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New chytrid fungus test could help amphibian conservation

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A boreal toad found in the Cucumber Gulch wetlands in Breckenridge, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

New sampling method enables early detection of deadly fungus in the environment, before it infects amphibians

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new way to test for the presence of the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus may help conservation efforts for species like the Rocky Mountain’s boreal toads, still under consideration for the endangered species list.

Instead of testing amphibians directly for the fungus, U.S. Geological Survey researchers said they’ve learned how to test for chytrid fungus in the water the animals live in. The new sampling technique can help assess the risk of exposure, potentially helping plan recovery efforts. Continue reading

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Report highlights species on brink of extinction

Sierra Yellow-legged frog. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

Sierra Yellow-legged frog. Photo: USFWS.

Biodiversity crisis growing as more and more species blink out

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s no secret that many plant and animal species in the U.S. are in danger of disappearing permanently, but a new report from the Endangered Species Coalition brings home the point by highlighting several once-common species teetering on the brink of extinction.

Among them, the mountain yellow-legged frog, with 90 percent of remaining populations supporting fewer than 10 frogs.

“Frogs have successfully thrived on our planet since the time of the dinosaurs, but now the mountain yellow legged frog and 30 percent of all amphibian species are facing extinction due to human actions,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity, which nominated the mountain yellow-legged frog for today’s report and petitioned for its federal protection in 2000. Continue reading

Great Smoky Mountains National Park seeks to protect bat populations by limiting seasonal access to hibernation area

Monitoring to help inform conservation plan

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A map from Bat Conservation International shows the spread of white-nose syndrome in the eastern United States.

Staff Report

RISCO — The National Park Service hopes to protect bat populations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a winter closure to limit human disturbance to bat hibernacula and help hikers avoid interactions with bats.

The Whiteoak Sink area will be closed through March 31 while park biologists monitor  the site throughout the winter to cllect population, ecological and behavioral data. The information will be used to develop a long-term protection plan. An extended closure through late spring may be recommended if the winter data suggests such an action would increase the chances for survival of a significant number of bats. Continue reading

Wildlife: Wyoming wolves get reprieve

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A federal judge has blocked Wyoming’s unsustainable wolf management plan. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Federal judge invalidates state hunting plan

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wyoming wolves will get at least a temporary reprieve from the state’s shoot-on-sight management plan, as a federal judge this week set aside a 2012 decision that turned wolf management over to the state.

The state plan, approved by the Wyoming legislature, would allow hunters and trappers to kill most wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park, leaving only a token population in the park — hardly in keeping with the spirit and intent of the Endangered Species Act. Continue reading

Southwestern bird populations in steep decline

Report shows that even many common species are dwindling

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Global warming threatens ptarmigan habitat in the mountains of the West.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Bird populations are dwindling all over North America, especially in the Southwest, where some species have declined by as much as 48 percent since the late 1960s, according to the 2014 State of the Birds report released last week.

In Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, habitat loss and fragmentation due to development are the largest threats. These are also significant threats in the nation’s grasslands, where breeding birds like the eastern meadowlark and the bobolink have declined by 40 percent since 1968, with the steepest declines coming before 1990, when stakeholders started investing in grassland bird conservation.

And experts say it’s not just rare birds that are vanishing. The report includes a list of 33 common species in steep decline, losing ore than half their global populations over the past four decades — a clear warning sign that birds can undergo a massive population collapse with surprising rapidity. For example, passenger pigeon populations crashed from 2 to 3 billion birds to none in the wild in just 40 years. Continue reading

Report claims Florida’s fast-track permitting for boat launches ignores impacts to manatees

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Florida manatees. bberwyn photo.

Feds consider changing manatee status from endangered to threatened

Staff Report

FRISCO — Gentle, slow-moving manatees are still facing serious threats from motorboats in Florida waterways and should continue be be listed as endangered, according to conservation advocates.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering down-listing manatees, but the move doesn’t make sense, considering that boat collisions are still the leading cause of death, as detailed in a new report issued by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The conservation group charges that federal and state officials have issued permits for thousands of new docks, boat ramps and piers without considering the cumulative effects on the marine mammals who favor the same near-shore waters used by Florida’s recreational boaters. Continue reading

Biodiversity: California blue whales make huge comeback

Naval training exercises off the coast of California could pose a threat to endangered marine mammals.

Conservation works! Protective measures have helped restore blue whale populations in the eastern Pacific.

‘We think the California population has reached the capacity of what the system can take as far as blue whales’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Marine scientists say the population of California blue whales, living the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean from the equator up into the Gulf of Alaska, has rebounded to about 2,200 individuals, which may be near the historic pre-whaling level.

According to the new study, published the journal Marine Mammal Science, it’s the only population of blue whales known to have recovered from whaling after being nearly hunted to extinction.

“The recovery of California blue whales from whaling demonstrates the ability of blue whale populations to rebuild under careful management and conservation measures,” said Cole Monnahan, a University of Washington doctoral student in quantitative ecology and resource management and lead author of the paper. Continue reading

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