Muskox Birth Gives Keepers Reason For Hope

Keepers at Highland Wildlife Park, in Scotland, are excited to announce the arrival of a Muskox calf.

Karin, the mother, who was born in the Czech Republic in 2002, gave birth to the male calf on June 2, 2014. This is a major event for the Park as Muskox are difficult to breed due to high neonatal mortality rates. The last Muskox calf to survive until adulthood in the UK was born in 1992.

Last year, Belle the Muskox calf sadly passed away at Highland Wildlife Park at around five months old due to an injury inflicted by one of her parents. Musk-ox calves are notoriously difficult to rear in captivity as their weak immune systems means that they are highly susceptible to disease and infection, and the inherent aggressiveness of the adults further complicates the situation. This year keepers are working hard to make sure this new arrival has a successful outcome…

(read more: Zoo Borns)

The Arctic shipping boom - a bonanza for invasive exotic species
by Natasha Geiling
As the Arctic warms and its ice melts, growing numbers freight ships are reaping big savings from the ‘Arctic short cut’. But this is creating a huge risk of invasive species spreading in ballast water and on hulls - disrupting both Arctic and temperate ecosystems.
… cargo isn’t the only thing that they’re (ships) transporting: some marine biologists worry that ships carting cargo through the Arctic’s newly opened waterways are introducing invasive species to the area - and bringing invasive species to some of America’s most important ports…
(read more: The Ecologist)
photo: Arctic Red king crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus, is causing ecological havoc as it devours its way down Norway’s coast. It can reach a leg-span of 1.8m. Photo: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 

The Arctic shipping boom - a bonanza for invasive exotic species

by Natasha Geiling

As the Arctic warms and its ice melts, growing numbers freight ships are reaping big savings from the ‘Arctic short cut’. But this is creating a huge risk of invasive species spreading in ballast water and on hulls - disrupting both Arctic and temperate ecosystems.

… cargo isn’t the only thing that they’re (ships) transporting: some marine biologists worry that ships carting cargo through the Arctic’s newly opened waterways are introducing invasive species to the area - and bringing invasive species to some of America’s most important ports…

(read more: The Ecologist)

photo: Arctic Red king crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus, is causing ecological havoc as it devours its way down Norway’s coast. It can reach a leg-span of 1.8m. Photo: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 

Global warming has become the biggest headache for atlas illustrators.

For instance, when the National Geographic Atlas of the World is published this coming September, its renderings of the ice that caps the Arctic will be starkly different from those in the last edition, published in 2010, reports National Geographic. That reflects a disquieting long-term trend of around 12 percent Arctic ice loss per decade since the late 1970s—a pace that’s picked up since 2007…

Walruses Are Deadly Hunters, Not Cute and Squishy
by Jason G. Goldman
Despite their tusks, walruses seem cute. Indeed, most marine biologists think they use their massive chompers just to eat clams and other shellfish. But walruses have a secret: they sometimes indulge in meatier meals.
The first clue that walruses used their tusks for more than breaking through clamshells came in 2008, when the BBC revealed footage of walruses chasing after eider ducks. “What? Walruses hunting ducks? Didn’t they eat clams and other shellfish? What nonsense!” thought marine biologist Adrian Burton. “Yet here was visual evidence that these white-tusked, bristle-lipped pinnipeds might be something more than the bottom-feeding mollusk-munchers I had thought them to be.”
When a paper was published describing the scene caught by the BBC, the authors were careful to note that they never witnessed a walrus actually catching a duck, only chasing them. Perhaps they were playing, rather than hunting?
As Burton discovered, evidence is slowly accumulating that walruses indeed dine on the occasional feathered specimen. And it’s not just birds, either. Walruses were also found feasting on seals. Evidence for that went all the way back to 1889…
(read more at io9)
photograph via USFWS

Walruses Are Deadly Hunters, Not Cute and Squishy

by Jason G. Goldman

Despite their tusks, walruses seem cute. Indeed, most marine biologists think they use their massive chompers just to eat clams and other shellfish. But walruses have a secret: they sometimes indulge in meatier meals.

