Visitor Counter

hitwebcounter web counter
Visitors Since Blog Created in March 2010

Click Below to:

Add Blog to Favorites

Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

Subscribe via email to get updates

Enter your email address:

Receive New Posting Alerts

(A Maximum of One Alert Per Day)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"While we tend not to think of skunks as meat-eaters, these animals like diversity in their diets"............ "While small critters like insects, rodents and amphibians are the most common skunk prey, the opportunistic eaters will also scavenge larger kills when they can – and with anal-gland chemical weaponry at their disposal, it's not too difficult to get a share"..........Some "holy cow, can you believe it" videos of a Skunk in the Bighorn National Recreation area(bordering Wyoming and Montana) chasing off(via it's pungent spray) both a Puma(Mountain Lion) and a Fox from a dead deer that the Skunk had claimed for dinner


Skunk defends deer carcass from a mountain lion (Video)

Skunk defends deer carcass from a mountain lion (Video)
BY EARTH TOUCH NEWS MARCH 21 2017Just how a skunk came to be portrayed as a cartoon caricature of love and affection, we'll never know. As you can see from this battle with a big cat, these monochrome critters are actually decent fighters!

The carcass quarrel was filmed several years ago by staff at Bighorn National Recreation Area (BNRA), which straddles the border between Wyoming and Montana. After discovering a roadkill deer on the outskirts of the refuge, park rangers placed a camera trap at the scene to see who would come to the table. While the mountain lion was an expected guest, its stinky assailant stole the show. 
"The site was rather pungent the next day," the team wrote on Facebook. "The skunk definitely did spray!"

We tend not to think of skunks as meat-eaters, but these animals like diversity in their diets. Small critters like insects, rodents and amphibians are the most common skunk prey, but the opportunistic eaters will also scavenge larger kills when they can – and with anal-gland chemical weaponry at their disposal, it's not too difficult to get a share!

If you watch the video closely, you'll notice a pair of eyes glowing from the nearby brush. Many commenters online suggested this was a second lurking skunk, but BNRA staff explain that the mountain lion actually circled back around for a second attempt at free dinner. In the end, skunk squirt proved too much of a deterrent for the cat. Dog relatives didn't fare any better: 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

During it's 8 year run, the Obama Administration put the 50 or so remaining Red(Eastern) Wolves in the USA(North Carolina barrier islands location) in jeopardy of extinction........Their Plan and the one that the Trump Administration continues to endorse(both Dems and Repubs are awful on biological diversity and endangered species issues) focuses on preserving Red Wolves in zoos via a captive breeding program and only allowing a few Wolves to run wild on Federally owned land in Dare County North Carolina, specifically the Dare County Bombing Range and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge"..... "Virtually all conservation groups, like Defenders of Wildlife and The Center for Biological Diversity are opposed to this idea".............."Shrinking the red wolf’s wild territory by about 90 percent would have a “catastrophic impact” on the wild population"..................The Wolves need more land to roam and to be able to grow in population via the historical program of sterilizing the Coyote population(which can hybridize with the Red Wolves due to their historical common ancestory lineage, especially when there are so few Wolves about)..............Wake up Interior Secretary Zinke,,,,,,,,You have a chance to undue the previous Administration's wrong-headedness on this matter.............Surprise the environmentalists by demonstrating that a Republican Administration can grow jobs and grow wildlife simultaneously.............What bragging rights that would reap!!!!!

Changes Could Come To Red Wolf Recovery Program

  JUL 21, 2017
Big changes could be coming to the way the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the world’s only wild red wolf population in northeastern North Carolina.  Jared Brumbaugh explains.

The population of wild red wolves hit an all-time high of 130 back in 2005-2006.  Since that time, their numbers have quickly decreased.  In 2014, there was an estimated 90 to 110 red wolves in the wild.  Now, only 45 to 60 remain.  As their numbers dwindled, the program trying to save them was in doubt.  In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted an evaluation of the Red Wolf Recovery Program to determine its effectiveness in restoring red wolves in the wild.  After a two year, peer reviewed study, a revamped management plan was announced last September.  In a media conference call, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Director Cindy Dohner outlined the new plan, which shifts the Services’ focus from the wild population to the captive breeding program.

