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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, July 31, 2013

Outside of Ohio University in Athens County Ohio where I sent to college, State biologist Suzie Prange is running a Bobcat research study to determine the health and potential for expansion of Ohio's recovering Bobcat population...........................The epicenter of where the "Bobs" are spreading out from is in the Southeastern corner of the State adjacent to West Virginia.........In fact West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are the sources of the expanding Ohio population..................Noble County has the healthiest population and Prange feels that the abandoned strip mines and gas wells provide more grassy open areas for voles and other rodents to thrive---thus plenty of good eating for Bobcats.........Verified Bobcat sightings are up to 169 from the 106 in 2010 with 31 of Ohio's counties having verified sightings,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,The State expects continued expansion of the "Cats" into open space throughout the state as previewed last year when a Bobcat was killed in Columbus, smack dab in the middle of Ohio, a good 2 hours north of where the current breeding population is

New theories posed on Bobcat habits

By Jane Beathard

ATHENS — In the second year of a study to learn more about Ohio’s growing number of bobcats, state wildlife biologists are dismissing some theories and posing new ones.Researcher Suzie Prange heads up the project from the Ohio Department of Natural Resource’s wildlife district office in Athens. Object of the study is to learn “how and why” the secretive felines returned to the state, as well as where they are flourishing and in what numbers.Eventually, biologists hope to remove the animal from the state’s endangered species list.

During the winters of 2012 and 2013, Prange trapped 21 bobcats in eastern and southern counties and fitted them with GPS and VHS radio collars. She monitors the ‘cats movements via occasional helicopter flyovers and through local volunteers who track animals collared in Vinton Furnace State Forest.Two of the 21 were road-killed. Two others left for parts unknown and were lost to monitoring.

Previous studies by the DNR found Ohio is home to two distinct bobcat populations — one centered in Noble County and another in Vinton County. An offshoot clan of the Vinton County ‘cats is also prowling Scioto County woodlands.Biologists once believed the Noble County bobcats moved to Ohio from Pennsylvania or West Virginia. They also thought Vinton County’s originated from Kentucky. More recent DNA analyses showed that theory false. Both the Vinton and Noble county bobcats boast the genes of their Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky kin.

Both populations are growing. But Noble County bobcats are reproducing faster and with more genetic purity.“The Noble County population is more successful and more compact,” Prange said. “They are genetically unique and different from all other bobcats.”
She’s not sure why Noble County appears to be better bobcat habitat. But she believes the county’s old strip mines and abundant gas wells have something to do with it.

“There are more (forest) openings and grassy areas in Noble County,” Prange said. “Voles thrive in those open areas and are easy prey for hungry bobcats.”Prange’s theory comes from necropsies performed on road-killed bobcats from all over southern and eastern Ohio. She learns from the dead animals by charting their location, size and DNA — and by examining their stomach contents.“There’s no difference in the two populations when it comes to diet. They all eat deer in the winter. Otherwise it’s rabbits, squirrels and voles,” she said.But, she finds a greater variety of prey in the stomachs of Vinton County ‘cats. Noble County’s eat more voles.

Both populations have a rosy future and bobcat sightings increase yearly throughout eastern and southern Ohio.In 2012, the DNR verified 169 bobcat sightings. In 2011, that number was 136 — up from 106 in 2010. Most observations took place in Noble and adjacent counties. Overall, observers in 31 counties reported verified bobcat sightings.“There are no obvious barriers to expansion and we expect populations to expand into unoccupied habitat if left undisturbed,” Prange noted in a recent presentation.

One concrete example of that expansion surfaced in February 2012 when a female bobcat was killed by a motorist on state Route 315, north of Columbus. Initially, biologists believed the animal had likely escaped a local propagator.Prange performed a necropsy and found the animal was truly wild. She found its stomach empty, meaning it had likely roamed to central Ohio in search of food.

Tennessee Wildlife Officials appreciate that when Black Bears wander into towns adjacent to open space areas like the Smokey Mountains, the best policy is to encourage the Bears to keep moving and get them pointed back into the surrounding forest................Strict garbage disposal rules combined with education about leaving out foodstuffs of any kind seem to be working in keeping conflicts with people at a minimum............Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Sgt. Roy Smith states that "Bears don't want to be in these areas just as we don't want them here".............. "In my ten years here, I'm not aware of any human-bear interactions that became dangerous".............." Bears are naturally timid and skittish creatures and generally afraid of people"

Tennessee has a benign Black Bear Co-Existance Policy

In cities surrounded by good bear habitat, wildlife officials generally let bears keep moving

