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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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Monday, October 28, 2019

The Tree physiology that generates the beautiful, ephemeral and unequaled Leaf Color change in our New England and Great Lakes Forests Decreasing day length is a main driver of the timing of the color change and the resulting leaf drop. But temperature and precipitation also play roles. Trees and shrubs react to these three variables by curbing production of chlorophyll, the green pigment of the leaves. As the green recedes, yellow and orange pigments which have been there all along, are unmasked. Red-reflecting pigments(the red leaves we see) protect the leaves from damage by sunlight as the tree siphons nutrients from the leaves Drought can definitely lessen the vibrancy of the colors A corky layer at the stem of each leaf thickens as the colors hit peak, causing leaf drop to ensue After the leaves fall, the color pigments break down, leaving tannins that turn brown. Those tannins slow the breakdown of leaves, allowing them to become a mulch layer on the forest floor

A Close Look at Fall Colors

A Close Look at Fall Colors Image
Illustration by Adelaide Tyrol

Where I live, autumn typically starts in late August, when pockets of red maples start to turn scarlet around the marshes and lakes. Uh oh. As they say in Westeros, “winter is coming.”
But not before we get to enjoy fall. Yes, a New England autumn is a postcard cliché. Yes, the tour buses and land yachts full of leaf peepers clog the roads. But, really, who can blame them? No matter how many you’ve seen, fall in the Northeast is still one of nature’s most awesome spectacles.
And, so, so ephemeral.
We know basically how the whole thing unfolds, and why. But despite all that has been discovered about tree physiology, we still haven’t unpacked everything.
“A lot of general patterns we can see and explain, but there’s a lot of complexity that we certainly don’t know about the fall color,” said Jay Wason III, a tree physiologist and assistant professor in the School of Forest Resources at the University of Maine.
Basically, we have autumn in temperate zones because in the months of low sunlight, cold temperatures, and ice and snow storms, large, flat leaves would be a liability, said Wason.
Decreasing day length is a main driver of the timing of the color change and the resulting leaf drop. But temperature and precipitation also play roles. You can see this by looking at the side of a mountain, where trees at higher elevations typically change color earlier, reflecting colder temperatures, even though all of the trees on the mountainside are reading the same day length. The same holds true in low-lying areas, where colder air pools and creates fall-like temperatures sooner.
Plants sense changes in day length using special molecules called phytochromes, and react by curbing production of chlorophyll, the green pigment that is the heavy lifter when it comes to photosynthesis. As chlorophyll disappears, underlying yellow and orange pigments, called carotenoids, are unmasked. They’ve been there all along, but only become visible now.
Reds are something else. Known as anthocyanins, they’re produced in the fall, but we’re not really certain why. Wason said one hypothesis is that these red-reflecting pigments are helping to protect the leaves from damage by sunlight as the tree is working to siphon all the nutrients it can from its leaves, nitrogen being the most important.

Temperature and precipitation help determine how much of this red pigment is produced, and thus how colorful the fall will be. To make anthocyanins, the tree needs sugars, and to produce those sugars it needs moisture and sunlight. That’s why a fall drought can definitely put a damper on the season’s colors, said Wason.
As the leaves change colors, each forms a corky layer – the abscission layer – at the end of the stem, which weakens the bond to the twig and eventually cuts it free. After the leaves fall, the yellow, orange, and red pigments break down, leaving nothing but tannins that turn brown. It’s those same tannins that slow the breakdown of leaves and allow them to become a mulch layer on the forest floor.
The careful observer will note that, in spring, tree species seem to leaf out at different times. Ashes, for instance, are often one of the last to put on leaves. It’s like they’re not certain about commitment. When winter is coming, everyone is committed.
“We tend to see more variability in the spring and less in the fall,” said Wason. Perhaps that’s because tree species tend to be a little more responsive to temperature variation in the springtime, he said.
No one’s got the definitive answer, but it’s probably related to each tree species’ growth strategy, he speculates. In springtime, ashes spend a lot of time and energy building large water transport cells in their stems, only later moving on to leaves. Once built, however, that big plumbing system can move a lot of water and nutrients. In other words, they catch up. By fall, things have evened out.Scientists are still probing for answers to questions about the fall foliage season. The fact that the leaf extravaganza is a big economic boon to states in the northeastern US is a good excuse for the research. So is climate change and how a warmer earth will affect the annual spectacle.
Warmer temperatures could cause a shift in the timing of fall foliage; summer or fall droughts could affect color saturation; tree species will move over time in response to local climate change. Exactly how things will play out long-term is hard to predict. But autumn is on now. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Joe Rankin writes on forests, nature, and sustainability.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