“We must essentially double it to at least 400 wolves.  Currently, there are slightly more than 200 in captivity.  We must nearly double the number of healthy breeding pairs to a minimum of 52.”
Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has started the process of revising the regulations under Section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act that governs the non-essential experimental population of red wolves.  Field Supervisor for the Raleigh based Ecological Services Field Office Pete Benjamin. 
“The rules we have in place and the program we’ve been pursing to manage this population are very labor intensive.  It’s requiring us to expend a lot of resources, staff and financial, to effectively manage this population. And that is hindering our ability to do other things we need to do for red wolf recovery such as focus on expanding the size of the captive population and searching for other areas in the range of the wolf that are potentially suitable for additional reintroduction sites.”

The rules as they exist currently were last revised in 1995.  Benjamin says over the last 20 years, they’ve noticed difficulties in implementing the rule.  Hybridization with coyotes, human related mortality and continued loss of habitat are some of the reasons why the Service is considering whether the rules governing the nonessential experimental population need to be updated.

“What we are really seeking is public input on how to make these rules under Section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act more efficient and more effective, both from the point of red wolf conservation and from the affected community, the landowners and the communities where the red wolves exist.”
Currently, the only place in the world where red wolves are found in the wild is Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties.  Under the proposed action, the Service wants to revise the existing experimental population rule to only include federal land in Dare County, specifically the Dare County Bombing Range and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.  Many conservation groups, like Defenders of Wildlife are opposed to this idea.

“You hear a lot of technical jargon and Endangered Species Act legalese when it comes to this issue but the basic, fundamental question we are facing is really do red wolves have a place in the wilds of North Carolina?  Or are they better off in zoos?  And right now, Fish and Wildlife believes the latter.”
Christian Hunt is the southeast program associate for Defenders of Wildlife.  He says shrinking the red wolf’s wild territory by about 90 percent would have a “catastrophic impact” on the wild population.

“And by many scientists predictions, it will result in extinction of red wolves in the wild within – by many estimates – eight years.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a different take.  While their proposed action seeks to condense the size of the non-essential experimental population, it would expand the captive breeding program.  A proposed revision would authorize the movement of animals between the captive and wild populations in order to increase the number of red wolves in the captive-breeding program.  The idea is that this would increase the number and genetic diversity of captive and wild red wolves.

“We need regular exchange of individuals between the wild and the captive populations so that the overall breeding pool is as large as possible to protect that genetic integrity and manage issues like inbreeding and things like that.  So instead of looking at it in terms of we have a captive population over here and we have a wild population over here and they’re kind of managed separately, we’re trying to better integrate those two populations.” 
The proposed rule document refers to this as a meta-population.  Christian Hunt with Defenders of Wildlife says the plan won’t work arguing that decreasing the size of the red wolf recovery area in northeastern North Carolina would be detrimental to the wild population.

“It’s easy to understand that red wolves, they need space to move, they need large territories.  And when you arbitrarily confine them to a small wildlife refuge.  That is not conducive to growing the population and to securing the population in the long term.”
Currently, red wolves outside of the five county area are unprotected through the 10(j) rule.  If it were to change, it’s not known what will happen to the red wolves that roam outside of Dare County.

Hunt believes red wolf recovery is possible if the Fish and Wildlife Service would recommit to the effort they started a decade ago. He says a number of factors, from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission allowing coyote hunting, decreasing buy in for the program from land owners and the decision to do away with the coordinator for the red wolf program over two years ago caused the recovery effort to lose its effectiveness.
“Even by Fish and Wildlife’s admission, the program was called remarkably successful and it was.  We had managed hybridization, the adapted management strategy was a success, we had biologist on the ground trying to recover this species and at that point, we had about 150 red wolves roaming the wilds of North Carolina.  Guided by that strong leadership, the population was poised to continue growing.  We just need to go back to that time and re-implement the strategies that led us to be successful in the first place.”

