First Wild CWD in Iowa

Late 2012 saw first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in captive deer in Iowa, and there has been chronic wasting disease in wild deer in every state bordering Iowa, but Iowa only recorded its first case of CWD in a wild deer in the state in an announcement on April 9.

According to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources press release, “The deer was reported as harvested in Allamakee County during the first shotgun season in early December.”

The state is formulating a response plan and coordinating efforts with nearby Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A report by KTVO says that the gates of the hunting facility in Davis County where the first case of CWD was found two years ago were chained open when the facility was supposed to be quarantined to protect local deer from the disease.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources press release is here.
A Minneapolis Star-Tribune article about the finding is here.
A Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin article is here.
The Des Moines Register article is here.
And the KTVO report is here.


Turtles, Cougars, and Frogs in the Southwest

The current issue of Southwestern Naturalist has several articles that may be of interest to biologists outside of the region.

Yellow mud turtles decline in the Midwest. The largest populations of yellow mud turtles in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri have experienced severe declines. Withdrawal of water from aquifers is the main cause, but the growth of woody plants also plays a role. Read the article, here. (Requires fee or subscription for full article.)
More info on yellow mud turtles from Texas Parks and Wildlife, here.

Cougar habitat in Texas and northern Mexico. Researchers from Sul Ross State University tested a model of current and potential cougar (Puma concolor) in Texas and northern Mexico and found that it worked. Read the article here. (Same for fees or subscription.)

Fungus strikes desert frogs. Chytrid fungus was found in desert oasis frog populations in Baja California Sur. The oases with higher infection rates also had bullfrogs and non-native crayfish. Read the article here.

Also interesting: Western red bats (Lasiurus blossevillii) and Arizona myotis (Myotis occultus) were found on the lower Arizona River after the area was restored. The Arizona myotis had been extirpated from the area, and the western red bat had not be found there previously. Read the article here.

Fungus, But No WNS Symptoms in Iowa Cave

On Wednesday, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources announced that a low level of the fungus that causes white nose syndrome was found on one of the 15 bats swabbed this winter at a tourist cave run by the state. None of the bats seen in the cave appeared to have symptoms of white nose syndrome.

According to the Iowa DNR release, to prevent the fungus from spreading to other caves, “the DNR will be adding mats with disinfection solution that people will walk across after leaving the caves….”

Read the Iowa DNR press release here.
Read an article in the Kansas City InfoZone, here.

The InfoZone story includes a criticism of Iowa DNR by the Center for BioDiversity for keeping the cave open to the public after the fungus was discovered.

You can also read the Center for BioDiversity press release, here.

Photo: Maquoketa Caves State Park, courtesy of Iowa DNR

Iowa Repeals Lead Shot Rule

The Iowa state legislature preempted a rule banning lead shot from the upcoming dove hunting season in Iowa. The state’s governor agreed publicly that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Commission had overstepped its bounds.

An article in the Des Moines Register describes both the debate in Iowa and nationally. Read it here.

A version of the story that ran in USA Today also includes a list of lead shot regulations by state.

See what happened when the Field & Stream blog reported the news, here.

Photo: Mourning dove, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Iowa eagle cam goes viral

Not Iowans, but Alaskan eaglets

The live video feed from the bald eagle nest at the Decorah Fish Hatchery in Iowa has received 11 million hits, and at times has 100,000 viewers. It’s not the eagles, but the number of hits that is the subject of news stories from National Public Radio, the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse (via Yahoo! News). (I had to link to a cached copy of the AP story because it disappeared off the internet.)

The video cam is sponsored by the Raptor Resource Project, a non-profit organization that creates, improves and maintains raptor nests in the Midwest, with the intent of boosting raptor populations. In the AP story, Raptor Resource Project executive director Bob Anderson says that a technology upgrade, funded by the Upper Iowa Audubon Society, may have boosted the site’s hits. This year the site has a better hosting platform and better video quality.

See the feed for yourself, at the Raptor Resource Project Web site (which was a little slow at the time this was posted) or excerpts on its YouTube channel.

It may be time to take advantage of the buzz by promoting your department’s own nest cams. Keep in mind, though, that the video quality on the Decorah eagle cam is the best that I’ve seen in a nest cam, so this news may mean that everyone else will need to upgrade to keep the public’s interest.

Photo: These bald eaglets in Alaska are a little older than the Iowa eagle nestlings were at the time of posting.
Photo credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Grassland predators

Photo courtesy US Fish & Wildlife
The population of dickcissels, a grassland bird, is declining nationwide. Habitat fragmentation is thought to be a key factor. Researchers monitored 33 dickcissel nests in a highly fragmented agricultural landscape in Nebraska and Iowa. They found that 20 nests were completely depredated and that three were partially depredated. The nest predators were:
-nine snakes
-six small mammals
-six raccoons
-two brown-headed cowbirds
-one American mink
One nest was abandoned because of ants. Nine of the 33 nests fledged young. The researchers found the number of snake predators notable.
The study appeared in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology.