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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, January 31, 2017

A lady Puma has been confirmed to have traversed through Shannon County, Missouri last February 2016............The Missouri Dept. of Conservation revealed this to be the case last Friday after saliva testing on a dead elk found there confirmed it to have been preyed upon by a female Puma..................The last confirmed female Puma to turn up in "the show me state" was 22 years ago in 1994...................A total of 68 overall Puma sightings since this date have been recorded by biologists with the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota being the originating point for virtually all of these animals..............Such long shot odds of a female and male prospecting cats coming together in any of the eastern states as South Dakota and Nebraska keep raising the hunting kill quota on their small breeding colonies.........Unless "lightening stikes" in the Pumas favor, the Power Ball odds of winning $100 million are better than the odds of a prospecting puma couple getting a chance to start a family from Minnesota down thru Texas and across the array of eastern states

First confirmed female mountain lion in Missouri since 1994 killed elk in Shannon County

Wes Johnson,, NEWS-LEADER.COMPublished  Jan. 27, 2017

Mountain lion saliva left on a dead elk
 in Shannon County shows it was a
 female cat, the first confirmed female
 mountain lion in Missouri since 1994.

Laura Conlee, furbearer biologist with
 the Missouri Department of 
Conservation, said the partially eaten 
elk was found in February 2016, and
 tests on the saliva confirmed a 
 mountain lion had eaten it.
MDC stock photo of Puma

"We suspect the elk had brain
 worms and
 there's evidence the mountain lion
 did kill the
 elk," Conlee said.
DNA from the cat's saliva showed it
originated from the Black Hills of
and South Dakota and northwest
Conlee said it's a significant find
female mountain lions typically
don't travel
 long distances, preferring to live
and hunt near where they were born.

Shannon county, Mo. in southeastern
part of the state north of the

"Mountain lion males will disperse
 over very long distances," she said.
 "All of the mountain lions we've
 confirmed so far in Missouri have been
 males. There was just one killed by a car
 last week in Warren County (on I-70) and
 it was a male."
There's no indication the female mountain
 lion is staying in Shannon County, Conlee
 said, and it's possible the cat will continue
 moving. The conservation department
re-established wild elk at the Peck Ranch
Conservation Area near Winona in 2011.
Elk and deer are natural food sources for
mountain lions.

In 2013, the Puma captured in the trail
cam below was
recorded in Shannon, County's Peck Ranch

2013 Puma at Peck Ranch recorded on
 trail cam

Conlee emphasized there still is no evidence
 that Missouri has a breeding population of
mountain lions. The conservation department
 tracks and investigates reports of mountain
 lion sighting, and maintains a website and
 map showing where such sightings have
Conlee said the last confirmed female
mountain lion resulted from a cat that was
 shot in 1994. MDC investigated the
 and later found a mountain lion pelt that
was traced back to the animal that had
been shot. Testing on the pelt showed it
was a female, Conlee said.
In 1996, the department established its
 Mountain Lion Response Team with
specially trained staff to investigate
 reports and evidence of mountain lions.
Since then, all mountain lion sightings
 confirmed by the MLRT have either
proven to be males or have provided
insufficient evidence to determine the
 animal’s sex.
Since 1994, MDC has recorded 68
 confirmed mountain lion sightings
in the state. Confirmations have become
 more common in recent years, likely
due to a combination of factors,
according to Conlee.
“We know the mountain lion population
 has grown in western states, and that
could translate to more dispersing
 mountain lions making their way
 into Missouri, but we have also
 gotten better at finding them,”
Conlee said. “As technology has
advanced, we’ve seen an explosion
 in the numbers of game cameras
 across the Missouri landscape.
We’ve also established more
efficient methods for reporting
and investigating mountain lion
sightings. These factors all likely
 play a role in the increased
 number of confirmed mountain
lion sightings in our state.”
According to the conservation
department, the risk of a mountain
 lion attack in Missouri remains
very small. No mountain lion attack
 on a human has ever been
recorded in the state. People,
livestock and pets face a much
 greater risk from familiar dangers
 we encounter, including automobiles,
 stray dogs and lightning strikes.
MDC has never stocked or released
 mountain lions in Missouri and has
 no plans to do so. However, the
department wants to learn more
about these rare animals and
encourages all citizens to report
sightings, physical evidence, or
other incidents so they can be
Anyone with information about a
 mountain lion can file a report
with the Mountain Lion Response
Team at