July 24th was the final day to submit comments on the proposed rule to revise the existing nonessential experimental population designation of red wolves.   Benjamin says the goal is to have a proposed rule and a National Environmental Policy Act document completed by December.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Two videos for you to observe a juvenile(sub-adult) Puma in the Ranch San Antonio Preserve (Santa Cruz Mountains) south of San Francisco, California battling to hold onto and make a kill of a Black-Tail Deer..............Pumas are ambush predators, lying in wait of passing prey to pounce on and make a throat biting, instantaneous, clean kill.................The juvenile Puma in this video is not yet an experienced hunter and he(she) incorrectly has grasped the deer by its nose, on the wrong side of the deers antlers, thus having to battle and tire the deer for a full 10 minutes before being able to switch his(her) bite to the throat so that a kill and a meal is secured................While some of you might feel squeamish viewing this video, know that just as we human animals kill other animals of all sorts for food (via slaughterhouse and gun/rod), so has the Puma/deer-elk predator and prey paradigm played out in natures design for eons, with all three of these creatures being able to thrive at healthy ecosystem maintaining populations.............We seem to be the only predator that has a history of driving other species to extinction via our modern arsenal of weapons, poisons and land altering endeavors

Jogger films Puma(mountain lion's) 15-minute battle with a deer (VIDEO)---click on link to view

Jogger films mountain lion's 15-minute battle with a deer (VIDEO)

When Nickolas Melville set off for a run in the Rancho San Antonio Preserve in northern California earlier this month, he wasn't expecting to stumble upon an intense showdown between a mountain lion and a black-tailed deer.

The sub-adult Puma( in the video) making a kill of a Black-Tailed Deer

The cat had pinned down its prey just a short way off the trail, from where Melville, along with three hikers who were also in the area, was able to watch the battle unfold – and film it. For about 15 minutes, the fully grown buck struggled to free itself from the mountain lion's grip, trashing and swinging its antlers

"I thought maybe deer might escape but kitty was persistent," Melville recalls.
While hikers and joggers are used to seeing plenty of deer in the park, spotting a moutain lion, much less one on the hunt, is rare – though signs dotted along the trails warn that the cats are about.

This is an actual photo of how an experienced adult Puma
ambushes and lands a killing throat kill to a Mule Deer

"After ten minutes, the buck was exhausted with the mountain lion hanging on the muzzle for so long. Eventually, the deer collapsed ... [which is] when finally the mountain lion goes for the throat," Melville writes.
Senior park ranger Chris Barresi told CBS Local that while visitors should always be alert, there's no reason to be overly alarmed. “As far as danger on the trail, be more worried about ticks and snakes than mountain lions.”

And while the urge to get camera-happy when confronted with such an amazing wildlife spectacle might be strong, Barresi advises against it.
“Although you may be very tempted to pull out your camera and start rolling video... we would not recommend standing there watching the cat.”

Monday, July 24, 2017

As many of you know, all dogs have the same genetic makeup of Wolves................While there are many theories regarding when man first domesticated some wild wolves into what we now call dogs, most scientists agree that the most social,docile and trusting of Wolves took the most chances coming into ancient peoples camps to scavenge scraps of leftover foodstuffs.................From this association, came our dog breeds of today................New research from Princeton University canid resarcher Bridgett von Holdt and Oregon State's Monique Udell suggests that "mutations in three genes known as GTF2I, GTF2IRD1 and WBSCR17 cause an increase in social behavior in domestic dogs that is usually not seen in Wolves"...... "Interestingly, two of wolves in the study were very social and dog-like in their behavior, while one of the dogs acted quite wolf-like"......... "The team found that the two social wolves had more mutations in these three genes while the wolf-like dog had fewer mutations..........Both Von Holdt and Udell are quick to empathize that since they only studied 18 dogs and 10 gray wolves who had been socialized to people, much more research with a larger sample of both wild and domestic canids will need to be conducted to fully flush out their hypothesis on why dogs so easily "hang" with us humans and vice versa

To read full article, click on this link

Scientists find key 'friendliness' genes that distinguish dogs from wolves
Mira Abed; July 21, 2017
Your dog is basically a super social wolf, and scientists may have found the gene that makes him want to cuddle with you.

Gray Wolves in Yellowstone National Park

A new study shows that friendliness in dogs is associated with the same genes that make some people hyper-social.
The study, published this week in the journal Science Advances, found that structural variations in three genes on chromosome 6 are correlated with how much canines socialize with humans. An analysis of DNA from two dozen animals revealed that these genes look very different in dogs than they do in wolves.
Mutations in the same genes are also linked with a rare developmental disorder in humans called Williams-Beuren Syndrome, or WBS. People with WBS are typically hyper-social, meaning they form bonds quickly and show great interest in other people, including strangers. Other symptoms include developmental and learning disabilities as well as cardiovascular problems.

