Visitor Counter

hitwebcounter web counter
Visitors Since Blog Created in March 2010

Click Below to:

Add Blog to Favorites

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

Subscribe via email to get updates

Enter your email address:

Receive New Posting Alerts

(A Maximum of One Alert Per Day)

Sunday, March 31, 2019

"When Europeans landed on North America’s shores(AD1500), as many as 400 million beavers inhabited the continent"..........."By 1900, three centuries of unabated trapping had converted all but 100,000 or so into fancy fur hats and other garments"............"As derelict beaver dams crumbled and ponds drained, untold thousands of streams eroded into desolate gullies"............"In Washington State and across the USA, Beavers are still often perceived as little more than a tree-felling, water-stealing, property-flooding pest"........ "In 2017, trappers in Washington killed 1,700 'nuisance' beavers"............"In neighboring Oregon, these herbivorous rodents are classified as predators".............."California considers them a “detrimental species"..............”Last year alone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture eliminated more than 23,000 conflict-causing beavers nationwide"..............."Running countercurrent to this carnage is another trend: the rise of the Beaver Believer"............"Across North America, many scientists and land managers are discovering that, far from being forces of destruction, beavers can serve as agents of water conservation, habitat creation, and stream restoration".............. "In Maryland, ecologists are promoting beaver-built wetlands to filter out agricultural pollutants and improve water quality in Chesapeake Bay"............ "In North Carolina, biologists are building beaver-like dams to enhance wet meadows for endangered butterflies"............."In Washington, where a century of habitat loss has devastated salmon, the Tulalip Indian Tribes are strategically dispatching beavers to support salmon, the fish so integral to their history and culture"............"By filling up ponds and digging canals, beavers engineer the deep pools, lazy side channels, and sluggish backwaters that baby salmon need to conserve energy and evade predators like great blue herons"............"Today, the National Marine Fisheries Service considers encouraging formation of beaver dams, vital for recovering the Northwest states endangered coho salmon populations"..............“Beavers create complex habitat and enhance local biological diversity in a way that’s really unique"..........“They do a much better job of managing these systems than we do"

They Will Build it

3/29/19 Story by Ben Goldfarb | Photographs by Morgan Heim

Biologists Molly Alves and David Bailey haul a trapped beaver out of a stream that flows through a North Seattle suburb.

Puget Sound, Washington State, upper left on map, siteof Beaver  restoration

Tulalip Tribe biologists Molly Alves and David Bailey set a beaver trap along a creek in a North Seattle suburb

Beavers released onto this stretch of river in northern Washington have reinforced biologist-built beaver dam analogues, and added dams of their own, creating critical habitat for young salmon and many other wild creatures

Low-gradient streams like this one with lots of available building material are prime beaver relocation sites.

Team members weave branches and other vegetation through a framework of vertical posts to complete the dam. They hope that this temporary structure will provide relocated beavers with a home base and a head start as they begin to do their own ecological engineering.

Two beavers bide their time in the Tulalip fish hatchery before being relocated into habitat where biologists hope the animals will take up permanent residence.