Monday, January 30, 2017

"LANDSCAPE OF FEAR" Biologist John Laundre is back with us again today,,,,,,,,,,,,,,This time, taking all of us further "up the mountain of logic" on why the non-hunter, indeed the "wildlife watcher" should outweigh the hunters in determining how wildlife is managed across the states and at the national level.................Using hunters " THOSE WHO PAY GET TO SAY POLICY", John emphatically declares the following----"If the hunters' voice is representative of what they pay, according to the figures(see statistics below), the hunters' voice should be a whisper in the back of the room"................. "Hunting interests should occupy the smallest office in wildlife agencies".................... "Hunters should be the LEAST represented on wildlife commissions!"......... "Hunters are just not that significant of an economic factor compared to wildlife watchers"................... "I agree with hunters, those who pay should say and it is time to manage wildlife for "those who DO pay"--the Wildlife Watchers"

Wildlife watching versus hunting

Came across a publication that has been out for a while (2013) titled Hunting in America, An Economic Force for Conservation. It is a glossy article both in pictures and words that is meant to emphasize how important hunting is, not as a force in conservation but economically. The data they use to try and justify the value of hunting economically come from the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation put out by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The main public reason of the publication is to point out that hunting is somehow great in that millions of people do it, they spend billions of dollars doing it, and support economies, jobs, and state and federal revenues by doing it. 

The hidden agenda in all this, however, is to justify the almost complete choke-hold control hunters have on wildlife management and conservation. It is a thinly vailed attempt by the hunters to say: See… because so many of us do it, spend so much money, and support so many of you "other" people, we have the right, the only right to say how wildlife are managed.

 Basically it is an extension of their, those who pay, get to say, policy.  As if somehow we, the other 95% of the population, based on the same 2011 report they used, first of all DON'T have a say and second if we continue to insist on having one in how wildlife are managed, all those "benefits" of hunters would somehow disappear. It is clearly an economic threat…too big to question!

But question it we must! Does the money that hunters spend justify their privileged status as the only "real" voice in wildlife management in the U.S.?  Are they the only ones who are supporting wildlife with their wallets?

As it turns out, there are a lot of people who seem to be able to enjoy wildlife simply by watching them…alive! They don't seem to need the potential gratification of actually killing an animal as a justification in participating in an outdoor activity. Collectively these individuals are referred to as "wildlife watchers".

The question then becomes how many of these wildlife watchers are there? How much do they spend? Do they create jobs, generate revenue? Do their numbers and spending justify them actually having a say in wildlife management? This is important because if hunters are using their numbers and economic contribution to justify their dominance in wildlife management, then if wildlife watchers are similar in numbers and economic input, should they not also be justified in having at least an equal say?

To answer that, let's make a comparison between hunters and wildlife watchers. There are many comparison to be made and so I limit here to just those the hunting publication singled out in their "By the Numbers" bullet section. Some additional comparisons come from the "Hunting Quick Facts" bullet presented in the hunting publication and thus deemed as extra important to consider! All sets of numbers come from the 2011 publication by the Fish and Wildlife Service and so are for that year.

By The Numbers

·        13.7 million hunters versus 71.8 wildlife watchers (over 5 times as many)
·        $38.3 billion expenditures by hunters vs $54.9 billion by wildlife watchers (1.4 times as much)
·        $ 86.9 billion in overall economic output by hunters vs $142.1 billion by wildlife watchers (1.6 times more)
·        $26.4 billion in salaries and wages from hunting vs $ 53.0 billion from wildlife watching (2 times more)
·        680,973 jobs created by hunting vs 1,379,282 by wildlife watching (more than 2 times as many)
·        $5.4 billion in state and local taxes from hunting vs $10.3 billion from wildlife watching (1.9 times more)
·        $ 6.4 billion in federal taxes from hunting vs $10.8 from wildlife watching (1.7 times more)

Now some comparisons with their "Hunting Quick Facts":

1)  Hunters outnumber populations of 46 states versus Wildlife watchers outnumber populations in ALL 50 states, having 1.8 times more members than the most populous state (California).
2)  Hunting brought in more revenue ($38.3 billion) than Google or Goldman Sachs group ($36.8 to 37.9 billion) vs Wildlife watching brought in more revenue ($54.9 billion) than Disney or Dow Chemical ($48.8-52.4 billion).  
3)  If hunting were a company, spending would place it # 73 on the Fortune 500 lists vs Wildlife watching which would come in at #52.  I might add that IF hunting were a subsidiary of wildlife watching, it would be a minor operation located in the remote corner of the factory!