A black bear investigates a backyard grill in north Oak Ridge in May 2012. To encourage bears to move on, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency recommends trying to eliminate outdoor food sources such as dog and cat food, bird seed, and grease traps. (Photo by George Ostrouchov)

Oak Ridge and Knoxville are surrounded by very good bear habitats—including the largest black bear preserve in the world—and it's not unusual to see up to a half-dozen bears come through the Oak Ridge area each year and at least that many in the Knoxville area, Tennessee wildlife officials said this week.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Sgt. Roy Smith of Morristown said the bear seen in Oak Ridge on Monday was not the first in the area this summer, and there have also been a few in Anderson County."It's not an isolated incident," Smith said. "We have bears moving through Oak Ridge from time to time."Bears have also recently been reported in Andersonville, Claxton, Coalfield, Solway, and Knoxville.

The surrounding bear habitat includes the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the south, which is the largest black bear preserve in the world; the Cherokee National Forest to the east, a good, large bear habitat; and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area to the north.

Smith said there are a few bears that live year-round in the northwest part of Anderson County around New River and Devonia."Sometimes, those bears will find their way down the mountain," Smith said.

He said the bears seen in populated areas are often young male bears between 1.5 to 2 years old that have been weaned from their mothers and weigh about 150 pounds. There is a period during the summer when there is not a lot of natural food available, and the juvenile male bears are pushed out of good habitats by adult males. The yearlings set out to find their own territory and are often seen in local cities in July and August.

"Bears don't want to be in these areas just as we don't want them here," Smith said.
In the 10 years he's been working here, Smith said, he's not aware of any human-bear interactions that became dangerous. Bears are naturally timid and skittish creatures and generally afraid of people.

Still, wildlife officials recommend that people stay away from the bears.
"Give them a wide berth," TWRA Wildlife Officer Jason Lankford said.

To encourage the bears to continue moving, the TWRA recommends residents put away their trash and try to eliminate other outdoor food sources. Lankford said bears love to eat cat and dog food, bird seed, and whatever they can find in grease traps.

The TWRA said it generally lets the bears move out on their own as long as they keep moving.
"Generally speaking, if those bears are left alone, those bears will move through," Smith said.
The TWRA occasionally moves the animals if they find a consistent food source and aren't moving. In that case, they can become habituated to people."If they're causing problems or they're staying in the area, not moving, we generally remove them," Smith said.
The TWRA said people who see bears can call the agency because wildlife workers want to know if the bears, which can cover 20-30 miles per day, are continuing to move.
There were also several reports of bears in Oak Ridge in the late spring last year.

We have been keeiping you up to date on the health of the Moose population across North America.............. Many of you know that Moose in New England and Colorado are some of the few herds that up till now have seemingly avoided the downward spiral that that the double whammy of winter ticks and deer brain disease have brought to Moose in the Great Lakes and other sectors of their range................New Hampshire biologists are starting to fear that Moose in their state are starting to be negatively impacted and they have secured $700,000 from the Federal Government to study their mortality and reproduction over the next number of years..........As a previous study 7 years ago did, information gleaned going forward will determine the extent and breath of future hunting seasons

NH to study moose population
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire's Executive Council has approved a four-year, $695,000 study of the state's moose population, which state biologists fear is threatened by climate change.
State biologists believe shorter winters cause problems for the herd by giving a boost to ticks and other parasites that target the state's nearly 5,000 moose.
The Concord Monitor  says the money will be used to put radio collars on 80 to 100 moose and track their reproduction and mortality rates. The funding is coming from the federal government and is being coordinated by Fish and Game and the University of New Hampshire.
The herd was last studied in 2006. The results of the new study will help the state manage the moose population by adjusting the number of moose-hunting permits.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bat researchers have now discovered what they call the benign "cousin viruses" of the devasting White Nose virus that has killed 70% of Brown Bats, 34% of Tricolored Bats and 30% of Indiana and Long-Eared Bats..............The Scientists feel that the benign viruses might lead them to some "cure" for White Nose, which seemingly benign to Bats living in Europe, is lethal to North American Species in the same way that Smallpox, Flu, and other human European diseases were lethal to the indigenous North American peoples 500 years ago.................While unnappealing to most humans, Bats are a keystone Carnivore of the sky and so critical in their top down influence on insects of all kinds


science daily— U.S. Forest Service researchers have identified what may be a key to unraveling some of the mysteries of White Nose Syndrome: the closest known non-disease causing relatives of the fungus that causes WNS. These fungi, many of them still without formal Latin names, live in bat hibernation sites and even directly on bats, but they do not cause the devastating disease that has killed millions of bats in the eastern United States. Researchers hope to use these fungi to understand why one fungus can be deadly to bats while its close relatives are benign.

