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Wildlife: Feds say genetic testing confirms that wolf near Grand Canyon is from the Northern Rockies

Trapping efforts suspended for now

Grand Canyon wolf

A gray wolf that wandered at least 450 miles from the northern Rockies is now living near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Photo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal biologists say that, based on a genetic analysis of scat, they’re now 100 percent sure that the wolf-like animal spotted near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is in fact a wild Rocky Mountain gray wolf.

The confirmation clarifies that this gray wolf is fully protected under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced. Biologists have been tracking the canid since early October and were able to collect scat samples in early November. Continue reading

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Environment: 15 years after endangered species listing, lynx are still spurring lawsuits

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A lynx in Colorado watches on the snow-covered forest floor. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk/Colorado Division of Wildlife.

New lawsuit challenges inadequate critical habitat designation

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s been 15 years since Canada lynx were listed as a threatened species, and wildlife conservation groups are still battling the U.S. government in court over critical habitat designation for the rare, snow-loving cats.

In the latest legal move, the Sierra Club, Rocky Mountain Wild, and Alliance for the Wild Rockies went back to court this week, claiming that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still hasn’t got it right. According to the lawsuit, the agency neglected to include numerous large areas of prime lynx habitat, corridors and occupied areas throughout five national forests in Montana and Idaho, as well as millions of acres in the Southern Rockies. Continue reading

Study show drop in Beaufort Sea polar bear numbers

A polar bear in the Arctic. PHOTO COURTESY USGS/SUSANNE MILLER.

A polar bear in the Arctic. PHOTO COURTESY USGS/SUSANNE MILLER.

Is dwindling sea ice a factor?

Staff report

FRISCO — Polar bear populations in the southern Beaufort Sea  dropped 40 percent between 2000 and 2010, biologists say in a new study. The research suggests that survival of adult bears and cubs was especially low from 2004 to 2006, when most of the decline occurred.

“Of the 80 cubs observed in Alaska from 2004 to 2007, only 2 are known to have survived,” said Jeff Bromaghin, a U.S. Geological Survey research statistician and lead author of the study. Continue reading

Oceans: Researchers identify starfish-killing virus

Mutation or environmental changes may have triggered recent epidemic that has wiped out entire populations

This is a SSWD-affected star. The fatal disease leads to behavioral changes, lesions, loss of appendages, and disintegration. Credit: Photo by Neil McDaniel.

This is a SSWD-affected star. The fatal disease leads to behavioral changes, lesions, loss of appendages, and disintegration. Photo credit: Photo, Neil McDaniel.

Staff Report

FRISCO — With 10 million viruses in every drop of seawater, it wasn’t easy to identify the pathogen that’s caused a recent widespread die-off of starfish along North America’s Pacific Coast. Already, entire populations have disappeared in less than two years — 20 different species, from Alaska to Baja, have been affected.

But using museum collections, researchers from Cornell University and the California Science now say they can attribute the mass mortality to a Densovirus that has been present in echinoderms like sea stars and urchins for at least 72 years.

The study suggests the disease may have recently risen to epidemic levels because of sea star overpopulation, environmental changes, or mutation of the virus. The results may help marine biologists as they try to develop conservation strategies, important, because sea stars are voracious predators, with a key role in regulating the ecology of the ocean floor. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Captive breeding program launched for critically endangered Arizona squirrel

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A Mt. Graham red squirrel, via USFWS.

Less than 300 Mt. Graham red squirrels left in the wild

Staff Report

FRISCO — A rare squirrel that lives only in fire-prone southern Arizona forests may get a new lease on life, as federal and state biologists team up for a captive breeding effort to try and bolster populations.

There are fewer than 300 Mount Graham red squirrels living in the wild. In recent years, their habitat has been devastated by large wildfires. Any new fires could wipe out the population, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Extended drought (especially in the higher-elevation forest types) and outbreaks of forest insects and other tree diseases have also taken a toll. Continue reading

Global warming: Oceans at all-time record high temps

Pacific Ocean is cooking, even without El Niño

NOAA Sea Surface Temperature anomaly (with respect to period 1854-2013) averaged over global oceans (red) and over North Pacific (0-60oN, 110oE-100oW) (cyan). September 2014 temperatures broke the record for both global and North Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures. b) Sea Surface Temperature anomaly of September 2014 from NOAA's ERSST dataset. Credit: Axel Timmermann

NOAA Sea Surface Temperature anomaly (with respect to period 1854-2013) averaged over global oceans (red) and over North Pacific (0-60oN, 110oE-100oW) (cyan). September 2014 temperatures broke the record for both global and North Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures. b) Sea Surface Temperature anomaly of September 2014 from NOAA’s ERSST dataset.
Credit: Axel Timmermann.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global ocean temperatures have soared to the highest level in recorded history this year, and the rate of warming has accelerated since April, according to scientists with the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

“This summer has seen the highest global mean sea surface temperatures ever recorded since their systematic measuring started,” said Axel Timmermann, a climate scientist at the university’s International Pacific Research Center. “Temperatures even exceed those of the record-breaking 1998 El Niño year,” Timmermann said, adding that the new data analysis shows that the global warming pause, if there was one, is over.

“The 2014 global ocean warming is mostly due to the North Pacific, which has warmed far beyond any recorded value,” he said, adding that the temperature trend in the Pacific has shifted hurricane tracks, weakened trade winds, and bleached corals around the Hawaiian Islands. Continue reading

Environment: Shangri-La no more?

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Study examines nexus of forest, tourism policies

Staff Report

FRISCO — It may be Shangri-La no more if centralized government policies from Beijing continue to supplant community based management schemes for the incredibly diverse temperate forests of China’s northwest Yunnan Province.

Dartmouth scientists found in a recent study that China’s anti-logging, conservation and ecotourism policies are accelerating the loss of old-growth forests in the region, which symbolizes the tensions associated with China’s economic transformation. Continue reading

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