Tag Archives: North America (news)

Issues pertinent to North America

The Financial Link between Hunting & Fishing and Sustainable Wildlife Populations in the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System

The case for this apparently very successful approach is outlined in a press release dated March 5, 2014, as follows:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced the agency will expand hunting and fishing opportunities throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System, opening up new hunting programs on six refuges and expanding existing hunting and fishing programs on another 20 refuges. The rule also modifies existing refuge-specific regulations for more than 75 additional refuges and wetland management districts.

The Service manages its hunting and fishing programs on refuges to ensure sustainable wildlife populations, while offering traditional wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands.

“For more than a century, hunters and anglers have been the backbone of conservation in this country and a driving force behind the expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “By providing more hunting and fishing opportunities on refuges, we are supporting a great recreational heritage passed down from generation to generation, creating economic growth in local communities and helping to ensure that conservation stays strong in America.”

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service can permit hunting and fishing where they are compatible with the refuge’s purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on more than 335 wildlife refuges. Fishing is permitted on more than 271 wildlife refuges.

“Hunting and fishing are time-honored ways to enjoy the outdoors and teach people to value nature,” said Director Ashe. “Our National Wildlife Refuge System has millions of acres of public land and water to provide quality hunting and fishing experiences. We hope these expanded hunting and fishing programs will allow more Americans to experience this connection with nature.”

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities on national wildlife refuges help stimulate the economy and generate funding for wildlife conservation. Banking on Nature, a Service report released in November, showed refuges pumped $2.4 billion into the economy. Across the country, refuges returned an average $4.87 in total economic output for every $1 appropriated in Fiscal Year 2011.

Other wildlife-dependent recreation on national wildlife refuges includes wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation.

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The press release also contains a list of the refuges affected by the above policy change, one of which — Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge — is here in New York.

Looking Forward to the Arrival of Swallows and Swifts (video)

My inspiration for this post comes directly from the Oakmoss Education blog, where Mary Jo Graham has written an interesting post about tree swallows.

What I would like to do is mention similarities and differences between the swallow family (more technically known as hirundines) in the USA and the swallows and martins in my native Britain, where there are only three such species, compared to America’s eight regular species and two ‘casual’ visitors.

video from BTO explaining how to identify UK hirundines & swifts

Two of these species are found as regular summer visitors in both countries. The bird that Brits call just the ‘swallow’ is known in the USA as the ‘barn swallow’ (Hirundo rustica).  The British birds spend their winters in Africa whereas the American birds head down into South America.  Interestingly, the North European subspecies are always white-breasted, whereas the American birds are a buff or cinnamon color underneath.  I’ve also seen many birds of this species in several African countries where some of them are very bright orange underneath, and I presume these are yet another subspecies — perhaps one that is resident year-round in the so-called  ‘Dark Continent’.

Is it worth knowing these differences, here in the States?  Well, if you travel within North America it might be, because two of the white-breasted, Eurasian subspecies are casual visitors here.  Hirundo rustica rustica and Hirundo rustica gutturalis are both occasionally seen in west and north Alaska, and the latter has also been seen in the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Another hirundine that is found on both sides of the Atalantic is the bank swallow (USA) or sand martin (Britain).  Again, the scientific name — Riparia riparia — shows that these birds are indeed the same species.

Britain’s third member of this family is the house martin (Delichon urbica), which has been seen on both sides of North America: Western Alaska, where it is a casual visitor in spring, and a record of a single bird at an island off the coast of Newfoundland.

Although not closely related to swallows, swifts cause some confusion to new birders.  North America has four regular species, only one of which — the chimney swift — is to be found on the eastern side of the continent.  Britain, on the other hand, only has one — the common swift (Apus apus) — which is an ‘accidental’ visitor to islands off both Alaska and Newfoundland.  Records of visits also exist for Bermuda and (quote) “probably the north east” of the USA.

At last! Satellites track the ‘missing years’ of American turtles’ migration

New insights have been gained into the “lost years” of loggerhead turtles.

Tiny satellite tags have tracked months-old animals in the uncertain period when they leave US coastal waters and head out into the wider Atlantic Ocean.

The data suggests the loggerheads can spend quite some time in the Sargasso Sea, possibly living in amongst floating mats of sargassum seaweed.

The observations are reported in a journal of the Royal Society.

“This has been a fun study because the data suggest the turtles are doing something a little bit unexpected to what everyone had assumed over the past few decades, and it boils down to having the right technology to be able to follow the animals,” said lead author Dr Kate Mansfield from University of Central Florida, Orlando….

But by using flexible mounts and preparation techniques usually found in a manicurist’s salon, Dr Mansfield’s team got the tags to stay on the animals’ shells for up to 220 days.