The study by Andrew Minnis and Daniel Lindner, both with the U.S. Forest Service's

Northern Research Station in Madison, Wis., outlines research on the evolution of species

related to the fungus causing WNS.

"Identification of the closest known relatives of this fungus makes it possible to move forward with genetic work to examine the molecular toolbox this fungus uses to kill bats," according to Lindner, a research plant pathologist. "Ultimately, we hope to use this information to be able to interrupt the ability of this fungus to cause disease."
The study is an important step toward treating WNS, according to Mylea Bayless, Bat Conservation International's director of conservation programs in the U.S. and Canada. "This research increases our confidence that this disease-causing fungus is, in fact, an invasive species," Bayless said, "Its presence among bats in Europe, where it does not cause mass mortality, could suggest hope for bats suffering from this devastating wildlife disease. Time will tell."
White Nose Syndrome was first observed in 2006 in a cave in Upstate New York. Since then, it has spread to 22 states in the United States and five Canadian provinces and has killed large numbers of hibernating bats, a problem resulting in substantial economic losses. A marked decline in bat populations in the eastern United States was documented in a study published last month in PLoS One by Sybill Amelon, a research biologist with the Forest Service in Columbus, Mo., and co-authors Thomas Ingersoll and Brent Sewall.

The study found cumulative declines in regional relative abundance by 2011 from peak levels were 71 percent for little brown bats, 34 percent for tricolored bat, 30 percent in the federally-listed endangered Indiana bat, and 31 percent for northern long-eared bats.
In 2009, researchers identified the culprit behind WNS as a member of the genus Geomyces, resulting in its name Geomyces destructans, or G. destructans. Minnis and Lindner generated DNA sequence data and found evidence supporting a shift in the genus to which the fungus belongs, resulting in a new name: Pseudogymnoascus destructans, or P. destructans.
"This research represents more than just a name change," according to Bayless. "Understanding the evolutionary relationships between this fungus and its cousins in Europe and North America should help us narrow our search for solutions to WNS."
The study is based on a foundation of collaborative research among the U.S. Forest Service, the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and is a continuation of pioneering research initiated by Canadian researchers at the University of Alberta and European researchers, including those at the Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures in The Netherlands.
"Collaboration is key to responding to problems as devastating as WNS," said Michael T. Rains, director of the Northern Research Station. "We have come a long way since we first encountered WNS, in large part due to the cooperation among government agencies, universities and non-government organizations. For this study in particular, USGS and Fish & Wildlife Service partners played critical roles collecting the fungi used in these studies. Problems this large will not be solved without unprecedented cooperation, and this study is a great example of that."

Most people are unaware that Pumas are excellent swimmers and like Wolves and Bears, are well at home in the water both chasing prey and moving from one land mass to another.............The article below captures a fantastic picture(video can be watched on this blog) of a Puma swimming rapidly off of Vancouver Island(Canada)................If we were not so busy blasting Pumas to kingdom come in the Dakotas and Nebraska, they would migrate east, swim across the Mississippi River and recolonize all of the USA, including their historical haunts in the eastern woodlands of our Continent................It is up to us "god fearing", "right to life" preaching Americans to come to the realization that all of natures life forms merit being revered as a miracle of creation and merit having the same "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" bill of rights that we American and Canadian human residents take for granted


Cougar goes for fast ocean swim off Vancouver Island

 Fishing guide Graham Nielsen had seen wolves and bears swim between islands around Nootka Sound but never a cougar, and never at such a clip as he witnessed last week.

As their boat turned into the gap
 between Nootka Island and Vancouver
 Island, the group spotted something in
 the water.
"One fellow saw something near the
shore. He said, 'Hey, it's an otter.
 Weird. It looks like it's paddling.'
So I say, 'Otters don't paddle,' "
 Nielsen said. "We got a bit closer
 and saw it was a cougar — not
full grown, but big. Probably 10 feet,
 nose to tail. It was moving
real fast, too. It swam nearly halfway
 across — about a quarter mile.
I didn't know they could swim like that."
Todd Culos, one of the men on Nielsen's
 boat, captured video of the
big cat swimming just a few feet behind
 the vessel.
"I have no doubt it would have tried to
climb onto the motor pod,
 given an opportunity," Nielsen said.
It's rare to see a swimming cougar,
but the behaviour is completely
 normal, said Danielle Thompson of
 Parks Canada.
"Cougars are great swimmers," said
Thompson, a resource management
 officer at Pacific Rim National Park
 Reserve who specializes in
cougar-human conflict management
and public safety.
"They'll commonly swim between
 islands in search of prey. Their
preferred prey is deer, which also
 swim well," she said.
Cougars also hunt mink and raccoons
 — and sea animals such
 as otters, seals and sea lion pups.
 "They're a highly adaptable predator."
Thompson doesn't believe cougars in
the water pose a significant
 threat to swimmers or boaters. In fact,
 it's the opposite.
"Give them lots of space. Animals are
 very vulnerable in the water.
 They do drown."
Still, their swimming abilities mean
 trying to escape a cougar on
 land by heading into the water is not
 a good response.
"I've seen deer do this and it didn't go
well," Thompson said.
Instead, stand your ground. Maintain
 eye contact and back away.
 If the animal lingers, pick up a stick
 and make yourself appear
bigger. Shout, and fight if you must.

