Category: Environment

Our Oregon wolves

A very close relative to the domestic dog.

Indeed until a short time ago it was thought that the dog evolved from the grey wolf but recently I read that the dog evolved as its own species.

But the following is a republication of an article on Oregon Wild about wolves returning to the State of Oregon.

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Wolves in Oregon

Gray wolves (Canis lupus) were once common in Oregon, occupying most of the state. However, a deliberate effort to eradicate the species was successful by the late 1940s.

In fact, trouble for wolves began almost 100 years earlier, in the years before Oregon became a state. In 1843 the first wolf bounty was established and Oregon’s first legislative session was called in part to address the “problem of marauding wolves.” By 1913, people could collect a $5 state bounty and an Oregon State Game Commission bounty of $20. The last recorded wolf bounty was paid out in 1947.

After an absence of over half a century, wolves began to take their first tentative steps towards recovery. Having dispersed from Idaho, the native species is once again trying to make a home in Oregon. One of the first sightings came in 1999 when a lone wolf was captured near the middle fork of the John Day River, put in a crate and quickly returned to Idaho by government wildlife agents. In 2000, two wolves were found dead – one killed by a car, the other illegally shot.

In 2006, a flurry of sightings led biologists to believe a number of wild wolves were living in Northeast Oregon near the Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Sadly, a wolf found shot to death near La Grande in May 2007 clearly indicated wolves had arrived in the area.

After that sad chapter, wolves began to establish a fragile foothold in the state. In July 2008 pups were confirmed to a wolf named Sophie by the Oregon Wild wolf pack (and B-300 to government biologists). Those pups represented the first wolves in Oregon in nearly 60 years! A second set of six pups were confirmed and videotaped in November 2009. The following July, a third litter of pups was confirmed.

Unfortunately, the news was tempered with additional poaching and heavy-handed state management. After peaking at 26 confirmed wolves, wolf recovery stalled out in 2011. While some wolves dispersed from the Imnaha Pack, only one pup was confirmed to Oregon’s best-known pack, and two pups were confirmed in one of the state’s other two packs (the Walla Walla and Wenaha). Oregon’s confirmed wolf population fell to 17, and then to 14, when the state killed three more wolves (two on purpose) and poachers killed a fourth.

In 2011, wolves in Eastern Oregon lost their federal protections due to an unprecedented congressional budget rider sponsored by Montana Sen. John Tester. Hours later,  Oregon used their new authority to kill two wolves and issue dozens of landowner kill permits at the request of the livestock industry.

Meanwhile, anti-wildlife interests and their political allies pushed over half a dozen bills in Salem aimed at making it easier to kill wolves and undermine wolf recovery. Most of the bills were defeated, but a compensation fund and new predator killing fund were approved.

Wolf hunts in nearby states also threaten the region’s fragile recovery. When wolves were federally delisted the region was home to an estimated population of about 1,700 wolves. Over 1,000 were killed in the first two seasons alone.

The large tracts of pristine and unspoiled Wilderness and roadless areas in Northeast Oregon are vital components in the successful recovery of wolves, and other wildlife too. (Ed: see the photograph below of the wild lands of Oregon.) The reappearance of wolves, wolverines, and other endangered wildlife in Oregon further underscores the importance of protecting those roadless areas that remain on public land.

Anticipating the eventual return of wolves, the state of Oregon completed a Wolf Conservation and Management Plan in 2005 aimed at making rational decisions in the light of day that would lead to wolf recovery. Though state polling put support for wolf recovery at over 70 percent, the plan was weak, allowed the state to kill wolves, and set scientifically indefensible recovery goals.

Even so, the plan was actively opposed by the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. They argued in their minority report that “wolves are being used as a biological weapon” and that wolves are a non-native species that citizens should have the right to shoot without permits. 

Oregon Wild and other conservationists generally – if reluctantly – agreed to honor the compromise embodied in the plan. Most believed lethal control would be an option of last resort and conservation would be a priority.