"THE WILD MUSTANG IS NOT NATIVE TO NORTH AMERICA"......... “Wild horses” are feral descendants of imported domesticated European horses that escaped from ranches and Indian villages from AD 1500 up through the 19th century"............ "These herds roam freely in dedicated ranges scattered throughout the West and outer banks of North Carolina".......... "Mustangs only real enemy today is lack of resources and disease as there are not nearly enough Wolves, Grizzlies and Pumas to impact their numbers".............. "The last prehistoric North American horses died out between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago along with Saber-tooth cats and Dire Wolves, at the end of the Pleistocene era".............."The U.S. National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management have a legal mandate to protect native wildlife and prevent mustangs from destroying the ecology of the land"..............."The number of wild horses and burros that can live in balance with the ecology of U.S. public lands is 27,000"..........."Currently, there are an estimated 82,000 wild horses on the landscape"............. "Colorado State University’s GonaCon vaccine could offer lasting results for managing wild horse population".........."The vaccine prevents the mares from ovulating and from displaying sexual behavior, thus eventually limiting the number of foals born annually"

Management of feral horses an ongoing challenge in the United States

Feral horses are free-ranging descendants of once-domesticated horses. All free-ranging horses in North America are feral horses, and between 2014 and 2015 the feral horse population in the United States increased 18% according to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). In 2015, the number of feral horses in the western ranges of the United States alone was estimated at 58,150. With few natural predators, populations will continue to rise, doubling every four years; thus, managing populations of feral horses represents a unique challenge in the United States

"The ever-expanding population of feral horses is a critical but not simple problem to solve," said Lori L. Ward, lead author of a recent review of the feral horse issue in The Professional Animal Scientist. "Any solution to this problem must have an understanding of current populations of horses in each ecosystem, the carrying capacity of the ecosystem, and consideration of how these numbers will naturally vary."

In the 1950s, to combat rising populations, many feral horses were slaughtered by various means, including poisoned watering holes. This solution was met with public outrage and led to congressional action in the form of the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which protected feral horses as a link to our national heritage. This act protected horses on federal land and kept them from slaughter, prompting new efforts at population control.

Since that time, BLM has herded animals into holding locations where they can be managed and adopted-out. Many horses do not get adopted, however, and are labeled unwanted; likewise, the process of rounding-up feral horses is expensive and costs to maintain captive feral horses are estimated to exceed $1 billion by 2030. Such rising costs may end the adoption practice in coming years, according to the BLM.

Another means to limit populations is contraceptive use. The practice is controversial, as animal welfare activists often do not agree with the use of contraceptives, but the United States Humane Society is in support of such measures. Contraceptives, such as porcine zona pellucida vaccine, castration, or vasectomy, have not been without side effects, however. These methods may only slow growth, or in the case of vasectomy have no effect on foal rates; likewise, they may disrupt seasonal patterns within the herds among other changes.

