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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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Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Owls generally make their presence known through their vocalizations, which peak two times a year"............. "One is in summer, when fledglings depart their parents’ territory and search for their own"................ "Most young owls have staked their claims by September or October, making November and December relatively quiet in the owl world"............. But the chatter increases again during the winter breeding season, when mates are courting each other and defending their territory"..........

Illustration by Adelaide Tyrol
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In January, Owl Courtship Begins
I’m an enthusiastic, if laid-back, bird watcher. One of the things I love most about spring and summer is the effortlessness with which I encounter a wide variety of birds. Sitting in my backyard, I’ll catch sight of an indigo bunting in the apple tree or watch a pair of phoebes flying to and from their nest. On an afternoon hike, I might spot a Baltimore oriole or hear the sweet sounds of a wood thrush.
Not so in winter, when the cold curtails my outdoor activities and so many birds have departed for warmer climes. The dearth of birds and walks leaves me feeling doubly deprived, and I count the days until red-winged blackbirds will again greet me on my morning stroll.
But January is far too early to dream of spring, so I’ve decided to put thoughts of seasonal songbirds out of my mind and focus on some of our region’s year-round residents, namely owls.
If any species of bird takes effort and fortitude to observe, it is the stealthy, nocturnal owl. Of the 134 species in the world, five are year-round residents of the Northeast: the great horned, barred, eastern screech, long-eared and saw-whet. Despite the number of species and their constant presence, is the dead of winter a reasonable time to seek them out?
Turns out it is.
The first weeks of January is when the action starts, according to Matthew Young, who works at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Owls generally make their presence known through their vocalizations, which peak two times a year. One is in summer, when fledglings depart their parents’ territory and search for their own. Most young owls have staked their claims by September or October, making November and December relatively quiet in the owl world. But the chatter increases again during the winter breeding season, when mates are courting each other and defending their territory.
For great horned owls (Bubo virginianus), the process starts just as the Northeast is settling into the deep freeze of winter. Young told me that by early January the birds, which range in size from 18 inches to just over two feet, start calling to each other. It’s even possible to distinguish the female versus male calls, as the females have a higher pitch and an extra note in the beginning of their call.
By February, most great horned owls are incubating their eggs and have grown quieter, though their calls can still be heard as they defend their territories. But as they grow quiet, the barred owls (Strix varia) pipe up. The familiar “who-cooks-for-you-who-cooks-for-you-all” calls become more frequent from late February into April, which is their breeding season.
While knowing the breeding season of particular owls increases the likelihood of hearing them, I asked Young if there were tips that might further increase my chances of seeing one. He suggested that I venture out between sunset and sunrise when the moon is bright but the wind is still – ideal hunting conditions for owls.
Long-eared owls (Asio otus) tend to roost during the winter in small groups (known poetically as parliaments). I was excited about the prospect of discovering not just one but several owls roosting, until Young told me that long-eared owls are “one of the most secretive and least known birds in North America.”
In addition to owls being more vocal in winter, the other advantage to starting my search now is that I might even come across a snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus). Residents of the Arctic Circle, these large birds sometimes irrupt into the lower 48 states, most likely driven by a search for food. Birders were treated to one of the largest irruptions in history during the winter of 2013-2014, when snowy owls were spotted en masse all over the country, including one that ended up at the Honolulu International Airport.
While it would be spectacular to see a snowy owl or stumble upon a parliament of long-eared owls, I’ll be pleased just to hear the calls of a great horned or barred. The return of the songbirds may be months off, but this winter will have plenty of moonlit, windless nights, and I will be out there, looking and listening.

Carolyn LoriƩ lives with her rescue dog and very large cat in Thetford, Vermont.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Due to the disappearance of continuous forest cover, stream and river pollution and the assault of chemical pesticides,our national bird, The Bald Eagle almost went the way of the Passenger Pigeon---nearly going extinct in mid 20th century.................Thankfully, eagles never disappeared entirely from the lower 48, with some 100 birds remaining in the the mid 1970's(with nesting limited to Maine and New York)..........Under Republican President Nixon, the enactment of the Clean Water Act and the banning of the egg thinning pesticide DDT set the stage for one of the great wildlife restoration accomplishments that our Country has achieved.............The Bald Eagle is back, growing in numbers and fulfilling its ecosystem functions once again

