Low Lead in Arizona Condors

Condor_bloodwork_webIt’s been a good year for lead levels in condors in Arizona and Utah. While last year saw the second worst levels on record, this year saw the lowest level in a decade, says a press release from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

“The ups and downs of lead poisoning over the years demonstrate that any single season does not make a trend, but our test results are encouraging,” said Eddie Feltes, field manager for The Peregrine Fund’s condor project in the release. “If this ends up being the beginning of a trend, we hope it will continue.”

Arizona Game and Fish, as well as the Peregrine Fund, which also distributed the release, believe that voluntary lead ammunition measures in the two states has contributed to the lower lead levels in condors there. Another factor may be the unseasonably mild winter, the release says.

In an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune, Chris Parish, condor program coordinator for The Peregrine Fund is quoted as saying, “The half life of lead in blood is a very short period. That gives us a relatively good indication of where and when exposure may have happened.”

The Tribune article also says that 78 percent of hunters in condor country who were contacted were voluntarily using non-lead ammunition. In 2011 the number was 10 percent.

More details in the Arizona Game and Fish press release here. (Halfway down the page.)
The same press release is here on its own page at the Peregrine Fund website.
The Salt Lake City Tribune article is here.

Photo: Courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department






Fish and Wildlife to the Rescue

Florida panther kitten FWCFish and Wildlife personnel rescue wildlife all the time. Sometimes they rescue rare wildlife. But this week there were two rescues of critically endangered species in adjoining states. Actually, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staffers were involved in both rescues.

Off the coast of Georgia, a rescue team that included Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologists cut over 100 yards of heavy fishing rope from a 4-year-old male North Atlantic right whale, allowing it to swim more easily. The young whale one of only about 450 remaining North Atlantic right whales.

Read the Georgia Department of Natural Resources press release here.

In Florida, biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida discovered an approximately week-old Florida panther kitten while conducting research at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County in mid-January.

There are 100 to 160 Florida panthers in the wild today, but this kitten will no longer be among them. Because it is too young to have learned survival skills from its mother, it will have to live in captivity. But with a gene pool this small, even captive individuals help with diversity.

Read the Florida Wildlife Commission press release here.

Photo: When you look at this Florida panther kitten, make sure you are thinking, “populations, not individuals.” Photo by Carli Segelson, courtesy Florida Wildlife Commission.


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.

Wiscondsin Adjusts Endangered & Threatened List

Blandings_TurtleFifteen native birds, plants and other animals have been removed from Wisconsin’s endangered and threatened species list effective Jan. 1, 2014, says a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) press release. Eight other species, including the black tern, the federally endangered Kirtland’s warbler, and the upland sandpiper, have been added to the list, the release goes on to say, as well as five invertebrates — the beach-dune tiger beetle, ottoe skipper, a leafhopper, an Issid planthopper, and fawnsfoot mussel.

The 15 species removed from the list include seven animals: the greater redhorse, a fish; the barn owl, snowy egret, and Bewick’s wren; the pygmy snaketail, a dragonfly; and two reptiles, the Blanding’s turtle and Butler’s gartersnake.

While Blanding’s turtle no longer meets the scientific criteria for listing, the release says says, the population is vulnerable to harvest and collection. To address this, the DNR has started a new administrative rule process to add the Blanding’s turtle to the Protected Wild Animals List.

Read the WDNR press release here.
A preliminary draft of the economic impact analysis and a draft of the proposed rule order are available for download at the DNR’s proposed permanent rules page or at Wisconsin’s administrative rules page.

Photo: A Blanding’s turtle in Massachusetts, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Are There Wolves in Maine?

Gray_wolfIt’s not news. Every once in a while someone sees something that either looks like a wolf or is proven to be a wolf in northern Maine. Sometimes this matters, such as when, as it did about 20 years ago, the US Fish and Wildlife Service kicks around the idea of returning wolves to Maine. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter. Most of the time, actually.

But now that the US Fish and Wildlife Service may remove all gray (aka timber) wolves from the federal endangered species list, it may matter if there are wolves in Maine. It may also matter if those wolves are gray wolves or eastern wolves (sometimes known as eastern Canadian wolves).

This column in the Bangor Daily News addresses the questions of whether there are wolves in Maine, whether the wolves that may wander into Maine occasionally are eastern wolves or something else, and why any of this matters.

A blogger for the Boston Globe tackled a similar set of issues back in September.

Read the Bangor Daily News story here.
Read the Boston Globe blog here.

Photo: A gray wolf. Not in Maine. Gary Kramer, USFWS

New Era in Ferret Reintroductions

black-footed ferret closeup

High Country News’s Goat blog says that things are looking up for black-footed ferret reintroductions. It says that safe harbor agreements and new approval from the Colorado state legislature have opened new vistas for the species, which was once widespread across the West and then, in 1979, was thought to be extinct.

If you don’t know the black-footed ferrets’ saga already, the Goat blog has a nice summary, plus all the reasons why having new places to inhabit in Colorado is a good thing. The reintroductions began in late October.

