Biodiversity: Spotted owl populations in steep decline

Spotted owl.

Spotted owl. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Climate change may bolster spotted owl survival in the future

Staff Report

Northern spotted owl populations continue to decline across the Pacific Northwest, researchers said in a new study showing that competition from barred owls, along with habitat destruction and climate change are all factors in population trends.

According to the research, published in The Condor, spotted owls are in decline across all of their range. The findings are based on data from 11 study areas Washington, Oregon and northern California, with a rangewide decline of nearly 4 percent per year between 1985 to 2013. Continue reading

Wildlife: Secret talks open door for taking Northern Rockies grizzlies off the endangered species list

Wildlife activists gear up to fight proposal

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Grizzlies at play. Photo courtesy Kim Fense.

Staff Report

A classic wildlife conservation battle is shaping up in the northern Rockies, with conservation advocates lining up to challenge a state and federal plan to take grizzly bears off the Endangered Species List.

In a Sept. 25 letter, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told state officials in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana that it plans to publish a delisting proposal by the end of the year.

But that move flies in the face of conservation science, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which in a press release expressed concern that the plan could lead to state-supported trophy hunts. The federal government is ignoring increasing bear mortality rates and a declining population, the Center said in a press release.

Via email, a USFWS spokesperson said the agency believes that recovery is based on more than just the number of bears in the ecosystem.

“It depends upon a combination of factors including quantity and quality of habitat, adequate regulatory mechanisms, and a good balance of male and female bears that are well-distributed throughout the ecosystem. 

 “We consider 600 bears to be the lower limit at which there is no management and discretionary mortality is no longer allowable. The goal would be to manage for approximately 674 grizzly bears to ensure a sustainable and resilient population that utilizes the entire available habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  We do not anticipate population numbers to dip down to 600 bears.

” No formal agreements have been made. Any proposal to delist the Yellowstone grizzly bear would require a robust conservation plan and associated regulations for management of the bear post-delisting.  We continue to work with the states and partners on these issues.”

Continue reading

Biologists mark huge step in fight against amphibian-killing fungus

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Boreal toads in Colorado, and other amphibians around the world, may benefit from the results of a new treatment that can eliminate a deadly fungus.

New treatment could help protect vulnerable species

Staff Report

Scientists in the UK and Spain say they’ve developed a way to tackle the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus in a way that could help protect wild populations of amphibians.

Their research is a major breakthrough in the battle against the deadly disease, which has affected over 700 amphibian species worldwide; driving population declines, extirpations and species extinctions across five continents. Continue reading

Watchdogs say Western Governors’ Association is trying to weaken endangered species protections

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Not much love for endangered species like lynx at a recent Western Governors’ Association workshop. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk/Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Recent workshop focused on industry gripes

Staff Report

For the apparent lack of anything productive to do, the Western Governors’s Association is apparently trying to cook up new ways to weaken the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of developers and extractive industries.

The association held a workshop last week, ostensibly to “encourage bipartisan conversations to improve the Endangered Species Act,” but that is just more Orwellian doublespeak, according to watchdog groups, who pointed out that speakers during the meeting “overwhelmingly represented industries and political interests opposed to protections for endangered species.” Continue reading

Bat-killing fungus has spread across 26 states

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A bat displays signs of the deadly white-nose syndrome. Photo via USFWS.

Nebraska officials confirm presence of white-nose syndrome

Staff Report

Bat-killing white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in Nebraska, which means the deadly fungus has now spread to 26 states and five Canadian provinces, wiping out populations of hibernating bats along the way.

“While the presence of the fungus is disappointing, it is not surprising,” said Mike Fritz, a zoologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “With the fungus being present in states around us and the migratory nature of bats, it was probably only a matter of time before it was documented in Nebraska.” Continue reading

Neonicotinoid pesticide impacts extend to wild bees

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Study tracks neonicotinoid pesticide exposure in wild bee populations. @bberwyn photo.

Are native bees at risk from systemic pesticides?

Staff Report

Native wild bees are being exposed to toxic neonicotinoid pesticides, according to new U.S. Geological Survey research in northeastern Colorado.

The research focused on native bees because there is limited information on their exposure to pesticides. In fact, little is known about how toxic these pesticides are to native bee species at the levels detected in the environment.

“We found that the presence and proximity of nearby agricultural fields was an important factor resulting in the exposure of native bees to pesticides,” said USGS scientist Michelle Hladik, the report’s lead author. “Pesticides were detected in the bees caught in grasslands with no known direct pesticide applications.” Continue reading

Genetic study suggests Yellowstone grizzlies are headed toward recovery

An adult grizzly bear in the brush. PHOTO COURTESY THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.

Are grizzlies in Yellowstone headed toward recovery? Photo courtesy USFWS.

USGS researchers track effective population size with DNA sampling

Staff Report

A new genetic study suggests the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem is growing to near the size needed to maintain healthy genetic diversity.

The latest report from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team is sure to add more fuel to the controversy over whether grizzlies should taken off the Endangered Species List, as proposed by federal resource managers. Many conservation biologists say grizzlies are nowhere near recovery and that the move to delist them is based on politics, not science. Continue reading

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