And it is with this new data that the scientists can see the young turtles dropping out of the gyre’s predominant currents into the middle of the Atlantic – into what is often referred to as the Sargasso Sea….

Read the full and fascinating article from the BBC.

America’s Bats in Danger from a Disease that First Occurred here in Upstate New York

It is quite possible that you have already heard about the White-nose Syndrome that is doing terrible damage to cave-dwelling bats in the USA, but what exactly is it!

According to the USGS, “White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 22 states and five Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease. The disease is named for the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats.”

White-nose  syndrome was first discovered in North America in upstate New York in February 2006,  in  a cave adjoining a commercial cave visited by 200,000 people per year.  The fungus appears to have been introduced to North America  from Europe. It has  been found on cave bats in 12 countries in Europe, where bats appear to be adapted to,  and unaffected by, the fungus.  Because bats do not travel between the  continents, this strongly suggests the fungus was newly introduced to North  America by people — likely cave visitors who transported it on  their gear or clothing.

An estimated 6.7 million bats have died since 2006 because of an outbreak of white-nose syndrome.  It has  wiped out entire colonies and left caves littered with the bones of dead bats.  The epidemic is considered the worst wildlife disease outbreak in North American  history and shows no signs of slowing down. It threatens to drive some bats  extinct and could do real harm to the pest-killing services that bats provide,  worth billions of dollars each year, in the United States. [Source: Center for Biological Diversity]

View photos here.

The latest news articles on this disease are available from White-noseSyndrome.org, here, and this includes the fact that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is awarding $1.4 million in grants for work on the deadly bat disease, with a further $2 million available in a second round of grants.

What can you do to help?

The key things are:

Avoid possible spread of WNS by humans

    • Stay out of caves and mines where bats are known – or suspected – to hibernate (hibernacula) in all states.

Honor cave closures and gated caves.

 Avoid disturbing bats

  • Stay out of all hibernacula when bats are hibernating (winter).

 Be observant

  • Report unusual bat behavior to your state natural resource agency, including bats flying during the day when they should be hibernating (December through March) and bats roosting in sunlight on the outside of structures. More difficult to discern is unusual behavior when bats are not hibernating (April through September); however, bats roosting in the sunlight or flying in the middle of the day would be unusual. Bats unable to fly or struggling to get off the ground would also be unusual.

Click here for further advice.

(Compiled by Eddie Wren, from relevant websites)

The excellent wildlife photography book, ‘BEAR’, by Paul Nicklen (Tuesday evening’s speaker at Kleinhans, in Buffalo)

One of my recent posts was about Paul Nicklen’s National Geographic presentation on Tuesday, March 4th, at Kleinhans, in Buffalo.

Today (March 2), I’ve spent quite some time looking at his excellent wildlife photography book:  ‘BEAR — The Spirit of the Wild’

The cover of Paul Nicklen's book, 'BEAR'
The cover of Paul Nicklen’s book, ‘BEAR’

The introductory description of the book, inside the dust jacket, reads:  “…a powerful visual journey that reveals the private world of the great denizens of the wild north. National Geographic photographer and biologist Paul Nicklen takes readers on a special journey to some of his favorite corners of the planet’s northern latitudes, providing rare and intimate glimpses of bears and portraying them as noble ambassadors of the wild.  Through his unforgettable images and personal narrative, Nicklen strives to show us a different side of bears…” Initially, when I first opened to the book to flick through the photographs, I was a little cautious because some of the first half-dozen images have been pushed to the very limit in terms of printing very small sections of the original file and/or filling a double-page spread, but despite some visible ‘noise’ on those images as a result of this, it cannot be denied that they are still very powerful.  And the good news is that such issues are confined to those initial images; from that point on the quality gets higher and effectively stays there.  Indeed, many of the subsequent images are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Introductory small images of Mr. Nicklen himself, on pages 20-23, show just how close he is prepared to work  to bears and — quite literally — the validity of his approach is put into words by the start of his introduction, on page 19, where he writes: “If you have picked up this book hoping to read about a near-death experience with a bear, you will be deeply dissappointed.  As you will witness through the images and the stories from these great authors, none of us has a terrifying story to tell.  Instead, we have all been greatly inspired by the last true nomads of North America…”

My own favourite images?  Well, I’m going to list the page numbers but there’s a very high chance that your favourites would be different to mine, as they undeniably should be, because we all have different likes.