Return of the Eagle
Illustration by Adelaide Tyrol
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To the delight of all who revel in the grace and beauty of nature, bald eagles are soaring above New England in numbers unseen for over a century. We’ve come a long way since the days when poor farming and logging practices denuded our forests, choking streams with silt and compromising the food chain. We now know that if you degrade the eagle’s habitat and pollute the water you affect the entire web of life, including fish-eating birds in the skies above.
Human regard for wild animals has also changed. “In the 1800’s, it was not uncommon for eagles to be shot for stealing fish and chickens.” said John Buck, a wildlife biologist and  Nongame Bird Project Leader for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife (VDFW).
Concern over the decline of bald eagles and other birds inspired the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which was enacted by the U.S. and Canada in 1916. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act of 1940 created even stronger protections, aiming to conserve migratory birds and preserve essential habitat.
However, eagle populations continued to decline. The use of DDT and other pesticides after World War II caused widespread nest failures from weakened eggshells and stunted embryonic development. In 1949, the last productive bald eagle nest in New Hampshire was recorded at Lake Umbagog.
According to Margaret Fowle, Conservation Biologist for Audubon Vermont, eagles never disappeared entirely from the Northeast, but fewer than 100 birds remained. By the mid-1970’s, nesting was limited to Maine and New York.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s 1972 ban on DDT and passage of the Clean Water Act set the stage for the eagle’s rebound. More recently, the shoreline protection acts in Vermont and New Hampshire promise to reduce the negative impacts of construction on eagle habitat.
Starting in 1976, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation worked with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to raise bald eagle chicks.  During a process called “hacking,” they placed captive-bred eagle chicks in the nests of adult eagles in the wild, which then fostered the chicks. In 1982, Mass Audubon and the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife began another hacking program at the Quabbin Reservoir.
Between 2004 and 2008, 29 subadult eagles were released in Vermont during a collaborative effort between VDFW, National Wildlife Federation, USFWS, Outreach for Earth Stewardship and Central Vermont Public Service. “None of those birds appear to have settled in Vermont,” said Buck. “All of our nesting pairs are the result of population expansion from neighboring states.” Vermont’s first successful eagle nest was found in 2008 at the Springfield Reservoir.
New Hampshire Audubon has managed that state’s bald eagle project in collaboration with the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department and the USFWS. And said Chris Martin, Senior Biologist at New Hampshire Audubon, “TransCanada provided a significant grant that boosted bald eagle recovery efforts in New Hampshire and neighboring Vermont.”
Biologists and volunteers have studied and protected bald eagle populations for more than 35 years: counting numbers and nests, posting nesting and roosting sites, installing guards to thwart predators, and tracking individuals by banding and monitoring young. As a result, “New Hampshire’s breeding population has been doubling roughly every five years over the past 20 years,” said Martin. “Over-wintering populations have also been increasing steadily.”
In 2015 and 2016, during the annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey, record numbers of 90 or so eagles were recorded in New Hampshire (about 60 adults), with most spotted in the Lakes Region and along the Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers. Vermont’s winter counts also spiked, with 81 eagles seen in 2015 and 59 in 2016, including around 30 adults, mostly near Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River.
The bald eagle was removed from the federal endangered species list in 2007, but is still considered threatened in New Hampshire and endangered in Vermont. Eagles continue to be harmed by eating fish or carrion contaminated with lead from fishing tackle or ammunition as well as mercury from the environment, poisoned bait intended for other animals, electrocution from power lines, human disturbance at nest sites and by being hit by cars and trains as they feed on carrion.
“There’s a sense that since eagles are off the federal list, they’re doing well,” said Fowle. “But there’s still climate change and other threats. We need to be good stewards if we want to have them here for a long time.”
“Eagles are an environmental success story,” said Buck. “They’re imbedded in the folklore of this country. It’s magnificent to see a bald eagle. They are a beloved creature.”
Readers who would like to become involved in the Bald Eagle survey or monitoring activities can contact Chris Martin at New Hampshire Audubon, or Margaret Fowle at Audubon Vermont.

