October 5, 2018
As Hunting Dwindles, Who Will Pay for Conservation?
By Brandon Keim/Anthropocene
Photo by USFWS/flickr
For more than a century, hunters have played an important part in conserving wildlife in the United States and Canada. Government-based conservation in particular relies on revenues from hunting — but the number of hunters is fast declining. So where will funding come from? Will people who love wildlife, but don’t hunt, foot the bill?

“As sociodemographic trends continue to reshape the conservation landscape,” write researchers in the journal  Human Dimensions of Wildlife , people have “questioned whether the current financial trajectory of wildlife conservation is sustainable and, perhaps more importantly, who is going to pay for it.”

Led by Nathan Shipley, an environmental scientist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the researchers examine these questions through the lens of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Duck Stamp program. The stamps function as waterfowl hunting licenses and tickets to federal wildlife refuges; proceeds from their sale are used to protect wetlands, and thousands of square miles of habitat have been set aside since the program’s 1934 inception.

66 Years of the Illinois Hunting Tradition
By Kathy Andrews Wright/Outdoor Illinois
McGraw photo by Alex Garcia
It started with simply throwing his first-ever Illinois hunting license into a file and adding to it each year. Not until after his marriage to Kathy in 1963 did Ed Kral decide to organize the licenses and start an official collection.

A retired 76-year-old high school educator, athletic director, principal and administrator, Kral purchased his first hunting license in 1952 at the age of 11 so he could rabbit and pheasant hunt with his father on farms in the Wheaton area. For the two previous hunting seasons Kral accompanied his father on hunts—a tradition they continued into the elder Kral’s 70s—but was not allowed to carry a gun until he turned 11.

“I vividly recall my first hunt, walking through the field with my single shot 410 open and holding shells in my hand,” Kral said with a lighthearted chuckle. “Once we flushed a rabbit I would load a shell, pull back the hammer and without fail pull the gun up to find the rabbit long gone.”

Like many youth, Kral’s first hunting experiences were small game, and he continues to hunt pheasants.

The Last Gasps of Autumn in Alaska’s Arctic
By Zachariah Hughes/Los Angeles Times
Photo by Steve Corey/flickr
Two dozen ravens circled above Hugo Mountain’s gray crags, swooping, pairing and paralleling one another in a whirl of courtship. As autumn arrives in the northwest corner of Alaska’s Arctic, the land is folding in on itself in a riot of activity, color, cold air and sunshine — the natural world’s last shout before the arrival of dark and ice.

“I like the fall up here,” said Jay Denton, an educator raised in North Carolina who’s spent the last decade in the small towns and villages of the region. Denton stared down at the broad cursive of the Noatak River as it trickled from the western edge of the Brooks Range toward the Chukchi Sea, flanked by taxi-yellow willows and spiky green spruce and miles of rolling tundra.

Fall in the Arctic is something to behold. It begins with a rush of chilled air that prompts the vegetation to change, a shift in the light, and a flurry of movement, both human and animal. It is a season of paradoxes as the flora and fauna come alive on the cusp of winter. But there’s also the inevitable feeling of decay, of an ephemeral landscape slipping away.

Decoding the Mysterious Bleats of the Giant Panda
By Douglas Quenqua/The New York Times
Photo by Matt Spurr/flickr
For solitary animals, giant pandas have an awful lot to say to one another. Their vocal repertoire comprises more than a dozen distinct grunts, barks and squeaks, most of which amount to some version of “leave me alone.”

But when mating season rolls around, both male and female giant pandas turn to their preferred come-hither call: a husky, rapid vibrato that’s commonly known as the bleat.

The bleat not only alerts other pandas to the presence of an available mate, it contains  important information about the vocalist’s size and identity . Given the dense bamboo thicket that limits visual contact in most panda habitats and the brevity of panda mating season — females ovulate just once a year and can conceive for only a few days — the pandas’ ability to perceive the bleat is critical to reproduction among this once-endangered species.

Now, researchers have determined that the bleat works best as a local call. A panda can discern aspects of a caller’s identity, like its size, from a bleat within about 65 feet.

Judge Blocks Grizzly Hunts in Idaho, Wyoming
By Ben Romans/Outdoor Life
Photo by Laurent Silvani/flickr
Despite exceeding recovery goals and a growing number of human-bear conflicts, a federal judge ordered continued protections for grizzlies in the Northern Rockies, effectively blocking Idaho and Wyoming from proceeding with plans to allow  grizzly hunts  this fall.

After delaying a decision twice and on the cusp of the expiration of his latest order halting the hunts, judge Dana Christensen said his decision “is not about the ethics of hunting,” but whether federal agents considered the bear’s long-term recovery before lifting federal protections. In his opinion, they did not, according to a story from the  Billings Gazette.

Since federal protections ended, wildlife officials in Idaho and Wyoming organized grizzly bear hunting seasons slated to begin this fall. Those seasons were highly regulated and carefully planned.

Going forward, the states would always take into account the number of all grizzly deaths each year (including those killed in self defense or to protect property) so grizzly populations never dip below 600. This year, the quota was 22 bears tags in Wyoming and a single bear tag in Idaho.

“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.” 

-    Jacques-Yves Cousteau 
To read past McGraw Reports click here.