Perceptions of  in the United States are numerous and multifaceted, which creates a unique challenge when it comes to managing their populations. In order to determine the most effective management practices, knowledge of horse population dynamics as well as public political views are necessary. Any solution to such an issue can only be gained by continued research.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

"The Yellowstone Wolf Project reporting that at the end of 2018, some 80 Wolves exist in Yellowstone National Park, within the average 83-108 population count over the most recent 2009-17 period".............."Wolves preyed on 95 elk (62.9%), 25 bison (16.6%), 11 mule deer (7.3%), 3 deer of unknown species (2.0%), 2 coyotes (3.0%), 2 pronghorn (1.3%), 1 grizzly bear (0.6%), 1 mountain lion (0.6%), and 11 unidentifiabled animals (7.3%)".........."The composition of wolf-killed elk was: 22.1% calves, 6.3% yearlings, 22.1% adults"............."No major disease epidemic adversely impacted Yellowstone Wolves in 2018"

The 2018 Yellowstone Wolf Project Report

There were at least 80 wolves in 9 packs (7 breeding pairs) living primarily in Yellowstone National Park (YNP) at the end of December 2018. Overall, wolf numbers uctuated little from 2009 to 2017 (83-108 wolves) but dropped slightly this year, particularly in the interior of Yellowstone. It is worth noting that there were two packs (Snake River and Huckleberry) which occasionally utilized the southern portion of Yellowstone but were not included in the population estimate (see wolf pack summaries). Breeding pairs (de ned as an adult male and an adult female with at least two pups that survive through the end of the year) remained consistent with the historical average. Pack size in 2018 ranged from 3 to 19, averaging 8.7 in size. Park-wide, 24 pups survived to year end, split between northern Yellowstone (12) and the interior (12) of the Park.

Pup Survival
Each year sta attempt to establish early pup counts at dens by either observing wolves from the ground through spotting scopes or, more often, taking photos of the den area during tracking ights. Early pup counts for each pack generally be- gin in late May and early June when pups are more consis- tently outside of den holes. For some packs whose densites are unknown or di cult to observe, we do not get pup counts until the pups are moved to a rendezvous site in late summer or early fall. This year the Wolf Project documented at least 38 pups born to eight di erent packs. Once again we were able to get exceptionally early counts from the Junction Butte pack ( rst pup sighting was May 7th of two pups only ~15 days old) but most pup counts were much later in the year. Both the Junction Butte (11 pups from 3 litters) and Wapiti Lake (7 pups from 2 litters) packs produced multiple litters. Of the minimum 38 pups produced in all packs, 24 (63.2%) pups survived to the end of the year.

  Wolf-Prey Relationships
Project sta detected 151 kills that were defnitely, probably, or possibly made by wolves in 2018: 95 elk (62.9%), 25 bison (16.6%), 11 mule deer (7.3%), 3 deer of unknown species (2.0%), 2 coyotes (3.0%), 2 pronghorn (1.3%), 1 grizzly bear (0.6%), 1 mountain lion (0.6%), and 11 unidenti ed animals (7.3%). The composition of wolf-killed elk was: 22.1% calves, 6.3% yearlings, 22.1% adult females, 37.9% adult males, 3.2% adults of unknown sex, and 8.4% of unknown sex and age. Wolf predation was monitored intensively for two months of the year – one month in early winter (mid-November to mid-December), one month in late winter (March). In re- cent years predation studies have included three months in spring-summer (May-July) but that study was not done in 2018. The type of prey killed by wolves varied by time period, but consisted primarily of elk. 

