March 30, 2018
Hunter Decline Threatens Our Conservation Funding Model
By Nathan Rott/NPR
McGraw Photo by Alex Garcia
Tom Wrasse is at his hunting shack alone. Light pours into the small room from a window framed by antlers, harvested from the surrounding central Wisconsin woods. On the opposite wall is a collage of fading photos, showing how big the hunting parties out here used to be.

"I try to keep the tradition alive," Wrasse says, looking at the photos over a cup of coffee. "But no, they've all gone their separate ways."

In rural Wisconsin, the passion for hunting still appears to burn as bright as the blaze orange jackets you'll see stalking through fields or clambering up into trees during deer season. But stop into a meat processing center or a sporting goods store, ask about it at a bar or a hunting shack and you'll hear from people like Wrasse: Fewer people are hunting. "It's just kind of fading away," he says.
A new survey  by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that today, only about 5 percent of Americans, 16 years old and older, actually hunt. That's half of what it was 50 years ago and the decline is expected to accelerate over the next decade.
The World’s Biggest Lakes Are Drying Up – Here’s Why
By Kenneth R. Weiss/National Geographic
Photo by Martijn.Munneke /flickr
Round the globe, climate change is warming many lakes faster than it’s warming the oceans and the air. This heat accelerates evaporation, conspiring with human mismanagement to intensify water shortages, pollution, and loss of habitat for birds and fish. But while “the fingerprints of climate change are everywhere, they don’t look the same in every lake,” says Catherine O’Reilly, an aquatic ecologist at Illinois State University and co-leader of a worldwide lake survey by 64 scientists.

In eastern China’s Lake Tai, for example, farm runoff and sewage stimulate cyanobacterial blooms, and warm water encourages growth. The organisms threaten drinking-water supplies for two million people. East Africa’s Lake Tanganyika has warmed so much that fish catches that feed millions of poor people in four surrounding countries are at risk. Even the Panama Canal, with its locks recently widened and deepened to accommodate supersize cargo vessels, is troubled by El Niño–related rainfall shortages affecting man-made Gatun Lake, which supplies not only water to run the locks but also fresh drinking water for much of the country.

Of all the challenges lakes face in a warming world, the starkest examples are in closed drainage basins where waters flow into lakes but don’t exit into rivers or a sea.
Reintroducing Carnivore Species May Generate
Surprising Benefits
By Joanna Klein/The New York Times
Photo by Oregon State University/flickr
If you’re lucky, you can spot a gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park. But a century ago, you’d have been hard pressed to find any there. Poisonings and unregulated hunting obliterated nearly all of these majestic canines from Canada to Mexico, their original home range.

Then the rewilding began.

Since  their reintroduction to Yellowstone  and Idaho in the 1990s, gray wolves have done so well that they’re reclaiming other parts of the northern Rockies.
In the places where they returned, wolves tidied up explosive deer and elk populations, which had eaten valleys barren. That helped bring back trees and shrubs. Birds and beavers, as well as the animals that live in dams, also returned. The wolves ate coyotes, freeing up their prey for others. Bears and raptors came back for carrion. With more trees controlling erosion, the flows of some rivers were less chaotic, forming pools that became new habitats.

“We’re just uncovering these effects of large carnivores at the same time their populations are declining and are at risk,” said  William Ripple , an ecologist at Oregon State University. He’s found that if you rewild some carnivores, or return them back to lost ranges, a cascade of ecological bounty may follow.
In Atlantic Salmon Waters, Striped Bass
Are Unwelcome Intruders
By John Waldman/Hakai
Free Vintage Illustrations/flickr
For fly fishers, Atlantic salmon is the king of fish. It’s a dream to cast into an unspoiled river on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula and hook seven kilograms of silvery beauty. But in 2017, fishers all the way to Newfoundland and even in several locations in Labrador caught a startling intruder, a fish so surprising, some anglers didn’t even recognize their catch.
Why have striped bass suddenly materialized in the kingdom of the Atlantic salmon?

Striped bass—a fish that lives as far south as Florida—was long a marginal species in the cold waters of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, sustaining small populations only in New Brunswick’s Miramichi River and Quebec’s Saint Lawrence River. But over the past decade, stripers have shown up all around the southern gulf where they had not been seen before, including in Bras d’Or Lake, Nova Scotia’s giant inland brackish sea.

The Miramichi is perhaps a bellwether of the species clash. It has long been revered as one of the world’s finest salmon rivers, where salmon coexisted with about 5,000 striped bass in the river’s lower reaches. But over the past decade, the river’s striped bass population has exploded, exceeding 300,000 spawners by 2016.
Are Some Birds Dying Out Because Bugs Are Disappearing?
By Brandon Keim /Anthropocene
Photo by Tom Murray/flickr
No guild of North American birds is declining so rapidly as aerial insectivores: acrobatic marvels whose maneuvers make our hearts soar, and who provide a vital ecosystem service. Why are their numbers plummeting? A leading explanation is a widespread decline in insect populations — a troubling possibility, hinted at by many studies but also one difficult to pin down. There are few records of historical insect numbers against which to compare our own.

In a study  published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution , researchers led by biologist Philina English of Simon Fraser University describe their ingenious workaround: they used museum specimens of whip-poor-wills, a medium-sized insect-eater whose populations are falling by 3.5 percent each year, as biological time machines. By contrasting the chemical composition of their bodies with the composition of living whip-poor-wills, the researchers could extrapolate how the birds used to eat.

“These results are consistent with the hypothesis that aerial insectivore populations are declining due to changes in abundance of higher trophic-level prey,” wrote the researchers. To translate that into normal speak: the birds are suffering because there seems to be a lot fewer big bugs than there used to be.
“There is an unreasonable joy to be had from the observation of small birds going about their bright, oblivious business.”





- Grant Hutchinson
To read past McGraw Reports click here.