The first clue that walruses used their tusks for more than breaking through clamshells came in 2008, when the BBC revealed footage of walruses chasing after eider ducks. “What? Walruses hunting ducks? Didn’t they eat clams and other shellfish? What nonsense!” thought marine biologist Adrian Burton. “Yet here was visual evidence that these white-tusked, bristle-lipped pinnipeds might be something more than the bottom-feeding mollusk-munchers I had thought them to be.”

When a paper was published describing the scene caught by the BBC, the authors were careful to note that they never witnessed a walrus actually catching a duck, only chasing them. Perhaps they were playing, rather than hunting?

As Burton discovered, evidence is slowly accumulating that walruses indeed dine on the occasional feathered specimen. And it’s not just birds, either. Walruses were also found feasting on seals. Evidence for that went all the way back to 1889…

(read more at io9)

photograph via USFWS

Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri), male. 
One of the 17 Species Recovery Projects that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is funding is on Alaska’s Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge to help protect this endangered sea duck. 
Read more about the projects and Endangered Species Day in our latest blog: NWR Association BlogPhoto: Laura L. Whitehouse/USFWS 
(via: National Wildlife Refuge Association)

Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri), male.

One of the 17 Species Recovery Projects that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is funding is on Alaska’s Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge to help protect this endangered sea duck.

Read more about the projects and Endangered Species Day in our latest blog: NWR Association Blog

Photo: Laura L. Whitehouse/USFWS

(via: National Wildlife Refuge Association)

Alaska National Parks
Caribou spring into migration early, following a warm winter. The Western Arctic Herd’s spring migration to the calving grounds is 1-3 weeks earlier than in previous years, after Western Alaska’s incredibly warm winter (6-8° F warmer than average). NPS tracks timing of caribou migration and investigates how weather affects this herd’s amazing, annual journey. 
For more information visit: 
National Park Service - Nature 
and National Park Service - Caribou

Caribou spring into migration early, following a warm winter. The Western Arctic Herd’s spring migration to the calving grounds is 1-3 weeks earlier than in previous years, after Western Alaska’s incredibly warm winter (6-8° F warmer than average). NPS tracks timing of caribou migration and investigates how weather affects this herd’s amazing, annual journey.

For more information visit:

National Park Service - Nature

and National Park Service - Caribou

One of the Biggest Arctic Migrations You’ve Never Heard Of

by Carmen Yeung

The Bering Strait—located between Alaska’s Seward Peninsula and Russia’s Chukotka Peninsula—is the only marine gateway connecting the Arctic Ocean and Pacific Ocean. At its narrowest point, the strait is just 55 miles wide. Big Diomede Island (Russia) and Little Diomede Island (U.S.) are located near the middle of the Bering Strait, and are separated by a strip of water less than three miles wide.

Despite its cold, remote location, the Bering Strait is a key biological hotspot, a region that contains a significant number of species – some of which are found nowhere else on Earth. This strait is both a bottleneck and a pathway for marine life.

Each spring, millions of seabirds and hundreds of thousands of marine mammals traverse the narrow strait as they migrate to the Arctic Ocean. Sea ice—frozen seawater that floats on the ocean surface—plays a major role in this seasonal migration.

In the spring, migratory birds and marine mammals gather in the Bering Sea and follow the retreating ice edge north through the Bering Strait and into the Chukchi Sea and the Arctic Ocean. The ice edge is highly productive, and the sea ice itself provides important habitat for microorganisms, birds and marine mammals. The Bering and Chukchi Seas are one of the most productive ocean ecosystems in the world…

(read more: Ocean Conservancy)

photos: Ribbon Seal - NOAA Fisheries; Satelite Images - NASA; and Northern Bowhead Whales - NOAA Marine Mammal Laboratory

Hey There Pretty Lady ({:3=
A close up of a female walrus resting after entering the haulout. Sand from the beach is evident on her tusks. Thousands of walruses gathered to rest on the shore near the Alaskan coastal community of Point Lay during September of 2013 after sea ice disappeared from their offshore foraging grounds in the eastern Chukchi Sea. The Pacific walrus is a large pinniped, resident in the Bering and Chukchi Seas of Russia and Alaska, and is one of four marine mammal species managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Walruses feed on clams and a wide variety of other invertebrates from the seafloor. They rest between feeding trips on sea ice or land. Sea ice provides walruses with a resting platform, access to offshore feeding areas, and seclusion from humans and predators. The constant motion of sea ice transports resting walruses over widely dispersed prey patches.Photo taken during USGS research efforts permitted under US Fish and Wildlife Service, Location: Point Lay, AK, USAPhotographer: Ryan Kingsbery, USGS 
(via: U.S. Geological Survey)

