Predator recovery brings new conservation challenges

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Recovering sea lion populations are putting pressure on other endangered species. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘in protecting one species you have to be thinking ahead to account for cascading effects that may impact other species too’

Staff Report

FRISCO — The recovery of major predators in ocean and land ecosystems is leading to new challenges for wildlife managers, as animals like seals and sea lions take a toll on other species — some of them also endangered. In some cases, the recovery also affects human activities.

This conservation paradox requires new management approaches, researchers concluded in a new paper after they studied patterns of predation in the ocean off the Pacific Northwest Coast in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Louisiana black bear recovery hailed as endangered species success story

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Louisiana black bears have recovered and will be taken off the endangered species list. Photo courtesy Brad Young, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Recovery goals met, USFWS proposes delisting

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a textbook case of endangered species conservation,  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists last week said they’ve met their recovery goals for the Louisiana black bear and moved to take the species off the endangered species list.

The subspecies of black bear lives only in Louisiana, East Texas and western Mississippi. It was listed in 1992 because of pressures from hunting and habitat destruction and fragmentation. Now, the agency estimates about 500 and 750 Louisiana black bears roam the region, about double the population size at the time of listing. Continue reading

Wildlife advocates back in court on behalf of wolverines

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Wolverine habitat in the western U.S.

Groups say federal agency erred by denying Endangered Species Act protection

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife advocates are once again heading to federal court to seek Endangered Species Act protection for rare wolverines, a species deemed as vulnerable to global warming because of its dependence on deep spring snow cover for denning and breeding.

Wolverines live in small numbers mainly in the northern Rocky Mountains. The wide-ranging mammals were hunted, trapped and poisoned to near-extinction during the settlement era, and now face a climate whammy that could melt the big snowbanks they need for reproduction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed an endangered species listing in 2013 in a rule supported by the agency’s own scientific reports and by independent review panels, but then reversed course in May 2014, asserting that climate models are not accurate enough to pinpoint threats to wolverine habitat. Continue reading

Arctic rain-on-snow events tilt the ecological playing field

Caption: Arctic foxes in Svalbard will have more than enough food during rainy and icy winters because there will be many reindeer carcasses for them to eat. The next winter, however, the fox population size will be reduced because a robust and small reindeer population will mean many few deaths and hence, very little carrion.Credit: Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology

Arctic foxes in Svalbard will feel the effects of global warming, as rain-on-snow events change the abundance of prey animals. Photo by Brage B. Hansen, NTNU Centre for Conservation Biology.

Norwegian researchers document cascading environmental impacts

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Norwegian scientists say they’ve observed how climate-linked extreme weather events have affected not just single species, but an entire ecological community in the Arctic.

Rain-on-snow events caused synchronized population fluctuations among all vertebrate species in a relatively simple high arctic community, the scientists said after documenting how populations of three species crashed at the same time.

These findings, published in the Jan. 18 issue of Science, may be a bellwether of the radical changes in ecosystem stability that could result from anticipated future increases in extreme events.  Continue reading

Oceans: Study says sharks get a bad rap from media

Sensationalized shark attack stories favored by mass media outlets

A great white shark in California coastal waters. Photo courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Sharks have always been seen as the big, bad wolves of the sea, and despite their critical ecological role as apex predators, they’ve been treated especially harshly by the media.

A new study by Michigan State University researchers shows that the mass media — especially in the U.S. and Australia — favor scare stories about shark attacks over coverage of shark-related conservation issues.

Allowing such articles to dominate the overall news coverage diverts attention from key issues, like declining global shark populations and the risk of extinction, said Meredith Gore, MSU assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife and the School of Criminal Justice. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Lead poisoning still plagues condor recovery

A tagged California condor in flight.

Failure to reduce lead exposure may lead to end of condor restoration effort in Arizona And Utah

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Government conservation biologists say California condors are slowly recovering in Utah and Arizona, with more breeding pairs and consistent use of seasonal ranges — but exposure to lead contamination associated with big game hunting  continues to be a major challenge.

The goal of the California Condor Recovery Plan is to establish two geographically separate, self-sustaining populations – a primary population in California and the other outside of California, each with 150 birds and at least 15 breeding pairs.

But the partner agencies will seriously consider withdrawing support for condor reintroduction efforts in the Southwest if, by the end of 2016, a reduction of extreme lead exposures (blood lead levels) is not achieved and a declining trend in diagnosed lead related mortality and morbidity is not observed. Continue reading

Global warming: California salmon under the gun

Spring-run Chinook salmon, photographed in Butte Creek, upstream from Centerville, Calif., may become extinct in the future due to warming waters. (Allen Harthorn, Friends of Butte Creek/photo) .

Warmer stream temps could force resource managers to choose between fish and hydropower

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Global warming may soon force resource managers in California to choose between maintaining salmon populations or producing hydropower.

That’s because warming streams could spell the end of spring-run Chinook salmon in California by the end of the century, according to a study by scientists at UC Davis, the Stockholm Environment Institute and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Salmon are already under stress from multiple causes, including pollution, and introduced predators and competitors, Thompson said. Even if those problems were solved, temperature alone would finish off the salmon — but that problem can be fixed, said Lisa Thompson, director of the Center for Aquatic Biology and Aquaculture at UC Davis. Continue reading

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