August 9, 2019
Why raccoons are spreading to the north
By Douglas Main/National Geographic
Photo by Dennis Church/flickr
Much of the world is hospitable for raccoons, and the potential range of these masked invaders is set to expand into new areas with climate change, according to new research.

A study  published in  Scientific Reports  looked at what climatic conditions are most suitable for these native North American mammals, in areas where they are currently found. The scientists then extrapolated across the globe to find where environment variables were likely to support populations of the animals—and how that will change with  global warming .

The scientists found favorable climatic conditions for the adaptable, voracious omnivores in much of the world, in a zone that is expected to expand considerably to the north, says  Vivien Louppe , study lead author and a researcher at the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

How to save a loggerhead turtle
By Justin Heckert/Garden & Gun
Photo by actor212/flickr
They all had scars.

They had flippers with chunks missing in the shape of shark bites. They had leeches marauding the wounds in their scales. Their shells had been hit by boat propellers, carving howling red divots into the tops of their backs. They had yellow-gray eyelids that opened slowly, and black eyes in the folds underneath, eyes that had always known the ocean—the depths of it, the miles of it—and reflected under hospital lighting the kind of ancient wisdom of whatever it was they had seen.

They sighed, turtle sighs, as if their patience in humans had worn thin. They had intestines full of plastic. They had been sucked up into dredges. They had fishing hooks lodged in their mouths, their long reptilian tongues occasionally rising out of their jaws as though they were trying to speak.

Two hundred and seventy-five sea turtles over the course of nineteen years, rehabilitated at the  South Carolina Aquarium  in Charleston and released back into the ocean: Kemp’s ridleys, leatherbacks, loggerheads, and greens, all listed as either endangered or threatened.

Condor recovery program hits a milestone
By Alyssa Kapnik/
Photo by USFWS/flickr
The California Condor is an endangered bird – and one of the oldest and largest in North America. The process of trying to protect, and now regenerate, the condor population began in the early 1900s. Since then, government agencies have spent $20 million on the conservation effort, making it the most expensive in US history. 

The condor has become a national symbol of the movement to protect endangered animals – it’s the first species listed on the Endangered Animals Act of 1973. And it tends to inspire dramatic statements. Like this one, from journalist John Nielsen:

“The California Condor is the Elvis Presley of endangered species. It is huge, it is iconic, it is worshipped and despised … The condor is the soul of the wilderness.”

Now, wildlife biologists have something to celebrate. The 1000th chick has hatched in a recovery program that started in the 1980s.

Fears for cold-water fish in Minnesota
By Greg Stanley/Star Tribune
Photo by Kent Linderholm/flickr
From a boat anchored near the center of Elk Lake, deep among the towering white pines of Minnesota’s Itasca State Park, researcher Will French lowered a sensor into the water. A pair of loons howled and kept their distance as French called out the readings of oxygen levels and water temperatures, meter-by-meter, from the water’s surface to the bottom of the lake more than 90 feet below.

Just 30 feet beneath the surface, French said oxygen levels were already too low for most fish to survive.

That’s ominous for this early in the summer, and an especially bad sign for cold-water fish because temperatures closer to the surface are too high, leaving a roughly 10-foot band of cool, oxygen-rich water these species depend on.
That band will narrow throughout the summer as the lake heats and algae uses up the available oxygen, pinching cold-water fish into a smaller and smaller space.

Where are our last pristine skies?
The Washington Post
Photo by Joe Parks/flickr
There are precious few places left in the United States where you can still view a “pristine” night sky, according to  a new study in the Journal of Environmental Management . Situated far from the glare of city and small town lights, these places offer the same unimpeded view of the cosmos that our ancestors saw thousands of years ago, before electric lighting conquered the darkness.

The study, led by Fabio Falchi of the Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute in Italy, plotted artificial light pollution at the county level in the United States, research that builds on a  global atlas that he and others produced in 2016 . It also adds to a growing body of research on light pollution, which has been linked to a host of ailments — such as  depression, obesity, even cancer  — and can  confuse wildlife , muddling their sense of direction and migration patterns.

At the county level, the District of Columbia is the most light-polluted region of the country, with more than 200,000 times the artificial brightness of America’s darkest place, the city and borough of Yakutat in Alaska.

“The starry night sky echoed across my thoughts, the expanse of my own void filtered in its quiet solitude.” 

- Gina Marinello-Sweeney
To read past McGraw Reports click here.