Chris Spatz of of Cougar Rewilding wrote to some of us today asking out loud how it can be that "farmers(and ranchers) can understand how human hunting of Pumas can actually increase Puma predation on livestock and ante up conflicts with human settlements while the Nebraska Game Commission is totally blind to that scientific fact"................With the "Cornhusker States" decision to kill off 6 of the 20 Pumas occupying the Pine Ridge section of the state(the farthest east breeding population of pumas outside of Florida), I seethe with disgust at the moronic unscientific rationale that they(Nebraska) put forth to justify their "genocidal decision"----In their words "a slight to moderate reduction in moutain lion popuation"----OK, 30% is not modest if there were 3,000 Pumas in Nebraska let alone a barely recolonizing 20 individual animals.........TO MY WAY OF THINKING THIS IS A CAPITOL CRIME PUNISHABLE BY SIZEABLE TIME IN JAIL!!!!!

click on this link for the Progressive Farmer Article on how Arizona Ranchers relate to "Pumas in their midst", understanding that the hunting of Pumas can actually ante up Puma predation on their livestock

Commissioners approve state’s inaugural mountain lion season

Nebraska’s inaugural mountain lion hunting season will take place in 2014. The Nebraska Game and Parks Board of Commissioners approved regulations for the season at their meeting July 26 in Lincoln.
Up to four mountain lions may be harvested next year in the Pine Ridge, the only area of the state known to have a reproducing population of the big cats. Areas open to mountain lion hunting in the remainder of the state will have an unlimited harvest quota.
Four units have been created to manage mountain lions, although only two will be open to hunting in 2014. Up to four mountain lions may be harvested in the Pine Ridge Unit next year. The Keya Paha and Upper Platte units will be closed until a huntable population exists and an unlimited number of mountain lions may be harvested in the Prairie Unit, which makes up the remainder of the state not included in the other three units. The Pine Ridge, Keya Paha and Upper Platte units have the same boundaries as the deer management units that go by the same names.
The objective for the Pine Ridge Unit is to provide a harvest opportunity while allowing a slight to moderate reduction in mountain lion population. The Pine Ridge Unit will have two seasons, with harvest quotas of two mountain lions for each. The first season is Jan. 1-Feb. 14. One permit will be issued by auction to a resident or nonresident and one will be issued by lottery to a resident. Both may hunt with dogs. The first season will close immediately once the quota of two mountain lions or sub-quota of one female is met.
The second season in the Pine Ridge is Feb. 15-March 31. There will be 100 lottery permits issued to residents, but hunting with dogs is not allowed. The season will close immediately once the quota of two mountain lions or sub-quota of one female is met.
The objective of the Prairie Unit is to provide unlimited hunting opportunity in the part of the state that is unlikely to establish a breeding population of mountain lions. The season is open year-round and an unlimited number of permits are available. Permits will cost $15. Hunting with dogs is allowed only Jan. 1-March 31.
The use of traps or bait is prohibited while hunting mountain lions.
The application period for the Pine Ridge Unit is Sept. 3-30. Applications for the Prairie Unit will be accepted Dec. 16, 2013-Dec. 31, 2014. The nonrefundable application fee is $15.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Just as New Jersey has seen a renaissance over the last 40 years in populations of Black Bears and Eastern Coyotes(Coywolves) occupying the state, so too is the "Garden State" once again home to the Bobcat......This highly industrial state is still 40% forested and about 15% agricultural land...................The Bobcat is again finding a way to carve out a living here despite being virtually extirpated from one of the most densely populated states in America by the 1970's,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,A rewilding program with "Cats" brought in from Maine has Bobcats back in the woodlands and fields........................


A photo submitted yesterday by a Liberty Township resident depicting a large bobcat stalking through the snow, carrying what appears to be a large rabbit in its mouth, ignited discussion about what experts are calling the most reclusive animal in New Jersey.
New Jersey's bobcat population appears to be on the rise, said Tracy Leaver, executive director of the Woodlands Wildlife Refuge who has worked to rehabilitate 17 bobcats since 1997.