Salmon easily jump and swim over Beaver dams

Beavers cutting trees to create their dams

Friday, March 29, 2019

"You may know that the early settlers to North America named the American Robin we know and love today"..........."But did you know that they as well as American Indians hunted and ate them right up till the dawn of the 20th century".........“The first land-bird seen by me, when I stepped upon the rugged shores of Labrador, was the Robin, and its joyful notes were the first that saluted my ear,” naturalist and painter John James Audubon writes in 1827’s “The Birds of America"............."Audubon tells us about their migratory flocks in March, stating-- Several persons may at this season stand round the foot of a tree loaded with berries, and shoot the greater part of the day, so fast do the flocks of Robins succeed each other"............."They are then fat and juicy, and afford excellent eating"............."Back then, people ate robins on toast"............."Because of American Robins’ propensity for forming large flocks(like the now extinct American Passenger Pigeon) in migration and winter, it was easier to shoot them then many other birds and animals"..........."Published in 1867, a book titled “The Market Assistant” contains “a brief description of every article of human food sold in the public markets of the cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn"........."On page 175 is the entry for “Robin or red-breasted thrush” in which is written, large numbers of these well-known birds are found in our markets, and thousands are also shot by all sorts of sportsmen, in the months of September and October, when they are fat and offer delicate eating".............."The American Robin was also a tasty meal for the Indians and is reported to have been eaten by the Thompson (N'laka'pamux), Upper Stalo, Hare (Sahtu), Nuvorugmiut (Inuvialuit), Micmac (Mi'kmaq) and Iroquois Indians, among others"............."The Southern Okanagan trapped robins with hemp nooses tied to sticks"................"Once captured, the robin’s head was either cut off or crushed".............."Boys also used slings, snare traps and bows and arrows"........."Kaska boys would hunt robins with snowshoe traps: two snowshoes were placed to form a tent on the ground with bait underneath"..............."The trap was attached to a string that the hunter would pull, thus collapsing the snowshoes on top of the robin that had come to feed"..............."The Rappahannock frequently shot and trapped robins in fall when they flocked"..........."Deadfall traps and birdcages were used to trap the birds as they ate grain bait"................"The Southern Okanagan cooked American Robins by boiling or roasting"............."The livers, hearts and gizzards were eaten, but the kidneys were not".............."The heads, including the brains, were boiled in soup"..........."Among the Kalispel, the robin was given to young boys, while adults ate larger species"

We once hunted and ate robins. 
Now the birds are a colorful harbinger of spring

American robins eat staghorn sumac seeds. They like the same sorts of habitats we do: lots of grass and a few trees and shrubs. The expansion of the suburban landscape has increased their numbers. (Gillian Jones/Berkshire Eagle/AP)

About 50 American robins are in my front yard, a noisy, colorful flock centered around my crabapple tree. They have been partying for at least 24 hours, gorging themselves on the fruit and singing lustily.
These festive aggregations are a common feature of spring throughout the United States as the birds migrate. Robins are big colorful thrushes that do well in our Anthropocene age. They like the same sorts of habitats we do: lots of grass and a few trees and shrubs. The expansion of the suburban landscape has increased their numbers in the past several decades.

We often mistake rarity for value and disdain the common. Robins are sometimes victims of this reflexive snobbery. I too have caught a bird in the corner of my eye, only to turn away once I identified it as “just a robin.” So in celebration of the flock that is visiting me, I looked up American robins in four bird books published in the past 180 years.
“The first land-bird seen by me, when I stepped upon the rugged shores of Labrador, was the Robin, and its joyful notes were the first that saluted my ear,” naturalist and painter John James Audubon writes in 1827’s “The Birds of America.”

The American Robin is omnipresent across North America,,,,,oftenstaying put in cold climes,,,,,,,,,and not migrating south for Winter

He then goes on to be disappointed that “numberless Indians” did not at once spring out of the woods to be his volunteer guides to the natural history of North America.

Returning to the robins from his little White Man Snit Fit, Audubon tells us about their migratory flocks in March, adding that “Several persons may at this season stand round the foot of a tree loaded with berries, and shoot the greater part of the day, so fast do the flocks of Robins succeed each other. They are then fat and juicy, and afford excellent eating.”
Back then, people ate robins on toast! The idea seems faintly disgusting now. But appreciating their flavor was not incompatible with appreciating them when alive, as well. “Every one knows the Robin and his song,” Audubon writes. “Excepting in the shooting season, he is cherished by old and young, and is protected by all with anxious care.”

Depiction of 19th century hunters killing robins and passenger pigeons

In 1922’s “Western Birds,” author Harriet Williams Myers points out that the robin’s breast is “by no means red” but actually a sort of brick-orange. Fair enough. Myers says they are among the earliest spring arrivals to the West Coast, “enlivening the dreary month of March by their songs.”
Myers bemoans that robins were, in her day, still frequently mowed down in large numbers by market hunters. She expresses a hope that the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, just four years earlier, will end the “needless slaughter of our Robins.” And lucky for all of us, it did.
In 1988’s “The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds” by Paul Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin and Darryl Wheye, we learn that the robin often has two rounds of chicks each year, sometimes three. While adults love fruit, they feed their nestlings primarily insects.

