Monarch butterfly designated as a national priority species
On January 13, the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) was designated as a new national priority species of Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
With this designation, the monarch butterfly will join species, like the New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) and golden-winged warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera), whose habitat needs are representative of healthy, functioning ecosystems, and where conservation efforts benefit a wide variety of species. In the agencies’ partnership, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners interested in enhancing habitat for these species through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and Conservation Stewardship Program, which are all funded under the Farm Bill. USFWS’ role in the partnership ensures regulatory predictability, which allows participating landowners to continue working their land with NRCS conservation systems in place, regardless of the monarch’s legal status under the Endangered Species Act.
For more information see: http://wildlife.org/monarch-butterfly-designated-as-a-national-priority-species
USFWS and NPS propose changes for grizzly bear management
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plans to lift the Endangered Species Act status of grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) have been delayed due to opposition from activist groups, American Indian tribes, and some scientists. USFWS had planned to finalize a proposal to give management of grizzly bears to state officials and allow for limited hunting by the end of 2016. According to USFWS Assistant Regional Director Michael Thabault, the process could take another six months to allow for review of the 650,000 public comments that were submitted.
The final 2016 Conservation Strategy for Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Grizzly Bears was signed by the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee on Dec. 16, 2016. This finalization does not remove GYE grizzlies from ESA listing, but the Conservation Strategy will guide management and monitoring once the population is deemed recovered and delisted.
For more information, see: http://wildlife.org/usfws-and-nps-propose-changes-for-grizzly-bear-management
Efforts to alter Endangered Species Act continue in 115th Congress
On Jan. 27, Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) introduced H.R. 717 with the intent to alter the process of listing a species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The new bill is a reintroduction of the Listing Reform Act, which Olson unveiled during the 114th Congress but was not voted on by the House Committee on Natural Resources.
H.R. 717 would “require review of the economic cost” of providing a species with protections under the ESA before a listing determination is completed. Currently, economic costs cannot be considered during the listing process, but are an element of critical habitat designations. The proposed changes also include the removal of existing time requirements to make findings on petitioned actions, the addition of a requirement that delisting petitions receive equal priority as listing petitions, and the preclusion of the listing of a species as threatened if the listing would result in “significant, cumulative economic effects” – including those impacts likely to result from the designation of critical habitat. Economic effects considered would include property values, the provision of public services, impacts on business, and State and local government revenues.
For More Information: http://wildlife.org/efforts-to-alter-esa-continue-in-115th-congress
Deregulatory measures advance in Congress
Congress continues to utilize its authority under the Congressional Review Act to overturn federal environmental rules issued late during the Obama administration.
For more information: http://wildlife.org/deregulatory-measures-advance-in-congress
DEC Announces Demonstration Project to Combat Southern Pine Beetle on Long Island
As part of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) aggressive efforts to combat the spread of the invasive Southern Pine Beetle, DEC will soon begin conducting ecological forest operations on Rocky Point Pine Barrens State Forest, DEC announced today.
“The Southern Pine Beetle poses a threat to Long Island’s Pine Barrens and DEC is actively fighting to protect the area from these destructive pests,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “By thinning a portion of this forest, which represents one of DEC’s largest land holdings in the Pine Barrens region, we are potentially saving thousands of trees from this invasive insect.
DEC urges the public to report any recently dead pine they encounter in the Long Island area, especially if there are several trees grouped together. Sightings should be reported to the Forest Health Diagnostic Lab through the toll-free information line, 1-866-640-0652 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. If possible, reports via email should include photos of the trees and close-ups of any damage. An added item in the photo for scale, such as a penny, aids with identification.
A Southern Pine Beetle fact sheet with photos and information related to the recent areas of discovery are available on DEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/99331.html
Are little brown bats developing resistance to white-nose syndrome?
In New York — the first state where the deadly white-nose syndrome was detected in 2006 — biologists recently made a surprising observation: some small populations of the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) are persisting.
This observation, first made in 2012, has prompted biologists to take a close look at the species that has been devastated by the fungal disease caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans.
“This paper and others have shown that little brown bats, which were previously highly abundant in the Northeast, have begun to persist despite white-nose syndrome” said Kate Langwig, lead author of the study published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B and now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Langwig studied the New York bats as part of her graduate work at the University of California Santa Cruz.
