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Rats in the walls

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September 30 2012 12:36 PM   QuickQuote Quote  

Why the Beaver Should Thank the Wolf
Published: September 28, 2012

THIS month, a group of environmental nonprofits said they would challenge the federal government’s removal of Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Wyoming. Since there are only about 328 wolves alive today in a state with a historic blood thirst for the hides of these top predators, the nonprofits are probably right that lacking protection, Wyoming wolves are not long for this world.

Many Americans, even as they view the extermination of a species as morally anathema, struggle to grasp the tangible effects of the loss of wolves. It turns out that, far from being freeloaders on the top of the food chain, wolves have a powerful effect on the well-being of the ecosystems around them — from the survival of trees and riverbank vegetation to, perhaps surprisingly, the health of the populations of their prey.

An example of this can be found in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, where wolves were virtually wiped out in the 1920s and reintroduced in the ’90s. Since the wolves have come back, scientists have noted an unexpected improvement in many of the park’s degraded stream areas.

Stands of aspen and other native vegetation, once decimated by overgrazing, are now growing up along the banks because elk and other browsing animals behave differently when wolves are around. Instead of eating greenery down to the soil, they take a bite or two, look up to check for threats, and keep moving. The greenery can grow tall enough to reproduce.

Beavers, despite being on the wolf’s menu, also benefit when their predators are around. The healthy vegetation encouraged by the presence of wolves provides food and shelter to beavers. Beavers in turn go on to create dams that help keep rivers clean and lessen the effects of drought. Beaver ponds also spread a welcome mat for thronging biodiversity. Bugs, amphibians, fish, birds and small mammals find the water around dams to be an ideal habitat.

So the beavers keep the rivers from drying up while, at the same time, healthy vegetation keeps the rivers from flooding, and all this biological interaction helps maintain rich soil that better sequesters carbon — that stuff we want to get out of the atmosphere and back into the ground. In other words, by helping to maintain a healthy ecosystem, wolves are connected to climate change: without them, these landscapes would be more vulnerable to the effects of those big weather events we will increasingly experience as the planet warms.

Scientists call this sequence of impacts down the food chain a “trophic cascade.” The wolf is connected to the elk is connected to the aspen is connected to the beaver. Keeping these connections going ensures healthy, functioning ecosystems, which in turn support human life.

Another example is the effect of sea otters on kelp, which provides food and shelter for a host of species. Like the aspen for the elk, kelp is a favorite food of sea urchins. By hunting sea urchins, otters protect the vitality of the kelp and actually boost overall biodiversity. Without them, the ecosystem tends to collapse; the coastal reefs become barren, and soon not much lives there.

Unfortunately, sea otters are in the cross hairs of a conflict equivalent to the “wolf wars.” Some communities in southeast Alaska want to allow the hunting of sea otters in order to decrease their numbers and protect fisheries. But the rationale that eliminating the predator increases the prey is shortsighted and ignores larger food-web dynamics. A degraded ecosystem will be far less productive over all.

Having fewer fish wouldn’t just hurt fishermen: it would also endanger the other end of the trophic scale — the phytoplankton that turn sunshine into plant material, and as every student of photosynthesis knows, create oxygen and sequester carbon. In lakes, predator fish keep the smaller fish from eating all the phytoplankton, thus sustaining the lake’s rate of carbon uptake.

Around the planet, large predators are becoming extinct at faster rates than other species. And losing top predators has an outsize effect on the rate of loss of many other species below them on the food chain as well as on the plant life that is so important to the balance of our ecosystems.

So what can be done? For one thing, we have begun to realize that parks like Yellowstone are not the most effective means of conservation. Putting a boundary around an expanse of wilderness is an intuitive idea not borne out by the science. Many top predators must travel enormous distances to find mates and keep populations from becoming inbred. No national park is big enough for wolves, for example. Instead, conservation must be done on a continental scale. We can still erect our human boundaries — around cities and towns, mines and oil fields — but in order to sustain a healthy ecosystem, we need to build in connections so that top predators can move from one wild place to another.

