Wildlife: Wintry weather to take toll on Colorado mule deer

Mule deer enjoying an abundance of January forage as a sustained warm spell has melted low-elevation snowpack in Colorado.

Last year, mild winter conditions eased foraging conditions for ungulates, but this year’s cold temps and deep snow could result in increase mortality. @bberwyn photo.

‘Wildlife has been experiencing and surviving severe weather for eons without human intervention’

Staff Report

Harsh winter conditions in northwestern Colorado may take a toll on already struggling mule deer herds, state biologists said last week, explaining that they’ve started a limited feeding program to try and keep ungulates from invading cattle grazing areas.

The recent storms have created conditions ranking among the most extreme in the past 35 years. Temperatures dropping well below zero and deep powder snow atop brittle crusts are making it harder for deer and elk to forage and could lead to increased wildlife mortality in portions of the region unless the weather moderates significantly, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Continue reading

Increase in Vail-area mountain lion sightings may be caused by humans feeding other wildlife

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Mountain lions are roaming through residential areas around Vail. Photo courtesy CPW.

‘We have lions in the area, and in fact, they have been here for quite some time with very few incidents …’

Staff Report

Colorado wildlife managers say recent sightings of mountain lions around Vail may be the result of humans feeding prey animals, especially foxes. A string of recent lion sightings have a common thread, according to long-time district wildlife manager Bill Andree.

At each location where lion conflicts have been reported, there have also been red foxes present. Andree said it’s possible that people are feeding foxes or allowing trash and other attractants to be available. That can be a major catalyst for serious interactions with mountain lions, he cautioned.

This week, a man walking his dog near Buffehr Creek Road north of Interstate 70 in Vail told wildlife officers that he witnessed his pet come nose to nose with a lion. The dog was not injured in the incident. Less than a mile away, a woman reported that her dog remains missing and although not yet confirmed, evidence indicates a predator may be responsible for its disappearance. Continue reading

Two Mexican gray wolves die during ‘count and capture’ operation

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

A Mexican gray wolf in the wilds of the Blue Range wolf recovery area. Photo courtesy of the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team.

Feds suspend aerial tranquilizing pending necropsy results

Staff Report

Wildlife biologists have temporarily suspended their Mexican gray wolf count and capture operation after two wolves died during the annual population survey.

As part of the wolf recovery effort, wildlife managers tranquilize the wolves from the air to attach radio collars, which gather biological information, such as dispersal, territories, habitat use, and breeding.

This year, two of the wolves died shortly after being tranquilized. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct necropsies at an Oregon lab to determine causes of death for each wolf. Continue reading

Environment: Less light pollution along Florida beaches is good news for sea turtles

A leatherback sea turtle at sea. Photo courtesy NOAA.

A leatherback sea turtle at sea. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Lighting ordinances help protect nesting turtles

Staff Report

Coastal development may still be running rampant in Florida, but there are some signs that a concerted effort to protect sea turtles from at least some of the impacts is paying off.

A study that started as a high school science project suggests that a network of sea turtle-friendly lighting ordinances along Florida’s coast seems to be working by darkening beaches, which is a big deal because scientists already know that sea turtles are disturbed brightly lit areas. The findings fit in with other studies that assess the impacts of light pollution on wildlife.

“Florida’s coastlines are getting darker, and that’s a good thing not just for sea turtles but for other organisms,” said University of Central Floria biology professor John Weishampel, co-author of the study published last week in the journal Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation. “It shows we affect turtles’ nesting, but at the same time we’ve been successful at reducing that effect.” Continue reading

Report offers mixed climate change outlook for pikas

Colorado pika

A Quandary Peak pika enjoys sunny weather. @bberwyn photo.

Some populations likely to blink out because of global warming

Staff Report

Climate change may push pikas out of some western national parks, but they are expected to survive in others, where global warming won’t hit quite so hard, scientists said in a new report.

The tiny mammals are common residents of the alpine zone in the West, but warmer and drier conditions will shrink their habitat in some regions in the coming decades. The study concluded that warmer temperatures in Rocky Mountain National Park will cause habitat suitability and connectivity to decline, making that population “highly vulnerable to extirpation.” Continue reading

Mountain lion kills dog in Vail

A mountain lion in Colorado

Wildlife managers are trying to track a mountain lion that killed a dog in Vail. Photo courtesy CPW.

Wildlife officers will try to track and kill the cougar

Staff Report

A mountain lion that wandered into Vail and ate a dog will probably pay the ultimate price for seeking prey in town. Wildlife officers said that, based on the behavior of the lion, it is considered a threat to human health and safety.

“Anytime a lion hunts and finds cover in a residential area, then continues to remain in the area, that is a cause for concern,” said Area Wildlife Manager Perry Will. “In cases like this, we will not hesitate to take the appropriate action to protect human health and safety.”

That means wildlife officers will try to track the animal and kill it.

“Yes, that is what our officers believe is the best course of action,” said CPW spokesman Mike Porras. Continue reading

Wildlife: Another Oregon wolf moves to California

Room to roam?

OR25, a yearling male in the Imnaha Pack, after being radio-collared on May 20, 2014.  Photo courtesy of ODFW. Download high resolution image.

OR25, a yearling male in the Imnaha Pack, after being radio-collared on May 20, 2014. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Staff Report

The wild mountains, plateaus and forests of northeastern California are becoming a stronghold for wolves dispersing from Oregon.

This week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that yet another wolf — a three-year old male — appears to be “exhibiting dispersal behavior” in Modoc County. Continue reading

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