Michael J. Caduto is an author, ecologist, and storyteller who lives in Reading, Vermont.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Both Vermont and adjacent New Hampshire Moose populations are on a Minnesota-like free fall paradigm, currently with 75 to 80% annual calf mortality..........Combine this with the debilitating "one-two-three and your out" storm of warming climate, brain worm and winter tic affliction and the last thing Moose need to deal with is a hunting season..............Vermont biologist Walter Medwid worked for the state's Fish & Wildlife Dept. and argues forcefully about the fact that a 1/3 decline in population since 2009(3000 down to current 2000), should have Governor Shumlin stepping in and taking the hunting of Moose off the table until good science can determine if the carrying capacity of the Moose herd can be restored to decade-ago levels.......


Editor’s note: This commentary is by Walter Medwid, a biologist who lives in Derby.
An Open Letter to Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz,
I am writing to request that you take two urgent steps: 1) Use your office and authority over the Department of Fish and Wildlife to request that Gov. Peter Shumlin cancel this year’s moose season, and 2) that you appoint a special investigator to launch an inquiry into the decision-making process for this year’s moose hunt to determine whether state laws and public policy were violated in the process.

I make these requests for the following reasons:
Vermont’s moose population is in crisis; it has been in decline over the last 10 years but most significantly the population has been below the minimum carrying capacity threshold since 2009. That threshold minimum of 3,000 animals has been longstanding public policy. Current population estimates hover around 2,000 animals.
Despite the severe population deficit, the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (DFW) recommendation to the Fish and Wildlife Board (FWB) of 160 moose permits (some 8 percent of the current population) was accepted by the board this April without a single vote against the proposal despite a host of alarms going off.
Vermont’s moose population is facing serious threats — winter ticks, brain worm, heat-stress due to a warming climate but mostly unrelenting hunting pressure has been the key factor in the population decline. Since 2009, the first year of the population going into the red, 3,854 moose permits were approved by the FWB with nearly 2,000 killed, pushing the population deeper and deeper into deficit.

Vermont Moose hunter with his kill

Most troubling is the fact that calf mortality appears to be off the charts. A recent study of collared moose calves in Maine showed a 75 percent mortality rate. In New Hampshire in the past year a stunning 80 percent of collared study moose calves died.
I implore you to do all you can to halt this year’s kill so that this state’s moose population has some small chance of recovering. Doesn’t that serve all interests long term including hunters?

The stated goal of this year’s decision by DFW/FWB is “… designed to increase moose numbers throughout the state.” In what Orwellian world does an aggressive kill quota of a species in decline coupled with likely very high calf mortality result in a stable and increasing population? The biology doesn’t support it neither does basic arithmetic or simple logic.
And perhaps most troubling of all is that the decision by the FWB was chiefly informed by the categorization of this year’s permit quota by DFW leadership as “… very conservative.” In fact, of the three key moose states in New England, Vermont’s quota is actually the most aggressive. New Hampshire with a moose population twice that of Vermont’s is releasing 71 permits — less than half the number Vermont is releasing. And Vermont’s quota, as compared to Maine’s with some 65,000 animals, is nearly three times as aggressive as Maine’s as a percentage of population.
Did the FWB approve the DFW proposal because it was falsely categorized as “very conservative?” Was the board informed that the department’s proposal was in fact very aggressive as compared to the other two key moose states? If not, why not? Wouldn’t that red flag alone have at least engendered some discussion and debate rather than the complete silence and groupthink in April? And why were there no alternative proposals including one that was conservative in fact, offered to the board by DFW — how could one proposal cover all the diverse perspectives towards management of this iconic species in crisis? Why did your team at DFW convey to the public that this year’s plan was very conservative after it was voted upon in April?
Vermont has been deemed the state with the highest percentage of wildlife watchers. Most Vermonters simply want to see a moose, yet for over a decade the odds get worse each year. Shouldn’t moose be managed to benefit all Vermonters as state statutes require? Isn’t wildlife held in the public trust and not privatized to serve special interests and not public interests? Isn’t this year’s aggressive kill proposal contrary to all reasonable expectations held by the vast majority of Vermonters? And how did our management decision-making process become so thoroughly broken, so reckless?
I implore you to look into this entire fiasco that throws public interests, public policy and public law under the bus. I implore you to do all you can to halt this year’s kill so that this state’s moose population has some small chance of recovering. Doesn’t that serve all interests long term including hunters? There are simply too many red flags to not halt this year’s take and examine how this arm of Vermont’s governance failed so miserably.
Thank you for your hearing me out. I look forward to your reply.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Is it possible the the USFW Service feels that it's initial proclamation that "the Puma is extinct in the East" was premature,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Or is it as our friend, Endangered Species Specialist Mark McCollough states below-----simply "unfinished Peer Review assessment needed before the Puma is declared extinct in the East and delisted from the Endangered Species list?...............Since many Puma biologists consider the Puma to be one species throughout North America(not an eastern subspecies as the USFW is postulating), might "independent (biologist) experts" stir up enough dust to keep the Puma listed east of the Mississippi River?..............There have been several reputable analyses done by biologists showing definitively(deer, road, human population and continuous habitat variables) that suitable habitat for Pumas does exist in various parts of the Appalachian Spine as well as in NY State and New England..................How about the Feds keep Pumas protected until recolonization or rewilding of those haunts take place by our "Ghost Cats?"

