Asian Carp Head North

asian carp map 4-13“Asian carp have harmed the ecosystem, the economy, property, and boaters in the Mississippi River system. The diet of Asian carp overlaps with the diet of native fishes in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, meaning the carp compete directly with native fish for food,” says the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee website.

That website, and other information on Asian carp, emphasize the danger to humans from the carp. The carp are large and jump as high as 10 feet out of the water when startled. Since passing boats startle the fish, they injure boaters.

The focus has been on keeping Asian carp, a term that includes both bighead carp and silver carp out of the Great Lakes, which already has enough invasive species, thank you, and where the carp are expected to do horrible things to the food chain.

This week, however, the bad news is that Asian carp have spread farther north in the Mississippi River. Their eggs have been found as far north as Lynxville, Wisc.

“This discovery means that Asian carp spawned much farther north in the Mississippi than previously recorded,” said Leon Carl, US Geological Survey Midwest Regional Director in a USGS press release. “The presence of eggs in the samples indicates that spawning occurred, but we do not know if eggs hatched and survived or whether future spawning events would result in live fish.”

Read the USGS press release with all the details, here.
Read an article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, based mostly on the press release here.
Another article, in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, also leans heavily on the press release. Read it here.

Map: Asian carp distribution, as of April 2013. Map courtesy of Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee


NYS Creates Recovery Plan for Northern Cricket Frog

Northern_cricket_frog_at_Neal_Smith_National_Wildlife_RefugeThe northern cricket frog is one of New York State’s two endangered amphibians. New York State law does not require recovery plans for endangered species, but the state Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed one for this species, a recent department press release says.

The plan includes conserving appropriate, but unoccupied habitat. The plan also included reintroducing frogs to unoccupied habitat, but only “if suitable habitat still remains, northern cricket frog habitat requirements are understood, and a funded and scientifically sound protocol is in place to monitor northern cricket frog abundance and assess potential causes of decline at any re-introduction site.”

In other words, more research is needed. There is a very brief paragraph about data gaps, and an even briefer one about recovery partnerships. A long list of potential tasks, includes sections on research and recovery tasks.

The comment period on the plan closes a week from today, Feb. 21, 2014.

Download the recovery plan here.
Read the NYS DEC press release about the plan here.
Read a Reptile Magazine article about the plan here.

Photo: Northern cricket frog at  Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. Photo by Sara Hollerich, used courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wyoming Studies Mule Deer and Burbot

wrmdh-deer-on-mat-up-close-gov-del_originalWyoming Game and Fish Department personnel, researchers with the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Wyoming, personnel from the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service, and many volunteers are trapping mule deer for two research projects in southwest Wyoming, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) press release says.

In one region, the department would like to know how many deer travel between Wyoming and Colorado, an important point of information for managing mule deer in both states. In that study, mule deer are netted when they feed at a bait of apple pulp and are fitted with bright yellow numbered ear tags and white vinyl visual collars. Some bucks are fitted with VHF ear tags.

In another region, the deer are netting by helicopter and fitted with GPS collars.

Read all the details, including the time frame of these multi-year studies, in the WGFD press release, here.

WGFD has also teamed up with researchers from the University of Idaho and Trout Unlimited to learn more about an illegally introduced population of burbot (a fish) in the Green River, according to another WGFD press release.

The tricky part is that burbot are native to some watersheds in Wyoming. The research, says the press release, “aims to study the effectiveness of various sampling gears for capturing burbot in flowing water, learn more about how they are potentially affecting this world-class sport fishery and what actions can be taken to prevent such negative impacts.” It notes that in some parts of its native range, burbot are in decline.

Read more in the WGFD press release, here.

Photo: a Wyoming mule deer captured in the second study. Courtesy of Wyoming Game and Fish.

Environmental DNA Survey Reveals Hellbenders

floydwithhellbender_original_cropFrom the Georgia DNR Georgia Wild newsletter:

Eastern hellbenders have become a bit less elusive in north Georgia.

DNA analysis of water samples from 98 sites across the top of the state have provided Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Thomas Floyd a clearer picture of where the massive salamanders are still found in Georgia.

Floyd said the collaborative research with The Orianne Society (“Hellbenders in a bottle,” Sept. 30), part of a larger State Wildlife Grants project aimed at conserving Georgia amphibians and reptiles, “has given us a better idea of hellbender distribution and will allow us to concentrate our conservation efforts.”

That’s good for hellbenders and the scientists who study them (video)….

Hits and misses

The eDNA analysis confirmed the presence of hellbenders at six of 10 historical sites where they had not been seen in at least five years, 13 of 25 streams that had not been physically surveyed before and one site where hellbenders had been reported but researchers had been unable to find them in recent surveys. Also, although what looks like suitable habitat is found in streams that drain into the Chattahoochee, Conasauga, Etowah, Oostanaula and Savannah rivers, samples confirmed the presence of hellbenders only in the Tennessee drainage.

Some results were sobering.

Floyd, who works for DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, said lab analysis showed that DNA amounts at historical sites that tested positive were minimal compared to levels found in streams with healthy populations. Also, eDNA tests did not detect hellbenders in any northwest Georgia stream, including those in the Tennessee basin where the species had been seen before.

“Hellbenders weren’t even detected from a stream stretch where a specimen was found in 2011, which indicates that – like several of the historical sites – the populations there are likely really small and it is uncertain as to whether they can persist into the future,” Floyd said.