Dogs just want to be around us,,,,,,,,,,,,,and we just want to be around them
Image result for dog sitting with his master
To Bridgett vonHoldt, who studies canine genetics at Princeton University, some of these traits sounded a lot like the behaviors of domesticated dogs, especially compared with wolves.
For example, dogs like to stay close to humans and gaze at them for longer periods of time than wolves do. Dogs also tend to be less independent in problem-solving when they’re around people, and they retain their affinity for humans throughout their lives.
“Many dogs maintain their puppy-like enthusiasm for social interactions throughout their life, whereas wolves grow out of this behavior and engage in more mature, abbreviated greetings as they age,” said Monique Udell, who studies animal behavior at Oregon State University and co-authored the new study. “One might think of how a young child greets you versus a teenager or adult relative.”
These behaviors are typical of what scientists call domestication syndrome, and researchers have noticed them in other kinds of domesticated animals as well. But they don’t fully understand how the underlying genetic changes develop.

“Everyone wants to find the genes that make dogs different from wolves, and try to understand how domestication changed the genome,” vonHoldt said.
She already had a head start. In 2010, as part of her doctoral research, vonHoldt hadmapped the entire genome of 225 gray wolves and 912 dogs from 85 breeds. There were a few genes that stood out as consistently different between dogs and wolves, especially the WBS gene WBSCR17. But vonHoldt still didn’t have a handle on how those genetic differences were related to behavior.(click on

Sunday, July 23, 2017

It has been 155 years since our great American Philospher and Naturalist Henry David Thoreau passed away...........His insights into our natural world and his theories on forest succession resonate even more strongly in 2017 than when he was living in mid 19th Century New England--now that 7 billion(expected to hit 9 Billion by AD2100) of us humans are altering the planet and exploiting its bounty with ever rapid speed...........In his own words----"No one has yet described for me the difference between the wild forest which once occupied the oldest townships, and the tame one which I find there to-day(note that 70 to 90% of the forest East of the Mississippi was cut down by the late 19th century,,,,,The woods you seen today have grown up and been cut down 3 to 5 times since colonization----the oldest today some 125 years old)"..................... "The civilized man not only clears the land permanently to a great extent, and cultivates open fields, but he tames and cultivates to a certain extent the forest itself"................... "By his mere presence, almost, he changes the nature of the trees as no other creature does"......................."While the wind is conveying the seeds of pines into hard woods, the squirrels and other animals are conveying the seeds of oaks and walnuts into the pine woods"........ "The oak seeds that are buried anew every year under the protection of the evergreen woods suffer less from the shading effect of the mature pines than do the pine seedlings"................. "When the pine woods are cut down, the oak seedlings finally get a chance to develop into trees"

Reclaiming Henry David Thoreau, Forest Historian

Crayon portrait of Henry David Thoreau, 1854.
The bicentennial of the birth of Henry David Thoreau this month comes at an auspicious time. Given the political climate we live in, his essay “Civil Disobedience” resonates today more than it has in nearly a half-century. I break no new ground in saying that the man has much to say to us 155 years after his premature passing about our changing environment as well. As Gordon Whitney and William Davis noted thirty years ago in their article “Thoreau and the Forest History of Concord, Massachusetts”:

 “Although Thoreau was noted primarily for his philosophy, he was also an acute observer of the natural scene, much more than his self-appointed title, ‘inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms,’ might suggest.” And while Thoreau traveled and observed nature in different parts of New England, “As a practical ecologist, surveyor, and husbandman, Thoreau was intensely interested in the history and management of Concord’s woodlots in the nineteenth century.” Today, scientists—ecologists and forest researchers, among others—still use his observations as a baseline for their studies.