Hey There Pretty Lady ({:3=

A close up of a female walrus resting after entering the haulout. Sand from the beach is evident on her tusks. Thousands of walruses gathered to rest on the shore near the Alaskan coastal community of Point Lay during September of 2013 after sea ice disappeared from their offshore foraging grounds in the eastern Chukchi Sea.

The Pacific walrus is a large pinniped, resident in the Bering and Chukchi Seas of Russia and Alaska, and is one of four marine mammal species managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Walruses feed on clams and a wide variety of other invertebrates from the seafloor. They rest between feeding trips on sea ice or land. Sea ice provides walruses with a resting platform, access to offshore feeding areas, and seclusion from humans and predators. The constant motion of sea ice transports resting walruses over widely dispersed prey patches.

Photo taken during USGS research efforts permitted under US Fish and Wildlife Service, Location: Point Lay, AK, USA

Photographer: Ryan Kingsbery, USGS

(via: U.S. Geological Survey)

On Far-Flung Wrangel Island,A Scientist Sizes up Muskoxen
by Joel Berger, Wildlife Conservation Soc.
My mission is to train my Russian colleagues in the use of photo-grammetry, a technique that, in this instance, will use photoimaging to understand the precise body-size proportions of muskoxen and their calves.
That information will help us determine how the Wrangel Island population is faring in comparison with the populations I have studied in Arctic Alaska, a region warming faster than northeastern Siberia. I will provide my Russian colleagues with some basic photogrammetry equipment — a camera, computer, laser rangefinder, and lenses — enabling them to establish baseline physiological data for muskoxen and some other Arctic mammals.
My goal is to understand how different factors affect growth in individual muskoxen. To get sufficiently accurate measurements of the heads and profiles of muskoxen from photographs, we need to get within 50 m of our Wrangel subjects — any closer might provoke a stampede…
(read more: Environment360 - Yale Univ.)
photo by Joel Berger

On Far-Flung Wrangel Island,A Scientist Sizes up Muskoxen

by Joel Berger, Wildlife Conservation Soc.

My mission is to train my Russian colleagues in the use of photo-grammetry, a technique that, in this instance, will use photoimaging to understand the precise body-size proportions of muskoxen and their calves.

That information will help us determine how the Wrangel Island population is faring in comparison with the populations I have studied in Arctic Alaska, a region warming faster than northeastern Siberia. I will provide my Russian colleagues with some basic photogrammetry equipment — a camera, computer, laser rangefinder, and lenses — enabling them to establish baseline physiological data for muskoxen and some other Arctic mammals.

My goal is to understand how different factors affect growth in individual muskoxen. To get sufficiently accurate measurements of the heads and profiles of muskoxen from photographs, we need to get within 50 m of our Wrangel subjects — any closer might provoke a stampede…

(read more: Environment360 - Yale Univ.)

photo by Joel Berger

World’s Longest Migration Found to be Twice as Long as Originally Thought

by Mason Inman

The tiny arctic tern makes the longest migration of any animal in the world, flying about two times farther than previously thought, a new study says.

New miniature transmitters recently revealed that the 4-oz (113-g) bird follows zigzagging routes between Greenland and Antarctica each year. In the process, the arctic tern racks up about 44,000 frequent flier miles (71,000 km)—edging out its archrival, the sooty shearwater, by roughly 4,000 mi (6,440 km).

"There have been all kinds of theories, but now, for the first time, we’ve been able to show what the birds are doing out there," said the lead author of the study, Carsten Egevang of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources.

Since the birds often live 30 years or more, the researchers estimate that, over its lifetime, an arctic tern migrates about 1.5 million miles (2.4 million km)—equal to three trips to the moon and back…

(read more: National Geographic)

photograph and maps by Carsten Egevang