August 24, 2018
Changes You Can Make to Slow CWD
By Charlie Booher/TRCP
Photo by Kansas Tourism/flickr
We know by now that chronic wasting disease has infected deer species in 25 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. It is always fatal, spreads rampantly, which, unfortunately, demands that hunters make at least some sacrifices if we hope to curb the epidemic and save deer hunting as we know it.

CWD has most recently made a pass through the upper-Midwest states where I live and hunt. That makes this disease not only detrimental at a population scale, but also deeply personal for me. I don’t believe that hunters are more averse to change than the average group of people, but we’ve often been asked to change our ways for the good of the herd or landscape.

The good news is that we’ll be at the forefront of the effort to control  this destructive disease . The bad news is we’ll also have to be at the forefront of change, no matter how uncomfortable.
Wiping Out Invasive Predators May Be Unrealistic
By Brandon Keim/Anthropocene
Photo by Kentish Plumber/flickr
New Zealand’s plan to exterminate five non-native mammal predators by the year 2050 is widely considered an audaciously ambitious, pull-out-all-the-stops attempt to save the islands’ biodiversity from voracious newcomers. But what if it’s a bad idea?

What criticism there is of Predator Free 2050, which was officially announced in 2016, has come mostly from animal advocates dismayed at the large-scale suffering involved. Among conservation scientists, Predator Free 2050 has been uncontroversial — though that could change.
“Critique, especially of its scientific support, has been limited,” write Wayne Linklater, an ecologist at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington, and Jamie Steer, a biodiversity advisor to the Greater Wellington Regional Council,  in the journal Conservation Letters . “This is surprising because the policy appears to be flawed on multiple levels: technical, financial, social, ecological, and ethical.”

Linklater and Steer are not opposed to killing some non-native predators, who since their introduction by humans to New Zealand’s historically mammal-less islands have caused many native species to decline, especially birds. The targets of Predator Free 2050 — brushtail possums, stoats, and three rat species — are considered the most detrimental. But the idea of killing all of them, say the researchers, is simply unrealistic.
Plan Bee:
The Search for Alternative Pollinators
By Catherine M. Allchin/The New York Times
Photo by Penn State/flickr
Jim Freese grows apples, pears and cherries on 45 acres in the north-central part of Washington state, on sagebrush-studded land his grandfather bought in 1910.

Walking among trees laden with shiny red cherries, Mr. Freese recalled that four years ago his trees were not producing well and his farm was financially struggling. Like many growers, he had been relying on rented honeybees to pollinate his cherry trees every spring, along with wild bees and other insects.

But that year, spring was expected to be cool. “Honeybees will just sit in the hive in cooler weather,” Mr. Freese said. He needed a way to ensure more flowers would develop into fruit than in the past.

At a horticulture meeting, he learned that blue orchard bees — a native species that doesn’t make honey or live in hives — could be used to supplement honeybee pollination. Blue orchard bees will fly at cooler temperatures.

Mr. Freese bought 12,000 cocoons and set them in his orchard to emerge when the trees bloomed. His investment paid off. “We doubled our cherry production from any previous record year,” he said.

His wife, Sandee Freese, said: “The little bees have been a godsend.”
Before You Flush Your Contacts, Read This
By Veronique Greenwood/The New York Times
Photo by n4i/flickr
If you throw out your contact lenses every day or so, you’re not alone — more than 45 million people in the United States wear contacts, and many of them use disposable versions of the little plastic hemispheres.

But if they are not tossed out correctly, contact lenses may have a dark side.
Research presented at the American Chemical Society’s meeting in Boston showed that 20 percent of more than 400 contact wearers who were randomly recruited in an online survey flushed used contacts down the toilet or washed them down the sink, rather than putting them in the garbage.

When the lenses make their way to a wastewater treatment facility, they do not biodegrade easily, the researchers report, and they may fragment and make their way into surface water. There, they can cause environmental damage and may add to the growing problem of microplastic pollution. 
The Last Stand of the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken
By Asher Elbein/Audubon
Photo by Sheila Scarborough/flickr
In springtime, you can hear the booming all the way from the parking lot of the NASA Johnston Space Center in Houston, Texas, where, tucked away from the spaceflight mission control center and moon-rock laboratory, an outdoor pen holds a flock of critically endangered chickens. The sound first registers as a vague thrumming on the breeze; come closer and it resolves into a pitched, resonant call, hollow and haunting as breath over a glass bottle, accompanied by the staccato drum of tiny, scaled feet on hard-packed earth.

The sound belongs to the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken, a one-and-a-half-pound grouse with dappled brown and white feathers. (It's a subspecies of the Greater Prairie Chicken.) In 1900, as many as a million of the birds ranged along the coastal prairies from the Gulf Bend of Texas and into Louisiana, where every spring the males gathered to dance and boom for female attention. Then, agriculture and development swallowed up 99 percent of the native grassland; droughts, storms, and invasive fire ants pushed the population to the brink. In 1967, the Attwater's Prairie-Chicken was listed as endangered under the  Endangered Species Protection Act  (the precursor to our modern Endangered Species Act). By 2002, the wild population sank below 50 birds.

These days it’s even lower.
“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.