Updated Prohibited Species List in Oregon

Some reptiles and amphibians are off, and two otter species are on. The Associated Press reported this week that the Oregon Wildlife Integrity Program has updated its list of prohibited species in a three-year long process. The Wildlife Integrity Program is part of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. In some states prohibited species are handled by the department of agriculture or the department of commerce.

The reptiles and amphibians taken off the list are not considered a risk of competing or surviving in Oregon if they escape. Three other amphibian species were kept on the list because they do pose a risk.

The two otters prohibited are the eastern subspecies of North American river otter, and the Asian small-clawed otter.

Read the Associated Press article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for the specific species.


Miss. Dept. Wildlife: Alligators Not Property, Not Nuisance

alligatorThe Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks says that alligators are under its authority, and a Wilkinson County couple should not be able to sue ExxonMobil over the alligators on the oil company’s property because wildlife is not private property, and managing wildlife is the department’s domain, an Associated Press article says. Furthermore, the article says, the department said that, “wild alligators living in their natural habitat do not constitute a nuisance that should be abated.”

The Mississippi couple had filed suit when they found out that the alligators that were coming on to their property were traveling there from the ExxonMobil refinery waste disposal site next door. (Seriously, they bought property next to a refinery waste disposal site and they are worried about… alligators?)

Read the entire AP story in the Columbus Indiana Republic, here.

Photo: courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

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

Rattling support for the eastern massasauga

From the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Conserving the Nature of the Northeast blog:

eastern massasaugasThree years of research, more than $60,000 in funding, and continual habitat manipulation is the secret to resurrecting a degraded swamp in New York into basking habitat for one of the state’s slithering residents.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) is listed as endangered by the state of New York and is a candidate for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. In the meantime, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues working to recover the species.

The massasauga lives in wet areas made of peat layers from years of decomposing plants. The layers hold water like a sponge, with new plants growing on each layer. Just two swamps in the Empire State support the species, but one has been so severely degraded that few massasaugas can actually survive there.

Keep reading…

Photo: Eastern massasauga, courtesy USFWS

More Rattlesnake Fungus

vt rattlesnake studyNashville Public Radio reports that two timber rattlesnakes with heads deformed from a fungus have been found in Tennessee. It’s unclear who the wildlife biologists who are reporting the fungus are (state? university?), but the story quotes Ed Carter, head of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and TWRA biologist Brian Flock.

Read the Nashville Public Radio story here.
A condensed version of the story was distributed by the Associated Press. Read it on the WBIR website, here.

The rattlesnake fungus has devastated the rattlesnake population in neighboring New Hampshire, so the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife isn’t waiting around to find out what’s going on with its own rattlesnakes, which are only found in one area in the western part of the state.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department rattlesnake project leader Doug Blodgett says in a department press release that lesions have been found in rattlesnakes last year and in several other species of snakes in the state.

Read the Vermont Fish and Wildlife press release here.

Photo: Vermont Fish & Wildlife biologist Doug Blodgett carefully examines a timber rattlesnake icheck it for signs of snake fungal disease. Photo by Tom Rogers, Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

Alligators in New York

Seventeen alligators, all about four feet long, have been found on New York’s Long Island in the past 10 months, including three alligators turned in at a reptile pet amnesty event in April. New York Department of Environmental Conservation personnel likely never thought they would become expert alligator handlers.

The most recent alligator sighting was in Calverton, NY on Friday. Read and watch the story from Hudson Valley News 12, here.

But this is only the latest alligator sighting on the eastern end of Long Island. Back in May, the New York Post reported on the cluster of alligator sightings and captures. Read that story here. At the very end there is a map of all the sightings.

The NY Daily News did a story on the three alligators turned in at an amnesty day for illegal reptile pets in April. Read the Daily News story here.

A press release from the NYS DEC 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.

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.

Alligator Violations Soar in Louisiana

The number of alligator related hunting violations has jumped from 60 five years ago to 98 just this year, says an article in Houma Today. Most of the violations are for hunting out of season and for hunting without a license. The article says that most of the violations are in the Terrebonne-Lafourche region, as well as in the parishes of Assumption, St. James, St. John, St. Mary and St. Martin — areas that did not see many violations five years ago. (Parishes are the Louisiana equivalent of counties.)

The article fingers the reality TV show “Swamp People” as the culprit in the rise in scofflaws. The show features alligator hunting, and some of the suspects have admitted to mimicking the behavior of the show’s subjects, while clearly missing some of the, erm, finer details.

If that theory is true, the risk for an increase in alligator hunting violations extends beyond Louisiana to just about everywhere there are alligators in the wild and television sets that get cable channels.

Read the whole article in Houma Today.

Photo: Alligator, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Swine vs. Alligator

Back in the ’70s, ’80s ad ’90s studies showed that feral swine were not major predators of alligator nests, says a paper in the current issue of Southeastern Naturalist. More recently, however, alligator farmers have been complaining that a regional increase in feral swine has lead to an increase in alligator egg predation.

About 590 alligator nests were destroyed on 36 different properties, the paper says. The paper also mentions that trying to reduce the number of feral swine on a property does seem to help alligator nest survival rates.

A PDF on feral swine from the US Geological Survey also includes this statistic as well as a photo of an alligator nest after predation by feral swine.

Read the Southeastern Naturalist article here.
Read the US Geological Survey article here.

Photo: Alligator nest after predation by feral swine. Photo by Jeff Donald, courtesy US Geological Survey