Notes from the Deer Wars:

Science and Values in the Eastern Forest

By Matt Miller

One of the biggest threats to the eastern forest also happens to be one of its most charismatic creatures: the white-tailed deer.

Recently, a group of Nature Conservancy scientists and land managers called over-abundant deer a bigger threat to forests than climate change. The white-tailed deer is arguably the most studied wild animal in the world, but this is more than a science issue. You cannot talk about deer without addressing competing human passions, values and traditions.

This is true anywhere the white-tailed deer roams in the United States. It is especially true in Pennsylvania, a place where opinions on deer management have probably ignited more bar fights than politics or religion. I’m at the Conservancy’s Woodbourne Forest Preserve in north-central Pennsylvania to see how science can potentially help solve the deer issue.

I am here to see firsthand how that passion for deer can perhaps be summoned to help the forest rather than harm it…

(read more: The Nature Conservancy)

In Search of Kenya’s Elusive Wild Dogs

by Elizabeth Pennisi

Most visitors to Africa come for the lions, elephants, and rhinos. But for the tourists who helicoptered into this somewhat remote region of central Kenya last month, wild dogs topped their list. Once so common in Africa that they were shot as vermin, the elusive canines are becoming poster children for conservation: Fewer than 7000 are left in Africa, their native range.

A reporter visiting the center, I love dogs and so jumped at the chance to track some down in advance of the tourists’ arrival. It was a dusty, bumpy ride into the bush, for a fleeting view of animals that aren’t really dogs after all. But along the way, I came to appreciate their incredible story.

They are full of wanderlust, and their packs show camaraderie and coordination to rival the best military unit. Yet they are quite vulnerable, and even though several teams of researchers have dedicated large chunks of their lives following these animals, much about them remains mysterious.

Despite the name, Lycaon pictus is a distant relative of household canines. Dogs, wolves, and coyotes can all interbreed but not with wild dogs, which are sometimes called painted wolves because of their colorful and variable coat patterns…

(read more: Science News/AAAS)

photos by Stefanie Strebel and Elizabeth Pennisi

Can Snowshoe Hares Evolve to Cope With Climate Change?
The color-changing North American animals may adapt by staying brown for longer periods.
by Emma Marris
There’s something odd about a bright white snowshoe hare motionless and alert—without any hint of snow nearby.
Gleaming white on a brown background of dirt and leaves, the hares, which are native to the mountain ranges of North America, might as well be wearing an “eat me” sign for lynx and other predators.

Scott Mills and Marketa Zimova of North Carolina State University call this “mismatch”—when the hare, which turns from brown to white as the fall becomes winter and back again in spring, doesn’t match its background.

Usually, hares seem to time their color change pretty well. Now the average hare is mismatched only about a week out of the year.But climate change is likely to make such awkward—and potentially fatal—mismatches much more common, the team said this week at the North America Congress for Conservation Biology in Missoula, Montana…
(read more: National Geographic)
photo by Robert Harding/World Imagery/ CORBIS

Can Snowshoe Hares Evolve to Cope With Climate Change?

The color-changing North American animals may adapt by staying brown for longer periods.

by Emma Marris

There’s something odd about a bright white snowshoe hare motionless and alert—without any hint of snow nearby.

Gleaming white on a brown background of dirt and leaves, the hares, which are native to the mountain ranges of North America, might as well be wearing an “eat me” sign for lynx and other predators.

Scott Mills and Marketa Zimova of North Carolina State University call this “mismatch”—when the hare, which turns from brown to white as the fall becomes winter and back again in spring, doesn’t match its background.

Usually, hares seem to time their color change pretty well. Now the average hare is mismatched only about a week out of the year.But climate change is likely to make such awkward—and potentially fatal—mismatches much more common, the team said this week at the North America Congress for Conservation Biology in Missoula, Montana…

(read more: National Geographic)

photo by Robert Harding/World Imagery/ CORBIS

Grand Teton National Park - WY, USA
What’s that animal that just scurried by you on the ground?  
Here’s a good way to compare four commonly seen (and mixed-up) Grand Teton critters and to learn where you might find them. 
Top left: uinta ground squirrel, commonly found in the valley. 
Top right: golden-mantled ground squirrel, most commonly seen at Inspiration Point. 
Bottom left: American pika, a lagomorph found in rock fields at higher elevations (shorter than uintas and with big round ears) . 
Bottom right: uinta chipmunk (smaller than the ground-squirrel, with stripes across the eyes). there are also 2 other species in GTNP, the Least and the Yellow Pine Chipmunk.
(dl)

What’s that animal that just scurried by you on the ground?

