Northern lights, rattlesnakes, and city bees: this week in environmental news

An auroral substorm over the Mackinac Bridge. Image: Shawn Malone, Special to Detroit News

An auroral substorm over the Mackinac Bridge. Image: Shawn Malone, Special to Detroit News

Northern lights over northern Michigan (The Detroit News): Skywatchers received a celestial treat Monday and Tuesday nights when northern lights were visible in northern Michigan. A storm on the sun sent waves of solar particles 93 million miles to earth’s magnetic poles to create an aurora borealis. The light show stretched from New Hampshire to Nebraska treating citizens to red and green ribbons that shimmered against the inky sky.

Michigan rattlesnakes face uncertain future (Detroit Free Press): The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommend putting the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, Michigan’s only venomous snake, on the threatened species list due to habitat loss and negative human interaction. While most people fear these snakes, only one or two people are bitten by the snakes each year, but there has not been a fatality for decades, according to the DNR. The best way to ensure survival of the rattlesnake is to preserve its habitat and support wetlands conservation.

Urban beekeeping is on the rise, a trend that could help bees and educate people. Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Urban beekeeping is on the rise, a trend that could help bees and educate people. Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture

City bees pollinate urban education (Great Lakes Echo): Urban beekeeping is an increasingly popular teaching tool that also provides support for the threatened pollinators. Rooftops and balconies are great places for beehives in the city since the bees will fly above everyone. Programs at Michigan State University and the University of Minnesota are working to provide educational programs and events for various age groups and help support organizations that teach kids about bees. They also provide hands-on mentoring classes about basic beekeeping. They understand that no bees means no food and emphasize the importance of bees as pollinators and the food systems they support.

App shows energy sources, emails preferences to state officials (Great Lakes Echo): PicMyEnergyMix is a new web app that calculates the sources of energy used by people in Michigan and lets them adjust the mix on their screen to reflect their preferences. Users can denote how much of each energy source they would like to use. The website adjusts the other percentages proportionately. If a person favors only solar and wind power and selects exactly 50 percent of each, everything else lowers to zero. Michigan has recently lost ground when it comes to energy waste, so the PicMyEnergyMix app features a switch that people can turn on to convey that energy efficiency is their priority and email Gov. Rick Snyder and Sen. Mike Nofs their preferences and current utility mix.

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Wildfires, hound hunting and snake encounters: this week in environmental news

By Kary Askew Garcia, MNA Intern

Fire blazes in Marquette County. Photo via Michigan Department of Natural Resources courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Fire blazes in Marquette County. Photo via Michigan Department of Natural Resources courtesy of Great Lakes Echo.

Every Friday, MNA gathers news related to the environment from around the state and country. Here are a few highlights from what happened this week in environmental news:

Above average number of wildfires predicted by summer’s end (Great Lakes Echo): Despite Michigan’s decline in wildfires down to 86 so far in 2014 from a record high of 315 in 2012. according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the latter half of the year may prove to have higher than average numbers of wildfires.

Hunting hounds attack a wounded coyote. Photo courtesy of MLive.

Hunting hounds attack a wounded coyote. Photo courtesy of MLive.

Video in coyote killing raises questions about ethics and the future of wolf hunting in Michigan (MLive): After the discovery of a brutal video of hound dogs attacking a wounded coyote in Gogebic County, policies on how hound dogs can be used during hunting come into question. Although using these hunting dogs are not allowed when pursuing wolves, they are still allowed for other animals, leaving them vulnerable to hunting hound attacks. Legislators are reviewing the film as evidence in a case to determine the legality of hound use in the particular situation.

John Kerry launches global effort to save world’s oceans ‘under siege’ (The Guardian): On Wednesday, John Kerry launched his new global effort to protect oceans from over-fishing and plastic pollution and climate change. Kerry plans to discuss the topic at the State Department two-day summit June 16 and 17. The State Department said Kerry’s conference will help global awareness of issues surrounding the earth’s oceans.

Road salt changes urban ecosystems in big ways (Conservation Magazine): During the winter, tons of salt is dumped along roads throughout the Midwest. Despite the usefulness of salt on icy roads to make it easier and safer for drivers, it ends up running off into soils on the side of the road and changing their chemical composition. The salt can also find its way to bodies of water, plants and animals, changing the way the ecosystem evolves.

DNR offers tips for residents encountering snakes (Michigan Department of Natural Resources): The DNR has released information to help residents who may encounter snakes this summer. Michigan has 17 species of snakes, 16 of which are completely harmless to humans. To avoid snake bites, the DNR suggests getting no closer than within 24 inches of a snake’s head. Residents are also asked to report any reptile or amphibian sightings to the Michigan Herp Atlas research project.