Toilet Vent Screens Save Birds

owl toiletA vault toilet is a more or less a permanent porta-potty, used in places without running water. Many state and federal agencies are fond of them. I’m fairly certain that I’ve used one in a National Forest recently.

The problem is small, cavity nesting birds. They see that pipe, think it’s a cavity, slide down into the pit and are unable to get out. At particular risk are western screech and northern saw whet owls, says a recent USDA blog post.

Recently, the Forest Service’s Wings Across America gave an award to the Teton Raptor Center for its Poo-Poo Project. According to the project’s website: “In 2010, Teton Raptor Center initiated a community driven project to install 100 screens on the ventilation pipes of toilets throughout Grand Teton National Park, as well as the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests.”

Problem solved. Are the vault toilet vents in your state capped?

The Poo Poo project sells the screened vent caps for about $30 each, including hardware and shipping and handling. They offer a bulk rate too. The order form is here.

Here’s the US Forest Service blog post.
Here’s the Poo Poo Project website.

Photo: This is what an owl stuck in a vault toilet looks like. USDA Forest Service photo.


Two Bird Flaps

Bald_EagleAs we reported on the return of snowy owls to the US last week, another part of the story was unfolding. According to news reports, one of the snowies flew into the engine of an airplane and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered airport personnel to shoot any other snowy owls on sight. Two of the owls were shot on Dec. 7.

Read the news reports here:Mother Nature Network (most detailed)
Business Insider
NY Daily News

An uproar ensued, with objections lodged by NYC Audubon and The owls will now be trapped and moved away from the airport.
Read the update in The New York Times, here

Snowy owls aren’t the only raptors gaining attention from their possible deaths this week. Last week the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced new regulations that would extend wind farm’s golden and bald eagle take permits for another 30 years. The original permits were for five years. Among the conservation groups protesting the new regulation are the National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy.

Read the Los Angeles Times story on the controversy here.
Read the US Fish and Wildlife Service press release here.
An Associated Press article in the Seattle Times.

Photo: Bald eagle, Dave Menke, USFWS

Golden Eagles’ Slow Decline at Migration Site

golden eagle usfwsThe Montana Audubon Society reports that the number of golden eagles migrating along Montana’s Bridger Mountains has declined 35 to 40 percent over the last 20 years, according to an article in the Great Falls Tribune.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, golden eagle numbers in the West are stable, the article says. But the persistent decline in numbers of golden eagles counted each year during a raptor migration watch has the state Audubon group concerned.

The raptor count started in 1992, when 1,579 golden eagles were counted. This year the number was 1,131. While the general trend has been a decline, the numbers did spike in 1999 when 1,870 golden eagles were spotted. The survey takes into account bad weather and resident birds.

Read more about the golden eagle situation at the Bridger Mountains in the Great Falls Tribune, here.

Photo: Golden eagle by Donna Dewhurst, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

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.

Vultures As Pollution Sentinels

Turkey_VultureResearchers from the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania have been studying vultures throughout the New World to see if they are effective sentinels for environmental pollutants, such as lead.

The theory, says an Associated Press article that ran in the Havasu News (AZ), is with their ability to eat and digest biological toxins, vultures may be accumulating man-made toxins as well. Testing them for toxins may reveal hot spots that can then be investigated.

A Hawk Mountain Sanctuary blog reveals that they have been at this for ten years. The big news today is that they have expanded the study in to Arizona. The hope is that information from the tough vultures will provide more information on the lead poisoning that is killing the already federally endangered California condors.

Read the Associated Press article here.
Read the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary “Vulture Chronicles” blog here.

Photo: Turkey vulture, by Lee Karney, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Great Gray Owl Study in Wyoming

great gray owlIt seems to be Wyoming week here at State Wildlife News. I hope you’ll forgive one more Wyoming story: The Wyoming Game and Fish Department are partnering with Craighead Beringia South, a non-profit research institute (yeah, them again) to study great gray owls in the Teton/Jackson Hole region, an article in the Jackson Hole News and Guide says.