These and more comparisons that can be made show that wildlife watching easily exceeds hunting on all levels. I might also add that these contributions by the wildlife watching industry are indeed for conservation of all species, not just a select group of favored species that hunters want to kill. And they will kill other species and disrupt whole ecosystems so that they can maximize the number of these favored species. Yet they call hunting a force for conservation? 

Both of these groups of folks should have impact on how we manage
wildife, not just hunters

In summary, a lot of us DO watch wildlife. A lot of us DO spend billions of dollars doing it. A lot of us DO support economies, jobs, and state and federal revenues. Based on the logic of the hunters, those who pay, get the say, we SHOULD have a representative say in how wildlife are managed. In fact, we should have the majority voice in what happens to wildlife! 

 If the hunters' voice is representative of what they pay, according to the figures, the hunters' voice should be a whisper in the back of the room. Hunting interests should occupy the smallest office in wildlife agencies. Hunters should be the LEAST represented on wildlife commissions! Hunters are just not that significant of an economic factor compared to wildlife watchers. I agree with hunters, those who pay should say and it is time to manage wildlife for "those who DO pay".  

The Landscape of Fear: Ecological Implications of Being Afraid: John W. Laundré*,1, Lucina Hernández1 and William J. Ripple2 1 Department of Biological Sciences, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126, USA 2 Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, College of Forestry, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA

 Abstract: “Predation risk” and “fear” are concepts well established in animal behavior literature. We expand these concepts to develop the model of the “landscape of fear”. The landscape of fear represents relative levels of predation risk as peaks and valleys that reflect the level of fear of predation a prey experiences in different parts of its area of use. We provide observations in support of this model regarding changes in predation risk with respect to habitat types, and terrain characteristics. We postulate that animals have the ability to learn and can respond to differing levels of predation risk. We propose that the landscape of fear can be quantified with the use of well documented existing methods such as givingup densities, vigilance observations, and foraging surveys of plants. We conclude that the landscape of fear is a useful visual model and has the potential to become a unifying ecological concept. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A friend of this Blog, Rupert Cutler taught environmental planning courses at Michigan State University, supervised forestry, soil conservation, agricultural research and extension agencies as Assistant U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and headed up the environmental advocacy organization, Defenders of Wildlife".......Currently, he’s a board member of the Blue Ridge(Virginia) Land Conservancy.........Rupert shared with me his recent op ed article in the Roanoke(Virgina) Times entitled--COYOTES PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE.........Spot on Rupert is as he states-----“Counter-intuitively, programs aimed at reducing coyotes such as lethal control programs and sport trapping and hunting actually cause coyote numbers to increase"............... "Coyotes respond to indiscriminate control programs with a number of complex biological mechanisms that work very efficiently to boost their numbers"................. "For example, when the alpha pair is killed, subordinate pack members can breed and produce larger litters of bigger pups with higher survival rates"................ "In order to feed more robust litters, coyotes may change their hunting habits to include unnatural and larger prey, such as livestock".................. "Thus increased persecution leads to bigger populations and increased predation, a response that is just the opposite of what the control is designed to accomplish"

Cutler: Coyotes play an important role

Posted: Saturday, January 28, 2017
As a wildlife biologist I was disappointed that your paper devoted so much space on Jan. 16 to the predator killing tournament at Wytheville (“Hunting game,” commentary). I was going to let my revulsion at seeing the photos of piles of dead coyotes and foxes go without comment until I read the unattributed statement, “Competitions are designed to help ecosystems keep balanced” and the offensive and misleading headline, “Culling designed to help ecosystems.”

