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.

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New Name for White Nose Fungus

WhiteNoseBat_scientist08DNA analysis has revealed the the fungus that causes white nose syndrome in bats is not closely related to the other Geomyces species found in caves. The researchers, who are with the US Forest Service, say that the fungus should be in the genus Pseudogymnoascus instead.

The research will be published in the journal Fungal Biology. The authors note that the difference between the white nose fungus and native fungal species supports the idea that the fungus is not native to North America.

“This research represents more than just a name change,” said Bat Conservation International  director of conservation Mylea Bayless in a US Forest Service press release. “Understanding the evolutionary relationships between this fungus and its cousins in Europe and North America should help us narrow our search for solutions to WNS.”

Read the Fungal Biology paper abstract here. (Fee or subscription required for the full article.)
Read the US Forest Service press release here.
Read the Bat Conservation International newsletter article here.

Photo: courtesy USGS National Wildlife Health Center

Did Bear Poachers Retaliate?

Black bearEarlier this month 11 defendants were sentenced as the result of a four-year undercover investigation of bear poaching in North Carolina and Georgia. The effort, known as Operation Something Bruin, involved two state and three federal agencies.

Of those defendants, only one was actually charged with poaching a black bear. Read the press release on the Operation Something Bruin website.

The Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times reports that authorities are investigating a bear that was killed, painted with the words “Whats Bruin” on its head and paws, and dumped in Buncombe County, NC. The authorities believe the phrase refers to the investigation, the paper says.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service are offering a $3,000 reward for information that leads to a conviction, the Citizen-Times reports, while the NC Wildlife Federation put up an additional $17,000.

Read the Asheville Citizen-Times article, here.
Read the Operation Something Bruin press release, here.

Photo: Just a random black bear. Courtesy of the 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

Federal News Roundup

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has extended the public comment period on the draft policy defining the phrase “significant portion of its range” in the Endangered Species Act, to March 8.
Read the USFWS press release announcing the extension, here.
Read our previous coverage of this topic, here.

The first week in March (March 5) is also the deadline to comment on the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.
You can visit the NFWP Climate Adaptation Strategy website, here.
You can read the entire 115 page public review draft document, here. (PDF)
Or just read the executive summary, here.
Read a Miami Herald article on the subject, here.

Forest Service shieldAt the USDA, the Forest Service has released a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for land management planning for the National Forest System. McClatchy Newspapers article says that the new plan is stronger is some ways, but has a key provision that weakens protection for wildlife. This rule expected to become final in early March.
Read the McClatchy article, here.
Read the Forest Service’s material on the new plan, here.

Bighorn Vaccine Can’t Cure Sheep Lease Controversy

A year ago the Payette National Forest, in west-central Idaho, announced it was going to cut back on leases to domestic sheep ranchers to reduce the risk of a pneumonia-like disease spreading from the domestic sheep to the local, native bighorns.

Earlier this year a Washington State University researcher announced that he had developed a vaccine to protect the bighorns from the disease. That was wonderful news to an Idaho congressman, who introduced a rider to an appropriations bill that would delay the revocation of the sheep grazing leases for five years.

But in a letter to his funders, the WSU researcher said the bighorn vaccine is still 10 years from practical application. (Read more in the Lewiston Tribune.) This week a consortium of wildlife groups urged the congressman to withdraw his rider. (Read about it in the Idaho Statesman.)

The implications are bigger than Payette National Forest. The congressman has said that his rider merely stops other national forests from cutting back on their domestic sheep leases to protect bighorns from disease. (Read about it, again, in the Idaho Statesman.)

Photo by  Ingrid Taylor (http://www.flickr.com/photos/taylar/) Colorado bighorn sheep

Where Trout Is In Doubt

Girl, dad and rainbow trout

A paper published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week says that climate change is bad news for all the trout species in the northern Rocky Mountains, with an average 47 percent decline in total suitable habitat in 70 years. That, the paper says, is because it’s not just the temperature that is changing. How much water flows in rivers and when is changing, as will greater problems from invasive species, such as those that are already keeping native cut-throat trout out of its native range.

The paper’s lead author is with Trout Unlimited, with other authors hailing from the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado State University,  U.S. Geological Survey Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, and the University of Washington, Seattle.

Read the synopsis of the paper on Science Now, here.

Read a newspaper article from the Idaho Statesman, here. And this blog entry on the Idaho Statesman Web site.

And finally, read the paper itself (open access) from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, here.

Photo: Rainbow trout are expected to suffer the least from reductions in suitable habitat due to climate change. Photo by Carl Zitzman, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Northeast bat numbers down in summer too

In this Biodiversity and Conservation paper, a US Forest Service researcher compares the results of an acoustic bat survey performed last summer at Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts to results from four years ago and finds that numbers are down 72 percent.

Photo: A healthy Indiana bat, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service