There was no evidence of any major disease mortality. Mange was present in several coyotes and foxes in or near the park boundary but was not recorded in any wolves in 2018. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Cook County Coyote Project is a comprehensive study of coyotes in Chicago metropolitan areas. Also known as the Urban Coyote Research Program, the study was initiated in 2000 as a non-biased attempt to address shortcomings in urban coyote ecology information and management; the Coyote Project is still underway"..............."Chicago's Urban Coyote Study revealing that Coyotes in Chicago and environs mate only once per year in the late winter, with peak season right around Valentines -Day"..............."If mating is successful, 4-12 pups arrive 60 days later in Late April-early May"..............."Newborn pups in the Chicago area generally have a 60% chance of surviving one year, with most living only 3 years"…………."The oldest Coyote in this region is known to have lived to age 11"................"Coyotes are not only monogamous, they are life-long mates".............."This means that once coyotes say “I do” they remain mated until death do them part".............."One mated pair in the “Windy City” produced pups for 10 continuous years"..............."Diet includes rodents (42%), fruit (23%), deer (22%), and rabbit (18%)"............."The majority of coyotes in Chicago area do not rely on pets or garbage for food"..................."25-35 pounds is the typical weight for Coyotes in Chicago".........."Coyotes in a pack share a territory, which they defend together"............."In Cook County, pack coyotes have smaller territories than solitary coyotes, averaging less than 2 square miles (4.95 km2) but as large as 4.3 square miles (11.1km2)".............."Solitary coyotes, also sometimes known as transient coyotes, are those coyotes that do not yet belong to a pack and therefore do not have a territory that they defend. In Cook County, solitary coyotes range over much larger areas and have home ranges averaging 10 square miles (26.8 km2)"
Chicago Urban Coyote Research

Learning about love from Chicago’s urban Coyotes

Thursday, October 10, 2019

"Bobcats have made a serious comeback in the United States"..................."A 2010 study estimated a US bobcat population of roughly 2.3 million to almost 3.6 million, as much as triple their population in the 1980s"................"Relying on data from 2016, the IUCN says the bobcat population is stable with no major threat to their survival"................."A 2011 survey looked at bobcat populations in 48 states, 7 Canadian provinces and Mexico, finding that bobcat populations have grown everywhere except for Florida".........."Like coyotes, bobcats have shown themselves capable of adapting, even thriving among humans"............As with Pumas, Coyotes, Foxes, Lynx, Wolves and Bears--"The leading cause of death among bobcats(carniovres) is feline scabies, which has been linked to anticoagulant rat poisons"............."If a bobcat eats a poisoned rat, there’s a strong likelihood that the cat will die as well"

10-08-2019; Zach Fitzner

Bobcats prove resilient in the face of human development

It’s easy to look at the loss of wildlife across the United States and feel despair. Grizzly bears, bison, and wolves live on a tiny fraction of their former range with pitifully small populations. Passenger pigeons that once filled our skies as living, moving clouds of feathered beings are gone forever. 
Stretching back towards the beginning of human occupation in North America, we’ve lost the mastodon, woolly rhinoceros, and giant ground sloths. Despite their popularity from Game of Thrones, dire wolves are also extinct. 
But there is still plenty of life on Earth, and in North America in particular, to celebrate. Despite centuries as the object of violence, coyotes still live in the United States in enormous numbers. And despite being mismanaged, fought over, and used as political pawns, there are still some wolves, bison and grizzly bears. There are also smaller wild animals that quietly adapt to the changes in their environments and live near us without being given much notice.