White Pine woodland in New England

What makes him valued today as a forest historian can be traced in part to his experiences during the winter of 1856. His fascination with natural history increasing, Thoreau, according to Kurt Kehr, found himself trying to answer the question derived from the “observation common among New England farmers: when one cuts pine woods, the next generation is an oak woods, and vice versa.” In the essay “The Allegash and East Branch,” written in 1857 but posthumously published in the book The Maine Woods (1864), the 150th anniversary of its publication of which was celebrated elsewhere on this blog, Thoreau restated the question, saying that
no one has yet described for me the difference between the wild forest which once occupied the oldest townships, and the tame one which I find there to-day. The civilized man not only clears the land permanently to a great extent, and cultivates open fields, but he tames and cultivates to a certain extent the forest itself. By his mere presence, almost, he changes the nature of the trees as no other creature does.

oak-hickory forest in New England with White Pine understory

To answer the question, he spent the winter and spring of 1856 watching and recording how natural forces dispersed tree seeds near and far. By mid-May, he had drawn his conclusions, and had “extrapolated a lesson in the principles of forest succession,” Kehr concludes in “Walden Three: Ecological Changes in the Landscape of Henry David Thoreau.” Pulling from several years’ worth of his journals, Thoreau presented a lecture in September 1860, “The Succession of Forest Trees,” a landmark work in forest history still worth reading today. Published in the New York Tribune and widely reprinted, it was the most widely read piece published in his lifetime.

White Pine will dominate if Oaks are cut down

Beginning the lecture with the farmers’ wisdom about oaks succeeding pines, continues Kehr, Thoreau then:
reasoned that while the wind is conveying the seeds of pines into hard woods, the squirrels and other animals are conveying the seeds of oaks and walnuts into the pine woods. He explained the successive alterations in tree populations (which he oversimplified a little here) in the following way: the oak seeds that are buried anew every year under the protection of the evergreen woods suffer less from the shading effect of the mature pines than do the pine seedlings. When the pine woods are cut down, the oak seedlings finally get a chance to develop into trees.
In short, he declared, all trees grow from seeds. They did not, as the dominant view held, spontaneously generate. Richard Higgins, in his recent book Thoreau and the Language of Trees, notes that “Thoreau also contributed to the understanding of the ages of trees and how to manage woodlands.” These were substantial contributions to forestry.

Oaks will succeed White Pine when Pines are cut or die

His ideas about forest succession echoed that of Charles Darwin and his work on evolution, published a year before Thoreau gave the lecture. Laura Dassow Walls, in her new biography Henry David Thoreau: A Lifesays he was one of the first Americans to read On the Origin of Species on American soil. He was applying the principle of natural selection to the woods and fields of Concord for a new book—”Succession” was to be a chapter in it—though he would die before completing the work entitled “The Dispersion of Seeds.” His observations about humans as agents of environmental change (“When the pine woods are cut down…”) are found in that of George Perkins Marsh, who offered similar ones in his own influential book, published in 1864. Man and Nature: Or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action, praised by Lewis Mumford as “the fountainhead of the conservation movement” and the book that led Gifford Pinchot and others to take up forestry, owes a debt to Thoreau “Succession.”

After farm abandonment(like what happened
in New England at the start of the Industrial Revolution
in the late 1800's), Pines invade old fields,,,,,,,,,,,eventually
being replaced by an Oak-Hickory/Maple(and before it was
eliminated by an asian fungus, an Oak/Hickory/Chestnut/Maple association)

In George Perkins Marsh: Prophet of Conservation, biographer David Lowenthal makes clear Marsh read Thoreau. He praised The Maine Woods and drew from the younger man’s other works for his own, writing of Thoreau that “few men have personally noticed so many facts in natural history accessible to unscientific observation.” Both valued and praised wilderness as essential for humans, but also called for utilitarian conservation of natural resources. Like Thoreau, according to Lowenthal, Marsh “prescribed a balance of tilled land, meadow, and forest…. Indeed, the wildness Thoreau adored was no untouched terrain but a process of growth and decay, conquest and abandonment, in scenes made by both natural and human agency.” Thoreau’s conclusions, according to Higgins, were ignored by professional foresters and loggers. They “could not accept the work of a Transcendentalist, even a scientific one.” Thus, we find Thoreau in good intellectual company in 1864, but over time, his contributions to forest history became overshadowed by those of Marsh and others.

