Wolf advocates push for more releases in Gila Wilderness

Photo by John and Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS

More releases of wolves are needed to genetically bolster the population in the wild. Photo by John and Karen Hollingsworth/USFWS.

Letter to feds points out dangers of ‘genetic bottleneck’

Staff Report

Political resistance at the state level shouldn’t deter federal biologists from releasing more Mexican gray wolves into the wild, according to conservation activists, who say that such releases are needed to prevent the wild population from becoming genetically crippled.

In a letter to federal officials, biologists and wildlife advocates urged Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to release at least five more packs of wolves into  the Gila National Forest in New Mexico through the end of this year and into 2016.

The “perilously low” number of breeding pairs makes the wolf population vulnerable to inbreeding depression that could send the population into a downward spiral, more than 40 biologists and conservation groups warned in the Oct. 8 letter. Continue reading

Wildlife thrives around Chernobyl disaster site

‘This doesn’t mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation … are a lot worse’

A family of moose roams free in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Credit Valeriy Yurko/Polessye State Radioecological Reserve

A family of moose in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
Credit: Valeriy Yurko/Polessye State Radioecological Reserve.

Staff Report

Wildlife is thriving in the area around Chernobyl, researchers said in a new study tracking the number of moose, roe deer, red deer, wild boar and wolves in the 1,621-square-mile Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The census data shows there are seven times as many wolves in the area than in nearby uncontaminated reserves, along with growing populations of other species. The area was cleared of humans after a 1986 nuclear reactor disaster that polluted the immediate area, as well as distant fallout zones, with radioactive particles.

“This doesn’t mean radiation is good for wildlife, just that the effects of human habitation, including hunting, farming and forestry, are a lot worse,” said Jim Smith, a professor of environmental science at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. Continue reading

Web commerce speeds invasive plant threat

himalayan balsam

Himalayan balsam was introduced as an ornamental and quickly spread throughout the northern hemisphere where it’s considered an invasive plant that displaces native flora in some areas. Photo courtesy Royal Horticultural Society.

Swiss study tracks online sales of potential invaders

Staff Report

Online commerce is accelerating the invasive species threat worldwide, Swiss reasearchers said last week after taking a close look at at the unbridled market for buying and selling plants on the internet.

These days, all it takes is one click to spread potentially invasive plants from continent to continent – and unintentionally encouraging biological invasions, the researchers said, referring to invaders like goldenrod, Himalayan balsam and the Chinese windmill palm — all of which now threaten native biodiversity in the Alpine republic.

The assess the extent of the problem, ETH Zurich researchers monitoried online trades of about two-thirds of the world’s flora on eBay plus nine other online trading platforms for 50 days, tracking which plant species were offered for sale in various countries, and how often. Continue reading

Feds finalize plan to save country’s most endangered toad


Wyoming toads are listed as extinct in nature by the IUCN. Photo via USFWS.

Wyoming toad has been on endangered species list since 1984

Staff Report

After more than a quarter century on the Endangered Species List, Wyoming toads may have a chance at recovery under a new plan that sets specific targets and requires long-term monitoring.

The once-common toads died off in massive numbers starting in the 1970s, succumbing to a deadly fungal disease that has afflicted amphibians around the world.

Listed as endangered in 1984, the Wyoming toad is considered one of the four most endangered amphibian species in North America and is currently classified as “extinct in the wild” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Approximately 500 individuals are currently held in captivity for breeding and reintroduction efforts. Continue reading

Threatened prairie butterflies get habitat protection


Federal biologists have designated about 46,000 acres of critical habitat for two endangered prairie butterflies. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Preserving prairie remnants could help species survive

Staff Report

With most of their prairie habitat sliced and diced by agricultural development, the  Dakota skipper and Poweshiek skipperling have long been in trouble.

The butterflies were put on the Endangered Species List in 2014, and this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated about 46,000 acres of critical habitat for the two species.

“That these butterflies have survived at all is because of the good stewardship of some of the region’s landowners,” said USFWS Midwest regional director Tom Melius. “We will continue to work with these and other landowners to ensure the conservation of remnant prairie habitat and these prairie butterflies.” Continue reading

Can the Endangered Species Act withstand the GOP assault?

Lynx kittens

Rare species like lynx would face increased threats under GOP proposals to weaken the Endangered Species Act. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Lawmakers rally to block attacks on key environmental law

Staff Report

Conservation-minded lawmakers are rallying to counter the GOP’s seemingly endless attacks on the Endangered Species Act. In a letter to President Barack Obama, 91 members of Congress warned that Republicans are “doubling down” on their efforts to undermine protections for threatened plants and animals.

Led by Arizona Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the lawmakers asked the administration to reject the many proposals that undermine the Endangered Species Act, including those weakening or blocking protections for specific imperiled species. Continue reading

Climate: Too hot for lizards?


Global warming may bake lizard embryos before they have a chance to escape the heat. Photo via USGS.

New study shows lizard habitat could shrink by 48 percent

Staff Report

Climate change is likely to have a big impact on lizards across the United States, researchers warned in a recent paper after studying how warmer temperatures will affect them at all stages of their development.

The scientists found that lizard embryos die when subjected to a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit even for a few minutes. Previous studies may have underestimated the impacts because they didn’t look closely at early life stages, when lizards are immobile and cannot seek shade or cool off when their surrounding soil becomes hot.

Continue reading


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