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) have indeed shown to be resilient in the face of a rapidly changing landscape. Bobcats live in every state of the contiguous United States except Delaware, as well as southern Canada and much of Mexico. The bobcat has adapted to numerous habitats across that range from deserts to wetlands to cold northern forests. According to the International Society for Endangered Cats, bobcats are the most successful of North Americas wild cats.
Humans are still one of the major threats to bobcats, as humans hunt them, destroy their habitat, and accidentally kill them with cars and rat poison. One study showed that the leading cause of death among bobcats is feline scabies, which has been linked to anticoagulant rat poisons. If a bobcat eats a poisoned rat, there’s a strong likelihood that the cat will die as well. 
Bobcat furs also lead the industry in feline skins with an average of 29,772 skins exported annually from the US between 2000 and 2006.  Because the human population is constantly on the rise, bobcats have had to contend more and more with our species. What was once wild habitat has increasingly become backyards, farmland, or golf courses. Because of these threats, conservation laws have protected bobcats throughout their range, with hunting being managed in 38 states, 7 Canadian provinces, and Mexico. The cats for their part have proven their ability to not only live but thrive near and in human dominated landscapes. 
Much of the bobcat’s success comes from the abundance of their prey base. Bobcats mainly feed on rabbits and hares, small herbivorous mammals in no shortage almost anywhere in the US. Walk around a city park, there’s probably one of those little rabbits hiding somewhere under a bush nibbling on grass. They visit our lawns and they do well in the deserts, prairies, forests and wetlands outside of city areas as well. Besides their preferred food, bobcats are also flexible, eating lizards, small rodents, birds, snakes, roadkill. Bobcats have even been known to rarely kill a deer. 
Another part of bobcat’s success is that they’re inconspicuous. Like urban coyotes, bobcats are mainly active at night, although they can adjust their schedule a bit depending on the local conditions. In urban areas bobcats are especially nocturnal. Bobcats also move around a lot to avoid being caught by a predator and to find their own prey. 
In Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California, a male bobcat’s home range is typically 3.2 square miles. Females move around less with a typical home range of about 1.5 square miles. Of course, the home range of bobcats vary depending on the habitat. 
Bobcats find temporary dens to rest in during the day and often move to a new den the next day, rarely staying in one spot for very long. Mother bobcats will often create several dens when they are about to have kittens. The mother then moves her kittens from one den to the next. Moving around like this, especially at night is one of the reasons bobcats are easily missed, even if they live in close proximity to humans.

Recently, a photographer published a photo essay following a mother bobcat that raised her kittens beneath the porch of a house in western Texas. This is one example of a bobcat adapting to a new way of living, raising her cubs in the shade of a house during the day and hunting in the scrublands surrounding the house at dusk and dawn. 
Bobcats have been known to hunt at backyard bird feeders and eat roadkill along city streets. An article from 2017 reported that bobcats have made homes in Manchester, New Hampshire, Waverly, Iowa and just outside of Los Angeles. One wildlife photographer claims based on his own observations that almost every neighborhood in the greater Dallas Fort Worth area is home to bobcats.
Indeed, bobcats have made a serious comeback in the United States. A 2010 study estimated a US bobcat population of roughly 2.3 million to almost 3.6 million, as much as triple their population in the 1980s. Relying on data from 2016, the IUCN says the bobcat population is stable with no major threat to their survival. A 2011 survey looked at bobcat populations in 48 states, 7 Canadian provinces and Mexico, finding that bobcat populations have grown everywhere except for Florida. Like coyotes, bobcats have shown themselves capable of adapting, even thriving among humans.
Despite the successful recovery of bobcats from their lowest populations, it’s still worth remembering that although the cats are cunning and adaptable, they still rely on us to allow them to live. The fur trade if not well managed can threaten bobcats, rat poisons still cause the deaths of bobcats, and other predators. For now bobcats are thriving, but that success depends on food, water, places to live either in the wild or in more urban environments. The question for the future is whether humans will be happy to see bobcats living among them or if they will be treated as a nuisance like pigeons, coyotes or prairie dogs?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

"Power lines corridors, long considered eyesores or worse, a potential threat to human health, actually serve a vital role in maintaining the health of a significant population of plants and wildlife"............."Particularly in regions with high human population density, the power lines are vital to the conservation of hundreds of species"..............."These swaths of open, scrubby landscapes support species often absent in adjacent forests"..........."Rare butterflies, birds and bees thrive in these sunny openings which are also utilized by coyotes, foxes, Pumas, wolves, bobcats and lynx".............."This early successional open forest habitat includes old pastures, fields and beaver meadows where grasses, small shrubs and trees grow"..........."Separated by a mere 30 feet, transmission line corridors can hold 10 times the number of bees and twice the number of bee species as adjacent woodlands"............."Through urban and suburban areas, transmission line corridors could prove to be the only undeveloped native communities through which wildlife might disperse safely"

New England power line corridors harbor rare bees and other wild things

But ecologically, the swaths of open, scrubby landscapes under  support a rich and complex menagerie of life, absent in the woodlands and forests that bound them.
In New England, where my co-author and I are based, these corridors sustain native animals and migrating birds and insects including dozens of bees, one of which is so rare it was thought to have been lost decades ago from the United States.
My colleagues and I have walked power line corridors for more than three decades, recording the butterflies, birds and bees that thrive in these sunny openings. I was drawn to them when I began working at the University of Connecticut. Often with my young daughter in tow, I would walk there to see plants and wildlife that were absent from the forests that dominated New England.