After the state shot two young wolves in response to the first livestock depredations in over half a century, it was clear the state was willing to address the concerns of the livestock industry by killing wolves.

In 2010, the plan was reviewed and revised. The public process took the better part of a year and demonstrated that support for wolf recovery had grown. Over 90 percent of a staggering 20,000 public comments were in favor of stronger protections for Oregon’s endangered gray wolves. Oregon Wild joined other conservationists and the Oregon public in defending the plan against continued attacks. Though the plan survived relatively intact, most of the approved changes made it easier to kill wolves. 

In 2011, a lone wolf from the Imnaha Pack generated international headlines when he became the first in Western Oregon since 1947, and then the first in California in nearly a century. The story of Journey (OR-7) provided a welcome opportunity to step away from the unnecessary controversy manufactured by those opposed to wolf recovery and instead reflect on the positive story of a native species retaking its rightful place on the landscape.

Since 2012, wolf recovery in Oregon has slowly started to get back on track. Although the population has increased over the last several years, in 2015, and with only 78 known adult wolves in the state, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and its Commission decided to prematurely strip wolves of state Endangered Species Act protections — despite what peer reviewed, independent scientists recommended. Shortly after, lawmakers in Salem passed HB 4040: a bill that statutorily affirmed the delisting of Oregon’s wolves. The passage of HB 4040 essentially blocked the ability of conservation organizations to bring forth a lawsuit challenging the merits of the Commission’s decision.

The latest update to the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan — which was approved by the Commission in June of 2019 —  significantly erodes protections for wolves by lowering the threshold for when the state can kill wolves, removing requirements for non lethal conflict deterrence, and opening the door toward public hunting and trapping. 

For many, wolves are a symbol of freedom, wilderness, and the American west, and Oregon’s wolf country contains some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. Science continues to demonstrate the positive impacts of wolves on the landscape and the critical role played by big predators, and interest in their return is fueling tourism in Oregon’s wolf country and elsewhere in the west.

Still, wolves are threatened by a purposeful campaign of misinformation and fear. This webpage shoots down many of the common myths about wolves. A small number of vocal anti-wolf activists, along with industry lobbyists and their political allies, continue to work to undermine already weak protections for wolves and other wildlife.

The Future

For a state that prides itself on its green reputation, the extermination of wolves is one of our greatest environmental tragedies. Their return represents an opportunity at redemption.

Most Oregonians value native wildlife and believe wolves have a rightful place on the landscape. We are happy to know the silence of a hike in the Eagle Cap might be broken by the lonely howl of a wolf. If that howl is to remain, it’s critical that those who value wolves and other native wildlife stand up and speak up on their behalf.

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Plus there were photographs embedded within the text that I thought would be better appreciated if they were offered separately. Here they are:

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Finally a collection of wolf photographs from a link on Oregon Wild that is no longer in use. I downloaded these pictures in 2016!

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Long may they prosper!

The Isle of Mull

A guest post.

With a difference in that the guest author is my son, Alex. Recently Alex and his partner, Lisa, went on a trip to the Isle of Mull. But I will let Alex continue in his own words after I have explained a little more about the island. And where better to start than with the opening paragraphs of an article on the Isle of Mull from Wikipedia.

The Isle of Mull[6] (Scottish Gaelic An t-Eilean Muileachpronounced [ən ‘tjelan ˈmuləx]) or just Mull (English and Scots[mʌl]Scottish GaelicMuile[ˈmulə] (listen)) is the second-largest island of the Inner Hebrides (after Skye) and lies off the west coast of Scotland in the council area of Argyll and Bute. Covering 875.35 square kilometres (338 sq mi), Mull is the fourth-largest island in Scotland – and also in the United Kingdom as a whole.

The island’s 2020 population was estimated at 3,000.[7] In the 2011 census, the usual resident population was 2,800.[2] In 2001, it was 2,667.[8] (In the summer, these numbers are augmented by an influx of many tourists.) Much of the year-round population lives in colourful Tobermory, the island’s capital, and, until 1973, its only burgh.

