Elk Update

More Cervid Contraception: GonaCon and ElkIn February, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission collared 11 elk for a study in north-central Nebraska. There are a few more details in this brief KOLN-TV report.

A new elk study in Montana got more coverage. There, 45 cow and 20 bull elk were fitted with tracking collars. Five of those were traditional radio collars, the rest were GPS collars. The two year study will investigate elk movement patterns and food. Read about it in the Ravalli Republic.

In Wyoming, the concern is the potential to spread of chronic wasting disease at the 22 artificial feeding stations run by the state and one at the National Elk Refuge. Read the opinion piece in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, here.

An opinion piece that is getting a lot of buzz ran in the New York Times recently. It says that wolves did not fix the Yellowstone ecosystem by preying on elk and allowing aspen to grow. No, the article says, the Yellowstone ecosystem is broken, and mere wolves can’t fix it. Read the article in the New York Times, here.

Photo of bull elk courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service


Windrows Help Mammal Diversity in Clear-cuts

slash in california m_martinA study out of British Columbia, published in the Journal of Mammalogy, says that creating either large piles or windrows of coarse woody debris during timber harvesting helps forest-specialist small mammal species, such as the red-backed vole, stick around after a clear-cut.

The study found that the piles or windrows of branches and twigs should be at least two meters (six feet) tall and five meters (25 feet) wide to be effective. The piles and windrows were more effective than scattering the branches and twigs evenly across the clear-cut space, the paper says.

Carnivores, such as coyotes, lynx and weasels, were also more likely to stick around in clear-cuts were woody debris had been placed in piles or windrows, the study found. The study also found that there were just as many small mammals in the clear-cuts as there were in the uncut forest. The difference was that in the clear-cuts there were many more generalist species, such as white-footed mice, while the forest specialists had disappeared.

The paper is open access, so read the whole thing in the Journal of Mammalogy, here.

Photo of woody debris or slash being used to stop sediment from flowing into a trout stream. By Jon Jue, courtesy of US Forest Service.

Python Forecast: Cloudy

In 2008 the US Geological Survey published a report that said that the entire southern third of the United States could provide habitat for the invasive Burmese python that has been roiling the Florida Everglades ecoystem.

A recent paper in the journal Integrative Zoology says that occasional hard freezes and widespread winter temperatures that are too low for too many months of the year to allow the snakes to digest food will keep the snakes in the Everglades.

Interestingly, one of the authors of that paper is a python breeder. Another two are with USDA Wildlife Services. The lead author, a professor at a veterinary school testified before Congress in 2009 against listing constrictors as an injurious animal. (The fifth author is an expert in Burmese python digestion.)

Read the article in Integrative Zoology

A previous paper in PLoS ONE reached a similar conclusion, but for a different reason. This paper reasoned that there wasn’t enough marshy habitat north of the Everglades for pythons to spread. One notable finding in that paper was that, given climate change, the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest might someday become warm enough to be suitable habitat for pythons.

The PLoS One paper is open access.

The question is, how big of a worry is pythons crawling their way out of the Everglades into the rest of the South compared to the worry pythons becoming established in some other warm, swampy place in the United States due to the release of unwanted pets?

I would say that pythons crawling north from the Everglades through Disney World to reach the Okefenokee Swamp is a minor concern. Having another area of the US become infested with released pythons is something worth keeping an eye on.

Map: From the original 2008 USGS report. Green shows areas of the continental United States with climate matching that of the pythons’ native range in Asia.

Non-native Species and Democracy

If you have some time and are in the mood for some Big Thoughts, read “What’s a Monkey to Do in Tampa?” which ran in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine. As a Sunday magazine, this is a publication for a general audience, so it is not interested in technical details as much as big ideas.

Writer Jon Mooallem goes way big in the piece, which is, after all about a macaque monkey, not native to North America, fitting it in to the American notion of freedom and a climate of political rancor lacking in a democratic ideal of compromise — that last theme perhaps a needed tie-in considering the monkey’s location and the location of this week’s Republican Convention.

Not mentioned in the article is that in Florida, the land of invasive (that is, harmful) non-native species like pythons, apple snails and melaleucas — monkeys (and there are whole troops of wild monkeys in the state) are relatively benign.

Mooallem is a deft writer, so you will have fun. And the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plays a starring, although not heroic, role.

Read The NY Times “What’s a Monkey to Do in Tampa?” here.

The Ecology of Sound

Once upon a time, scientists studied individual plants and animals. Their mania for collecting specimens shows what they thought was important. More recently, the mania has been for studying the interaction in an ecosystem. But while sounds of individual species have been collected, the idea of studying the ecology of sound is relatively new.

In his research into what he calls “soundscape ecology,” Bryan C. Pijanowski of Purdue University has discovered, for example, that animals divide up the soundscape, each creating sound in one part of the spectrum. Find a pile of information about soundscape ecology on the Purdue Human-Environment Modeling and Analysis Laboratory, here.

There are lots of links on the site, including one to a BioScience article and coverage of the research on National Public Radio.

You may already be using or collecting sounds in your research, and checking out these resources might help you discover a new dimension to studying wildlife sounds.