical habitat" for polar bears could have an impact on oil and gas drilling, federal and environmental officials said Wednesday.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designated the land along the north coast of Alaska as part of a partial settlement in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups.
"This critical habitat designation enables us to work with federal partners to ensure their actions within its boundaries do not harm polar bear populations," Tom Strickland, assistant secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said in a statement. "Polar bears are completely dependent upon Arctic sea-ice habitat for survival."
The decision does not create a refuge or affect land ownership and private property, but it does give federal authorities leeway when deciding on a project that could negatively affect polar bears."It will provide an additional level of consultation," said FWS spokesman Bruce Woods in Anchorage, Alaska. Critical habitat is a specific area where policies can assist a species in recovery.
Environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council, welcomed the announcement, but sounded some concerns."The critical habitat designation clearly identifies the areas that need to be protected if the polar bear is to survive in a rapidly melting Arctic," Brendan Cummings, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. "However, unless the Interior Department starts to take seriously its mandate to actually protect the polar bear's critical habitat, we will be writing the species' obituary rather than its recovery plan."
The U.S. government currently considers polar bears as "threatened" rather than the more restrictive "endangered." Officials face a December 23 deadline to explain the designation. The FWS considers the "threatened" label appropriate, given other protective measures, Woods told CNN.The FWS initially planned to set aside 200,541 square miles, but reduced that to 187,151 due to corrections designed to accurately reflect the U.S. boundary for proposed sea-ice habitat.
The agency said the habitat designation includes areas where offshore drilling occurs. Federal agencies must give approval for much of the drilling.
"If a federal action may affect the polar bear or its critical habitat, the permitting or action agency must enter into consultation with the [Fish and Wildlife] Service," according to an agency statement.
"Polar bears are slipping away," said Andrew Wetzler, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's land and wildlife program. "But we know that there are crucial protections that can keep them around. Today's designation is a start, especially in warding off ill-considered oil and gas development in America's most important polar bear habitat."
Woods estimates the United States, Russia and Canada have up to 4,500 polar bears between them. Polar bears cover huge territories, so many will be in the critical habitat area at one time or the other.
Another federal agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, has reported a "rapid decline" in Arctic sea ice over the past three decades. It cites global warming as one of the factors.
The Geological Survey's Alaska Science Center is collaborating with the Russia Academy of Sciences and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, "in developing new satellite remote sensing methods to detect sea ice changes and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of change."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You, the residents of New York State have caused /govenor Patterson to stop Gas Drilling and hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale region throughout the State.............A Thanksgiving wish coming true!!!!

From: Catskill Mountainkeeper <>
To: Meril, Rick
Sent: Thu Nov 25 08:32:23 2010
Subject: Something To Be Thankful For

Catskill Mountainkeeper Thank You
Thanksgiving Day,  2010

"At this point, I would say that the hydrofracking opponents have raised enough of an argument to thwart us going forward at this time."  Governor David Paterson: Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yesterday on WAMC Radio, Governor Paterson admitted that he is no longer convinced that fracking is safe and that as a result of all of our hard work - fracking will not go forward at this time.

Here is the full quote:

"This is a very good example of public participation. Our DEC...originally ruled that hydrofracking would not affect the
water quality in the area but we've received additional information and have not been able to come to a conclusion as to whether or not this is a good idea.  Even with the tremendous revenues that will come in at this time...we're not going to risk public safety or water quality, which will be the next emerging global problem after the energy shortage. At this point, I would say that the hydrofracking opponents have raised enough of an argument to thwart us going forward at this time."

 Listen the full interview at:

This is an amazing David vs. Goliath victory for all of the volunteer groups, environmental organizations, land owners, business owners, farmers and the many thousands of individuals who have taken action.
We still need to haveSpeaker Sheldon Silver and the New York Assembly  pass the Moratorium Bill and the Water Withdrawal Bill on Monday during the Extraordinary Session called by Paterson.  All indications are that Silver wants to move these bills but he needs to hear from you.  Take action by contacting your Assemblyperson by clicking here and filling out this simple email form provided by our partner
"Clean Water Not Dirty Drilling".

Thank you again from the Mountainkeeper team.
Ramsay, Wes, Aaron and Beth

About Catskill Mountainkeeper
Catskill Mountainkeeper is a community based environmental advocacy organization, dedicated to creating a flourishing a sustainable economy in the Catskills and preserving and protecting the area's long term health.  We address issues of water integrity for the Delaware and Susquehanna River Systems, the defense of the vast woodlands that encompass the Catskill Forest Preserve and the New York City Watershed as well as farmland protection. We promote "smart" development that balances the economic needs and concerns of the Catskill regions' citizens and the protection of our abundant but exceedingly vulnerable natural resources.

Catskill Mountainkeeper is an independent not for profit 501c3 organization.


Inflamation of the heart valve killing Alaska Sea Otters...........what is causing the inflamation to occur? can click on video at the end of the article below to watch the tv news report on this dilemma

Scientists working to understand otter population decline

 By Jackie Bartz Channel 2 News

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking into what's killing hundreds of otters off the coasts of Alaska.This year scientists have dissected 80 sea otters.   In some areas of southwest Alaska, sea otter populations have dropped by 90 percent.
The decline has prompted the Fish and Wildlife Service to list the species as threatened and designate thousands of miles as critical habitat.
Scientists say the most common cause of death they see is inflammation of the heart valve, but there are a whole host of other bacteria and viruses they find.

"As far as the numbers, sea otters are really the best sentinels as to what is going on. We can ship them to different parts of the state; they are very sensitive to a lot of different diseases, so they can pick it up," said Kathy Burek, Alaska Veterinary Pathology Services.
In 2008, a Fish and Wildlife Service study showed an increase in some otter populations. One of those populations is in homer.