Subject: Eastern Cougar listing reopened comment period

On June 28, 2016, the Service will publish a Federal Register notice  to reopen the comment period on the 2015 proposed rule to delist the eastern cougar in order to seek review from independent experts, as required by our 1994 peer review policy.  Although we intended to do this when the proposed rule was first published, we were unable to complete peer review during the previous comment period.  Thus, we are providing an additional 30 days to obtain independent review of our scientific analysis. 

With 100-200 Pumas in Florida and suitable habitat in the
Appalachian Mountains north up into NY and Maine, why
is the USFW Service so hellbent on delisting our "Ghost Cat, for
many biologists, the same feline that exists in the Western USA?

As a matter of procedure, reopening the comment period will also allow an opportunity for additional general review.  We are emphasizing, however, that previous comments need not be resubmitted because they are already part of the administrative record and will be fully considered in our review.  We anticipate making a final decision on the delisting proposal within the next few months.

Today, the notice will be in the Federal Register's electronic reading room here:
On Tuesday, the notice will be in the Federal Register here:

Additional comments can be submitted starting on June 28 through July 282016 at under docket no. FWS–R5–ES–2015–0001.    

Please do not hesitate to contact me or Krishna Gifford,  413-253-8619, with questions.

Mark McCollough, Ph.D.
Endangered Species Specialist
US Fish and Wildlife Service​
Maine Fish and Wildlife Service Complex

Ecological Services

Maine Field Office

P.O. Box A (mailing address)

306 Hatchery Road (physical address)

East Orland, Maine 04431
Telephone: (207) 469-7300,​ Extension 1115

​Fax: (207) 469-6725
Cell Phone: 207 944-5709

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Want to be an extension of the natural areas that abuts your home and neighborhood?.........Mimicking the native plant habitat in your region will encourage wildlife to utilize your property..............Providing the three essential elements needed for life to thrive---- plants that produce berries, nuts and seeds for food, creating horizontal and vertical "tangle" to create cover and providing some sort of water source(birdbaths if nothing else) and you are on your way to getting National Wildlife Federation certification that your yard is wildlife habitat.............There are all types of native landscaping styles to put into effect and the article below provides a good overview and foundation to get started and/or further enhance the indigenous habitat that you have put in place

Imagine the garden of your dreams designed with plants indigenous to your region

June 24, 2016

Houzz Contributor. Margaret Oakley Otto is Design Director for Oakley Gardens, a boutique landscape design and consulting firm in Los Angeles that focuses on sustainability and environmental stewardship. For nearly a decade, she has designed intimate garden spaces that connect people with nature. Margaret coordinates the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plant’s annual Native Plant Garden Tour and is a Southern California Field Consultant for the California State Park Foundation’s Park Champions Program. Margaret blogs at Acorn Radicle, where she shares the life-affirming tidbits that she gathers from her work with and around the earth.
Gardening with plants native to your region is a powerful local choice that protects global biodiversity and creates an authentic sense of place. The design challenge with natives is ultimately one of imagination — we must imagine, for example, that the large green shrub with berries on it that grows in the hills or mountains 15 miles from where we live can be pruned and shaped to fit our garden.

It is completely possible to evoke an array of garden styles with native plants. All it takes is an understanding of design principles for the style you are trying to achieve, creativity in using the plant materials that you normally see growing in the wild, and the knowledge of how to maintain those plants to achieve your desired effect.

Native Plants 101