Burying Beetles and Goshawks Up

goshawk-259x300Here’s some good news for a Monday morning.

- Wildlife biologists with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have discovered Northern Goshawks successfully breeding in the State for the first time since 2006. Read the Maryland Department of Natural Resources press release, here.

- A second wild American burying beetle population now calls Nantucket, Massachusetts home, thanks to a successful captive breeding and reintroduction program, which began in 1996 at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. Read this Endangered Species Act Success Story on the US Fish and Wildlife Service website, here. Lots of photos.

Photo: Can I tell you how lucky you are that I went with the goshawk and not the burying beetle grubs? Courtesy of the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources.

Mass. Plans Spring Eagle Survey

Bald_EagleMassachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is changing the timing of its annual survey of eagles from mid-winter to spring, according to a division press release (which I could not find on-line). The change is to better track the state’s growing breeding eagle population, rather than its over-wintering population.

“This is a good time to shift our focus to our growing population of resident, nesting birds,” said Tom French, Assistant Director of Natural Heritage and Endangered Species in the release. “For several years, we have been aware of resident eagles in areas where no nest has ever been found. By shifting annual surveys from midwinter to early spring, we hope to have cooperators and MassWildlife staff locate active nests for all known pairs and visit other bodies of water across the state to look for additional breeding eagles.”

Massachusetts began participating in the national midwinter count in 1979 when only eight bald eagles were reported in Massachusetts, the release says. The new Breeding Eagle Count will be similar to the Midwinter Eagle Survey.

More information on the survey will be available in a future issue of the Division’s MassWildlife News.

Photo by Dave Menke, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

March Roundup of New Research

Spring is here and a bunch of wildlife surveys are underway around the country.

In Delaware:
-It’s the fifth and final year of the Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas.
-A special effort is being made in 2012 to tally owls as part of the atlas.
-Horseshoe crabs are being tallied again, and volunteers are being trained.
-The annual osprey count is offering a volunteer training for the first time since 2007.

Maryland is two years in to four years of surveys for an amphibian and reptile atlas and is looking for volunteers.

In Kansas, they are searching for lesser prairie chicken breeding areas, or leks, from the air with helicopters. Field crews will train on March 29-31 and conduct official survey work across all of western Kansas until the middle of May. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is also asking people to report leks. The survey is part of a five-state effort, and the survey technique will be evaluated.

In North Dakota, the Game and Fish Department has launched a two-year study of white-tailed deer in intensely farmed agricultural areas.

In Maine, biologists at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have visited up to 100 dens each winter for 37 years, making the survey in the nation’s oldest radio-collar monitoring program for bears. This year the Maine Sunday Telegram wrote a story about it, with lots of pics. Read it here.

And in Washington, commuters have been reporting wildlife sightings for over a year on the I-90 corridor in anticipation of road improvements. The project’s first annual report was released recently, generating articles in the Everett Herald  and The Seattle Times, and coverage other media.

Photo of I-90 Wildlife Watch billboard by Paula MacKay/Western Transportation Institute, used by permission.

Ranavirus Hits Maryland

An “alarming number” of tiny box turtles have been found dead in Maryland during a highway-construction relocation study, The Washington Post reports. The cause of death for 26 of the 31 turtles found dead is ranavirus, which shows measles- or herpes-like symptoms in reptiles and amphibians, the article reports.

The virus has also effected local frogs and salamanders, but turtles are the big concern because they breed much more slowly, the article says.

Scott Smith, a wildlife ecologist for Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, is quoted in the article twice, including:

Smith of the Natural Resources Department said state wildlife officials are so concerned that they have applied for research funding from the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians. State budgets are too strapped to fund the necessary research, he said.

Read the entire Washington Post article, here. It includes a link to a video of a gasping box turtle. Seriously.

This Extinction Countdown blog post from Scientific American from 2010, points to these journal articles on ranavirus:
2010 – Animal Conservation
Archives of Virology
Journal of Wildlife Diseases

Photo: Box turtle by Laura Perlick, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

EHD in Maryland

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) was reported in white-tailed deer in Maryland last week, but it seems likely that the outbreak will be short-lived. Biting midges, or no-see-ums, transmit the disease-causing virus, and outbreaks generally end with a hard frost.

Western Maryland, where the two cases of EHD were reported, received about six inches of snow this weekend. That should end the biting midges’ party for the season.

Read the article on the outbreak in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

I couldn’t find a Maryland Department of Natural Resources press release on the outbreak, but the department does have an EHD fact sheet on-line.

As the Herald-Mail article mentions, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a much bigger concern than EHD in this southern-ish state. Here’s our post on CWD in Maryland.

Also, read this previous post on EHD for links to more information on the disease.