There are two distilleries on the island: the Tobermory distillery (formerly called Ledaig), which is Mull’s only producer of single malt Scotch whisky;[9] and another one located in the vicinity of Tiroran, which produces Whitetail Gin (having opened in 2019, it was the island’s first new distillery in 220 years). The isle is host to numerous sports competitions, notably the annual Highland Games competition, which is held in July. It also has at least four castles, including the towering keep of Moy Castle. A much older stone circle lies beside Lochbuie, on the south coast.

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This is now from Alex:

We decided to go to the Isle of Mull after reading about the amazing wildlife it has to offer. It’s famous for its white tailed eagles, which are the largest eagle in the U.K. and fourth largest in the world, with an average wingspan of 7-8ft and a perched height of 1m. After securing a place on a Mullcharters.com eagle photography boat trip, we waited with excitement as the boat left the small harbour at Ulva ferry in force 5 winds and intermittent rain showers, cruising out of the harbour, we where very lucky to spot an Otter swimming along.

On reaching Loch Na Keal, we where told to keep an eye out for an eagle approaching, they apparently recognise the boat from around 1-2 miles away and know that it offers them an opportunity to get some free fish! It wasn’t long before looming out of the distance, a white tailed eagle appeared and started circling the boat, one of the boats crew told us he was going to throw a fish out and exactly where he was throwing it, so we could aim our cameras in that direction, we where treated to the amazing spectacle of an adult white tailed eagle swooping down to collect its fish, which was about 20-30ft away. This enabled us to get some excellent pictures of the eagle picking up its fish on numerous occasions, we saw at least six different birds on the trip and at one point had two pairs of eagles overhead the boat. Even with the challenging conditions, we all managed to get some excellent photos, it’s just a shame we didn’t get any sun to really show the eagles colours off.

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To round off these wonderful photographs, here are two of an otter. They are notoriously difficult to photograph.

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What a wonderful journey for Alex and Lisa. The camera was a Panasonic Lumix G85 with Leica 100-400 lens.

Oh dear, I meant deer!

A timely reminder from The Conversation.

We live in a rural part of Southern Oregon. The number of deer hit on our roads is appalling. Not infrequently when out cycling I come across a deer that seems uninjured. Often I get off my bike and stroke the animal, or drag it from the centre of the road to the shoulder. But it is dead.

Once recently the deer was still warm. What surprises me is that they are always dead. There never seems to be a deer that has been wounded. Probably just as well as I wouldn’t want to leave the animal.

We feed the deer at home on a daily basis and there is a young stag that has become familiar with me and starts eating the COB (corn, oats and barley mixed together) even before I have finished setting out the six piles of food. They are very dear creatures.

So this article has to be shared with you!

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Fall means more deer on the road: 4 ways time of day, month and year raise your risk of crashes

Deer cross roads whenever they wish, but some time periods are higher risk than others. Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Tom Langen, Clarkson University

Autumn is here, and that means the risk of hitting deer on rural roads and highways is rising, especially around dusk and during a full moon.

Deer cause over 1 million motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. each year, resulting in more than US$1 billion in property damage, about 200 human deaths and 29,000 serious injuries. Property damage insurance claims average around $2,600 per accident, and the overall average cost, including severe injuries or death, is over $6,000.

While avoiding deer – as well as moose, elk and other hoofed animals, known as ungulates – can seem impossible if you’re driving in rural areas, there are certain times and places that are most hazardous, and so warrant extra caution.

Transportation agencies, working with scientists, have been developing ways to predict where deer and other ungulates enter roads so they can post warning signs or install fencing or wildlife passages under or over the roadway. Just as important is knowing when these accidents occur.

My former students Victor Colino-Rabanal, Nimanthi Abeyrathna and I have analyzed over 86,000 deer-vehicle collisions involving white-tailed deer in New York state using police records over a three-year period. Here’s what our research and other studies show about timing and risk:

Time of day, month and year matters

The risk of hitting a deer varies by time of day, day of the week, the monthly lunar cycle and seasons of the year.

