Wolf-Coyote Hybrids

New Mexico Withdraws From Wolf Recovery ProgramWhat is an Eastern coyote? One theory holds that it is a wolf-coyote hybrid formed when Midwestern coyotes crossed through Canada and mated with Eastern wolves.

Recently, scientists from the US Geological Survey, the St. Louis Zoo, the US Department of Agriculture published a paper in PLoS ONE describing their successful attempts to breed Western wolves and Western coyotes.

The research has implications for the management of Eastern coyotes, and may also answer some questions about the taxonomy of North American wolves. The PLoS One paper offers an excellent backgrounder on the questions surrounding Eastern coyote and wolf genetics in its introduction.

Read a press release from the US Geological Survey, here.
Read the PLoS ONE paper here. It is open access.

Photo: A wolf pup. Not a hybrid.


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.

Indiana Bats Need Forests

Bat_Indiana_A000A paper in the recent issue of The Journal of Wildlife Management says that Indiana bats can survive in areas with a high percentage of agricultural land, but that they strongly prefer both wooded and riparian areas. The paper says that they will fly more than a kilometer over open farm fields to reach a wooded area.

How small of a forest is too small for Indiana bats? The paper doesn’t cover that question, but it does raise the issue.

The Indiana bat is federally endangered species that is also threatened by white nose syndrome.

Read the abstract in The Journal of Wildlife Management here. The full paper requires a fee or a subscription.

Photo: Indiana bat, courtesy USFWS

Can Roadside Weeds Save the Monarch?

Monarch_butterflyThe number of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico has plummeted in the last two years. Many factors are involved, but widespread use of glyphosate (an herbicide) is one cause that’s under human control.

The development of genetically modified plants that resist glyphosate is often sited as one of the causes of monarch butterfly decline. Because agricultural fields can now be liberally covered with the chemical, the little patches of milkweed that once thrived on on the edges of farm fields throughout the Midwest are now gone, taking the monarch caterpillar’s food source with them.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Natural Resources Defense Council has filed a petition with the US Environmental Protection Agency asking that glyphosate not be spread on highway margins and utility rights of way to allow milkweed to grow there, as long as human safety isn’t compromised. It also asked that farmers establish glyphosate-free zones in their fields.

Read the entire article in The Los Angeles Times, here.

Photo: Monarch butterfly, Mark Musselman, USFWS

Bats and Wildfire

gray bat 2After the Wallow Fire, Arizona’s largest wildfire, burned 538,000 acres, a half-dozen biologists lead by Northern Arizona University researchers came in to study bats’ reaction to the changed ecosystem, an article in Bats Magazine, the magazine of Bat Conservation International, says.

It was no surprise that the team found that bats prefer unburned habitat to burned habitat. It was a little surprising that while bats generally avoided burned over areas, they would roost in burned snags. How burned a particular tree is compared to the other trees in the area seems to play a role in which burned snags are chosen as roosts.

The study will continue this summer.

Read more about the study and the bats’ roost selection criteria in the article in Bats Magazine article “Bats in the Burns,” here.

Photo: Photoshopped bat art, from  US Fish and Wildlife Service photo of a gray bat


More Feral Hog News

feral swine pigletIf you just can’t get enough feral hog news, eXtension, a network of university extension services has a resource for you: the Feral Hog Community of Practice Facebook page. This page not only has what has to be every single newspaper article published on feral hogs from across the country, also has expert tracking or trapping tips, and the occasional link to webinars and podcasts.

Visit the Feral Hog Community of Practice Facebook page here.

Photo:  A feral swine piglet. By Steve Hillebrand, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Ohio Waterfowl Were Poisoned

Ducks vs. EthanolHow do I put this nicely? Ducks drop dead every day. So do geese, grebes and other waterfowl. Several diseases, such as avian cholera, are capable of sweeping through large flocks, leaving many bodies behind. Most stories about waterfowl deaths end in the cause being something quite natural, if unpleasant for the neighbors.

That’s why this story out of Ohio is odd. About 50 mallards, domestic cross-breeds and Canada geese were poisoned in an urban area. Little blue pellets of poison were found. No suspects yet.

The NBC4i story has more details.
The WCBE story gets right to the point.

Photo: A healthy mallard duck drake, no where near Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Erwin and Peggy Bauer, courtesy USFWS

Mass. Court Upholds Priority Habitat

BOX TURTLE 2A central Massachusetts land owner sued for the right to build on his property without restriction, despite the fact that the land was deemed “priority habitat” for the state endangered Eastern box turtle. The case was first heard in court in 2009.

Last week the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled against landowner, upholding the concept of priority habitat in the state. The landowner, however, did not argue that his land was not actually habitat for the turtle (although that is implied in the newspaper articles about the case), but that the Department of Fish and Game’s use of a “priority habitat” designation and rules was not found in the state’s endangered species law.

Because the legal case splits the difference between state law and agency regulations, the local newspaper’s coverage dives right in to all the hairsplitting details. There are many lessons here for state wildlife agencies regarding habitat designations for endangered species, although the big lesson seems to be if a rich guy wants to build his retirement home on endangered species habitat, expect a stink.

The tone of the articles favors the landowner, and it appears that many readers missed the point that the landowner has always been allowed to build on the land, but there are conditions he objects to. It also appears that the land was known box turtle habitat before the landowner purchased it.

The Springfield Republican article announcing last week’s verdict.
A past article by the Republican on the case.

Photo: Box turtle, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Journal of Mammalogy

journal of mammalogy 2-14Here are the articles of interest in the most recent issue of the Journal of Mammalogy:

If you are in javalina country, learn more about where to find them, based on research in the southern San Andres Mountains, New Mexico

If you have an interest in Great Plains pocket mice, their taxonomy may be more confusing that you think.

If you work at high elevation, it may interest you that pikas may survive by eating things they usually don’t.

How will climate change effect the ecology of the Great Plains? Voles are strongly affected by snow cover, otherwise, it looks like other factors are more important to rodent survival.

If you are concerned with invasive species, particularly honeysuckle, white-footed mice will eat just about any native species before they go for the fruits of an invasive honeysuckle species.

If you work with Indiana bats: they congregate in larger numbers during colder winters, possibly tipped off by late summer weather patterns.

If you work with brown bears: even when they are able to eat an all-protein diet, they will select foods that keep the protein balance in line with the percentage found in other omnivores.

Or, read the entire issue. A subscription or fee is required to get beyond the abstracts.

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.