Stories tagged wildlife

Mar
06
2009

White-Tails in the CIty
White-Tails in the CItyCourtesy mickipicki
For wildlife biologists, most concerns about animal populations revolve around unnatural declines. Due to things like human development, habitat loss, climate change, pollutants and diseases that make animals sick, many wildlife populations are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Some species, however, are undergoing steep increases in population, causing headaches for humans. The recent crash of US Airways flight 1549 due to a bird strike is one extreme example.

Not surprisingly, most of the perceived problems resulting from animal population growth are coming from urban and suburban areas. Scientists are looking for ways to control the booming populations of deer, geese, pigeons and other species that have adapted to the changes humans have made to the environment. Since hunting or trapping is offensive to so many people, biologists are looking for new solutions and think that they may have found one in wildlife birth control.

At the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colorado, biologists have developed a one-a-day contraceptive pill for geese and pigeons, and are working on a one-time injectable contraceptive for white-tailed deer. These wildlife birth control methods work on the same principal as human birth control, disrupting the animal's reproductive cycle or preventing fertilization from occurring.

The whole issue of wildlife population control brings up an interesting paradox. People love animals and nature, or at least, they love the idea of animals and nature as portrayed by the folks at Disney. People also love their yards and gardens, their pets and cars and airplanes, all of which provide ample opportunity for conflict with our furry and feathered friends.

It's worth remembering that many of the animals we consider pests today were once hunted to near extinction, and that it was the efforts of conservation biologists, along with hunters and fisherpeople, that helped to bring back many of these iconic species.

So, is birth control for Bambi really the answer? I'm not sure, though I do have lots of questions, including whether this kind of animal birth control will contribute to the already harmful effects that hormones found in human birth control are having on the environment.

Source: Popular Science

This past weekend's Turkey Days celebration in Frazee, Minn., had a downer of an unplanned event. A black bear that had its head stuck in a plastic food bucket was shot and killed after it got too close to the celebration. Click here for the full details. So what are the lessons we can learn from this situation?

No, not the defunct hockey team. And not the minor league baseball team. No, we're talking about the big, snarly cat kind. No need to introduce dangerous predators into North America – they’re already here!

Mar
30
2008

So cute. So shnuggly. So lethal.: Jax, the mighty hunter, eyes some tasty birdies from his window perch.
So cute. So shnuggly. So lethal.: Jax, the mighty hunter, eyes some tasty birdies from his window perch.Courtesy Gene

As spring approaches (no, really, it is coming! You've got to believe!), house cats everywhere are sniffing at the fresh air coming in under the door, and are just itching to get outside. However, a politician in Boulder, Colorado is trying to pass a law that would require pet owners to keep their cats inside. It may sound funny – or like an unnecessary government intrusion into citizens’ lives—but outdoor cats are a big problem for wildlife. According to the American Bird Conservancy There are some 77 million house cats in America, and a similar number of feral cats. Each year, they kill hundreds of millions of birds, and perhaps a billion small mammals. Many of the prey species are threatened or endangered.

If you own a cat, keep it inside! Or invest in an enclosure so it can enjoy the outdoors without menacing the local wildlife.

Jan
07
2008

Yep, he's pretty wet: But what could have done this to him?
Yep, he's pretty wet: But what could have done this to him?Courtesy ShazzMack
I can’t decide – are dead ducks funny?

I suppose not. But what if the duck died in a really funny way, like from falling in a volcano? Or what if it meant that human kind has finally beaten the expression, and gotten water to stay on a duck’s back?

Because that’s what has happened.

The water thing, not the volcano thing.

Dead ducks have been turning up at Colorado wastewater treatment plants. What’s remarkable about these dead ducks is that their feathers seem to have lost their waterproofing, something that probably lead to their deaths in the first place. You’d think that finally getting water to stay on ducks’ backs would be a cause for celebration, but, unfortunately, wildlife biologists still aren’t sure of exactly what caused the condition. There doesn’t appear to be anything in the water treatment plants themselves that would have taken off the waterproofing, and scientists have ruled out diseases like avian influenza and botulism as potential causes.

Division of Wildlife officials plan to begin an investigation into the Unsettling Case of the Soggy Ducks sometime this week

Nov
14
2007

Get my good side: Bears are showing up much more frequently than expected in a wildlife photo project being conducted along the Appalachian Trail.
Get my good side: Bears are showing up much more frequently than expected in a wildlife photo project being conducted along the Appalachian Trail.Courtesy by grizzbass
Frolicking through the Appalachian Trail wilderness, wildlife for the past six months have been secretly having their photos snapped through a project coordinated through the Smithsonian Institution. And for the most part, the results have been pretty predictable, outside of a few embarrassing images.

Using 50 cameras attached to motion detectors, the project is set up to document wildlife patterns along the trail without the influence of humans being around. Once a month volunteers go to the cameras to collect the digital images and move the cameras to new locations.

Among the findings: deer, very unsurprisingly, have a glazed-over look when getting their picture taken; bear are curious and aggressive; wild horses are still running in the eastern wilderness.

Here's a link to some of the photos that have been captured of animals at night along the trail.

Since starting in the spring, the project has collected about 1,900 images of animals both at daytime and night. And researchers are already learning some things about the changing wildlife conditions in Appalachia. Bear populations are rebounding big time, with bear images being captured at 75 of the 273 camera locations used so far. Also, photos have been taken of species thought to be possibly extinct in the area: the long-tailed weasel, a variety of flying squirrels and bobcats. However, there are also concerns about one species that hasn’t shown up on photos yet: the eastern cougar.

How do these unsuspecting animals cooperate for the camera? It’s all in the nose. Project organizers knew they had to have a way to stop the animals in their tracks to get a photo. They concocted a blend of animal secretions called “the stink” to stop animals in their tracks. That aromatic blend is put on a stick near the camera area to entice the animals to stop for the camera.

To say that the photos are candid might be an understatement. Some mysterious black, fuzzy photos had researchers stumped for a while. Then they realized that bear were using the camera lens as a way to scratch their, um, posteriors.

You don’t need to be Thoreau or Emerson to share your love of the natural world through poetry. The National Wildlife Federation wants your nature-themed haikus! Send them in by June 30th. Select haikus will be posted in next month’s Wildlife Online, but you can publish yours immediately by submitting it to Science Buzz, too. Just click on the title of this post, and then leave a comment with your poem.

Sep
15
2006

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright: Courtesy madcovv
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright: Courtesy madcovv

I was amazed today when I cracked open my new copy of Harper's Magazine. In the Harper's Index feature I discovered this chilling fact about our dwindling world tiger population. There are about as many tigers living in the wild around the world as there are living as pets in the US?! That's simply absurd. These wild animals were not meant to be domesticated and keeping them as pets won't help grow their numbers in the wild.

However, searching around on this topic did lead me to a rather interesting blog focusing on the issues of conservation, specifically through the lens of finance. They recently highlighted China's unique efforts at tiger conservation, which involve breeding tigers in China and shipping them to a fenced-in preserve in South Africa. But most interestingly this blog focusses on some real world situations that can be solved within our current economic system. According to the blog's author:

Good intentions are not enough. We need business models that are financially, institutionally and technically viable, based on evidence, and provide incentives to encourage biodiversity conservation.

I couldn't agree more, so head on over to the Conservation Finance blog and specifically their posts on wildlife conservation to learn more.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission unanimously voted to remove manatees from the state’s endangered species list. The decision was based on increased manatee population along with other factors including the commission no longer considering manatees to be in imminent danger.