Robins flocking in Winter

(It is for this reason that having a messy yard and planting native species that insects like is arguably better for birds than putting out seed — many baby birds need high-protein insects to thrive.)
The book also mentions a post-Migratory Bird Treaty Act threat to the species: spraying of DDT to combat Dutch elm disease in the 1950s. Luckily, they came through that, as well.
In 2019’s “How to Know the Birds: The Art and Adventure of Birding” by Ted Floyd (which came out this month and for which I provided an enthusiastic blurb), robins are the second bird introduced to the reader.
Floyd challenges our reflexive dismissal of the species as ordinary and unremarkable. And indeed, now that we know all they have been through, their easy abundance seems all the more wonderful today.

Robins can congregate in masses

“The robin is one of the truly marvelous birds of our continent,” he writes. “The migrations of robins are stirring; their adaptability to different habitats is staggering; their easily observed family life is endlessly fascinating and, with no apologies for sentimentalism, heartwarming.”
In a couple of months, the merry revelers outside my window will pair up, build nests, breed and lay three or four of the most beautiful eggs in the world — a blue so striking that we have named the color after the thing: robin’s egg blue.
Note that finding a broken blue egg on the ground does not mean tragedy has occurred; the mother robin often pitches them out of the nest after her young have hatched. But not all nests are “successful” — rates vary from place to place. If a baby robin makes it to adulthood, it may live up to 13 years, flying north and south, partying and breeding and mothering and fathering — a nice long life for a songbird.

Flock of Robins in the Spring

Albatrosses can make it to 60 or so, and they look like wise elders from the moment they lose their juvenile plumage. Robins don’t live nearly so long, nor look nearly so serious. They sing and they gorge themselves on fruit and they wrestle together in the treetops. They seem to be having a pretty good time. They are common but astonishing. I am so glad that they didn’t all end up on toast, and that they are flourishing in my front yard. I feel honored by their visit.
Marris, the author of “Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World,” lives in Oregon. This essay was originally published on the science blog the Last Word on Nothing.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Truly exciting to anticipate what will play out on Michigan's Isle Royale as 13 new Wolves have been translocated to this National Park to rescue the remaining two incumbent, genetically bankrupt lobos that still call this locale home............With a Moose "borg" of 1500 animals roaming the island without a predator "dance partner" to keep them in check and vibrant, it will be fascinating to see how quickly the 15 wolves "set up shop", pair off and create packs...........Will there be turf wars amongst the resulting packs?...........Will they dent the Moose herd immediately or will there be a "slow dance", with Moose attrition coming in small bites via Wolf predation?............And now with 20 Cow Moose radio collared to determine their foraging behaviour, predator-prey dynamics with the Wolves and resistance to winter tic parasites, a true smorgasboard of inciteful scientific discovery about to unfold in the longest running continuous study of any predator-prey system in the world

Ecologists Track Isle Royale Moose

By Carolyn Bernhardt and Allison Mills,

A research team, including ecologists from Michigan Technological University, fitted radiocollars on 20 moose this February to better understand the island’s population.

Following the reintroduction of several collared wolves from the Grand Portage Indian Reservation in Northeastern Minnesota to Isle Royale National Park last fall, a team of 
researchers have now collared moose at the park for the first time since 1984.

A bull moose cools off and eats in the mud next to a lake on Isle Royale. Credit:  Sarah Hoy

The unique collaboration between Michigan Tech, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, National Park Service and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa aims to help the National Park Service assess the impacts of predator restoration to the ecosystem at the park. This effort marks the beginning of a novel effort to compare the predator-prey dynamics and health of the population of moose on Isle Royale National Park to a neighboring population of collared moose on the mainland on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. It also represents an opportunity to evaluate the impact of restoring predation to the ecosystem.
The research supplements annual surveys led by Michigan Tech and the National Park Service in the world’s longest running predator-prey study.
Moose seek out different plants throughout the year; calves in the summer spend a lot of time by the water eating aquatic plants with their mothers. Credit: Sarah Hoy

"We are excited to be working on this collaborative, multi-institutional project with such a diverse group of researchers, all with different areas of expertise,” said Sarah Hoy, one of the study leads and a research assistant professor in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech. “We hope that collaring moose in Isle Royale, and drawing comparisons with the Minnesota moose population, will help us understand how predator-prey dynamics are influenced by parasites and moose foraging behavior and better appreciate the broader impacts for ecosystem health.”

