April 13, 2018
Our Wilderness Is Disappearing Faster Than Expected
By Christopher Solomon/Outside
Photo by  US Fish & Wildlife/flickr
If you’ve ever topped out on a peak in Alaska’s Brooks Range, or floated through Idaho’s Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness, you’ve perhaps had the sensation that the surrounding wild country rolls on forever.

It’s a pleasant feeling. It’s also a feeling that has never been more misguided.
Studies published in the last few years have arrived at the same blunt conclusion: the world’s last, big wildlands are disappearing, even faster than researchers expected.

“We are running out of wilderness,” James Watson, director of the science and research initiative at the Wildlife Conservation Society, told fellow scientists last summer at the International Congress for Conservation Biology in Cartagena, Colombia. Watson, an associate professor fellow in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Queensland, Australia, pointed to a 2016  study  in which he and colleagues described “catastrophic declines” worldwide in the extent of terrestrial areas that remain mostly free of human disturbance and retain their ecological and biological integrity.
Nebraska’s Wild Turkeys May All be Genetic Hybrids
By Brad Fitzpatrick/Outdoor Life
Photo by Patrick/flickr
The wild turkey’s return to Nebraska is one of hunter-based conservation’s great success stories. Six decades ago, there were no turkeys in Nebraska. Now Nebraska’s turkey flock is a puzzle for scientists. The reintroduction of wild birds to Nebraska—many of which had mixed with domestic birds—has created a genetic ­tapestry researchers are only just beginning to unravel. Many traveling hunters know that you can kill a Merriam’s, Rio Grande, and Eastern gobbler in Nebraska. But how pure are those subspecies?

Many turkey hunters don’t care which subspecies they’re after, so long as they gobble and strut. But two groups in particular have a vested interest in the DNA of Cornhusker turkeys. One is hunters seeking a Grand Slam, recognized by the National Wild Turkey Federation. A Grand Slam requires one of each of the four major U.S. subspecies of wild turkey (Osceola, Rio Grande, Eastern, and Merriam’s).

The other group is a team of scientists from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Using DNA analysis, these biologists are unraveling the genetic composition of turkeys across the state. This research has the potential to explain which subspecies of turkeys have been most successful, how certain subspecies have adapted to varying habitats across from the Sandhills to the agricultural areas, and whether hybridization of wild birds with domestic turkeys has affected survival rates.
How Much Is That Python in the Window? More Costly than You Think
By Rachel Nuver/The New York Times
Photo by John Murphy/flickr
In the market for a new pet? Maybe something a bit exotic? For many consumers, reptiles and amphibians are just the thing: geckos, monitors, pythons, tree frogs, boas, turtles and many more species are available in seemingly endless varieties, many brilliantly colored, some exceedingly rare.

Exotic reptiles and amphibians began surging in popularity in the early 1990s, not only in the United States but also in Europe and Japan. From 2004 to 2014, the European Union imported nearly  21 million  of these animals; an estimated  4.7 million  households in the United States owned at least one reptile in 2016.

But popularity has spawned an enormous illegal trade, conservationists say. Many reptiles sold as pets are said to have been bred in captivity, and sales of those animals are legal. In fact, many — perhaps most, depending on the species — were illegally captured in the wild.

“It’s the scale that matters, and the scale is huge, much bigger than people realize,” said Vincent Nijman, an anthropologist at Oxford Brookes University in England.
As Nutria Invade, Californians
Seek Answers, and Recipes
By  Filipa Ioannou /San Francisco Chronicle
Photo by Eli Duke/flickr
It's been about a month since California wildlife officials  started sounding the alarm on nutria , invasive South American rodents that look like enormous, 20-pound rats and have the power to devastate wetlands. They're making a comeback after being eradicated in the 1970s and have been spotted in Stanislaus, Fresno, Tuolumne and Merced counties so far.

"We didn't know at first if it was a small, isolated population," California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Peter Tira said. "But it became clear that it's a breeding population, and they're reaching major waterways where they can move."

It was only a matter of time until someone suggested eating them.
A recent article on tech news site The Verge, entitled "The case for eating California's giant invasive rodents,"  broached the topic , pointing out that nutria "apparently taste great in jambalaya."
Albatrosses Could be the Ultimate Spies Against Illegal Fishing
By Danielle Beurteaux/Hakai
Photo by Ade Russell/flickr
Drones, spy planes, and satellites dot the sky, tracking elusive subjects on land and at sea. Sometimes their targets are military operatives or shady characters. In other cases, the technologies have been adapted by scientists to uncover the secrets of wild animals. Ecologist Henri Weimerskirch has combined the two. In a novel study, the scientist turned wild wandering albatrosses into spies, using the animals’ natural movements to track illegal fishing.

True to their name, wandering albatrosses forage over an enormous area. The birds that nest in the Crozet Islands, an archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean off Africa, for instance, will fly up to 3,000 kilometers in search of food, covering more than 10 million square kilometers. Albatrosses also have a habit of congregating around fishing vessels, as these ships are sometimes the source of an easy—though potentially dangerous—meal.

Weimerskirch, research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research, thought that with the right tools, these birds could act as sentinels in the sea, tracking the activities of fishing boats operating in international waters.
“There are only two occasions when Americans respect privacy, especially in Presidents. Those are prayer and fishing.”

- Herbert Hoover
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