The nonprofit, which is located in Alexandria Township and is the only facility licensed to work with injured bobcats in the state, has successfully rehabilitated 10 bobcats in the last 12 months, releasing them back to their home afterwards, Leaver said.
The bobcats brought to the sanctuary have either been hit by a car, caught unintentionally by a snare or orphaned, she said.
“One of the things that we definitely want to do is not have people be afraid of bobcats," Leaver said. “This is probably the most reclusive wild animal that we have in the state. That anyone gets to see one... it’s an amazing, amazing thing to experience."

Bobcats, she said, have “absolutely no interest in the human population." They feed on small, rabbit-sized animals.
The bobcat “epitomizes the wild’s never going to be some somebody’s pet," she said. The bobcat is also a “testament to the habitat that we have in New Jersey," Leaver said.

According to a newsletter recently circulated by the sanctuary, the bobcat was listed as a state endangered species in 1991, its population challenged since the 1800s because of hunting and habitat destruction as large areas were cleared for lumber, charcoal and agriculture. Construction of major highways are also believed to have had a part in the decline of the population.
BobcatA large bobcat stalking through the snow in Liberty Township. 
In the late 1970s several New England bobcats were released into New Jersey in hopes of restoring the population. A research project by New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Threatened and Endangered Species Program is ongoing and includes the monitoring and study of the efficacy of the rehabilitation project.
One bobcat recently treated by the sanctuary and released was a 6-month old female found below Route 80 in Warren County.
Charles Fineran, director of open space in Allamuchy Township, has seen bobcats before and photographed one while hiking outdoors in April 2011.

He said he feels lucky to have had the experience. “They’re rare enough, the sitting of those’re really quite lucky unless you’re fish and game and you know where they’re at or have them tagged.”Fineran said he’s not anticipating another sighting any time soon.“I don’t expect to have that happen in my life again.”

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wolves cannot be blamed for the shrinking Pronghorn population in the Delta-Mesa region of Colorado...................100 animals cling to life in the Delta-Mesa under quickly drying and hotter conditions that is compromising the herds foraging prospects..............Less food means smaller fawn recruitment and the downward trajectory that wildlife officials are witnessing there.........................Putting out watering troughs similar to what domestic cattle utilize is not the answer.........................Habitat alteration due to oil and gas drilling, barbwire fencing and general human infrastructure is likely keeping the "Antelope" from finding the life giving water that they need.

Preserving the Pronghorns: Parks and Wildlife's Project

DELTA-MESA COUNTY, Colo.- Over the past ten years, the pronghorn herd near the Delta-Mesa County line has dramatically decreased.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, hundreds of these antelopes used to roam the Grand Mesa slopes, and now only 100 are left.

Biologists with Parks and Wildlife are conducting a study to see how to strengthen this once flourishing population.

Each week biologists monitor the small antelope herd by telemetry or a flyover.

"This population was pretty vibrant for a long time and we hunted them up until three years ago. We've now eliminated all licenses out in that particular area with the hope that in the next few years we can try and start hunting again," explains JT Romatzke, Wildlife Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

In the winter of 2012, 19 pronghorns were captured from the Delta-Mesa county line.

"10 of those had radio collars, the others had neck bands and ear tags. Of the radio collared, we vaccinated five of those," explains Brad Banulis, a biologist for Parks and Wildlife.

The team also brought in 24 pronghorns from southeastern Colorado

"These populations are abundant. That's why we chose that location out on the Front Range, to try and get antelope to bring over to this part of the country," explains Romatzke.

Similar to the locally captured, all of the neck banded and five of the radio collared were vaccinated.

"We're looking at a lot of different factors with this antelope herd. We're looking at the drought, the deteriorating habitat conditions out on the landscape, we're looking at the disease factors, we're looking at predation," comments Romatzke.

With technology, biologists were able to follow these animals last summer and the results were significant, though unsettling.

"We didn't get an opportunity to see as many fawns hit the ground, as well as actually persist through the summer," says Banulis.

Which lead biologists to believe drought conditions are crucial.

"Through the summer the female doe needs more water. They're going to need higher quality forage, so that they can support those fawns through lactation," explains Banulis.

"Probably the bigger one is the availability of nutrition on the range. We're trying to partner up with the Bureau of Land Management, oil and gas companies, and private land owners to go out and try and get some base line information about where it's at now compared to the historical data that we have for that range," comments Romatzke.

With this breakthrough Parks and Wildlife have added a new tool to the experiment.

"These guzzlers get rainwater in them, and the rain water is collected. (These guzzlers) offer a source of water out this in a desert-like environment. We're excited about that. We already have some of the antelope utilizing that," explains Romatzke.