During the summer of 2017, I and a team of researchers including bee experts and undergraduate students surveyed bee communities at 27 randomly selected sites along an 89-mile transmission line corridor spanning three New England states from Connecticut to New Hampshire. Each site contained a pair of sister plots, one within the corridor and the other within the adjacent forest. This allowed us to directly answer the question: Which provides better habitat for bees, corridor or forest?
What used to be there
The decline of New England farming in the 20th century dramatically diminished the open acreage of what we ecologists call early successional habitat, which provided unique plants and cover for wildlife. Successional habitat is land like old pastures, fields and beaver meadows where grasses, small shrubs and trees grow. In New England, for example, they contribute to the persistence and resilience of many species such as spadefoot toads, box turtles, New England cottontails and birds like towhees.
More than half of state-protected plant and  in New England are thought to be dependent on the early successional habitats commonly found along transmission line corridors for feeding, nesting or mating.

Making a beeline for nectar
Despite being separated at times by a mere 30 feet, forests and transmission line corridors differ tremendously. In a recent study, we found that the sunny, open corridors held nearly 10 times the number of bees and twice the number of bee species as compared to forested plots, where nectar becomes scarce by the end of May.
The diversity of bees found along the corridor was eye-opening. More than 200 species of wild pollinators, half the known species for the entire New England region, were buzzing around the 27 survey plots.
In doing research over many years, our team made collections of two of the most seldom seen bees in North America, both legally protected in one or more New England states, including the silver-and-black haired bee Epeoloides pilosula. Until a decade ago, this species was believed to have been eliminated from the region until it was rediscovered first in Nova Scotia in 2002, and then along a power line corridor in Connecticut in 2006.

In addition to Epeoloides, New England's transmission line corridors harbor populations of more than 200 state-protected plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
One of these is the fetching Karner blue butterfly, which was named by Vladimir Nabokov, the famous Russian novelist and poet. The caterpillars of this butterfly feed only on lupine, also known as blue bonnets to Texans, a wildflower that thrives along some power line corridors. The sky- is imperiled across its range and, as such, receives protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The iconic monarch butterfly, which has been in steep decline across North America, is also a denizen of these rights-of-way. The open sunny conditions are favorable for the larval food plant milkweed, upon which monarchs lay their eggs, and the abundant blooming goldenrods along the power line corridors that provide nectar for the Mexico-bound migrating adults each fall.

One surprising finding from our recent study was that there is no single ecological factor that made a site along the corridor better for bees.
Our research group tested for associations between pollinator diversity and more than a dozen ecological factors that we thought should relate to bee species richness and abundance, including the diversity of plants at each site and whether or not the land was managed with herbicides.
We found that one can locate or create high-diversity pollinator habitats in any New England state as long as the land is managed to maintain an open canopy and has a sweep of nectar resources.
Where the wild things grow
We no longer live in a world where nature and humans are separate.
While many lament that power line cuts mar an area's aesthetics, these corridors harbor a gamut of beautiful creatures—ranging from the blue fritillary butterfly, the multicolored tiger beetle and a rich array of metallic blue and green bees. The avian life that is found in these corridors is noteworthy, too – indigo buntingeastern bluebirdprairie warblerblue-winged warbler and yellow-breasted chat.

ower line corridors are examples of the coexistence between the needs of humans and nature. These rights-of-way may play a special role in the future as migration corridors for plants and wildlife that need to relocate as a consequence of climate changes. Through urban and suburban areas, transmission line corridors could prove to be the only undeveloped native communities through which wildlife might disperse safely.