No, no, a thousand times no.
Predators including coyotes and foxes are an essential component of healthy ecosystems and help keep ecosystems in balance. Killing them only throws ecosystems out of kilter. Coyotes’ main diet consists of mice, rabbits, ground squirrels, other small rodents, insects, reptiles, and the fruits and berries of wild plants. They pose no threat to people and have been welcomed in many communities across the country from New York City to Los Angeles. Scientists who have lived among and studied coyotes their entire professional lives admire them. One such is Dr. Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, author of the textbook Coyotes: Biology, Behavior, and Management, who writes:
“Coyote, America’s song dog is an amazing and magnificent animal that is very misunderstood, historically maligned, and tragically and reprehensibly persecuted. Coyotes are intelligent, playful, affectionate, and devoted caregivers. Native Americans appreciated them as cunning tricksters. They are among the most adaptable animals on Earth and are critical to the integrity of many diverse ecosystems. I know coyotes well having studied them for decades.

“Counter-intuitively, programs aimed at reducing coyotes such as lethal control programs and sport trapping and hunting actually cause coyote numbers to increase. Coyotes respond to indiscriminate control programs with a number of complex biological mechanisms that work very efficiently to boost their numbers. For example, when the alpha pair is killed, subordinate pack members can breed and produce larger litters of bigger pups with higher survival rates. In order to feed more robust litters, coyotes may change their hunting habits to include unnatural and larger prey, such as livestock. Thus increased persecution leads to bigger populations and increased predation, a response that is just the opposite of what the control is designed to accomplish.

When mated pair are hunted or trapped, remaining Coyotes
compensate with litters of up to 12 pups

“Coyotes play a critical role in keeping natural areas healthy. When coyotes are absent or even just greatly reduced in a natural area, the relationships between species below them in the food web are altered, putting many small species at risk. It’s clear and inarguable that we should respect coyotes for who they are and appreciate that they bless our lives. Peaceful coexistence is easy to accomplish, and we should all aspire to having more harmonious relationships with the amazing beings with whom we share our homes as we head into the future.”

great rodent hunters, Coyotes are

Those interested in learning more about the role of predators in ecosystems can read the book The Carnivore Way: Coexisting with and Conserving North America’s Predators by Cristina Eiserberg, who recommends “striving to create healthier ecosystems that preserve essential processes such as predation.” She concludes:
Image result for coexisting with predators by cristina eisenberg
“Sharing this earth with thriving, healthy carnivores come down to coexistence. The problem is that coexistence means different things to different people. To me, carnivores are walking reminders of why the word ecology comes from the Greek word oikos—“house.” For we’re all threads in the same cloth of creation, and we dwell in this Earth household together.”

The “first ever Eastern U.S. Predator Calling Championship” should also be the last.

Biography-Rupert Cutler

M. Rupert Cutler, an environmentalist and conservation journalist, was born in Detroit, Michigan. He received his undergraduate degree in wildlife management from the University of Michigan and his master's and doctor of philosophy degrees from the Department of Resource Development of Michigan State University.

Following his graduation from the University of Michigan in 1955, Cutler was briefly employed as an instruction book writer for Argus Cameras in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1956, he moved to Arizona where he edited a weekly newspaper, the Winslow Mail. In 1957, he accepted the post of executive secretary of Wildlife Conservation Incorporated in Boston and in 1958 he was hired by the Virginia Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries to be associate editor of Virginia Wildlife, the Virginia Game Department's magazine.

In 1961, Cutler was promoted to Chief, Education Division, Virginia Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries. During the years 1962-1969, Cutler was in Washington D.C. serving as editor of publications of the National Wildlife Federation and then as assistant executive director of The Wilderness Society. He was also senior vice president of the National Audubon Society, executive director of Population-Environment Balance, and president of Defenders of Wildlife.

In 1969, Cutler returned to Michigan to study for his doctorate at Michigan State University and to work as a Graduate Research Assistant in MSU's Department of Resource Development. With his degree, he became assistant professor of resource development and the state's extension specialist in natural resources policy. In 1977 he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve as assistant secretary of agriculture for conservation, research, and education. From 1977 to 1980 he provided policy direction to the U.S. Forest Service, the Soil Conservation Service, and USDA's research, extension, and library agencies.

Since January of 1991, M. Rupert Cutler has resided in Roanoke, Virginia. From 1991 to February of 1997, he was the executive director of Virginia's Explore Park, a 1,000-acre outdoor living history museum and environmental education center on the Roanoke River in Roanoke and Bedford counties. In March of 1997, M. Rupert Cutler became the founding executive director of the Western Virginia Land Trust, a new, private, nonprofit association created to help preserve the natural, scenic, and cultural heritage of western Virginia on private land, using conservation easements.