  • Polar bears: 34-35, 36-37, 40-41, 48, 54-55, 198
  • Grizzlies: 86-87, 88-89, 104-5,  112-13
  • Black bears: 152-3
  • Spirit bears (i.e. white-coloured black bears but they’re not albinos): 166-67, 168-69, 172-73 (same as cover), 178-79

There are some excellent none-bear photographs, too, including several environmental shots — mostly from planes — as well as:

  • narwhals at a large breathing hole, with polar bears watching
  • an outrageously good shot of a ringed seal surfacing
  •  caribou migrating
  •  salmon migrating

Whether or not you are going to Paul Nicklen’s talk in two days’ time — which is not all about bears — you might want to check this book out.  (Barnes & Noble on Niagara Falls Boulevard has a copy in the ‘Nature’ section, by the bow window.)  It is $35.00 but for any keen wildlife watcher or nature photographer it would be a fine addition to one’s library.

The other book by Paul that I know of is called ‘Polar Obsession’, which clearly will be more closely related to his imminent talk (click for further details).

Eddie Wren

How the Reintroduction of Wolves Helped Save Yellowstone National Park

This is one of a series of four-minute video gems from the BBC, under the heading of ‘The Power of Nature’

“Wolves had been absent from Yellowstone National Park for more than 70 years when they were reintroduced in the 1990s – and their return had some surprising benefits….”

Read more and view: How Wolves Saved Yellowstone National Park (sponsored by Nikon cameras)

Two new butterfly species discovered in eastern USA!

Butterflies are probably the best-loved insects. As such, they are relatively well studied, especially in the United States. Eastern parts of the country are explored most thoroughly. The earliest eastern US butterfly species were described by the father of modern taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus himself, over 250 years ago. For the last two and a half centuries, naturalists have been cataloguing the species diversity of eastern butterflies, and every nook and cranny has been searched. Some even say that we have learned everything there is to know about taxonomy of these butterflies.

Intricate satyr (A) and Carolina satyr (B) are very similar in wing patterns despite being more evolutionarily distant from each other, but south Texas satyr (C) is distinguished by smaller eye spots and wavier lines, yet is much closer related to Carolina
Intricate satyr (A) and Carolina satyr (B) are very similar in wing patterns despite being more evolutionarily distant from each other, but south Texas satyr (C) is distinguished by smaller eye spots and wavier lines, yet is much closer related to Carolina

The discovery of a new eastern USA butterfly species is indeed very rare nowadays. It is even more remarkable that Texas researchers discovered not just one but two new species at once. ‘It was completely unexpected’, said Dr. Grishin. ‘We were studying genetics of these butterflies and noticed something very odd. Butterflies looked indistinguishable, were flying together at the same place on the same day, but their DNA molecules were very different from each other. We thought there was some kind of mistake in our experiments.’

But there was no mistake. Segments of DNA sequences obtained from these butterflies, clustered in two groups. While wing patterns in the two groups were indeed very similar, inspection of genitalia revealed profound differences. Males and females from one cluster had larger and paler genitalia, and males and females from the other cluster possessed smaller and darker genitalia, among other numerous distinctions. It became clear that the researchers were dealing with two species, which were not even very closely related to each other, just very similar in wing patterns. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

One of these species is a well-known Carolina Satyr (Hermeuptychia sosybius), discovered two centuries ago, in 1793: a small brown butterfly, just over an inch in wingspan, with eyespots along the edge of wings. It is one of the most common eastern US butterflies and a usual denizen of shaded, wooded areas, hence the name. The other species was new. It was named the “Intricate Satyr” (Hermeuptychia intricata) for ‘the difficulty in recognizing this very distinct species and its intricate ventral wing patterns’, Cong & Grishin write. Initially discovered in Brazos Bend State Park in East Texas, Intricate Satyr is widely distributed all over eastern USA in several states, including Florida and South Carolina. One discovery leads to another. Being curious about genetic makeup of these Satyrs, Cong & Grishin decided to investigate DNA sequences and genitalia of Satyr populations from South Texas. And it immediately paid off. These populations turned out to be another new species, named “South Texas Satyr” (Hermeuptychia hermybius). Interestingly, South Texas Satyr is a close relative of Carolina Satyr, but Intricate Satyr is rather distant from either of them.

This begs a question about how many more new species of eastern butterflies remain to be discovered and currently hide behind their colourful wings? Nobody really knows, but it is clear that nothing can be further from truth than a statement that there is not much new to be learned about North American butterflies.

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Journal Reference:

Qian Cong, Nick Grishin, (2014). A new Hermeuptychia (Lepidoptera, Nymphalidae, Satyrinae) is sympatric and synchronic with H. sosybius in southeast US coastal plains, while another new Hermeuptychia species – not hermes – inhabits south Texas and northeas. ZooKeys, 2014; 379: 43 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.379.6394

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