Although Parks and Wildlife may have found a solution, it is only a piece to the problem.

"It's our job and our responsibility to go out there and actually figure out what's going on," adds Romatzke.

Parks and Wildlife plans on continuing the pronghorn project for the next five years.

During that time period, biologists will be monitoring, intensely looking for recruitment, and studying what the fawns on the ground look like

Like the WILDLANDS AND WOODLANDS initiative taking place out of Harvard University's HARVARD FOREST(seeks to preserve 50% of Massachusetts and surrounding New England forests), so to is the INTERNATIONAL BOREAL CONSERVATION SCIENCE PANEL calling for the preservation of half of Canada's boreal woodland.........................Older recommendations — stating that 10-12 per cent of a region's land base would be sufficient to maintain a region's biodiversity and ecological processes — are now known to reflect major underestimates and would result in compromised sustainability for Grizzlies, Wolves and Wolverines

Huge swaths of Canada's boreal forests under threat

Researchers say a full 50 per cent of 'world's last great forest' should be protected


Huge swaths of Canada's boreal forests under threat

Iconic species such as the woodland caribou "have disappeared from the southern tier of the boreal forest" and other signature wildlife of Canada's forests — wolverine, grizzly bear and wolf — are in trouble, the panel states.

At least half of Canada's vast boreal forest should be strictly protected from any kind of development and the rest should be carefully managed to preserve or restore its ecological integrity, a panel of top North American researchers argues in a report to be released Monday on "the world's last great forest."

The International Boreal Conservation Science Panel, which includes such leading Canadian environmental experts as University of Alberta ecologist David Schindler, is sounding the alarm about Canada's 5.8-million-sq.-km expanse of northern woods and wetlands on the opening day of a global conference of biologists being held this week in Baltimore.

Encompassing more than half of Canada's 9.9-million-sq.-km landmass, the boreal forest is described by the volunteer panel as "one of the world's greatest natural treasures" and — along with the Siberian boreal forest and the Amazon rainforest — as one of the last three significant stretches of forested land on Earth that has "never been touched by the large-scale footprint of human industrial expansion."

But forestry, mining and energy projects across Canada — including Alberta's oilsands — are transforming huge swaths of the boreal frontier, destroying wildlife habitat, disrupting ancient animal migration patterns, threatening water quality and generally compromising ecosystems, the panel warns.
The researchers cite studies showing that some 730,000 square kilometres of Canada's boreal forest — about one-eighth of the total, or an area "larger than Texas" — is "already affected by these industries and their infrastructure," including roads and hydroelectric dams.

Iconic species such as the woodland caribou "have disappeared from the southern tier of the boreal forest" and other signature wildlife of Canada's forests — wolverine, grizzly bear and wolf — are in trouble, the panel states.

"The wave of development pushing north through Canada's boreal forest leaves, in its wake, an expanding list of impacted species and widespread degradation of ecosystem services," the report asserts.The panel's key recommendation is that a full 50 per cent of the boreal forest should be set aside as permanent wild land — a much more aggressive conservation target than experts have previously proposed.

The Canadian Boreal Forest

"It has become apparent that substantially more habitat protection than previously recognized is needed," the panel concludes. "Older recommendations — that setting aside 10-12 per cent of a region's land base would be sufficient to maintain a region's biodiversity and ecological processes — are now known to reflect major underestimates."

The panel insists that "to maintain ecological processes and the full complement of wildlife species, at least 50 per cent of an ecosystem or broad-scale landscape should be incorporated into a network of conservation areas that are free of industrial disturbance."

While the panel says conservation initiatives "should accommodate Aboriginal traditional uses of the land and should be managed or co-managed by Aboriginal governments," it also states that ecological protection zones should also be "enshrined in civic institutions" so that environmental commitments "cannot be changed to accommodate short-term political pressures and sensitivities."

Report co-author Jeff Wells, science adviser to the U.S.-based Pew Charitable Trusts, said in a statement that because of the "mounting pressures on boreal regions of Canada," efforts to sustain their "globally important conservation values will require very large protected areas."