The next one hundred years saw appreciation of Thoreau’s forestry work recede, ignored by plant ecologists and foresters. The rise of the environmental movement and its embrace of Thoreau as naturalist-poet pushed his late-life scientific work out of the public’s mind, and with it his rightful place in forest history. The works cited here, and others coming out this year for the bicentennial, are balancing the scales of forest history. “In the last analysis,” observed Kehr, “Thoreau’s contribution to forestry was his readiness to combine careful methodology with an appreciation for man’s place in the ecology of the forest.” If his grasp of human and forest ecology are his contribution to forestry, then his writings about those topics are his contribution to forest history.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"From the 1870's onward, the White Ash tree has been the the preferred choice of Major League Baseball Players......While the last decade has seen Maple being used by more and more players, Ash bats are still very much a staple in Major League dugouts.............This might not last though as the Emerald Ash Borer beetle wrecks more and more havoc on White Ash trees throughout its Illinois eastward range.............This Asian exotic insect is another example of how biomes all over the world are being negatively impacted by exotics that come into Countries via plane, boat and train..............It is a real possibility that the White Ash could go the way of the American Chestnut and Elm, virtually being exterminated from the Eastern Woodlands due to invasion of a non-native insect and pathogen................"Additionally, as warming due to climate change accelerates, the ash wood that now makes an ideally dense but flexible bat might turn softer because of a longer growing season"

Balmy Weather May Bench a Baseball Staple

RUSSELL, Pa. — Careers at stake with each swing, baseball players leave little to sport when it comes to their bats. They weigh them. They count their grains. They talk to them.

But in towns like this one, in the heart of the mountain forests that supply the nation’s finest baseball bats, the future of the ash tree is in doubt because of a killer beetle and a warming climate, and with it, the complicated relationship of the baseball player to his bat.
Ash getting ready to be turned into bats

“No more ash?” said Juan Uribe, a Chicago White Sox shortstop, whose batting coach says he speaks to his ash bats every day. Uribe is so finicky about his bats, teammates say, that he stores them separately in the team’s dugout and complains bitterly if anyone else touches them.

At a baseball bat factory tucked into the lush tree country here in northwesternPennsylvania, the operators have drawn up a three-to-five-year emergency plan if the white ash tree, which has been used for decades to make the bat of choice, is compromised.

In Michigan, the authorities have begun collecting the seeds of ash trees for storage in case the species is wiped out, a possibility some experts now consider inevitable.
As early as this summer, federal officials hope to set loose Asian wasps never seen in this country with the purpose of attacking the emerald ash borer, an Asian beetle accused of killing 25 million ash trees in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Maryland since it was spotted in the United States five years ago.

Unfinished Ash bats

In late June, officials found signs of the ash borer’s arrival in Pennsylvania, setting off a new alarm for the makers of baseball bats, most of which come from this rocky, cool range on the New York border.

Along with the ash borer beetle, a warming of the local climate could also affect the ash used for bats, some scientists say. As temperatures rise, the ash wood that now makes an ideally dense but flexible bat might turn softer because of a longer growing season. Eventually, some scientists predict, the ash tree could vanish from the region.

A warmer climate could also aid the emerald ash borer’s invasion, some scientists contend, although others disagree, by creating stressed trees and the possibility of a quicker reproduction cycle in the beetle.

“We’re watching all this very closely,” said Brian Boltz, the general manager of the Larimer & Norton company, whose Russell mill each day saws, grades and dries scores of billets destined to become Louisville Slugger bats. “Maybe it means more maple bats. Or it may be a matter of using a different species for our bats altogether.”

Emeral Ash Borer(adult)

Such uncertainty does not sit well with professional players, some of whom shun (or break) bats that have failed them and worship those that have sent balls out of the park. (Some widely suspect that the well-known players get the best-quality wood, and the rookies, something softer.) Baseball, after all, is a game of routine, of instinct, of superstition.

Emerald Ash Borer catepillar,,,,,,,,,,,,,,bores out insides of trees
killing them--disrupting flow of sap

The magic in a perfect bat is not easy to define. “You can’t describe it — it’s a feel,” said Scott Podsednik, an outfielder for the White Sox. “When you pick it up and take a couple of swings with it, you just know.”

After batting practice one morning, Podsednik’s teammate Uribe sheepishly confirmed his lectures to his bats (his beloved “Hoosier HB 23” models). “I tell them: ‘Do your job and if you don’t do your job, I’m going to have to go back to the Dominican Republic,’ ” Uribe said in Spanish. “Sometimes they listen; sometimes they don’t.”