While the focus of this blog is the carnivore and prey suite of pre columbian America, could not resist posting a note from a good friend of mine demonstrating how nuts us American human animals have become in our thinking about the environment..............Our "holier than thou" politically correct thinking about virtually everything personified in the memo below............You will not be able to hold back the chuckles............Additionally,if you are honest with yourself, that little voice in your brain will acknowledge that we have to get our act together pronto if 7 to 10 billion of us animals are to reside on this planet for the long term

 The Green Thing...

This is priceless!!!!
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags, because plastic bags are not good for the environment. 
 The woman apologized to the young girl and explained, "We didn't have this 'green thing' back in my earlier days." 
The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations." 

The older lady said that she was right -- our generation didn't have the "green thing" in its day. The older lady went on to explain: 
Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day. 

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But, too bad we didn't do the "green thing" back then. 
We walked up stairs because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. 
But she was right. We didn't have the "green thing" in our day. 

Back then we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220volts. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day. 
Back then we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief(remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. 
But she's right; we didn't have the "green thing" back then. 

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blade in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. 
But we didn't have the "green thing" back then. 
Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family's $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the "green thing." We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint. 
But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the "green thing" back then? 
Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart ass young person. 
We don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to piss us off... Especially from a tattooed, multiple pierced smartass who can't make change without the cash register telling them how much.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Like all wild cats, the Canadian Lynx is an "ambush predator", lying in wait for a meal rather than "coursing" for food like Wolves, Coyotes and Foxes do..............The video below, published on Nov 13, 2014 shows a Canada Lynx ambushing a Snowshoe Hare in mid-leap"............"This footage was captured by remote camera in the John Prince Research Forest(JPRF) in North Central British Columbia, Canada"................ "The forest is co-managed by the University of British Columbia and the Tl'azt'en First Nation's peoples".................. "This video was obtained from JPRF researcher Shannon Crowley, as part of his report for the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation project(more information on this Initiative below)"

Must-See Video: Lynx Tackles Snowshoe Hare, Caught on Trail Cam


This lynx looks ready for the Super Bowl making tackles like this!
You know what they say: defense wins championships. And this lynx isn’t about to let anyone (or any rabbit) get past its coverage.
Trail cameras are always there to witness the most incredible moments in the woods. This trail cam was placed perfectly to catch this moment, and it’s a gem.
Another video of the age old Lynx and Snowshoe "dance" of predator and prey
click to view "the dance of predator and prey"


The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation is a non-profit charitable foundation acting as Trustee of the Habitat Conservation Trust. HCTF came into existence because its major contributors (hunters, anglers, trappers, and guide-outfitters) were willing to pay for conservation work above and beyond that expected by government for basic management of wildlife and fish resources.  Unlike license fees that contribute to basic management costs, conservation investments funded by HCTF surcharges benefit contributors by directly enhancing their opportunities to use and enjoy wildlife and fish resources. 
Vision: A future where freshwater fish, wildlife and their habitats are healthy and valued by all British Columbians.
Mission Statement: It is the mission of HCTF to improve the conservation outcomes of BC’s fish and wildlife, and the habitats in which they live. We make a difference by funding conservation projects and by educating and engaging the public about BC’s natural assets.
HCTF is a proposal-driven organization and we invite grant applications from anyone who has a good idea that benefits fish, wildlife and habitat in British Columbia.

Each year, we receive many more applications than can be funded, so we use a thorough review process to determine which projects will provide the greatest conservation benefits within the context of our Strategic Plan. We get results and value for money by carefully selecting projects with a high likelihood of providing demonstrable, measurable benefits to native species of fish and wildlife.
Since the inception of our work in 1981, the Foundation and its predecessors have invested over $155 million in more than 2000 projects across BC. This work would never have happened without the funding commitment to conservation made by the anglers, hunters, guide-outfitters and trappers of BC.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