But so far, biologists don’t have a good answer why the bats are surviving. “While they were persisting, it wasn’t clear how they were coping with the disease,” she said, adding that these reasons can provide clues to the long-term trajectories of these bat populations.
Longest Feral Cat Exclusion Fence Built in U.S. Completed in Hawaii
Courtesy Washington Post and The Birding Wire
NPS constructs the longest feral cat exclusion fence in the U.S.
The National Park Service, American Bird Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other partners have recently completed construction on the longest cat exclusion fence in the United States. Located on Hawaii's Mauna Loa – the world's largest volcano – the five-mile-long fence is designed to keep feral and free-roaming cats from preying on the endangered Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis). The fence, which encloses 600 acres of the seabirds' nesting area on the volcano, is six feet tall and curves at the top to prevent cats from climbing over.
A 2013 study conducted by the University of Hawaii, the U.S. Geological Survey, and NPS provided the first direct video evidence of feral cats hunting Hawaiian petrels.
Study: Disease Spread by Cats Detected in Minks and Muskrats
Don't let the nickname "cat disease" fool you. A recent study in Champaign, Ill. shows toxoplasmosis, a disease spread by cats, is prevalent in semiaquatic mammals, minks (Neovison vison) and muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) as well.
"Infected cats shed Toxoplasma gondii oocysts in their feces, and these oocysts are picked up by other hosts in the environment," said Adam Ahlers, University of Illinois graduate student and TWS Associate Wildlife Biologist who led the study published last week in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases. "This is an important finding because animals like muskrats and minks spend most of their time in streams and wetlands and rarely encounter cats, so the parasite is likely transferred via runoff from the surrounding landscape."
JWM study: Domestic cat attacks cause variety of wildlife deaths
Cats are a favorite household pet, and sometimes people want to let them outside for some fresh air. But recent research shows that it’s not just mice and rats that domestic cats are hunting and attacking when their owners let them outdoors, but other wildlife as well.
As part of a new study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, researchers completed an 11-year retrospective study in which they looked at the admission rates of wildlife at the Wildlife Center of Virginia that resulted from cat attacks, the largest wildlife rehabilitation center in the state.
More information: http://wildlife.org/jwm-study-domestic-cat-attacks-cause-variety-of-wildlife-deaths
Wildlife populations down nearly 60 percent, says WWF
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) recently released their 10th edition of The Living Planet Report, a document that quantifies trends in global wildlife populations and other aspects of the environment. The report, which relies on data from the Zoological Society of London and other partners, revealed some concerning trends.
This year’s report documented a 58 percent decline in wildlife population abundance between 1970 and 2012. The report predicts that overall population decline could increase to nearly 70 percent within the next five years. Trends were established based on the report’s Living Planet Index, which provides an index of biodiversity by gathering global vertebrate population data and documenting changes in the abundance of those populations over time.
For more information: http://wildlife.org/wildlife-populations-down-nearly-60-percent-says-wwf
More Information: http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/108201.html
Wild Cam: Where are fishers found in New York State?
Fishers haven’t always been prevalent in the central and western parts of New York State. In fact, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, populations declined rapidly due to unregulated trapping and forest fragmentation.
But since then, fisher numbers have increased, due in part to a trapping closure from 1937 to 1949 and the reversion of agricultural fields back into forest lands. In fact, there’s now a harvest season for the valued furbearer in the northern part of the state, and around 2,500 fishers are harvested there each year. Researchers wanted to look into whether there should be a harvest season in the central and western parts of the state as well.
As part of that effort, researchers with Cornell University’s Department of Natural Resources and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation examined fisher occupancy in areas already open to fisher harvests as well as closed areas to determine whether the latter could possibly support a trapping season. While harvest data are typically used to determine
the abundance of species in an area, these particular areas were lacking those data, says TWS member Angela Fuller, who heads the USGS New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit that’s part of the University’s Department of Natural Resources. As a result, the team used camera traps to better understand fisher occupancy at these sites. “The occupancy modeling method is really useful for state wildlife management agencies over large areas at relatively low costs,” Fuller said.
For more information see http://wildlife.org/wild-cam-where-are-fishers-found-in-new-york-state