Indentifying and Protecting Wildlife Corridors

A great article in “Outside” magazine was sent to me recently:

The Day We Set the Colorado River Free | Nature | OutsideOnline.com.

about how the Colorado river was released from its last dam so that it could flow all the way to the ocean in the Gulf of California. This has not happened but rarely since 1966 when the Glen Canyon dam was built to create Lake Powell.

Paddle boarding the lower Colorado

Hopes are for more releases in the next 5 years to maintain some riparian restoration efforts in the delta. As water supplies tighten up in the Southwest, and as Big Business and Big Decisions continue to be made in the interest of money and people and people with money, the land itself is busy making its own decisions. Thank you for looking up and away from human business toward the actual life which supports it all. (and saying), “wait, we need rivers to flow to the Ocean for about a million reasons, and a million more we don’t even know yet.”

Detail of

Another article in the “High Country News” about wildlife connectivity in the West:

A new mapping tool shows how states value wildlife — High Country News.

Its nice to get data about critical wildlife habitat out to the world at large, but really, at this point ALL habitat is critical, as wildlife are losing ground, falling out of balance with their predator/prey populations, and coming down with incurable fungal diseases.
With more humans to feed every day, wildlife, and nature in general, takes a back seat to human needs. Some day we may realize that we need wild, intact natural ecosystems in order to grow our food, have clean water, and be in balance with pests and disease.

Read today’s Journal article here:

Hair, DNA used to better determine bear population | Albuquerque Journal News.

on an on-going Black Bear population survey taking place in the Sandia Mts. this summer.

Pathways is participating in this survey, setting and monitoring hair snares in two sections on the north end of Sandia Mt. Volunteers who have been trained in this protocol go out every 2 weeks to check the snares for bear fur, gather and record it, then move the snare to a new location.

Knowing more about the animals who live here will help human beings deepen their relationship with and respect for the other species who have grown with, evolved with,
and shaped this land.

Black Bear

Following up on the last post about the difficulties of documenting wildlife population numbers, this one focuses on one of, if not the largest causes of wildlife mortality, road kill, and how documenting that can help with wildlife conservation. Road kill data are notoriously vague and spotty, and difficult to access; so now with the help of Dr. Anderson from Cal. State Channel Islands in Oxnard, CA, we’ve got, you guessed it, an app! So with a broad set of data on road kill mortality coming in from far and wide, we can start to see which road crossings are most deadly, and for what kinds of wildlife. With hard data in hand, we can then approach the engineers of the State Dept. of Transportation to come up with real world solutions for avoiding animal vehicle collisions.
Download the app. at the CSUCI website and read one of Dr. Anderson’s lectures on fragmentation, roads and wildlife corridors here:

Fragmentation, Roads Wildlife Corridors Part 1 > Roadkill > CSU Channel Islands.

He references many other states besides CA, including New Mexico, and our own “Uncle Dave” Foreman on the subject of roadway impacts to wildlife as well as the “edge effect” that roads have on vegetation, water quality and erosion.

Its people like Dr. Anderson who are making it easier for the public to contribute to science in a way that has meaningful impacts on wildlife conservation. When the science of conservation biology can inform the way our deadly infrastructure is designed, it can help change it to something we can all live with.

Wildlife mortality data:

Between road kill, “removal” killing by State Game and Fish and Federal Fish and Wildlife Services, and legal hunting/trapping, the human caused mortality of wildlife adds up. Add in illegal/out of season hunting (poaching), and the numbers soar even higher. Then there is the natural death of wild animals, and the un-natural death due to human caused degradation and disruption of habitat, water supply, vegetation, etc. So the majority of animal deaths may go undocumented or unseen. Yet each year known numbers can be tallied up and compared to give some clues as to the total population movement. This gets tricky though, as lower total mortality numbers may mean a declining population, or it may mean a growing population, depending on how the killing is taking place. Higher mortality numbers may mean an increasing population, or it may mean a declining one. If the mortality numbers remain constant over a period of years, the population may be steady and “balanced”, or it may be nearing a collapse as the last of its numbers succumbs and is drawn in to human dominated areas. As some big cat population numbers decline, the females can start to kill their own cubs, further weakening total numbers, but maybe as a way to survive themselves for another year.

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The news on Black Bears from the state of NM, so far this year:

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
2014-15 Bear Depredation and Roadkill Update

Compiled by: Rick Winslow, Bear and Cougar Biologist

Note: of 22 total bears killed to date, 6 (27.3%) have been female. This number includes depredation (12) and roadkill (10).
June 12, 2014

http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/recreation/hunting/harvest/documents/061214-depredation-roadkill-update-NMDGF.pdf

And for the past 13 years: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/recreation/hunting/harvest/documents/Annual-Black-Bear-Mortality-Statistics-2001-2013.pdf

And the 2013 data from “Wildlife Services” division of the U.S.D.A. is linked here: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/prog_data/2013/G/Tables/Table%20G_ShortReport.pdf
No Black Bears killed in NM in this report, but 11 cougars were.

All this to highlight the fact that getting reliable documentation on wildlife populations is difficult at best, and nearly impossible for most. This is why most efforts at conservation have focused on habitat improvement and protection, but these data on actual numbers are always important, so when we have the opportunity to document road kill or hunting/trapping data, or sampling DNA from depredation kills, we should do so. All these data can give us clues and further inform the population mystery.

Read the next post to see how all this ties in to something more real than just an intellectual grasp of animal population numbers, and relates to how conservation measures can be taken in a very practical way.

weather pattern, 4/12/14

Amazing, simply amazing.  The confluence between research science, technology, and volunteers on a massive scale yield these, I’ll say it again, amazing, heat maps of bird migration:  Forecasts : BirdCast.

Without waiting for years of study to become published, and then instantly become irrelevant, this “real time” network of volunteers and bird scientists have been putting together easily readable maps and graphs that show how bird migration not only shapes up for this season, week by week, even day by day, but how it compares to other years at the same time.

To say that bird migration depends on the weather is an understatement, birds must follow weather patterns in order to move the distances they need to arrive at feeding and breeding grounds just in time to continue their life cycle.  When those patterns are too early, birds can “hold on” to their current position to avoid being swept away to an area that is still too cold or dormant.  When the wind and weather is too late, birds may be stranded in inhospitable locations.  Even more complicated is when the seasons get mixed up, as in New England this spring, with winter and summer alternating rapidly, too cold, too hot, with “just right” fleeting fast away.

If you want a graphic example, in real time, of  life trying to adapt to a rapidly changing climate regime, the heat maps of e-bird are a good place to look.

Read this timely article by Laura Paskus here:

LAST EXIT: Wildlife dies by the thousands on NM’s highways.

Wildlife warning signs

Thanks Laura for bringing this issue to light in the Reporter; as people become aware of the dangers to wildlife in these “pinch points”, we have a chance to change history for the better, for animals and ourselves.

 

 

 

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