He is disappointed by the lack of hits outside the Tennessee drainage, but says the research will lead to more efficient conservation. “We don’t have to expend time, effort and resources surveying, even in really good habitat, where we now know that hellbenders don’t occur.”

Read the rest of the article in Georgia Wild, here.
See a previous Georgia Wild article on hellbenders, here. It details the sampling technique. (And keep following the links back to trace the project to its beginnings.)

Photo: Biologist Thomas Floyd with a hellbender. Ga. DNR

Infection and Capture Fatalities

It happens. An animal is captured for study, is released, but dies soon after. A certain percentage of fatalities is expected in any study where animals are handled. In Chile recently, five fur seal pups died after being captured, AAAS’s ScienceShot reports. There had been no previous fatalities in the four years of the study.

Veterinarians studying the dead pups found they all had a hookworm infection. The infection sent the seals’ adrenal glands into over-drive, stressing their hearts. The researchers say that fieldworkers should not try to capture seals that show signs of chronic infection, which is probably good advice when working with other animals as well.

Read the ScienceShot article here. It includes links to the paper and other information.


Oregon Fish Biologists in Helicopter Crash

Three people were injured when a helicopter carrying two Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists on a salmon spawning ground survey hit a power line and crashed into the river they were surveying on Monday, Oct. 28. None of the injuries were life-threatening, reports said.

News reports say that the pilot was airlifted the hospital and is now in fair condition. The assistant district fisheries biologist, Holly Huchko, suffered a broken back and is in intensive care. Eric Himmelreich, a fisheries habitat biologist, broke two vertebrae in the crash and is now in good condition.

Read the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife press release here.
The KPIC reports contains a video of the helicopter in the river.
The Mail Tribune article focuses on the helicopter.
The Douglas County News-Review has the most detailed report.

Southwestern Naturalist Round-up

southwesternnaturalistcoverHere are some papers from the most recent issue of the Southwestern Naturalist that may be of interest to others outside the region, or of particular interest locally:

Fine-Scale Selection of Habitat by the Lesser Prairie-Chicken. Temperature turns out to be very important.

Consumption of Seeds of Southwestern White Pine by Black Bear. Black bears steal from squirrel caches. Go figure.

Is False Spike (a freshwater mussel) Extinct? First Account of a Very Recently Deceased Individual in Over Thirty Years. This species may still be in Texas.

Horsehair worm: New to the Fauna of Oklahoma. A second species of horsehair worm is discovered in the state.

New Distributional Records for Four Rare Species of Freshwater Mussels in Southwestern Louisiana. It’s not easy being a mussel. These are hanging on.

River Otters Have Cat Disease

euro_otter_by_Catherine_TriggYou may remember toxoplasmosis being the key factor in the deaths of sea otters a few years ago. (If not, find a refresher here.) But what about river otters?

A recent paper in the journal Parasites and Vectors found that 40 percent of the river otter carcases tested in England and Wales were positive for toxoplasmosis. None of the river otters in the study had died of the infection. (The concern, of course, is any sub-lethal effects.)

You can find the full text of the paper in Parasites and Vectors, here.
You can read the press release from the American Bird Conservancy, here.

A similar study on US river otters, specifically North Carolina river otters, was published in 1997. There, 46 percent of the tests were positive. Read the abstract, here.

Ten years later, another study, this one in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, found that river otters who feed in the ocean are more likely to be infected with various human pathogens, including the one that causes toxoplasmosis, if they lived closer to urban areas. You can read the abstract, here.

Photo: Eurasian otter by Catherine Trigg, used courtesy of the American Bird Conservancy

Fingers Crossed for East Coast Salmon

Dams — some built over 200 years ago — cut off Atlantic salmon from their spawning grounds from central Maine to Connecticut. An attempt to bring back the Connecticut River’s salmon has not been successful, but in Maine, on the Kennebec River, salmon surged back when dams were removed.

On the Penobscot River, also in central Maine, a few Atlantic salmon had always returned to the river, but dams blocked the way to most of their spawning grounds, in spite of a fish elevator that helped them past the first dam.

When first two dams on the river are removed, the way will be clear for the salmon to get to most of their historic spawning streams in New England’s second-largest watershed. Here’s a Nature Conservancy Magazine article detailing the situation three years ago.

Here’s an Associated Press story about the removal of the dam, scheduled for Monday, July 22.
And here’s a story from the Lewiston Sun Journal.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s northeastern section blog covered it here and here.

Find stories on last summer’s removal of the Great Works Dam, the second dam upstream from the ocean, here.


USGS River Gauges and Sequestration

river gauge mapOne way for the federal government to save money is to turn off any number of the 7,000 river gauges installed and maintained by the US Geological Survey. Each gauge costs $14,000 to $18,000 a year to maintain, High Country News reports.

High Country News also reports on which river gauges in the West are most likely to be shut because of sequestration or other budget cuts.

We pointed you to an article about Montana’s last minute rescue of some of that state’s river gauges in May. That arrangement lasts until September.

Because river gauges are such a vital tool in managing river ecosystems, we thought you would like to know.

Read the High Country News article, here.
See the USGS map of lost and endangered river gauges, here.

Illustration: River gauge map on July 9, 2013 from USGS