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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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Friday, February 28, 2020

"The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas resulted in a human-driven global impact on the Earth System in the two centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution"............."The arrival of Europeans in the Americas in 1492 CE marks the onset of disease epidemics resulting in the loss of up to 90% of indigenous people living in the Americas over the subsequent century"............"There is wide agreement about the effects of diseases and epidemics associated with European contact".............."The first well-documented, widespread epidemic in what was to become New Mexico was smallpox in 1636"..............."Shortly thereafter, measles entered the area, and many Pueblos lost as many as a quarter of their inhabitants"................."After the founding of Spanish settlements and missions, there was substantially more contact, and throughout the 17th century, epidemic disease was repeatedly imported"................"It should be noted that Osteologic data demonstrate that native groups were most definitely not living in a pristine, disease-free environment before contact".........."Diseases such as treponemiasis and tuberculosis were already present in the New World, along with diseases such as tularemia, giardia, rabies, amebic dysentery, hepatitis, herpes, pertussis, and poliomyelitis, although the prevalence of almost all of these was probably low in any given group"............."Old World diseases that were not present in the Americas until contact include bubonic plague, measles, smallpox, mumps, chickenpox, influenza, cholera, diphtheria, typhus, malaria, leprosy, and yellow fever"............. "Indians in the Americas had no acquired immunity to these infectious diseases"..............."Europeans began to colonize North America (defined here as the United States of America and Canada) after Central and South America, thus regional and continent wide estimates are largely based on archaeological evidence, tribe-by-tribe counts and environmental carrying capacities"............ "The lower range of population estimates for North America lies between 900,000 and 2.4 million, based on tribe-by-tribe counts for the period 1600 CE to mid-1800 CE"..............."The highest estimate of 18 million, established from analyzing environmental carrying capacities, has been criticized for its assumptions on food acquisition strategies".............."More recent estimates derived from geospatial interpolation of archaeological sites range between 2.8 million and 5.7 million"................."These intermediate figures are supported by a recent comprehensive regional-scale archaeological study"

Earth system impacts of the European arrival and Great Dying in the Americas after 1492


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

While there was a sizeable Indian population in eastern North America prior to European contact(circa AD1500), their impact on the land was minimal..............As Harvard Forest Director David Foster and Harvard Forest Paleoecologist W. Wyatt Oswald sum up in their recent article: “LAND MANAGERS SEEKING TO EMULATE PRE-CONTACT CONDITIONS SHOULD DE-EMPHASIZE HUMAN DISTURBANCE AND FOCUS ON DEVELOPING MATURE FORESTS".........."IN AREAS WHERE GRASSLANDS AND PASTURE ARE DESIRED (FOR EXAMPLE, TO RETAIN MODERN PATTERNS OF SPECIES DIVERSITY), COLONIAL-ERA TECHNOLOGIES FOR KEEPING LAND OPEN—SUCH AS PLOWING, GRAZING, MOWING FOR HAY, AND TREE-CUTTING—SHOULD BE USED INSTEAD OF BURNING, BECAUSE THOSE ARE THE AGRICULTURAL APPROACHES THAT CREATED THEM FOUR CENTURIES AGO" ..............Bottom line is that lake bottom sediment cores of some 12,000 years ago up to the present suggest that there were not widespread human impacts on New England landscapes before the arrival of Europeans".........."Further, It is known that while Indians at times set fires to the woods, prairie and chaparral environs they occupied, Hugh Raup a plant ecologist and Director of the Harvard Forest for 21 years, writing in 1937, "noted that Indian caused fires in the northeast were uncommon and the idea that they burned the entire New England area every year. or even every 10 to 20 years “is inconceivable" ............. As pointed out by esteemed Ecological Historian Emily Russell in her 1983 study of Indian caused fires in the northeastern United States: "There is no strong evidence that Indian purposely burned large areas of the forested northeastern United States frequently"..............."The presence of Indians did, however, undoubtedly increase the frequency of fires above the low numbers caused by lightning"................ "The increase from the 'natural' situation was greatest in local areas near Indian habitations"

New England’s Forest Primeval

HAT DID THE NEW ENGLAND landscape look like before European colonizers arrived? The prevailing view among modern historians is that Native Americans engaged in widespread horticulture and used fire to keep grasslands and pasturelands open. Now a study by Harvard Forest director David Foster and colleagues, published today in Nature Sustainability, argues instead that Native Americans had very little impact on the regional landscape in that period, even when their populations were large. 

Eastern Woodland Old-Growth Forest

Written accounts of Native Americans cultivating the land in New England overstate the importance of agriculture in the pre-contact period, according to a new study. Here, an engraving by Theodor De Bry, after a drawing by Jacques Le Moyne, depicts Timucua Indians at Fort Caroline, a French settlement established in what is now Florida, hoeing and sowing seeds, including beans and maize. The image may be the only contemporaneous visual depiction by Europeans showing the importance of agriculture to Native Americans in the New World.
Courtesy of the Lewis Ansbacher Map Collection, permanently housed in the Morris Ansbacher Map Room, Jacksonville (Florida) Public Library.