These accident cycles are partly a function of driver behavior – they are highest when traffic is heavy, drivers are least alert and driving conditions are poorest for spotting animals. They are also affected by deer behavior. Not infrequently, deer-vehicle accidents involve multiple vehicles, as startled drivers swerve to miss a deer and collide with a vehicle in another lane, or they slam on the breaks and are rear-ended by the vehicle behind.

Car on road during the start of leaf colors with road sign reading: Caution: High Hit Area
A sign warns of deer traffic on Route 16 in Franklin County, Maine. Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In analyzing thousands of deer-vehicle collisions, we found that these accidents occur most frequently at dusk and dawn, when deer are most active and drivers’ ability to spot them is poorest. Only about 20% of accidents occur during daylight hours. Deer-vehicle accidents are eight times more frequent per hour of dusk than daylight, and four times more frequent at dusk than after nightfall.

During the week, accidents occur most frequently on days that have the most drivers on the road at dawn or dusk, so they are associated with work commuter driving patterns and social factors such as Friday “date night” traffic.

Over the span of a month, the most deer-vehicle accidents occur during the full moon, and at the time of night that the moon is brightest. Deer move greater distances from cover and are more likely to enter roadways when there is more illumination at night. The pattern holds for deer and other ungulates in both North America and Europe.

Over a year, by far the highest numbers of deer-vehicle accidents are in autumn, and particularly during the rut, when bucks search and compete to mate with does. In New York state, the peak number of deer-vehicle accidents occurs in the last week of October and first weeks of November. There are over four times as many deer-vehicle accidents during that period than during spring. Moose-vehicle accidents show a similar pattern.

That high-risk period is also when daylight saving time ends – it happens on Nov. 7, 2021, in the U.S. Shifting the clock one hour back means more commuters are on the road during the high-risk dusk hours. The result is more cars driving at the peak time of day and during the peak time of the year for deer-vehicle accidents.

Overall, given that most U.S. states and more than 70 countries have seasonal “daylight saving” clock shifts, elevated ungulate-vehicle accident rates caused by clock shift may be a widespread problem.

[Over 100,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]

There is a longstanding debate about the benefit of a daylight saving clock shift, given how it disrupts humans’ circadian rhythms, causing short-term stress and fatigue. Risk of deer-vehicle accidents may be another reason to reconsider whether clock shifts are worthwhile.

Deer still cross roads at any time

It’s important to remember that deer-vehicle accidents can occur at any time of day or night, on any day of the year – and that deer can show up in urban areas as well as rural ones.

The insurance company State Farm found that on average, U.S. drivers have a 1 in 116 chance of hitting an animal, with much higher rates in states such as West Virginia, Montana and Pennsylvania. Over the 12 months ending in June 2020, State Farm counted 1.9 million insurance claims for collisions with wildlife nationwide. Around 90% of those involved deer.

Where deer or other ungulates are likely to be present, drivers should always be alert and cautious, especially at dawn, dusk, on bright moonlit nights and during the fall rut.

Tom Langen, Professor of Biology, Clarkson University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Nothing else to say but we drivers need to slow down and extra vigilant. Driving safely means always allowing for the unexpected and never following the vehicle in front too close. The minimum safe distance is one vehicle length for every 10 miles per hour in speed!

Picture Parade Four Hundred and Three

A rare treat

The following photographs were sent to me by Jess Anderson. But first here is the story:

For years, photographer Tanja Brandt has made it her mission to capture magnificent photos of animals and wildlife and has drawn accolades in the German and international photography world with her heart-warming animal portraits.

Recently, the German artist found a new challenge when she photographed the unique bond between two unlikely friends: Ingo, a Belgian Shepherd, and Poldi (Napoleon), a one-year-old owlet. 

The owlet and canine have a special protector-protected relationship. Their affection toward each other couldn’t be any more evident. Ingo lovingly guards Poldi, who apparently doesn’t know how to live free.

The owlet hatched two days after his six brothers and sisters, therefore, has always been very vulnerable due to his small size. They respect each other and they can read each other, says the photographer.

