September 21, 2018
Why These Mountain Goats Are Flying
By Karin Brulliard/The Washington Post
Photo by Jeremy Hiebert/flickr
Mountain goats belong in mountains. But they don’t belong in the mountains of Olympic National Park, officials say.

Although the white-furred, black-horned animals look right at home on the Washington park’s stunning peaks, park officials refer to the mountain goats there as an exotic species, as well as  a “nuisance.”  They were introduced to the area in the 1920s, officials say, and have since gone on to destroy vegetation and erode soils. What’s more, they’ve become comfortable to the point of dangerous with park visitors, one of whom was  fatally gored  by a mountain goat in 2010.

So now goats are flying — plucked by helicopter off the terrain and placed into trucks, then a ferry, on a journey to a new home in a forest 100 miles away. After years of planning and public review, officials  began capturing  goats this week and relocating them to the North Cascades mountain range, where they’re native but in short supply.

Invasive Reptiles Devouring Florida’s Birds
By Chris Sweeney/Audubon
Photo by Bernard DuPont/flickr
It’s a sweaty morning last June on the outskirts of Tampa, and droves of reptile enthusiasts are streaming into an air-conditioned expo center. Some have woken early to trek out to the Florida State Fairgrounds to get first crack at the animals of Repticon, a weekend-long extravaganza that’s similar to a baseball card convention, except instead of mint-condition Mickey Mantles and Pete Roses there are green anacondas and meat-eating lizards. One vendor’s table is covered in flimsy plastic catering trays that are filled with ball pythons. Others are selling Asian water monitors, gargoyle geckos, yellow rat snakes, and bearded dragons.

Roughly 60 Repticons take place each year, from Phoenix to Oklahoma City to Baltimore, attracting an estimated 200,000 visitors. These shows represent but a tiny sliver of the live-reptile trade, a loosely regulated industry that spans the globe and generates an estimated $1.2 billion in revenue annually, according to the United States Association of Reptile Keepers.

In much of the continental United States, these cold-blooded creatures aren’t likely to fare well outdoors should they escape or be set free. But the sub-tropics of South Florida are different, and the best adapted have not only survived in the wild, they have thrived. To date the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC,  has identified  50 types of non-native lizards, turtles, crocodilians, and snakes within state limits, more than anywhere else in the world.

For the birds of Florida, this blitz of exotic predators poses an existential-scale threat.

U.S. Opens More Refuge Land to Hunting
By Chris Eger/
Photo by amdougherty/flickr
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke this month announced the expansion of hunting and fishing opportunities at national wildlife refuges in 22 states.

Among the  changes , which increase access to more than 251,000 acres of federal lands for sportsmen, are opening Montana’s Swan River National Wildlife Refuge to big game hunting and Pennsylvania’s John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge to white-tailed deer hunting for the first time. Zinke made the announcement Friday, stressing the country’s outdoor heritage and the importance of the user-pay model.

“American sportsmen and women contribute over a billion dollars a year to fund conservation. Without hunters and anglers, we wouldn’t be able to conserve wildlife and habitat; and, without access to our public lands like National Wildlife Refuges, many hunters would have nowhere to go,” said Zinke.

Refuge systems opened for the first time for hunters besides Heinz and Swan River as part of the order include Florida’s Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge which will see wild turkey hunts as will New Jersey’s Edwin B. Forsythe refuge. The Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, which straddles Maine and New Hampshire, will be opened to turkey hunters as well.

Wolves Came Back, and So Did the Aspen
By Chris Branam/
Photo by Scott Calleja/flickr
The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park is tied to the recovery of aspen in areas around the park, according to a new study.

The study was published in the journal  Ecosphere .

This is the first large-scale study to show that  aspen  is recovering in areas around the park, as well as inside the park boundary, said Luke Painter, a wildlife ecologist at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. Wolves were reintroduced to the park in 1995. The study shows their predation on elk is a major reason for new growth of aspen, a tree that plays an important ecological role in the American West.

Wolves are culling the elk herd, adding to the effects of bears, cougars, and hunters outside the park, which means less elk are browsing on aspen and other woody species. 

The Worrisome Legacy of Fish Farm Escapes
By Ben Goldfarb/Hakai
Photo by Tristan Schmurr/flickr
Newfoundland’s great fish jailbreak took place on September 18, 2013, when a damaged sea pen, roiled by currents and tides, discharged 20,000 farmed Atlantic salmon into the frigid freedom of Hermitage Bay. Cooke Aquaculture, which owned the failed pen, swiftly set about controlling the damage in the media, if not the ocean. Seals and other predators would scarf up the rogue salmon, the company  assured the CBC . The fish, it added, “pose[d] no threat to the environment.”

new genetic analysis , however, refutes that dubious claim. Researchers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) have shown that the fish fled Hermitage Bay, fanning out and infiltrating many of southern Newfoundland’s rivers. There, the escapees interbred with their wild cousins—potentially weakening the gene pools of imperiled populations.

“It’s a huge problem,” says Steve Sutton, director of community outreach and engagement at the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “And it’s one that’s not likely to go away as long as we’ve got salmon farms next to salmon rivers.”

“Best of all he loved the fall … the fall with the tawny and grey, the leaves yellow on the cottonwoods, leaves floating on the trout streams and above the hills the high blue windless skies.”  

-    Ernest Hemingway
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