Many biologists have warned that we are approaching another mass extinction. The wolf is still endangered and should be protected in its own right. But we should also recognize that bringing all the planet’s threatened and endangered species back to healthy numbers — as well as mitigating the effects of climate change — means keeping top predators around.
Man is Truth
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October 1 2012 2:55 PM   QuickQuote Quote  
does anyone else feel that biology is a way cooler and better means of oranizing the planet than electricity and plans and human bullshit? i thought the opposite
Fuck Nazis.
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October 1 2012 4:59 PM   QuickQuote Quote  
Originally posted by: Man is Truth

does anyone else feel that biology is a way cooler and better means of oranizing the planet than electricity and plans and human bullshit? i thought the opposite

I guess it depends on what you mean by "biology" as a way of organizing anything.
Rats in the walls
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November 1 2012 11:22 PM   QuickQuote Quote  
Rats in the walls
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December 12 2012 4:09 PM   QuickQuote Quote  
well, this is really sad.

Yellowstone's most beloved wolf shot dead

The most famous wolf living in Yellowstone National Park has been killed by a hunter in Wyoming.

10 Dec 2012

The animal, known as 832F by researchers, had been fitted with a GPS trackable collar and her every move documented.

As the alpha female of her pack, she had become a favourite of wildlife watchers and tourists.

Although she rarely strayed outside the park, in which hunting is prohibited, she was killed when she ventured outside the boundaries and into Wyoming.

She is the eighth collared wolf to be shot after leaving the park's boundary, the New York Times reports.

The shooting of collared gray wolves from Yellowstone National Park is prompting Montana wildlife commissioners to consider new restrictions against killing the animals in areas near the park.

Wolf trapping in Montana kicks off Dec. 15. It's the state's first such trapping season since the animals lost their federal protections last year after almost four decades on the endangered species list.

But hunting already is under way in Montana and neighboring Idaho and Wyoming, and at least seven of Yellowstone's roughly 88 wolves have been shot in recent weeks when roaming outside the park.

That includes five wolves fitted with tracking collars for scientific research, said Dan Stahler, a biologist with the park's wolf program. The most recent to be shot, the collared alpha female from the well-known Lamar Canyon pack, was killed last week in Wyoming.

Cooke said the Lamar Canyon wolf killed Thursday was well-known among wolf watchers. It was known as 832F to researchers and among tourists as '06 ("oh-six"), after the year of its birth.

Montana wildlife commissioner Shane Colton said closing some areas to trapping or setting strict quotas will be on the table during a Monday commission meeting.

"We don't want to close any area off if we don't have to. But if we keep losing collared wolves ... management becomes difficult," Colton said.

Wildlife advocacy groups are pressing state officials to impose a protective buffer zone around the park to protect a species that serves as a major draw for the Yellowstone's 3 million visitors annually. Hunting and trapping are prohibited inside park boundaries, but wolves unwittingly range across that line all the time.

Marc Cooke with the group Wolves of the Rockies alleged that hunters were targeting collared animals, either for bragging rights or out of spite for wolf restoration in the Northern Rockies. Shooting a collared wolf is not illegal if it's done within state hunting regulations.

"The proportion of collared wolves is too high to believe this is not being done deliberately," Cooke said. "It's wrong, and the world needs to know this."

Radio collars on wolves are used to track the animals' movement, often for research. They also are used outside the park to track down and kill the predators following livestock attacks.

Monday's meeting in Montana was set up months ago to give commissioners a chance to review the wolves killed to date heading into a trapping season scheduled to run through Feb. 28. The intent was to see if too many were being killed or the killing was overly concentrated in a particular area, said Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim.

He said agency officials would make no recommendation on quotas or closures. Montana has lower killing limits for wolves in some areas near Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Those don't include all the areas where collared wolves have been shot. Cooke and others said they don't go far enough.

Yellowstone's chief scientist acknowledged the recent shootings have an impact on the park's wolf research. Dave Hallac, chief of the park's Center for Resources, said that possibility was anticipated once wolves came off the endangered list.

Park officials will be observing Monday's commission meeting but have made no new requests of Montana officials, Hallac said. The park previously sought lower quotas or other measures to decrease wolf harvests near Yellowstone in 2009 and again last year, he said.

Hunters have shot at least 87 wolves across Montana this fall. At least 120 have been killed by hunters and trappers in Idaho and 58 have been shot in Wyoming.

The Lamar Canyon wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo., August 2012.