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These photographs are truly unique. Plus they are astoundingly beautiful.

A beautiful photograph

Of a hummingbird!

Thursday was a chaotic day for me and I only got to my desk at 3pm. Then I found that I didn’t have any posts to share about dogs.

I was mulling what to do and then came across this article on Treehugger and wanted to share it with you.

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Hummingbirds Are Able to Smell Danger

Vultures aren’t the only birds who recognize odors, study finds.

By Mary Jo DiLonardo September 9, 2021

Mary Jo DiLonardo
Tongho58 / Getty Images

Glittery and graceful, hummingbirds hover and flit in midair as they gather nectar. But it’s not just their athleticism that helps them source food. 

New research finds that these tiny birds have a great sense of smell that helps them detect potential danger when they are hunting for nectar.

“In the last 10-15 years, researchers have just now begun to realize the importance of smell in birds in general. For a very long time, it has been known that some birds, such as vultures, have a keen sense of smell and use it to find food,” study co-author Erin Wilson Rankin, an associate entomology professor at the University of California Riverside, tells Treehugger.

“However, the role of olfaction in most birds has only been recently recognized. That may be in part because many birds do not appear to use odor to help them locate food.”

In earlier studies, researchers were unable to show that hummingbirds preferred the smell of flowers that contained nectar. Also, flowers that have been pollinated by birds don’t have strong aromas, like those that have been pollinated by insects. That’s why scientists didn’t believe that birds had the ability to smell odors.

But with this new study, researchers believe otherwise.

For their experiment, Rankin and her colleagues observed more than 100 hummingbirds in the wild and in aviaries. The birds were given the choice between feeders that contained just sugar water, or sugar water with the addition of one of several chemicals with a scent that meant there was an insect present. The feeders otherwise looked exactly the same.

The scents included one deposited on flowers by European honeybees, a chemical produced by Argentine ants, and formic acid, which is released defensively by some formica ants and can injure birds and mammals.

“If a bird has any exposed skin on their legs, formic acid can hurt, and if they get it in their eyes, it isn’t pleasant,” Rankin said in a statement. “It’s also extremely volatile.”

In the experiments, the hummingbirds avoided the feeders with the sugar water that contained the ant-derived chemicals. They didn’t react to the sugar water with the honeybee scent, even though it’s been known to keep other bees from visiting flowers.

To make sure the bees weren’t avoiding the feeders due to a fear of a new smell, the researchers performed an extra test with sugar water and ethyl butyrate, which is a common additive in human food.

“It smells like Juicy Fruit gum, which is not a smell known in nature,” Rankin said. “I did not enjoy it. The birds did not care about it though and didn’t go out of their way to avoid it.”

The results were published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Avoiding Danger 

For hummingbirds, recognizing smells isn’t just about finding a meal. They use their sense of smell much differently than vultures. These birds use the massive olfactory bulb in their brain like an “airborne bloodhound” to detect decaying carcasses.

Instead, hummingbirds use their excellent vision to locate flowers from which they collect nectar.

“Flowers, while specific species may be patchy in distribution, are much more common and numerous than the animal carcasses that vultures rely on. Thus, it is not surprising that vultures use their sense of smell to find carcasses which they then scavenge,” Rankin explains.

Hummingbirds use their ability to smell in a different way.

“Rather than using odors to find flowers, they will avoid flowers or feeders that have specific insect odors on them, such as formic acid or an Argentine ant aggregation pheromone. A hummingbird can use the chemical cues associated with ants to help them determine if the hummingbird should feed from there, or avoid it because it’s already occupied by ants, which can drink the nectar first or potentially harm them,” Rankin says.

“Ants are also very hard for hummingbirds to see until they are up close, so being able to smell them even when they are hidden deep in a flower could be advantageous. By avoiding defensive chemicals, hummingbirds can avoid interactions with ants and focus on feeding at safer food resources.”

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As long as I shall live I will never stop being amazed at what science discovers and then reports. And the photograph is gorgeous!