Nets installed to keep cliff swallows away from a bridge construction zone in Petaluma, California wound up killing dozens of the birds last year, the Press Democrat reports. The construction firm had to pay a $3,525 fine for killing the birds, but now a local conservation organization has won a victory that will force CalTrans and its contractors on the Petaluma bridge project to use hard plastic sheeting instead of netting to keep the birds away during construction.
This was also a somewhat higher year for West Nile virus infection in birds in Saskatchewan. This past summer the CCWHC Western Northern region diagnosed WNV deaths in a Cooper’s hawk, two northern goshawks and two nestling loggerhead shrikes, as well as nine crows. Some diagnostic testing is still pending so those numbers may increase. The death of the loggerhead shrike nestlings is particularly noteworthy as the number of shrikes has declined dramatically throughout their range and in some parts of Canada they face local extinction. In Canada, eastern loggerhead shrikes are considered endangered and prairie loggerhead shrikes are threatened. The population of shrikes has been declining for the last century and the causes for the declines are multiple and varied. As their numbers dwindle, WNV is just one more threat faced by this vulnerable species.
What follows is an overview of wildlife’s role in cleaning up the undead, from carrion eating birds, to carnivores that will go for anything slow-moving, to detritivores like maggots and beetles. It’s got lots of videos, so this is not lunchtime reading.
Our cultural zombie moment is peaking now, so enjoy. But when zombies finally jump the shark, remember, you heard it here first. (Well, second.)
Antibiotic resistance isn’t just for humans and farm animals. An article in Environmental Health News says that antibiotic resistance has been found in crows, gulls, houseflies, moths, foxes, frogs, sharks and whales. You can follow links in the article to get to the journal article with the findings for each of those groups.
The big question raised in the article is, what is the implication for human health? Nobody really knows. But certainly, if you are handling wildlife, these findings give you a reason to be even more cautious. And they certainly have implications for wildlife rehabilitation.
An American Bird Conservancy press release explains how a 2011 windstorm in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area boosted efforts by the Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources to create young forest habitat for the imperiled
“Generally, most people saw the blow-down as massively destructive,” the release quotes Wisconsin DNR Wildlife Biologist Bob Hanson as saying. “However, with the correct management prescription, it actually has provided some great habitat for this potentially endangered species. The shotgun pattern the storm left created new areas of young forest, a requirement of the golden-winged warbler.”
In 2012, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wrote about a coalition of state and federal agencies in the Upper Great Lakes Young Forest Initiative, which aims to help the golden-winged warbler and other birds, such as grouse, that rely on young forest habitat.
On Friday (Oct. 11), Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed the nation’s first law banning the use of lead bullets in hunting into law. The bill was written to slow the decline of the California condor, which ingests the lead bullets when scavenging at hunters’ gut piles or when eating the bodies of animals shot but not killed by hunters. The law contains an escape clause that will revoke the ban if the federal government bans non-lead bullets because of the armor-piercing abilities.
California had previously banned lead bullets in the areas of the state where there are condors. It is the first state in the nation to ban lead bullets.
One odd fact, the bill was signed in a group of 11 bills. Most of the other of the bills in the group focused on gun control. Protests against banning lead bullets for hunting have often portrayed the bill as a gun control measure rather than a wildlife conservation and human health measure.
The announcement was made in Wyoming, an interesting choice, since it is not exactly a hotbed of loon activity. Wyoming is, however, home to one of the many ventures of the study’s funder, Joe Ricketts. BRI was awarded a $6.5 M grant from the new Ricketts Conservation Foundation for the study.
A press release about the announcement sent to Society of Enviromental Journalist members said: “Underlying the Foundation’s mission is the reality that government no longer has sufficient resources to deal effectively with the growing environmental challenges we face. As a result, private individuals and corporations must increasingly shoulder the responsibility of conserving our wildlife and wilderness areas. www.joericketts.com” (The website says, among other things, that Ricketts is a part owner of the Chicago Cubs.)
The press invitation also says: “The loon is a key bioindicator of aquatic integrity for lakes and near shore marine ecosystems. These iconic birds are becoming more exposed and susceptible to serious threats from type E botulism, mercury pollution, lead poisoning, oil spills, and over development.”
Two stories today focus on two different states’ efforts to get lead out of the environment.
An article in the Portland (Maine) Herald Press literally goes behind the scenes of the recent legislative ban on lead fishing gear in Maine, which was passed earlier this year, but won’t totally ban the lead gear until 2017. It goes into the lab of Mark Pokras, a Tufts University professor of wildlife health, who played a role in encouraging that legislation. Pokras has been studying lead poisoning in loons for over 20 years.
Pokras says that lead poisoning is responsible for the deaths of over a third of the loons that find their way to his lab in Massachusetts.
In Minnesota, studies show that a bad shot with a lead bullet (such as one that hits a hip bone), can cause lead to splinter throughout a white tailed deer’s flesh to the extent that it would be difficult, or impossible, to remove all of it. For the sake of public health, and also for the sake of the state’s bald eagles, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages deer hunters to voluntarily use copper bullets.
The article details some of the differences between hunting with copper and lead bullets, which implies that a different technique may be more effective when using copper bullets.
Canadian researchers found that European birds flee before an approaching car at an interval that is consistent with the road’s speed limit, but not with the actual speed of the approaching car. So birds on a highway fled sooner than birds on local, residential roads. The researchers studied roads in three speed categories.