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December 12 2012 4:33 PM   QuickQuote Quote  
better article, just as sad:

Hunters Kill Another Radio-Collared Yellowstone National Park Wolf
by Virginia Morell 11 December 2012

A wolf that researchers in Yellowstone National Park have followed since she was born 6 years ago, and was unusually popular with visitors and photographers, was shot last week by a hunter in Wyoming. The wolf, known to the park's wolf researchers as 832F, was wearing a radio collar, like several others that have died in this season's wolf hunt. She was also the third—and last—of the projects' wolves outfitted with a specialized GPS collar that collected data every 30 minutes, allowing the scientists' to track her movements in fine detail. The GPS data are important to understanding the effect of wolves on the park's elk population, says Douglas Smith, a wildlife biologist and the wolf project's leader. "We don't have any wolves with these GPS collars now," Smith says.

Beyond the loss of the GPS data, the death of 832F affects the project's study in other ways, Smith adds. The project, which is partly funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, is designed to understand the natural life cycle of wolves unexploited by humans. But this season alone, hunters have shot seven wolves—including 832F—that primarily used the park, and were part of the study.

Because 832F was the alpha, or breeding, female in the Lamar Canyon Pack, her death is also likely to have "important social impacts" on the park's wolves, Smith says. Wolves in the park do attack and kill one another, and in some of these cases, the alpha female has died—an event that can lead to the pack's break-up. 832F had joined with two brothers, 754M and 755M, to form the Lamar Canyon Pack, and almost immediately began drawing attention to herself, Smith says. "She was probably the park's most famous wolf, very popular with wolf-watchers, because she was odd. Usually the males are the best hunters and killers. But she went against the norm. She was the best hunter in her pack, and was clearly in charge. She killed many elk, and ran roughshod over those two brothers."

One of the brothers, the beta-male 754M, was also shot dead by a hunter in Wyoming earlier this season. He, too, wore a radio collar. Both wolves were far from the Lamar Valley—and about 15 miles beyond the safety of the Yellowstone park boundary. "They came back to the park after the death of 754M," Smith says, "and then they went right back to the same area in Wyoming, probably to hunt elk."

Although only one wolf pack from Yellowstone has ever been found killing livestock outside of the park, they do hunt elk beyond the park's borders. Still, for this pack, the excursions were unusual; it had never ventured outside of Yellowstone until this year.

Smith does not yet know how the surviving wolves in the Lamar pack are responding to the death of their alpha female, 832F. The pack still has its alpha male, 755M, with whom 832F had three litters. Several young females are also still alive, but they are the daughters of 755M. "For the pack to produce pups, they'll need to get a new alpha female from outside," Smith says. The Lamar pack may also have trouble surviving because it lost two of its best hunters.

The Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Commission, which oversees the wolf hunts in that state, has also just closed two wolf-hunting zones adjacent to Yellowstone National Park's northwestern boundary for the remainder of the season. Five wolves, including three others that had radio collars, were killed in these areas in recent weeks. The two zones will also not be open for the wolf trapping season, which begins on 15 December.
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January 10 2014 1:16 PM   QuickQuote Quote  

When Big Carnivores Go Down, Even Vegetarians Take The Hit

January 10, 2014 3:01 AM

WASHINGTON - The decline of large carnivores such as lions, wolves or pumas is threatening the Earth's ecosystems, scientists warned Friday as they launched an appeal to protect such predators.

More than 75 percent of 31 large carnivore species are on the decline, and 17 of them now occupy less than half of their former ranges, says a study published in the American journal Science.

"Globally, we are losing large carnivores. Their ranges are collapsing. Many of these animals are at risk of extinction, either locally or globally. And, ironically, they are vanishing just as we are learning about their important ecological effects," wrote William Ripple, lead author of the study and a professor in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University.

The American, European and Australian scientists who took part in the study said it is time to launch a worldwide initiative to reintroduce these animals into the wild and restore their populations in an effort modelled on the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe.

The LCI is a non-profit scientific group affiliated with the International Union for the Study of Nature. The project aims to reintroduce wolves, lynx and brown bears in their natural habitats.

Ripple and his colleagues focused on seven species that have been studied for their widespread ecological effects. They are African lions, leopards, Eurasian lynx, cougars, gray wolves, sea otters and dingoes.

The different reports show that a decline in pumas and wolves in Yellowstone National Park led to an increase in animals that feed on tree leaves and bushes, such as deer and elk. This disrupts the growth of vegetation and shifts populations of birds and small mammals, the researchers said.

In Europe, fewer lynx have been tied to overpopulation of roe deer, red foxes and hares, while in Africa the disappearance of lions and leopards has coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of olive baboons, which threaten farm crops and livestock.

