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community weblog - [ Animals ]

Should Lake Superior wolves be saved?

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Wildlife quandary: Should Lake Superior wolves be saved?On an island in Lake Superior, biologists are wondering whether to save some very special wolves from extinction by inbreeding, or let nature take its course.

Behind this is the bigger question: What's really natural, anyway?

The wolves are on Isle Royale, a huge island off Thunder Bay, Ont. Because of a twist in the international boundary, it's in U.S. waters, though closer to Canada's mainland.

Canadian animals have colonized it twice. In the early 1900s, moose swam over from the mainland and thrived.  more...



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Eating sea lamprey: They're not bad to stomach after you cut the head off

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051208LAMP1mjg.JPG
There’s two sides to sea lampreys, according to Lars Rudstam, director of the Cornell Biological Field Station in Bridgeport.

On the one hand, they attach themselves using their mouths to the sides or bellies of fish and use their raspy tongues to drill a hole and suck out their host’s bodily fluids. State Department of Environmental Conservation officials noted recently these parasitic, prehistoric-looking aquatic creatures are causing big problems for Cayuga Lake’s trout fishery. ...  more



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Trumpeter swans at risk in shrinking lakes

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The deaths of two trumpeter swans from lead poisoning in Georgian Bay this year are raising questions about the environmental impact of decreasing water levels in the Great Lakes.

The swans, once feared extinct in Ontario, eat aquatic vegetation in the wild or are fed corn by humans. To help them digest their food, the birds swallow stones and pebbles.

But the swans may also accidentally swallow fishing weights or lead shotgun pellets. The ingested lead slowly poisons them until they die, said Sara Street, executive director of the Friends of Wye Marsh.   more...



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Effort at Lake Superior beach aims to help Wisconsin's rarest bird

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If you build it, or at least keep dogs and gulls away, they will come.

That’s the hope along a swath of Lake Superior shoreline in Douglas County this summer under a federally funded program to restore piping plovers, Wisconsin’s rarest bird.

The St. Louis River Alliance is organizing the effort under a five-year, $250,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The diminutive shorebird is seen on occasion passing through the Twin Ports, but no confirmed plover nesting has occurred here in more than 25 years.  more...



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Minnesota's eagle population making a comeback

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ELK RIVER, Minn. (AP) — The National Park Service said bald eagles continue to make a modest comeback in Minnesota, aided by a warm winter and a thriving food supply.

Last month, an unofficial aerial count along the Mississippi River by wildlife officials revealed at least 36 active nests in the 72-mile stretch from Elk River to Hastings. That compares to 28 last year and 30 in 2010, said Bill Route, an eagle project manager for the Park Service.

"The eagle population is increasing and highly productive" in the area, said Route, who cautioned that aerial counting isn't an exact science. more...



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DNR: Expect large numbers of bald eagles

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Bald eagles are migrating back to Minnesota and may be seen in large numbers across parts of the state over the next few weeks, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“It’s definitely time for folks to keep their eyes out,” according to Lisa Gelvin-Innvaer, DNR regional nongame wildlife specialist. “Usually we see these bigger pulses of migrating eagles a little later in March, but it appears that timing may be early for a lot of natural events this year due to the mild winter.”

Only two states, Florida and Alaska, have greater nesting populations of bald eagles than Minnesota. In 2005, researchers estimated there to be more than 1,300 active nests in the state.  more...



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Common tern’s uncommon tale has upturn

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When last we left the common tern, all we knew of the black-and-white water bird was that it was a threatened species blamed for singly quashing plans for a signature bridge over the Niagara River. But things are looking up for this migratory fowl, due to arrive later this month in Buffalo Harbor, where its numbers are flourishing. Buffalo is now believed to be home of the largest tern colony on the Great Lakes, thanks to state efforts to improve nesting grounds along breakwaters in the harbor, according to a report released Tuesday. “They’re thriving in Buffalo,” said Ed Alkiewicz, director of relicensing and implementation for the New York Power Authority. “It’s a success story.”  more...


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Pinery abundant with rare wildlife

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Just an hour and twenty minutes to the west of London on Lake Huron is a unique and beautiful nature preserve -- Pinery Provincial Park.

While many Southwestern Ontario people know the Pinery as a "go to" summer spot for beaches and camping, it offers much to nature enthusiasts through all four seasons.

One of the most important aspects of the Pinery is its oak savanna habitat. Because this is such an unusual form of Carolinian forest it has become home to unique and rare species of plants and animals.