For much of a century, ash was the wood that ruled the realm of baseball bats, but it has faced threats before: First, competition from aluminum and composite bats (which whisked away much of the youth and amateur market but are barred from professional baseball) and then, in the past decade, from the sugar maple.

When it became known that Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, who is closing in on baseball’s career home-run record, was using maple bats, change swept through baseball’s clubhouses.

Some bat makers say professional players are now about evenly divided between ash and maple, which is more expensive and which some players (catchers, especially) say tends to explode more violently when a bat breaks.

White Ash

“Maple is all the rage with the young players coming up now,” said Tom Hellman, the clubhouse manager for the Chicago Cubs, whose responsibilities include ordering bats and keeping track of them. “But the older players still want their ash.”
Science has never definitively established whether ash makes the optimal bat. Terry Bahill, an engineer at the University of Arizona and a co-author of “Keep Your Eye on the Ball: Curveball, Knuckleballs and Fallacies of Baseball,” said researchers could measure how much energy was dissipated when a bat struck a baseball and how much force was required to bend a bat.

White Ash range

“But in the end,” Mr. Bahill said, “we can’t tell you which bat is going to be more effective because a human being is going to be swinging this bat. So the players making decisions about bats are making them on feelings, not scientific data.”
Some scientists, however, do see a threat to the quality of the northern white ash posed by rising temperatures over a period of decades. Ash that grows in the warmer Southeastern States is held to be softer, in part because of the longer growing season, said Ron Vander Groef, who runs a factory in Dolgeville, N.Y., which make Rawlings bats.
There are also some concerns that the numbers of white ash trees in the North could significantly decline. Louis R. Iverson, a research landscape ecologist with the United States Forest Service, has helped map how habitat changes could affect 134 tree species by the end of the century. In a worst-case scenario, the white ash (and the sugar maple) diminish in numbers and shift farther north.

Still, the emerald ash borer, or Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire, is the most immediate threat. Discovered in the United States near Detroit in 2002, the beetles, which are shiny green, will destroy a tree in two to three years. The larvae tunnel inside the trees, cutting off water and food.
The ash borer is native to Asia, where the trees are naturally resistant to it.
“It just doesn’t look good,” Dan Herms, an associate professor of entomology at Ohio State University, said of the prospect of stopping the beetle in this country. “The current technology won’t be able to stop it.”
Dr. Herms strongly disputes any link between the ash borer and climate change, saying that the beetle has survived in a wide range of temperatures in Asia.

For now, the baseball bat makers are bracing for the worst. At the mill in Russell, even as machines cranked and hummed with ash billets last month, state investigators were barring the movement of wood from four Western Pennsylvania counties after adult beetles were discovered.
Some suppliers say they are harvesting trees years earlier than planned because of the ash borer’s arrival.
In the end, baseball players may be faced with switching to, and holding conversations with, bats made of maple or some new wood yet untested by the hardball.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Moles are fascinating creatures specialized for underground living".....Many of us have experienced the mounds on our lawns that Moles create excavating their underground lairs.................... "Though they resemble rodents, they are insectivores, and are more closely related to shrews".................. "Shaped like an Idaho potato, moles have a reduced pelvis and hind legs, enabling them to turn easily in narrow tunnels".............. "Powerful shoulders and front legs and shovel-like feet with heavy claws and a sixth digit aid in digging"....................."Moles feed voraciously on earthworms, insects, insect larvae, millipedes, snails, worms, crayfish, minnows and slugs, consuming more than its own body weight each day"................"The Mole's home range averages only about one-fifth of an acre"...................."In good habitat, as many as 12 moles can be found in an acre"......................"Moles play a valuable role as habitat creators as their tunnel systems enable other animals such as mice, shrews, weasels, salamanders and snakes to usurp them for homes".................. "Moles also provide food for foxes, coyotes. weasels, owls, hawks, and other predators".................... "Closer to home, although you may not care for the ridges and hills they create in your lawn, it’s worth noting that they can help keep grass healthy, both by consuming large quantities of grubs and by aerating the soil"............... "So the next time you see a mound of soil on your lawn, you may not want to make a mountain out of a molehill"

MONDAY, JULY 17, 2017

The Dirt On Adirondack Moles

star nosed moleMy dog watched intently as an area of soil in our backyard vibrated and formed a slight ridge. Suddenly he began digging, revealing a mole below ground. Before Cody could pounce, I grabbed his collar and pulled him away. This was not the first time I’d rescued a mole. When I lived on a country estate years ago, my landlord disliked the mounds and ridges on his lawn and set traps — the kind that spear moles. I would sneak outside at night and spring the traps.