Along with Schindler, one of this country's top aquatic scientists, other Canadian co-authors of the report include University of Manitoba and Parks Canada ecologist Micheline Manseau, University of Ottawa biologist Jeremy Kerr, McGill University geographer Nigel Roulet and University of Victoria environmental studies professor Nancy Turner.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

During the 20th Century, the density of deer per square mile in northern Maine spiked up to 20 deer per square mile as the historical Wolf/Caribou predator /prey paradigm blinked out due to human persecution, extensive logging and gradual warming weather conditions.............Whitetail deer historically were at the northern edge of their range in this cold dense conifer dominated system where Caribou found enough escape routes from Wolves to ensure an equilibrium "dance" that persisted for centuries........ During settlement and right up into the 20th century, man created a myriad of logging roads that tilted the balance of power towards the wolf, ..............These roads also created a path of opportunity north for deer as Caribou fell increasingly to the Wolf............Once man extirpated the Wolf, deer populations exploded................But over the past 15 years those opportunistic deer have started to retreat to pre-settlement densities in northern Maine as their protective winter deeryards have been compromised by logging,.................Additional factors such as snowy winters assisted Coyotes in tapping down fawn recruitment which in turn reduced the deer to appropriate carrying capacity levels up north..................Meanwhile the human altered and warmer landscape of southern Maine has seen deer herds spike to unnatural and unhealthy 20 deer per square mile densities which of course delight hunters who pay no mind to the fact that the easy-to-target "Bambi of the south" are eating up their woodlands and destroying the diversity of their forests