Read the High Country News Goat blog entry, here.

ferret release

Photos: Ferret close up and transport to reintro site, courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region.

Lobbyist-fueled Lizard Monitoring in Texas

dunes sagebrush lizard“Comptroller Susan Combs’ office, of course, knows doodly squat about lizards,” says a Houston Chronicle editorial on the dunes sagebrush lizard, federally listed as a threatened species. The problem is that the Texas state comptroller’s office is in charge of monitoring the lizard population to make sure the stipulations of a free-market habitat conservation plan are being obeyed.

State law forbids the US Fish and Wildlife Service from so much as reviewing the state contractor’s paperwork, an August article in the Chronicle reported. Even stranger, the editorial reports, the comptroller’s office keeps the identities of the landowners participating in the habitat enhancement program a secret.

And of course, because this is Texas, the editorial mentions that independent oil producers are worried that the lobbyist group monitoring the lizards will favor large producers over the independents.

Read the whole editorial in the Houston Chronicle, here.
Read the news article about the lizard monitoring, in the Chronicle’s oil industry news section, here.

Photo: Dunes sagebrush lizard, courtesy USFWS

Fishers Not Found in Wyoming

FisherHabitat models say that there should be fishers in the Wyoming section of the Northern Rocky Mountains, says the Billings Gazette, but a search by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department of the Sunlight Basin, near the Beartooth Mountains, just to the east of Yellowstone National Park did not turn up any fishers.

“We didn’t find any (fishers),” the Billings Gazette article quotes Game and Fish nongame biologist Bob Oakleaf as saying. “What we did find is (pine) marten everywhere.”

It has been about 10 years since the last fisher sighting in the state, the article notes. The Northern Rockies population of fishers had been rejected for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Further searches for the fisher will be conducted next year.

More details about the search, and the history of fishers in Wyoming, are available in the article. Read it on the Billings Gazette website, here.

Photo: Fisher taking bait in Pacific Northwest. Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service.



What is National Wildlife Day?

Today, September 4, is National Wildlife Day. I had never heard of it before, but a Nature Conservancy newsletter that arrived today happened to mention it. It’s been around since 2006.

According to the National Wildlife Day website, the day is brought to us by the Animal Miracle Network. And if you have never heard of that either, that’s because it’s a pet rescue organization. (I could not find any media on any of this that was not a rehash of a press release, or just a press release.)

Again, according to the website, animal advocate Colleen Paige, founder of the Animal Miracle Network, created the day in 2006 to honor Animal Planet star Steve Irwin and the zoos and animal sanctuaries that preserve endangered wildlife and educate the public about their plight.

The website says that National Wildlife Day aims to focus attention on the endangered animals that need to be preserved and rescued. (I would just quote the sentence from the website, but the website denies that use without prior permission, even though it would be “fair use,” under copyright law.) So you can kind of see the train of thought here: rescuing cats and dogs, rescuing wildlife.

Don’t get me wrong, I love zoos, respect their work, and honor the way they allow people to connect with animals. But if this is the point, how about calling it National Zoo Day?

A day devoted to the idea that keeping endangered wildlife captive is a way to protect it is worrisome. This, of course, is just one tool, and a last-ditch one, in a very large toolbox. It feels like the guiding spirit here is the pet-ification of wildlife (my clues are the photos of the founder hugging a wolf and kissing a bear), although it may be simply retro, or even deliberately choosing to focus on this tiny piece of the conservation puzzle even though it’s not the dominant technique.

National Wildlife Day is doing its best to control the message that goes out under its name, which is really too bad. Who can argue against a day to recognize wildlife, except, as is the case, if it focuses on one tiny aspect of wildlife — endangered species — and just one of many techniques for helping those species. As far as I know, it’s not an official day, of the sort recognized by Congress or a state legislature.

In fact, National Wildlife Day didn’t make the “Days of the Year” website (which is just a random website, and is also not official), but the much more mainstream Endangered Species Day (May 16, 2014 — mark your calendars) did.

Read a press release about National Wildlife Day from Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma on the EIN News site, here.

19 New Protected Species in Nova Scotia

plymouth gentianNineteen new species have been added to Nova Scotia’s list of species at risk, bringing the total listed in the province to 60, according to a Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources press release and a CBC News report.

Three bat species are on the list, including the little brown bat, the northern bat and the tri-colored bat, which are all listed as endangered. Three bird species have been added to the list as endangered: the barn swallow, Bicknell’s thrush, Canada warbler, and the rusty blackbird. The olive-sided flycatcher and the eastern whip-or-will have been listed as threatened.

The black ash tree is listed as threatened. There are only 12 known mature trees in the province, the department press release says.

For the complete list of species, see the Nova Scotia DNR website, here. (New species are marked with the year 2013.)

Read the Nova Scotia DNR press release here.
Read the CBC News story here.
The web page with the complete list of at risk species is here.

Photo: The Plymouth gentian has been listed as endangered in Nova Scotia. Courtesy of the Nova Scotia DNR.