Feds put Wyoming, Great Lakes wolves back on endangered species list

Heavy snow has pushed elk out of the high country, so the Colorado Division of Wildlife will try to divert them from important livestock feeding areas in the Yampa Valley. PHOTO COURTESY THE NATIONAL PAKR SERVICE.

Wolves chase down an elk in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Responding to lawsuits, USFWS acknowledges that state protections are inadequate

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Wild wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes once again are protected under the Endangered Species Act, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a Federal Register notice explaining that Wyoming’s management plan is not adequate to protect the predators.

Of course the agency needed a push from the federal courts to acknowledge the reality of the Wyoming’s anti-wolf policies. Similarly, a federal court also said the agency can’t delist wolves in the western Great Lakes because protections can’t be removed in part of a species’ range when it has not recovered overall. Continue reading

Climate: California pikas vanishing from lower sites

‘It looks like we’re going to lose pikas from many areas where people have been used to seeing them …’

Colorado pika

A Quandary Peak pika enjoys sunny weather on a rocky ledge. bberwyn photo.

FRISCO — Global warming is probably shrinking habitat for California’s pikas, scientists said this week in a new study that looked at 67 locations with historical data on populations of the small alpine mammals. Pikas have already vanished completely from 10 of those sites, the researchers said, explaining that local extinctions are likely where summer temperatures are high and habitat is already marginal.

“This same pattern of extinctions at sites with high summer temperatures has also been observed in the Great Basin region,”  said Joseph Stewart, a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz and first author of a paper reporting the new findings, published January 29 in the Journal of Biogeography. Continue reading

Arctic: Satellite images help track polar bears

Data will help assess global warming impacts to Arctic wildlife

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Polar bears near a U.S. Navy submarine.

Staff Report

FRISCO — The latest generation of high-resolution satellite images may help scientists gain a better understanding of Arctic polar bear populations. Dwindling Arctic sea ice is seen a huge threat to the predators, but difficult field conditions make it challenging to get a clear picture of polar bear population dynamics.

Satellite images have also been used recently to track emperor penguins in Antarctica, and researchers are starting to rely on satellite images more and more. In a new study, U.S. Geological Survey biologists matched satellite surveys with ground-truthed counts. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Invasive barred owls displacing endangered native northern spotted owls in Pacific Northwest forests

Barred owl. PHOTO COURTESY USGS.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans experimental removal of barred owls

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Invasive barred owls are increasingly taking up residence in northwestern forests at the expense of native — and endangered — norther spotted owls, according to a research project conducted jointly by the Oregon State University and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The three-year study shows that the barred owls are outcompeting spotted owls for critical resources such as space, habitat, and food, according to the study released last week by Oregon State University.

“Interactions between invasive and native species can be multifaceted and complex, with the stakes being even higher when the native species is already threatened with extinction,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Careful scientific observation and analysis can tease out the critical areas of conflict or competition, the first step in finding solutions.” Continue reading

Morning photo: Deception Island

Antarctic caldera

The volcanic rocks of Deception Island show their colors agains the cool gray backdrop of the Southern Ocean.

Only a narrow passage way, known as Neptune's Bellows, gives access to the sheltered bay.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Every now and then, I like to reach back into the archives for a little vicarious travel. This series is from Deception Island, one of the most interesting chunks of land in the South Shetland archipelago, northwest of the Antarctic Peninsula, which stretches up like an index finger pointing at South America.

Deception Island is submerged caldera — the drowned crater of a giant and still-active volcano. The island served as a whaling base, and because of the sheltered bay, served as refuge from fierce Southern Ocean storms right from the early days of Antarctic exploration.

Toward the end of World War II, the British established a naval base on the island, but volcanic activity in 1969 forced the base to close. Chile and Argentina also established stations to strengthen territorial claims, but several of those bases were also destroyed by eruptions.

deception island

During the approach to Deception Island, the clouds lift for a moment, giving the sky a layer-cake look.

Continue reading

Biodiversity: Yukon wolf herd thriving

Study shows wolf numbers don’t have a big effect on caribou herd

A collared wolf in the Yukon. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A long-term study of wolves and caribou in the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, a few hundred miles east of Fairbanks, suggests that a thriving wolf population in the area doesn’t have a significant impact on the caribou herd in the preserve.

Wolf abundance and distribution has been monitored in the 2.5 million acre national preserve since 1993 using radio collars on animals within most of the packs using the area. No wolf study in Alaska, other than one at Denali National Park, has been in place for more years. The latest data from study shows a healthy and rebounding wolf population.

“Wolves depend on healthy populations of large ungulates, like caribou, which in turn respond to vegetation, weather and other habitat patterns across the landscape,” said Tom Liebscher, chief of resources for Yukon-Charley Rivers. ‘These data give us insight into what’s happening across a large range of resources, as well as help other agencies make informed management choices.” Continue reading

Morning photo: Penguin portraits

Some of our favorite feathered friends …

Bathing beauties. Gentoo penguins on Deception Island.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Some might call it a shameless quest for page views but I’m going to call it fine art photography, even though there’s no doubt that penguin pictures to help drive web traffic. There’s no denying — they are cute little critters, and despite being so cuddly and loveable, they manage to survive and even thrive in an incredibly harsh environment. Their environment is, of course, one of the most threatened by climate change, as temperatures across parts of Antarctica are warming at double the rate of the global average. Continue reading

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