VASSALBORO - Just across the Kennebec River from Maine's capital, in the midst of a developed part of the state, hunter Julius Koenig and his neighbors love it when deer season rolls around.
In Vassalboro, where some of the state's highest turkey and deer populations exist, plenty of both are taken by hunters each year, and often make Vassalboro the No. 1 hunting town in Maine.
In fact, the biggest hunting towns in Maine are not up north in Aroostook County, nor in western Maine or even around Moosehead Lake. A vast percentage of all big-game animals hunted in Maine -- white-tailed deer, moose, wild turkey and black bear -- are taken in the southern quarter of the state.
logging roads let both people and carnivores penetrate once dense woodlands
A Maine Sunday Telegram analysis of 12 years of tagging station data found that Maine's biggest hunting towns are in the southern quarter of the state, where 65 percent of the population resides.
Close to half of all big-game animals killed by hunters since 2000 were registered with the state between York County, just an hour from Boston, and the midcoast, as far as Waldo County. As much as 45 percent of all big game were tagged in this southern quarter of the state, belying the notion that the hunting culture in Maine exists primarily up north.
Of the top 10 hunting towns in Maine, nine are in southern and central Maine. York, near the very southern tip of Maine, ranks No. 10.
The fact is, a robust hunting culture exists in the southern half of Maine, as proven by the number of big-game animals taken by hunters there.
  deeryards are much more "open" due to logging
Moreover, in that area a hunting ethic has evolved based around hunters asking permission and securing access to private land to assure hunting can continue in the most developed part of Maine.
In northern Maine, traditionally, large private landowners have allowed hunters to use their land without permission. But in the southern half of Maine, hunters have developed new habits to adjust to the landscape.
"Vassalboro is really tricky. It's heavily posted and there is not a lot of public access. It can be quite challenging to hunt in Vassalboro," said Koenig, 27, a hunter of 15 years. "I'm blessed because my mother has a farm that I've always been able to hunt on. But it would be very challenging to go into Vassalboro and find unposted land and not be confronted by a landowner.
"It's almost a yellow-brick road of posted signs."
Nonetheless, at the regional wildlife offices across Maine, state biologists say Maine's hunting culture not only exists in the southernmost part of Maine, but thrives.
"People think we're just a bunch of city people down here and it's all developments and shopping malls. And that represents a fair part of the region. But there is plenty of undeveloped land in southern Maine. There is plenty of hunting, and a very strong wildlife population. I see it in every town I go into," said regional biologist Scott Lindsay of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's southern office in Gray.
That over the past decade, nine of the top 10 hunting towns registering big game were in the southern quarter of Maine is a fact state wildlife biologist Keel Kemper considers with pride.
Maine historically was a Wolf/Caribou predator/prey system
"This is where it's happening," said Kemper, who is based in Sidney, between Augusta and Waterville.
Deer and turkey accounted for 85 percent of all big game taken by hunters in Maine in the past 12 years and largely populate this southern quarter, with more than 20 deer per square mile.
By contrast in northern Maine, where white-tailed deer are at the northern end of the species' range, deer exist in smaller numbers -- as few as one to three per square mile, said Rich Hoppe, the state wildlife biologist in Ashland.
"It's gotten to the point, I could say in the deer yards in the big woods, we only had four or five areas that held wintering deer. In the past, way back 15 to 20 years ago, we probably had 30 or 40 areas," Hoppe said.
"I've been here since 1988. We used to have more hunters from Vermont come to northern Maine. But since 2007 and 2008, we've lost 50 to 70 percent of our deer. Hunters know that."
Wild turkey have migrated slowly north since the bird was reintroduced in York and Waldo counties by state biologists in 1977 and 1982, respectively, and since the first hunt was held in 1986, according to DIFW.
But the deer numbers, on the other hand, have just dwindled, said Hoppe, a 30-year veteran with DIFW.
In Dover-Foxcroft -- just northwest of Bangor -- Steve Boyd at Foxbrook Variety said fewer hunters stop in his shop during deer season than they did 20 years ago. He notices because fewer deer tagged means fewer sales.
"In 2007, there were 255 deer tagged. Last year there were 142, a loss of 113 customers. They don't all spend money in my store, but a good portion do. The whole reason to be a tagging station is to get people in the door. But if they're not having success hunting, they're not coming in my store," Boyd said.
And while an active hunting culture still thrives in Penobscot County, Vince Sawyer, owner of Toot's Delicatessen in Dexter, said the deer densities do not compare to when he grew up along the road to Moosehead Lake. Sawyer can recall tagging upwards of 500 deer at Toot's seven years ago. Last year he tagged just 231.
Eastern Coyotes(Coywolves) include deer in their diet
"I used to hunt, but the friends I hunted with moved away. I don't have time and my kids are not into it, so I gave it up," Sawyer said.
However, the abundance of deer and turkey in the southernmost corner of Maine is well known among hunters, and today a large number choose to hunt there.
The significant opportunity to hunt in southern Maine is why Fred Wiegleb, president of the Scarborough Fish and Game Association, moved to York County in 1982. Now the president of one of Maine's largest fish and game clubs, Wiegleb said the hunting culture is far from fading in southern Maine.
"It's one of the attractions to coming to Maine. Elsewhere when you get into the metropolitan areas, you're not allowed to hunt. Not so here," said Wiegleb, of Arundel.
And it's not just locals who know it.
Lindsay, the regional wildlife biologist in southern Maine, said last year he got a call from a half dozen retired state troopers in Connecticut interested in deer hunting in his region.
"They had gone up to northern Maine for a couple of decades. But they got to the point in their 60s and 70s, they wanted to explore other places. They asked about lodging, and blocks of land to hunt where there was a good success rate. They did a lot of research. That's more typical of what we're getting now," Lindsay said.
More and more, Lindsay and Kemper said, out-of-state hunters call their offices inquiring about a southern Maine hunt, joining a strong group of locals who already hunt there.
Lindsay added that there has been a greater effort among biologists to help facilitate hunting in the south.
"It's why our long-term strategy is working with landowners here and securing access," he said.
Maine boasts a unique hunting tradition where private landowners have long allowed others to traverse across their land "to fish or fowl" without asking permission. This is the way in northern Maine, where private landowners often own huge tracts of land.
But in southern Maine -- as land has become more developed -- Lindsay said hunters have needed to adopt the practice of knocking on doors, meeting with private landowners, and asking for permission to hunt their woods and fields. And they're doing it, so that come November, they're getting their deer.
winters that bring a lot of snow increase deer mortality
Kemper said he definitely has seen more hunters seeking landowner permission.
"Asking for permission is becoming more and more a way of life. It's not something people here grew up with. When I first moved here from Georgia, that stunned me. Where I grew up, you asked permission if you wanted to get out alive," Kemper said. "If access was as bad as everyone says, that would be reflected in the numbers (of big game tagged)."
Will there be even more of a shift in hunting as more and more hunters discover the deer and turkey hunting in southern Maine?
"There are probably more hunters that hunt in southern Maine, I would agree with that," said Allen Starr, a regional wildlife biologist in Enfield, just north of Bangor. "If they had a choice of driving three to four hours to northern Maine where they will not see deer in a week of hunting, or maybe not traveling that far with gas prices, they maybe will choose to stay closer to home."
Gunnar Gunderson, president of the Lincoln County Rifle Club in Damariscotta, wonders if there is a seismic shift taking place in the way hunters hunt today.
He wonders if the era of the more "traditional" hunt that takes place far out in the woods has been replaced by a quicker alternative and, as with so much in our society today, something closer to home.
"I knew a guy from New Jersey, a hunter, he was afraid of going in the woods. He wouldn't go in the woods where he couldn't see the paved road. He hunted in New Jersey," said Gunderson, a 28-year hunting education instructor.
To be sure, biologists across the state who see the per-town tallies of deer, turkey, bear and moose taken by hunters each year observe a pattern evolving in the southernmost part of Maine. And it is a pattern that may eventually debunk the myth of the "two Maines," that long-held view of the state as a place encompassing a more rural outdoor sporting public to the north, and a more urban populace to the south.
"Hunting is alive and well in southern Maine," said Gunderson in Damariscotta. "I've taught close to 2,500 people hunter safety. When I first moved up here there were lots of slob hunters, but I think the behavior is way better. Besides hunter safety we now have a discussion about landowner ethics in our classes. And we push that hard."