Category: wildlife

Sunday set: Critters

Spiders are cool!

Even though I’m not a wildlife photographer, every now and then, a hapless animal cross in front of my lens. If I’m lucky, I manage to snap the shutter at the right moment to capture a halfway decent image. That always makes me happy, until I remember that humanity’s completely unsustainable approach to life is putting many other species at serious risk of extinction. Pesticides threaten many insects, especially pollinators that are so critical to ensuring a sustainable food supply. Reptiles like turtles are also threatened by impacts to water quality and wetlands, and many other species are being lost because of habitat fragmentation and, of course, climate change. If we can’t find ways to sustain the web of life that sustains us, we’re likely to become an endangered species ourselves. Some people would argue that we already are. Visit the online Summit Voice gallery to purchase landscape and nature prints — a great way to support independent journalism.

Global warming shifts range of showshoe hares

A snowshoe hare. Photo courtesy Kim Fenske.

Reduced snowcover driving species northward

Staff Report

Reduced snow cover driven by global warming is squeezing snowshoe hares out of some parts of the species’ historic range, according to researchers with the University of Madison-Wisconsin. According to the study, the range of the hare in Wisconsin is creeping north by about five and a half miles per decade, closely tracking the diminishing snow cover the animal requires to be successful.

“The snowshoe hare is perfectly modeled for life on snow,” saud Jonathan Pauli, a UW-Madison professor of forest and wildlife ecology and one of the co-authors of the new study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “They’re adapted to glide on top of the snow and to blend in with the historical colors of the landscape.” Continue reading “Global warming shifts range of showshoe hares”

Northern Rockies wolf population holding strong

Annual report documents continued westward spread of wolves into Oregon and Washington

Wolves have established themselves across wide swaths of the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest. Map courtesy USFWS.


Staff Report

Notwithstanding the seemingly never-ending legal wrangles, wolves are holding their own biologically in the Northern Rockies, according to the latest annual report produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and various state and tribal partners.

According to the report, the overall Northern Rockies wolf population is “robust, stable and self-sustaining.” In a year-end tally, the agencies said there are at least 1,704 wolves in 282 packs (including 95 breeding pairs) in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Continue reading “Northern Rockies wolf population holding strong”

Sunday set: Thayatal National Park

Biodiversity along the river …

At about 3,280 acres, Thayatal National Park, in northeastern Austria, is pretty small compared to the vast reaches of the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain national parks. But the deep river valley that forms the border between Austria and Czechoslovakia is rich in biodiversity. Because the Thaya River was part of the Cold War frontier, the forests in steep canyon were relatively undisturbed for decades. Biologists have tallied 1,300 species of plants in the park. Rare bird species like the black stork and horned owl make their home in the dense beech forests. And that’s not all — bobcats, once extirpated across most of central Europe, are making a comeback and biologists have tracked a few of them in this area. New efforts to create wildlife movement corridors in Austria include building vegetated highway overpasses to connect larger areas of good forest habitat. That may enable bobcats to gradually recolonize larger parts of their former range. Read more Summit Voice stories about national parks here.

Is climate change causing sea lion food shortage?

Sea lions may be facing a food shortage in Southern California coastal waters. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Study tracks prey base in Southern California coastal waters

Staff Report

Scientists say the large number of recent juvenile sea lion deaths is probably the result of a combination of factors, including a growing overall population and a decline in high calorie prey in important feeding grounds. The investigation started after large numbers of sea lion pups flooding into animal rescue centers in Southern California the last few years.

The new study took a close look at the abundance of four of the main prey species: sardine, anchovy, rockfish and market squid between 2004-2014. The finding show that both sardines and anchovies — both rich in fat that is vital to the growth of young sea lions — have declined since the mid-2000s in the areas around the Channel Islands where the females forage. That has forced the female sea lions to prey instead on market squid and rockfish, which contain far less fat and fewer calories. Continue reading “Is climate change causing sea lion food shortage?”

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 “Wildlife: Wintry weather to take toll on Colorado mule deer”

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

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