Photo: A healthy white-tailed deer. Credit: Ryan Hagerty, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

bog turtle

Actually, “Where are the turtles crossing the road and getting hit by cars?” is the focus of a Massaschusetts citizen science research project, and it is one of several turtle research projects going on in this year of the turtle. For more info, read this article on the Massachusetts turtle road-crossing project in the Springfield Republican.

Here are seven other sources of information on turtles and turtle research:

Maryland Amphibian and Reptile Atlas (MARA), a five year project that began in 2010 and will end in December 2014.

The USA Turtle Mapping Project is being run by the US Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station. It is focusing on seven species of freshwater turtles and tortoises to find out their current ranges.

Not surprisingly, PARC, the creator of Year of the Turtle has a list on its Web site of turtle citizen science projects. It’s a PDF. Here are some of the US-based land- or freshwater turtle projects on the list that aren’t already mentioned:
Blanding’s Turtle Research – Great Meadows, Massachusetts
Gopher Tortoise Tracker – Volusia County, Florida
Lake George Turtle Monitoring Program – Lake George, New York
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Neighborhood Box Turtle Watch
Western Pond Turtle Presence, Absence Monitoring Project -Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, California
Texas Turtle Watch 

Another resource on the PARC Year of the Turtle site is an Excel spreadsheet of 87 relocation, reintroduction, translocation, and headstarting projects. Turtles make up more than half of these projects, the rest are for other reptiles and amphibians. The idea, the site says, is to allow scientists running similar projects to get inside information on what worked and what didn’t so future projects can build on the past.

When it comes to turtles, the news is pretty bad, but it’s not all bad news. In June so many diamondback terrapins headed upland from Jamaica Bay in New York City that a runway at Kennedy Airport was closed. Here’s a news story, and background information from the journal Science.

We don’t normally cover research outside the US, but since we gave wildfires in the West so much coverage earlier this year, and because it is the year of the turtle here’s an exception. A paper in the journal Biological Conservation says that a species of tortoise in Spain can withstand wildfires every 30 years or so and still maintain its population levels. Read an article about the study in Science Daily, or the whole paper in Biological Conservation (or rather, read a free abstract and pay for the whole paper).

Finally, don’t forget our mini round-up of box turtle data earlier this year. You can find that post here.

Photo: Box turtle Credit: Laura Perlick, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife

Deer Contraception in Maryland

Maryland has approved the use of the contraceptive GonaCon for white-tailed deer. It is the first state to do so. The deer must be sedated so they can be injected with the drug, and EPA regulations require the treated deer to be tagged. (Hunters are warned not to eat the meat of the treated deer.) The estimated cost of treating each deer is $1,000. Because of the expense, the treatment is not expected to be used often, and then only in suburban and urban areas under special circumstances.

The Cumberland (Md.) Times-News reported the story. NBC News in Washington has a news brief based on the story.

The USDA has a fact sheet on GonaCon. It is listed as the producer of the drug in the EPA’s fact sheet. The USDA fact sheet notes: “In 2006, the regulatory authority for contraceptives for wildlife and feral animals was moved from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).” The USDA fact sheet has links to further information on GonaCon.

GonaCon can be used in other mammals, and has been tested in ground squirrels in California.

Photo: Steve Hillebrand, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife

Banning felt waders

Maryland, Vermont, and Alaska are the first states to ban felt-bottomed fishing waders in an effort to slow the spread of the algae known as didymo, and other invasive species. (Well, the Alaskan ban doesn’t take effect until next year, but it is on the books.)

Idaho and Oregon tried to ban felt waders, but the legislation didn’t pass, reports this USA Today story on the wader ban. Nevada will consider a ban as part of an invasive species plan, the article says.

Missouri has taken another route. It is using wader washers at the state’s four trout parks. Read all about it in the Missouri Department of Conservation press release. Info about the wader wash stations is half-way down, below the list of phone numbers. One Ozark skeptic opines here, but gives many more details about Missouri’s attempt to slow didymo by educating anglers.

Photo: What’s on your waders? A biologist conducts a fisheries survey in Wyoming. Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

CWD in Maryland

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been reported in Maryland. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported last week that a white-tailed deer killed by a hunter last November in Green Ridge State Forest has tested positive for CWD. (Google Maps reveals that this state forest is in the Maryland panhandle, that little strip of Maryland between West Virginia and Pennsylvania.)

The Maryland DNR press release includes a link to the state’s 10-page long CWD response plan. (Actually, it’s two clicks away.)

The Baltimore Sun covered the story. Since the news broke, it also reported stories that the state’s deer harvest dropped below 100,000 for the first time in three years. And that a privately-funded research project is exploring the surgical sterilization of suburban deer.

Lack of photo: Sorry, but there are only so many pictures of CWD-stricken deer I can post in a week. This is Maryland’s state flag.