Mole with Earthworm meal

 Moles are fascinating creatures specialized for underground living. Though they resemble rodents, they are insectivores, and are more closely related to shrews. Shaped like an Idaho potato, moles have a reduced pelvis and hind legs, enabling them to turn easily in narrow tunnels. Powerful shoulders and front legs and shovel-like feet with heavy claws and a sixth digit aid in digging.

Nearly blind, moles find their way in the darkness using their keen senses of smell, hearing and touch. As moles dig, their tiny eyes are protected from dirt by thin membranes. Nostrils are located on the sides of their pointed snouts to prevent clogging, and ear openings are hidden beneath short velvety fur. Whiskers and hairs on the forefeet likely assist navigation. (As with other tunneling animals, the tension from whiskers bending as they encounter surfaces sends messages to the brain, helping moles interpret the space around them). Several glands that emit a strong odor may function in scent-marking, enabling communication with other moles.
Two species of moles are found in our region: the hairy-tailed mole and the star-nosed mole. The hairy-tailed mole inhabits forests, fields, and roadsides with well-drained soils, up to about 3000 feet in elevation. It feeds voraciously on earthworms, insects, insect larvae, millipedes, snails, and slugs, consuming more than its own body weight each day. Active both day and night, these moles are sometimes seen above ground at night foraging.

Mole colony on lawn

Hairy-tailed moles excavate a complex system of subsurface tunnels, deeper in winter (10 to 20 inches below ground). A mole digs at a rate of 10 to 20 feet per hour, alternately bringing its forepaws towards its snout, then thrusting them out and backward, pushing dirt aside or beneath the body, where it is kicked behind. The mole’s body rotates 45 degrees to each side, forcing loose soil upward and creating ridges. Molehills are the result of a mole turning around and pushing accumulated dirt out of its burrow. A mole’s home range averages only about one-fifth of an acre, and in good habitat, as many as 12 moles can be found in an acre.
The star-nosed mole, our other local species, is a strange-looking creature. It is named for the star-shaped, fleshy, pink nasal disk on the end of its snout which has 22 tentacles or rays. The star functions as a tactile eye, according to neuroscientist Kenneth Catania of Vanderbilt University, who has studied these moles extensively.
As the star-nosed mole explores its environment, the rays of the star are in constant motion, and over 100,000 nerve fibers send information to the brain. Catania has found that a giant star pattern mirroring the mole’s unusual nose is visible in the brain’s anatomy. Like its hairy-tailed cousin, the star-nosed mole is voracious, and it holds the record for the fastest mammalian forager. It can identify and eat food in less than two tenths of a second.
Star-nosed moles live in deep, mucky soils in wet meadows, marshes and swamps and near ponds and streams. They feed on aquatic insects and worms, crayfish, snails, and occasionally minnows or plant material. These moles are good swimmers and divers. Catania has discovered that star-nosed moles smell underwater by exhaling air bubbles onto objects or scent trails and then re-inhaling the bubbles to carry the smell back to the nose.
Both the hairy-tailed and star-nosed moles are species of concern in Vermont, according to University of Vermont zoology professor Bill Kilpatrick. He said we don’t have enough information about moles, and invasive species of worms may impact populations of their prey.
Moles play a valuable role as habitat creators. Other animals such as mice, shrews, weasels, salamanders and snakes use their tunnel systems. Moles also provide food for foxes, weasels, owls, hawks, and other predators. Closer to home, although you may not care for the ridges and hills they create in your lawn, it’s worth noting that they can help keep grass healthy, both by consuming large quantities of grubs, and by aerating the soil. So the next time you see a mound of soil on your lawn, you may not want to make a mountain out of a molehill.
Susan Shea is a naturalist, writer and conservation consultant who lives in Brookfield, Vermont. The illustration for this column was drawn by Adelaide Tyrol. The Outside Story is assigned and edited by Northern Woodlands magazine, and sponsored by the Wellborn Ecology Fund of New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.Wellborn Ecology Fund of New Hampshire Charitable Foundation