Biodiversity: Monarchs bounce back, still need help

Population still near historic lows

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Can monarch butterflies survive massive habitat loss? bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Monarch butterfly populations may have rebounded a bit this year, according to the annual overwintering count, but the species is still going to need help to recover, conservation advocates say, urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give the colorful insects Endangered Species Act protection.

This year’s count estimated that 56.5 million monarchs are currently gathered in Mexico for the winter, up from last year’s lowest ever total of 34 million. But that’s still more than 80 percent below the 20-year average and down 95 percent from numbers tallied in the mid-1990s. Near-perfect conditions during breeding season helped bolster the numbers this year. Continue reading

Wildlife advocates seek national wolf recovery plan

Activists again decry hunting, trapping in Northern Rockies

Wolves surrounding a bison in Yellowstone National Park. PHOTO COURTESY DOUG SMITH/NPS.

Wolves surrounding a bison in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Doug Smith/NPS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife conservation advocates want the federal government to rethink its wolf recovery efforts. Instead of relying on a piecemeal, state-by-state approach, the species needs a national recovery plan to help restore populations in places like the southern Rockies and the Adirondacks, according to Kierán Suckling, director of the Center for Biological Diversity

“A congressional end run around science and the Endangered Species Act will create more controversy and put wolves and the law itself in jeopardy,” said Suckling, explaining why a coalition of conservation groups this week petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reclassify gray wolves as threatened, rather than endangered, under the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Rare fox spotted in Yosemite National Park

Just 50 Sierra Nevada red foxes remain in the wild

A Sierra Nevada red fox. Photo courtesy USFWS.

A Sierra Nevada red fox. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — One of the rarest mammals in the American West may be making a comeback in the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite National Park biologists this week confirmed a sighting of a Sierra Nevada red fox in the northern reaches of the park — the first the speices has been seen in Yosemite for nearly 100 years.

“We are thrilled to hear about the sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox, one of the most rare and elusive animals in the Sierra Nevada,” said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. “National parks like Yosemite provide habitat for all wildlife and it is encouraging to see that the red fox was sighted in the park.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been considering endangered species protection for the species since late 2011. There are only two known populations, one near Mt. Lassen and the other near Sonora Pass, just north of Yosemite, with a total population estimated at about 50 individuals. Continue reading

Wildlife: Colorado launches new lynx monitoring effort

A radio-collared lynx in Colorado. Photo courtesy CPW.

A radio-collared lynx in Colorado. Photo courtesy CPW.

SW Colorado field project will assess habitat occupancy, population trends

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado biologists have launched an ambitious monitoring program aimed at learning whether the state’s population of reintroduced and native-born lynx is holding steady.

The monitoring will cover more than 5,000 miles in the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado, including six wilderness areas: Weminuche, Uncompahgre, Lizard Head, Powderhorn, La Garita Mount Sneffels, and South San Juan. Continue reading

Wildlife: Annual bison slaughter starts in Yellowstone

Wildlife advocates seek wider restoration

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American bison, Black Hills of South Dakota. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite polls showing widespread public support for relocating Yellowstone bison to start herds in appropriate locations across the state, the National Park Service has once again started rounding up wild bison for slaughter.

The animals wander out of the park each winter searching for food at lower elevations. This year’s killing program is slated to be the largest in seven years to cap the bison population in the park at 3,500, part of a settlement with the state of Montana over now-discredited concerns about brucellosis and carrying capacity.

The late-December poll showed that 67 percent of Montanans support relocating Yellowstone bison rather than killing them. It also also found that 68 percent of Montanans view bison as wildlife and 72 percent believe bison should be managed like the state’s other wildlife species. Continue reading

Biologists trace physiological course of bat-killing disease

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A bat shows symptoms of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that is wiping out bat populations in the U.S. Photo courtesy USGS.

Study tests energy depletion hypothesis

Staff Report

FRISCO —New research by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Wisconsin is helping biologists solve the puzzle of white-nose syndrome, the fungal disease that has devastated bat populations in the eastern U.S. The new study how the disease progresses from initial infection to death in bats during hibernation.

“This model is exciting for us, because we now have a framework for understanding how the disease functions within a bat,” said University of Wisconsin and USGS National Wildlife Health Center scientist Michelle Verant, the lead author of the study. “The mechanisms detailed in this model will be critical for properly timed and effective disease mitigation strategies.” Continue reading

Climate: Invasive tropical fish already changing ocean ecosystems in eastern Mediterranean Sea

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Rabbitfish are changing ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea.

Studies document loss of kelp forests and overall biodiversity

Staff Report

FRISCO — Tropical fish are moving north as the global climate warms, in some cases with devastating impacts to ocean ecosystems. In parts of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, rabbitfish have reduced the algae canopy by 65 percent with a cascading effect on ecosystems, including a 40 percent decrease in the total number of plant and animal species.

“The introduction of tropical fish into more temperate regions is troubling and this new study gives a vivid example of what can happen when non-native species occupy a new ecosystem,” said Fiona Tomas Nash, a courtesy professor of fisheries and wildlife at Oregon State University and a co-author on both studies. Continue reading

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