Here’s a good way to compare four commonly seen (and mixed-up) Grand Teton critters and to learn where you might find them.

Top left: uinta ground squirrel, commonly found in the valley.

Top right: golden-mantled ground squirrel, most commonly seen at Inspiration Point.

Bottom left: American pika, a lagomorph found in rock fields at higher elevations (shorter than uintas and with big round ears) .

Bottom right: uinta chipmunk (smaller than the ground-squirrel, with stripes across the eyes). there are also 2 other species in GTNP, the Least and the Yellow Pine Chipmunk.

(dl)

The slender mongoose (Galerella sanguinea) is a common species of mongoose found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. Dozens of subspecies are known, and the fur color varies between subspecies. The slender mongoose tends to live alone or in pairs, and, although it is an opportunistic omnivore, it feeds primarily on insects.

This specimen was photographed at the Prague Zoo in the Czech Republic.
 Photograph: Karel Jakubec
(via: Wikipedia)

The slender mongoose (Galerella sanguinea) is a common species of mongoose found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. Dozens of subspecies are known, and the fur color varies between subspecies. The slender mongoose tends to live alone or in pairs, and, although it is an opportunistic omnivore, it feeds primarily on insects.

This specimen was photographed at the Prague Zoo in the Czech Republic.

Photograph: Karel Jakubec

(via: Wikipedia)

The West Indian Manatee
Manatees are large plant-eating slow moving aquatic mammals. Short front flippers help them steer or even crawl through shallow waters and strong paddle-shaped tails propel them.
A distant relative of the elephant they have thick, wrinkled skin that is grey or brown in color. An average adult is about 10 feet long and weighs between 1,500 and 2,200 pounds with a life expectancy of about 50-60 years.
The major threats to manatee survival are human activities: boat-related injuries and deaths, habitat loss or degradation, and in some countries, hunting.
The U.S. Geological Survey works in partnership with other Federal and State agencies and private organizations to study manatee life history, behavior, ecology, and population biology.
For more information on USGS studies on manatees, including the West Indian manatee, check this out:
Manatee Research int he SE United States
Crystal River Manatees
Photo credit: Robert Bonde, USGS
(via: USGS)

The West Indian Manatee

Manatees are large plant-eating slow moving aquatic mammals. Short front flippers help them steer or even crawl through shallow waters and strong paddle-shaped tails propel them.

A distant relative of the elephant they have thick, wrinkled skin that is grey or brown in color. An average adult is about 10 feet long and weighs between 1,500 and 2,200 pounds with a life expectancy of about 50-60 years.

The major threats to manatee survival are human activities: boat-related injuries and deaths, habitat loss or degradation, and in some countries, hunting.

The U.S. Geological Survey works in partnership with other Federal and State agencies and private organizations to study manatee life history, behavior, ecology, and population biology.

For more information on USGS studies on manatees, including the West Indian manatee, check this out:

Manatee Research int he SE United States

Crystal River Manatees

Photo credit: Robert Bonde, USGS

(via: USGS)

Elephants Have 2000 Genes for Smell - Most Ever Found
We’ve long known that African elephants have a great sense of smell—but a new study shows that the large mammals have truly superior schnozzes.
by Christine Dell’Amore
Compared with 13 other mammal species studied, African elephants have the most genes related to smell: 2,000.
That’s the most ever discovered in an animal—more than twice the number of olfactory genes in domestic dogs and five times more than in humans, who have about 400, according to research published July 22 in the journal Genome Research. The previous record-holder was rats, which have about 1,200 genes dedicated to smell.
Why so many? “We don’t know the real reason,” study leader Yoshihito Niimura, a molecular evolutionist at the University of Tokyo, said by email. But it’s likely related to the importance of smell to the poorly sighted African elephant in interpreting and navigating its environment…
(read more: National Geographic)
photograph by João Nuno Gonçalves

Elephants Have 2000 Genes for Smell - Most Ever Found

We’ve long known that African elephants have a great sense of smell—but a new study shows that the large mammals have truly superior schnozzes.

by Christine Dell’Amore

Compared with 13 other mammal species studied, African elephants have the most genes related to smell: 2,000.

That’s the most ever discovered in an animal—more than twice the number of olfactory genes in domestic dogs and five times more than in humans, who have about 400, according to research published July 22 in the journal Genome ResearchThe previous record-holder was rats, which have about 1,200 genes dedicated to smell.

Why so many? “We don’t know the real reason,” study leader Yoshihito Niimura, a molecular evolutionist at the University of Tokyo, said by email. But it’s likely related to the importance of smell to the poorly sighted African elephant in interpreting and navigating its environment…

(read more: National Geographic)

photograph by João Nuno Gonçalves