I spoke this week with Alistair MacKenzie who is responsible for natural heritage education and resource management at the park. I was astounded to learn that there are 160 "tracked species." These include plants, insects, birds, and other animals. Some of these species are at risk. The Eastern hog-nosed snake for example is threatened and is protected by both federal and provincial laws.  more...



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Wind project on Lake Ontario shore threatens endangered birds: Nature Canada

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PICTON, Ont. - A proposed wind energy project in Ontario's rural Prince Edward County has ruffled feathers with Nature Canada, which says the turbines would threaten several endangered bird species.

The location of the project at Ostrander Point, on land owned by the province, is "one of the most significant sites for migrating birds in eastern Ontario," the national conservation group says. Every year tens of thousands of birds stop there to refuel, drawn by the unique geography of the area on Lake Ontario's shoreline.

"While Nature Canada recognizes wind energy is an important green energy solution, wind farms in the wrong place can be bad for wildlife."

The group has suggested citizens tell the province's Environment Ministry to refuse the application by Toronto-based Gilead Power Corp. for the project.  more...



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Living with Michigan's wolves

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Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes were recently taken off the endangered species list. Now, the state of Michigan is responsible for managing the wolf population.

Michael Nelson is a professor of environmental ethics at Michigan State University. He’s an author of a new report on people’s attitudes about wolves in Michigan. His report is based on a statewide telephone survey conducted in 2010. 

Nelson says they asked people throughout the state how they felt about the following four statements (on a five point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree):  more...



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Eric Sharp: Good, bad news on lampreys

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While lamprey numbers have been reduced by 90% in the other Great Lakes, they remain high in Lake Erie. Lampreys clamp onto fish, using a tongue like a file to bore into fish and live off their blood and body fluids.

Tests of chemical signals called pheromones prove they can trick sea lampreys to avoid streams that offer good spawning habitat and lure them to streams where baby lampreys won't survive.

"It's hard to see any good news when it comes to invasive species, but the sea lamprey is one case where we're winning the battle," Dr. Marc Gaden said this week during a briefing on new lamprey control efforts by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and other agencies.

That's the good news.

The not-so-good news, at least in the short run, is what the scientists learned when they tried a full-count press on the handful of rivers and creeks that were thought to produce most of the lampreys in Lake Erie.



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Should hunting of sandhill cranes be allowed in Wisconsin?

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Sandhill cranes take flight from a pond east of Mishicot.

With long legs trailing behind in the sky, the sandhill crane announces its arrival with a cry that hearkens back to prehistoric times.Spotted along the river or seen fishing in Fond du Lac County’s abundance of ponds and lakes, the elegant bird has a great following of local enthusiasts who turn out to count them every year. The state is home to the International Crane Foundation.

But the bird’s blissful existence may soon be disturbed by the blast of shotguns. State Rep. Joel Kleefisch, an Oconomowoc Republican and avid duck hunter, began circulating a bill last week that would require the DNR to create a sandhill season. more...


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Leave it to Beavers: City Says They May be Causing Power Outages

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Did the beavers turn out the lights?

A Rochester city official said this week that beavers living along the Clinton River on the city border are likely to blame for some recent power outages in the area. 

But don't rush to blame the river-dwelling mammals just yet: They're just trying to get by.

Deputy City Manager Nik Banda said DTE-contracted crews working this week to clear tree limbs away from power lines have found evidence that beavers chewing cottonwood trees were likely responsible for downed lines.  more...



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Cold weather from the Arctic carries sweet bird species to Northeast Ohio

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ChuckSlusarczykJr.LesserScaup.jpgEvery year around this time I begin receiving different versions of the same question:

Are there any birds worth watching in late fall and winter?

My response is an emphatic Yes! followed by a brief explanation.

As any true birder knows, birding opportunities in Northeast Ohio improve as the temperatures drop, the leaves fall and frost covers our car windshields in the morning.

As the majority of songbirds and shorebirds have departed on the long journeys southward, waterfowl and boreal species begin to arrive in impressive numbers.  more...



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Plovers find Lakeshore great place to nest

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The largest flock of piping plover, an endangered shorebird, in the Great Lakes region summers at the Lakeshore.

However, plover numbers in the Lakeshore slipped in 2011.

According to Lakeshore biologist Sue Jennings, 18 pairs of plovers established nests in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Fifteen nests were found on the mainland and three were on North Manitou Island.

“The recovery of the Great Lakes population is dependent upon survival and recruitment of the nesting pairs located within the Lakeshore,” Jennings said. “Overall, the Great Lakes population is making a slow recovery. However, the population remains fragile and could easily be lost to a single event, such as significant storm, predation, nest disturbance and/or habitat loss.”  more...



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