While Winter weather has become much more problematic as to severity and duration of time across the Northern and Mountain sections of the USA, its appearance on the nations roadways in the form of snow and ice continues to be tackled by road crews with Road Salt(sodium chloride)................10-20 million tons of this toxic compound is applied to USA roads annually with horrific effects on lake and pond water quality............... Iconic fish species such as Brook Trout are particularly sensitive to die off as Road Salt reaches 250mg/L........Frogs often end up with birth defects from ingesting the salt.......Deer and Moose are attracted to the salt with horrific death and destruction to both them and human drivers......Trees and plants brown out and die off along roadway with some evidence that the salt hastens invasions of non-native plant species,,,,,,,,,,,,,How to slow down the use of salt?................"Over the past few years, beet juice, sugarcane molasses and cheese brine, among other substances, have been mixed in with salt to reduce the overall chloride load on the environment"............... "These don't eliminate the need for conventional salt, but they appear to be playing a small role cutting down just how much salt we dump on the roads"


Road Salt Impacts Waterways, Soils and Infrastructure

Living in the Northeast we depend on clear roads during winter to maintain our way of life. Organizations, agencies and municipalities throughout upstate NY and VT understand that there is an impact to the environment from road salt application practices. We must find the balance that protects the environment and still allows for safe roads.
Road salt (sodium chloride) was first utilized within the U.S. on roads in NH in 1938. By 1941 a total of 5,000 tons of salt were applied to highways nationwide. Today, between 10-20 million tons of salt are applied annually. This increase in road salt application is having a negative impact on our waterways, soils, cars, and infrastructure. Lake Champlain alone has seen a 30% increase within the past 10 years in chloride levels and many bodies of water within the Adirondack Park have levels high enough to impact native aquatic organisms including fish populations.
Road salt lowers the freezing point of ice and prevents icy roads to a certain temperature. 15 degrees is regarded as the magic number, below that sodium chloride does not work. On pavement sand is occasionally used as a deterrent to slippery roads and provides some traction.  While sand costs less then salt, it has negative environmental impacts and is ineffective. Not only is sand easily blown away, it can cause sedimentation to local waterways and add phosphorus, which in turn can cause excessive algal growth and potential toxic algal blooms.

salt damaged highway foilage in Spring and Summer

Road salt application within our waterways is generally measured in levels of chloride. Every body of water will differ as to what the background levels were historically and at what level the addition of chloride will have an impact. A low nutrient (phosphorus and nitrogen) body of water can experience impacts to algae (the base of the aquatic foodweb) at as little as between 2-10 mg/L of chloride, while other bodies of water with higher nutrient levels  may not have an impact until chloride levels reach 70+ mg/L. An increase in chloride levels will shift algae dominance from chlorophyte (green algae) to cyanobacteria (blue-green algae), which can lead to toxic algal blooms. Native brook trout populations are impacted at 250 mg/L, and there is a shift in sensitive macroinvertebrate (aquatic bugs) populations at 220 mg/L. Many streams and lakes within the Adirondacks have already been identified as impacted by chloride through water quality monitoring efforts and exceed EPA standards and levels that would impact brook trout populations.
Salt collects and drys on the road post snow storm attracting deer and other wildlife to their
early demise via car collision

Soil bacteria nearby roadways are impacted at 90 mg/L. The sodium chloride will also strip the soils of calcium, magnesium and other import components needed for healthy soils. This can allow for invasive species to take hold. It is not hard to find damage to trees along roadways. Sodium chloride burns the needles and leaves of species within 15 feet of roads and can impact sensitive plant species as far away as 650 feet.
The addition of sodium chloride to waterways impacts the movement of metals, causing toxic accumulation and can release sediment bound heavy metals back into the water column. The density of the water can be altered by sodium chloride, impacting how a lake turns over in the spring and fall, this impacts oxygen levels.
In 2015 the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted salt corrosion as the cause of thousands of vehicles brake damage and failure. Sodium chloride can damage vehicles so bad they can have issues with steering, rust, and damage to any exposed metal; while technology is improving cars, the impacts from road salt can still be found. Estimates on vehicle depreciation due to de-icing salts is staggering, approximately $854 per car, per year in cold climates according to Transport Canada.
Our regions bridges, highways and infrastructure are heavily damaged by sodium chloride. It causes concrete to break and spread apart meaning costly fixes. In some areas this had led to the decreased lifespan of bridges and buildings. Sodium chloride contaminates drinking water, damaging wells and pipes. In Flint, Mich. Road salt was a contributing factor to the lead poisoning as it corroded pipes allowing toxins to enter the drinking water. Within our homes and businesses, sodium chloride damages floors, baseboards and can be harmful to our pets and yards.
Wildlife, like humans enjoy something salty to snack on and road salt will attract them to roads causing accidents with local drivers. There have been many reported bird kills from eating the road salt within the U.S. and Canada. Sodium Chloride that enters wetlands and vernal pools can alter sex ratios of species of frogs and decrease the development of eggs thereby pushing already threatened species to the brink.
With all the known impacts, and still a need for safe driving conditions, what can we do?