“Great grays are probably the least-studied species of raptor in North America,” says Bryan Bedrosian, a researcher with Craighead Beringia South, in the article.

Up to 12 owls will be fitted with GPS backpacks for the study, which will evaluate a US Forest Service project that will clear brush and remove dead trees in the region.

Read the Jackson Hole News and Guide article here (on the Craighead Beringia South website).

Photo: Great gray owl in Oregon, by Don Virgovic, courtesy US Forest Service

Two Golden Eagles Killed; One Was In Study

golden eagle usfwsThree golden eagles were recently caught in snare traps in Montana. Two of the eagles were killed, and one of the dead eagles was part of a research project by Craighead Beringia South, a wildlife research and education institute based in Kelly, Wyoming.

The Jackson Hole Daily reports that the dead eagle was one of six golden eagles wearing a GPS backpack since 2010 in a project designed to study golden eagle migration corridors.

An article in the Ravalli Republic says that one of the golden eagles was found dead, the other had to be euthanized and the third is being rehabilitated. The article also notes that golden eagles have been in sharp decline in the region.

Read the Jackson Hole Daily article here.
Read the Ravalli Republic article here.

Photo: Golden eagle in Alaska, by Donna Dewhurst, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Smoothing Ruffled Feathers

It took a long time to sort out, but this week the the federal Justice Department clarified its stand on native people possessing eagle feathers. The policy said that tribal members can possesses or wear feathers from bald or golden eagles. They can also lend, give or trade the feathers or bird parts to other tribal members, as long as money doesn’t change hands.

Further, tribal members can keep eagle feathers that they pick up off the ground, but they can’t kill or harass the federally protected birds to get the feathers. There’s a federal depository for eagles that were accidentally killed, and tribal members can apply to receive feathers or parts from the repository for ceremonial purposes.

The US Fish and Wildlife department also issues a few permits for tribal members to kill eagles for religious purposes.

The Summit County Citizens Voice was the article getting all the buzz. Read the article, here.
You can also check out the Washington Post‘s take on the issue, here.

But now that we have eagle situation solved, other migratory birds are an issue. An Alaskan man was stunned to find out that selling items decorated with bird feathers is illegal, the Anchorage Daily News reports. As a member of the Tlingit nation, he felt that he was just doing what his people had done for generations. He settled the case for a $2,005 fine.

Unfortunately, the article does not clarify how the federal Migratory Bird Act applies to tribal members, but it is likely that the rule is similar to the rule for eagle feathers and parts.

Read the Anchorage Daily News story here.

Photo by Dave Menke, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Condor Reintroduction Reviewed

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department:

A review of the 2007-2011 period of the California condor reintroduction program in northern Arizona and southern Utah was recently completed and identifies a number of successes, including an increase in the free-ranging population, consistent use of seasonal ranges by condors and an increased number of breeding pairs. However, exposure to lead contamination from animal carcasses and gut piles left in the field continues to limit the success of the program. The team made several recommendations to address the lead issue.

You can read the rest of the press release on the AZGFD website, here. It’s the third item on the page.

Go straight to the news with this Peregrine Fund press release. (I think it says exactly the same thing.)

On Saturday (Sept. 29), the reintroduction continues with 17th public release of condors in Arizona since the recovery program began in 1996. At this event three endangered California condors will be released to the wild.

Read more about it in the AZGFD’s Wildlife News. It’s the sixth item from the top and is followed by another release praising Arizona hunters for voluntarily reducing their use of lead bullets to help the condors survive.

Photo: California condor, courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department.

More Details on Protecting Burrowing Owls

Back in 1995, the California Department of Fish and Game released a report on burrowing owls that described how to survey for them and steps that could be taken to mitigate loss of habitat. Yet, the numbers of burrowing owls in California have continued to decline.

A new, 36-page report goes into more detail and incorporates research that has been done since the 1995 report. It includes suggested survey protocols, and buffers for various times of the year.

Read the California Fish and Game press release here.
Find the report itself (a PDF), here.

Photo by Lee Karney, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service