The study reconstructs climate and vegetation in New England during the past 10,000 years, and draws as well on extensive archaeological evidence. It’s significant, Foster explained in an interview, because the relatively new belief that humans have always interfered in natural ecologies has been used to guide conservation practices in North America and elsewhere. The paper argues that this is a mistake, and that in the specific case of New England, “land managers seeking to emulate pre-contact conditions should deemphasize human disturbance and focus on developing mature forests.”
 In areas where grasslands and pasture are desired (for example, to retain modern patterns of species diversity), colonial-era technologies for keeping land open—such as plowing, grazing, mowing for hay, and tree-cutting—should be used instead of burning, because those are the agricultural approaches that created them four centuries ago. The larger implication is that the history of human involvement in ecologies elsewhere in North America and around the world may need to be re-evaluated. 

The study authors analyzed pollen and charcoal residues in sediment cores (above) from lake bottoms to learn about changes in vegetation and the severity of forest fires in New England since the end of the last glaciation.Photograph courtesy of the Harvard Forest

Paleoecologist W. Wyatt Oswald, first author on the paper and an associate of Harvard Forest, used cores extracted from lake-bottom sediments to reconstruct prevailing patterns of vegetation from about 11,700 years ago, when the last glaciation ended. By analyzing pollen trapped in the sediment, he discovered which plants dominated the landscape; charcoal residues indicated the extent of burning. “When you actually look at various lines of evidence,” Oswald explained in an interview, “there is nothing to suggest that there were widespread human impacts on New England landscapes before the arrival of Europeans.”
The research team collected sediment cores from 21 lakes across southern New England. Analysis revealed that pines dominated the landscape until 10,000 years ago. Then, as temperatures increased during the subsequent 2,000 years, oak forests began to appear, and elevated levels of pollen from ragweed and grasses indicate the presence of open land or an open forest structure maintained by fire, a change that was driven by the dry climate. Human populations at this point remained small. When moisture and temperature began increasing some 8,000 years ago, beech and hickory species joined the oaks, while signs of ragweed and grasses declined to almost nothing—indications that a closed-canopy hardwood forest had taken over the landscape, and that there was little fire, despite a burgeoning human population.

Archaeological evidence tells a similar story of minimal human impacts on the ecosystem, one that accords with Native American cultural beliefs about living in harmony with the land. A spike in the Native American population that occurred from 1,500 to 500 years ago “has often been attributed to the emergence of horticulture,” the authors note, “especially the planting of maize.” But the archaeological evidence cited in the paper reveals very little sign of farming. There is, on the other hand, abundant evidence for subsistence practices such as hunting, fishing, shell-fishing, and plant-gathering. Elizabeth Chilton, an archaeologist and former assistant professor at Harvard who is one of the co-authors of the paper, quickly established during her time in Cambridge that cultivated corn, squash, and beans were present in New England before contact, but weren’t widely used until Europeans arrived.

The study suggests that open land in New England should be maintained using the same colonial-era practices that created it, such as grazing and mowing, rather than burning.
Photograph courtesy of the Harvard Forest

“People were still very much living off of the land,” said Foster, “which is why they congregated on the coast and in river bottoms” where there are so many resources. “That’s a shock for most people, because it’s so ingrained in us that the native people were planting corn.” It may be part of the national mythology, but “In fact, there’s no archaeological support for widespread use of agriculture at all.”

The Historical Fallacy

THE IDEA THAT Native Americans engaged in widespread management of the landscape before European contact appears to have gained credence among scholars with a 1953 paper, “The Indian as an ecological factor in northeastern forests,” by anthropologist Gordon Day. Historian William Cronon’s Changes in the Land popularized the ideas that Native Americans were engaged in widespread horticulture, and used prescribed burns to keep grasslands and pasturelands open. Cronon relied on the accounts of early European explorers such as Thomas Morton, who described Native Americans setting such fires twice yearly, to conclude that:
Here was the reason that southern [New England] forests were so open and parklike; not because the trees naturally grew thus, but because the Indians preferred them so. As William Wood [in another early account] observed, the fire “consumes all the underwood and rubbish which otherwise would overgrow the country, making it unpassable, and spoil their much affected hunting.” The result was a forest of large, widely spaced trees, few shrubs, and much grass and herbage. 
Foster himself recalled embracing these ideas about native burning to manage the land during his undergraduate studies, and noted that “Bill Cronon is such a marvelously accomplished writer that this idea has been taken up and applied widely. Books such as 1491 and various others on the ‘ecological Indian’ have really made this into something, such that modern-day land managers and the forest service and state agencies and conservation organizations—all have embraced this entirely—without any compelling prehistorical data.” As the study’s authors write:
Humans are now inferred to have driven ecosystem dynamics for millennia across much of the globe, including many areas formerly interpreted as pristine or dominated by mature forests.  This new perspective has led to the conclusion that many valued characteristics of historical and modern landscapes, such as high levels of plant and animal diversity—including the occurrence of many rare and endangered species—may represent legacies of earlier cultural activities. In many forested or potentially forested landscapes, a wide array of openland habitats, including grasslands, shrublands, heathlands, and early successional forests have been attributed to purposeful landscape management by ancient people.

David R. Foster (left) and W. Wyatt Oswald prepare to take a core sample of sediment from a lake in southern New England.Photograph courtesy of the Harvard Forest

“This human-centered interpretation” has led to conservation management practices that include “the prescription of disturbances, especially fire,” as well as clear-cutting and other mechanical treatments to mimic the inferred activities of ancient peoples. In New England, where woodlands are often referred to as “the asbestos forest,” there are no fire-dependent species. “There are some species that will survive fire better than others,” Foster said, “but there are none that require fire in order to be maintained,” as there are in other parts of the country.
The present study, with its assembled empirical evidence from archaeologists, ecologists, and paleoclimatologists, is the culmination of a series of National Science Foundation grants on which Foster has been the principal investigator, combined with work done at the Harvard Forest as part of a long-term ecological research program. “We have been gradually building the number of sites,” said Foster, “and building a stronger and stronger case. Eventually, we were able to pull together the work that’s represented here.”
Their inescapable conclusion is that climate, not people, largely controlled fire severity in New England during the period since the end of the last glaciation. The paper’s conservation message is that “land managers seeking to emulate pre-contact conditions should deemphasize human disturbance and focus on developing mature forests: those seeking to maintain openlands should apply the agricultural approaches”—such as grazing, plowing, and mowing for hay—“that initiated them four centuries ago.” 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

We have know for some time that both Gray and Eastern Wolves will dine on berries and kill fish during certain times of the year to augment their hoofed browser(deer, elk, moose, bison, caribou) and beaver diet........Newly discovered is that the Wolves of Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota readily also feed their newborn pups of the year regurgitated blueberries.........Interesting to know that Wolves may be more adaptable than previously thought in enjoying meat, fish and fruit—Similar to their Coyote cousins!


New research from northern Minn. shows wolves feed berries to their young

New research into the surprising summer eating habits of northern Minnesota wolves known to be fond of beaver, fish and blueberries has now also documented wolves feeding those berries to their pups.
The finding, published this week in the journal Wildlife Society Bulletin, suggests that wild blueberries may be a more valuable food source for wolves in the boreal forests of far northern Minnesota than previously appreciated.
In the summer of 2017, Austin Homkes, a field biologist with the Voyageurs Wolf Project — a collaboration between Voyageurs National Park and the University of Minnesota — trekked to a beaver meadow just south of the park where researchers believed wolves had recently killed prey.
As he drew near, he saw five pups gathered around an adult wolf in the center of the meadow, about 100 meters away. He saw the pups lick at the adult’s mouth for about 30 seconds, and then watched as the wolf regurgitated food for the pups three times on to the ground.
A half hour after the wolves left, he approached and found several small piles of chewed and whole wild blueberries. While wolves are known to regurgitate deer and other meat to feed their young, this is the first documentation of a wolf feeding pups berries or fruit of any kind.

The finding is significant because “that means that wolves are getting some energetic value out of consuming blueberries like this,” explained Tom Gable, a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota who leads the Voyageurs Wolf Project.
Researchers have known for some time that wolves eat wild blueberries and other fruit to supplement their largely meat-based diet. In fact, Gable and his colleagues have found that blueberries can make up to 83 percent of the July diet of the eight wolf packs they study in and around Voyageurs National Park.
It could mean that wolves are simply taking advantage of the blueberries growing abundantly and close together.
“And so for an animal like a wolf, they’re expending very little energy eating those berries,” Gable said. “And so it's possible that just sitting in a berry patch, not really moving a whole lot, is a better strategy than running around your territory looking for a fawn or a beaver in the middle of the summer.”
The findings could suggest that wolves are using berries to meet their pups’ minimum food needs, Gable said. Or, he said, maybe berries could help pups survive the lulls when adults are unable to kill beaver or deer.
Gable said as researchers learn more about wolves’ summer predation behavior, including how much time they spend foraging berries, they hope to better understand the significance berries play in wolves’ diets, and whether those berries reduce the number of prey — mainly deer fawns and beavers — that wolves kill in July and August.
In conjunction with the newly-published research, the Voyageurs Wolf Project also released what they believe is a first-ever video showing wolves eating berries.
Using 25 cameras, researchers recorded wolves stripping blueberry bushes. Gable said the video provides irrefutable evidence that wolves do indeed consume berries. “There’s been some skepticism about whether or not wolves really do this,” he said.
For the past five years, researchers have placed GPS collars on wolves from in and around the park. They collect location data from the animals every 20 minutes. That allows them to see where wolves stop long enough to eat. The location information helps researchers place cameras.
The technology has led to the surprising discovery that wolves hunt fish in shallow streams. They also stalk beaver which can make up as much as 42 percent of a wolf’s diet around the park