Isle Royale Moose

Between February 13-17, 2019, a helicopter anesthesia darting team, a wildlife veterinarian and wildlife research biologists fitted 20 cow moose with GPS collars on the west and east sides of the island. The team collected biological samples from the anesthetized moose, assessing individual moose health and fitting them each with a collar. Afterward, each moose was administered a reversal drug ­— they all awoke and walked away in under two minutes. Since then, movement activity has been continuously monitored by GPS.

One of the 13 newly introduced Wolves to Isle Royale---
will be interesting to see the wolf/moose predator-prey "dance"
in action again

The team plans to conduct various studies with the data they have collected. They are looking to understand what impacts the health of moose populations on both the mainland and Isle Royale, how predator dynamics play a role in moose populations, how differing forest management affects the ecosystem and how climate may play a role in ecosystem health.

Lake Superior Island Ecosystem

Isle Royale hosts a simple ecosystem with one predator species, wolves, and one primary prey species, moose. This makes it an ideal system for comparative research with mainland populations of moose, such as those found on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation, which hosts a more complex ecosystem with multiple predators and multiple prey species.
Mainland populations of moose are in decline due to predation from bears and wolves on moose calves in early spring, as well as compounded effects of climate change, which includes parasitism from brainworm (transmitted by the invasion of whitetail deer into moose range) and high winter tick loads due to early snow melt. By contrast, the moose population on Isle Royale has increased rapidly in recent years. Although moose in Isle Royale also suffer from high winter tick loads, the Isle Royale population of moose does not have deer to transmit brainworm. Another crucial difference is that wolf numbers are high on the mainland (due to high deer densities), whereas the island only has a few remaining wolves predating on the moose population.

Wolf and Moose

Over the last two decades, the island’s wolf population suffered from inbreeding depression that drove the population to the brink of extinction. That circumstance is an indirect consequence of climate change, which led to fewer ice bridges forming between island and mainland, preventing wolves from moving to and from the island. The impact of the growing moose population on forest vegetation is increasingly apparent and experts are concerned that such high levels of browsing damage are impacting forest regeneration and may eventually lead to nutritional stress for moose.

1980-2018 index of Moose to Wolves on Royale--down to
two remaining Wolves this Winter prior to infusion of
13 translocated Wolves from Minnesota and Ontario

The contradictory population trajectories between Isle Royale’s wolves and moose and those on the mainland create an ideal opportunity to better understand by comparison what ecological factors are impacting each population. The research also bolsters population data gathered in the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Study, a predator-prey survey on the island now in its 61st year.

W“The moose collaring effort is a perfect complement to ongoing studies at Isle Royale,” said Rolf Peterson, research scientist in the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences at Michigan Tech, “filling key holes in our understanding of moose response to predation, forage abundance and climate.”

Wolf restoration project at Isle Royale off to strong start

by Associated Press, 

The Michigan park in Lake Superior now has 15 wolves following the transfer of seven from Canada over the weekend. Six came from Michipicoten Island and one from the Ontario mainland.

Photo courtesy of Ashley McLaren, OMNRF

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says the wolves were fitted with radio collars before their release so scientists can monitor their movements.
They're the latest newcomers relocated to Isle Royale from Ontario and Minnesota since the restoration project started last September, when only two wolves remained at the park. Their population had dropped the previous decade because of inbreeding and other problems.

The Population Biology of Isle Royale Wolves and Moose: An Overview

The wolves and moose of Isle Royale have been studied for more than five decades.  This research represents the longest continuous study of any predator-prey system in the world.