In Alaska, a decline in sea otters through killer whale depredation has triggered a rise in sea urchins and loss of kelp beds.

"Nature is highly interconnected," said Ripple. "The work at Yellowstone and other places shows how one species affects another and another through different pathways."

For instance, avoiding overpopulation of herbivores allows forest flora to develop more and sequester more carbon dioxide, the main green house gas responsible for global warming.

But the authors of the study say it will be very hard to convince people to accept a large scale restoration of large carnivore populations. People are afraid of them and have demonized them for centuries, they said.

"We're dealing with the most complicated systems in the universe, and we hardly even know what the moving parts are," said Rolf Peterson a research ecologist at Michigan Tech.

Peterson studies large carnivores, and is among the world's top wolf experts. He and scientists like him are finding that as the number of big predators dwindles, everything around the animals changes. It's like a "cascade" down the food chain. Ecologists call it a trophic cascade, trophic being a term to define any particular level in nature's food chain.

Take cougars and wolves for example. When there are fewer of them, their prey, deer and elk, multiply. More plant eaters means more plants get eaten. And everything that depends on those plants, from birds to butterflies, is affected.

Carnivore biologist William Ripple, from Oregon State University, says even streams are affected. Armies of deer, grown out of control because of a lack of predators that eat them, can devour all the vegetation along stream banks, and that causes erosion along those banks.

"The stream actually changes course," says Ripple. "So we're finding that the predator can actually affect the shape of the stream."

These cascade effects take all sorts of paths. Bears, for example, grab salmon out of rivers and eat them on the banks; the leftovers decay and add nutrients to the soil that help plants grow. "It's just a type of connecting-the-dots in nature," says Ripple. "And it shows the interconnectedness."

Peterson says the wolf has been an especially difficult case. It has made a comeback in the U.S. and Canada, but wolves sometimes prey on livestock. They compete with hunters for deer and elk. Many people have a deep-seated fear of them. Several states now allow the hunting of wolves in places where their numbers seem adequate. That has created enmity — with hunters and ranchers on one side and some environmentalists on the other.

Peterson says people have always had a love-hate relationship with wolves, having bred them into "man's best friend," the dog, while at the same time demonizing them in myth, and hunting them to near extinction.

American conservationists failed to agree on opposing the lifting of federal protection granted to wolves in Montana and Idaho in 2011. This was followed in 2012 by Wyoming, under pressure from ranchers.

Scientists are now calling for a global to organize research on carnivore ecology and, as Peterson points out, to illustrate just how predators have shaped our world. "It was the large carnivores to a great extent that maintained that fabric of life that formed us," he says. The world wouldn't be what it is without them."
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July 26 2014 8:31 PM   QuickQuote Quote  

Klao, a 50-year-old elephant, was killed by poachers. AP Photo/Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal

Scientists claim that a mass extinction event has already begun, and that rats and the pathogens they carry will fill the gap

By Bjorn Carey
July 24, 2014

Elephants and other large animals face an increased risk of extinction in what Stanford Biology Professor Rodolfo Dirzo terms "defaunation." In data published in the journal Science, an international team of scientists cautions that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what appears to be the early days of the planet's sixth mass biological extinction event.

Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.

And while previous extinctions have been driven by natural planetary transformations or catastrophic asteroid strikes, the current die-off can be associated to human activity, a situation that the lead author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford, designates an era of "Anthropocene defaunation."

Across vertebrates, 16 to 33 percent of all species are estimated to be globally threatened or endangered. Large animals – described as megafauna and including elephants, rhinoceroses, polar bears and countless other species worldwide – face the highest rate of decline, a trend that matches previous extinction events.

Larger animals tend to have lower population growth rates and produce fewer offspring. They need larger habitat areas to maintain viable populations. Their size and meat mass make them easier and more attractive hunting targets for humans.

Although these species represent a relatively low percentage of the animals at risk, their loss would have trickle-down effects that could shake the stability of other species and, in some cases, even human health.

For instance, previous experiments conducted in Kenya have isolated patches of land from megafauna such as zebras, giraffes and elephants, and observed how an ecosystem reacts to the removal of its largest species. Rather quickly, these areas become overwhelmed with rodents. Grass and shrubs increase and the rate of soil compaction decreases. Seeds and shelter become more easily available, and the risk of predation drops.

Consequently, the number of rodents doubles – and so does the abundance of the disease-carrying ectoparasites that they harbor.

"Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission," said Dirzo, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. "Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle."

The scientists also detailed a troubling trend in invertebrate defaunation. Human population has doubled in the past 35 years; in the same period, the number of invertebrate animals – such as beetles, butterflies, spiders and worms – has decreased by 45 percent.

As with larger animals, the loss is driven primarily by loss of habitat and global climate disruption, and could have trickle-up effects in our everyday lives.

For instance, insects pollinate roughly 75 percent of the world's food crops, an estimated 10 percent of the economic value of the world's food supply. Insects also play a critical role in nutrient cycling and decomposing organic materials, which helps ensure ecosystem productivity. In the United States alone, the value of pest control by native predators is estimated at $4.5 billion annually.

Dirzo said that the solutions are complicated. Immediately reducing rates of habitat change and overexploitation would help, but these approaches need to be tailored to individual regions and situations. He said he hopes that raising awareness of the ongoing mass extinction – and not just of large, charismatic species – and its associated consequences will help spur change.

"We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that's very important, but there's a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well," Dirzo said. "Ironically, we have long considered that defaunation is a cryptic phenomenon, but I think we will end up with a situation that is non-cryptic because of the increasingly obvious consequences to the planet and to human wellbeing."

The coauthors on the report include Hillary S. Young, University of California, Santa Barbara; Mauro Galetti, Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil; Gerardo Ceballos, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico; Nick J.B. Isaac, of the Natural Environment Research Council Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in England; and Ben Collen, of University College London.
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May 27 2015 10:21 AM   QuickQuote Quote  
Norway's plan to kill wolves explodes myth of environmental virtue: A proposed cull is indicative of the brutal treatment predators receive in Scandinavian countries

One of the biggest political shocks of the past decade has been the transformation of Canada. Under the influence of the tar barons of Alberta, it has mutated from a country dominated by liberal, pacific, outward-looking values to a thuggish petro-state, ripping up both international treaties and the fabric of its own nation.

Prepare to be shocked again. Another country, whose green and humanitarian principles were just as well-established as Canada's, is undergoing a similar transformation. Again, it is not the people of the nation who have changed – in both cases they remain, as far as I can tell, as delightful as ever – but the dominant political class and its destruction of both national values and international image.

It is Norway. Famous for the size of its aid budget, the maturity of its decision-making, its reasoned diplomacy and above all its defence of the environment. Of course there has been for a long time a fundamental contradiction: Norway's image as the saviour of the ecosystem is somewhat undermined by its massive oil industry. You might already be aware of other contradictions, such as the clash between its protection of wild fish stocks and its destructive farmed salmon industry, as well as its policies on whaling.

But the proposed culling cuts to the heart of Norway's image as a broadminded, liberal, green nation and repudiates those advertisements emphasising the country's natural beauty and astonishing wildlife and suggests that the sensibilities of Norway's current political class are no more sophisticated than those of the frontiersmen of the wild west in the late 19th century.

On Wednesday there will be a meeting between the Norwegian and Swedish governments, at which Norway intends to lay claim to some of the wolves which live on the border between the two nations. This may sound like a good thing. The government's purpose is anything but.

If it can classify these wolves as Norwegian, even though most of them breed in Sweden, it can go ahead with the extermination of wolves elsewhere in the country. It can claim that, due to the newly nationalised border population, it is still meeting its international obligations to maintain the species.

Wolves are very popular in Norway: surveys suggest that around 80% of the public - in both urban and rural areas - want to keep them at current or higher numbers [link in Norwegian]. But as so often with rural issues - in Norway and in many other parts of the world - the dominant voices are those who belong to a small but powerful minority.

Every year some 2 million sheep are released into forests and mountains of Norway without supervision. Around 1,500 of them - as a maximum estimate - are killed by wolves. The farmers are richly compensated for these killings.

Far more sheep - some 100,000 - die for other reasons: falling into crevasses, drowning, infectious diseases, being hit by trains. But as has happened in so many countries across so many centuries, the wolf is seen by some landowners as encapsulating everything that's wrong with the world.

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May 28 2015 4:20 PM   QuickQuote Quote  
My question when I see someone display something like this is, what can we do about it?
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Long Wong Ho
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October 2 2017 3:49 PM   QuickQuote Quote  
20% of all wolves gay
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October 2 2017 4:32 PM   QuickQuote Quote  
A beaver will fuck a wolf and the universe will be set free
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