Deer attracted to salted roadway

A key strategy for addressing impacts from road salt to our soil and water health is the monitoring of sodium chloride levels within waterways and groundwater in addition to the implementation of best management practices (BMP’s) to reduce the application rates while maintaining a level of service expected. BMP’s include equipment calibration, current technology, real-time road condition and weather monitoring, applying the product at the right time and speed, and pre-wetting the product. BMP’s should be followed not just by our municipal and state applicators, but also by private contractors. To that end, in the fall of 2017 the Winooski Natural Resources Conservation District along with partners including the Lake Champlain Sea Grant and UVM Extension will be offering a salt applicator training for any private contractor who applies product within the Lake Champlain Watershed and beyond.
We, the users of the road have a role to play as well. It’s as simple as driving slower, putting studded winter tires on our vehicle and understanding the level of service that is provided by our road crews. The reduction in application of road salt can be achieved without impacting the level of service provided, if Best Management Practices are followed. We all would like to see a reduction in costs to our towns and the state, thus a reduction in costs to the public and the protection of our natural resources.  Together we can achieve the lasting protection of our natural resources.
Photo: Winter road treatment using salt brine, courtesy Wikimedia User Z22.


What Happens to All the Salt We Dump On the Roads?

In the U.S., road crews scatter about 137 pounds of salt per person annually to melt ice. Where does it go after that?

. A group of scientists that tracked salt levels from 1952 to 1998 in the Mohawk River in Upstate New York. They found that concentrations of sodium and chloride increased by 130 and 243 percent, respectively, with road salting.   More recently, a study of a stream in southeastern New York State that was monitored from 1986 to 2005 found a similar pattern, with significant annual increases and road salting to blame for an estimated 91 percent of sodium chloride in the watershed.
Because it's transported more easily than sodium, chloride is the greater concern, and in total, an estimated 40 percent of the country's urban streams have chloride levels that exceed safe guidelines for aquatic life, largely because of road salt.
Road salt pollution is generally a bigger issue for the surrounding environment and the organisms that live in it. It's estimated that chloride concentrations above 800 ppm are harmful to most freshwater aquatic organisms—because these high levels interfere with how animals regulate the uptake of salt into their bodies—and for short periods after a snow melt, wetlands nearby highways can surpass these levels. A range of studies has found that chloride from road salt can negatively impact the survival rates of crustaceansamphibians such as salamanders and frogs, fish, plants and other organisms. There's even some evidence that it could hasten invasions of non-native plant species—in one marsh by the Massachusetts Turnpike, a study found that it aided the spread of salt-tolerant invasives.

Moose attracted to salt on highway
Image result for moose attracted to road salt
On a broader scale, elevated salt concentrations can reduce water circulation in lakes and ponds (because salt affects water's density), preventing oxygen from reaching bottom layers of water. It can also interfere with a body of water's natural chemistry, reducing the overall nutrient load. On a smaller scale, highly concentrated road salt can dehydrate and kill trees and plants growing next to roadways, creating desert conditions because the plants have so much more difficulty absorbing water. In some cases, dried salt crystals can attract deer and moose to busy roads, increasing their chance of becoming roadkill.

How can we avoid killing trees and making roadkill of deer while de-icing the roads? Recently, in some areas, transportation departments have begun pursuing strategies to reduce salt use. Salting before a storm, instead of after, can prevent snow and ice from binding to the asphalt, making the post-storm cleanup a little bit easier and allowing road crews to use less salt overall. Mixing the salt with slight amounts of water allows it to spread more, and blending in sand or gravel lets it to stick more easily and improve traction for cars.
Elsewhere, municipalities are trying out alternate de-icing compounds. Over the past few years, beet juice, sugarcane molasses and cheese brine, among other substances, have been mixed in with salt to reduce the overall chloride load on the environment. These don't eliminate the need for conventional salt, but they could play a role in cutting down just how much we dump on the roads.