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.



Asian carp, sea cows disappearing, and invasive species: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares news stories related to conservation from around the state and country. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

Tab to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes could hit $18 billion, federal report says (Detroit Free Press): Some of the most effective alternatives to keeping asian carp out of the Great Lakes could possibly take decades and cost up to $18 billion. The Army Corps of Engineers released a report stating various options to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Some of the debated options included physically separating the waterways by creating flood management basins and runoff tunnels, electronic barriers, herbicides and screened gates.

Where have all Florida’s sea cows gone? (The Guardian): More manatees died last year in Florida than ever recorded and Earth Island Journal reports that scientists are unsure as to what is killing them. The record die-off of Florida in 2013 was 829 manatees out of an estimated population of 5,000. Officials are working on improving water quality and expanding storage and flow capacities to improve the population.

Rivers in wintry cities remain salty year-round (Great Lakes Echo): Much of the salt that is applied to roads in the United States during the winter months winds up in rivers. The salt remains toxic throughout two-thirds of the year and could be harmful to fish and other creatures that rely on the rivers, as well as humans if the salt reaches groundwater. Amphibians are the most sensitive to the runoff and develop developmental deformities when exposed to salt. Streams in Maryland, New Hampshire and New York exceeded the chloride toxicity guideline of 230 parts per million.


Florida’s manatees are members of the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Alaska’s Bristol Bay Region could be devastated by mining, EPA report finds (The Guardian): The EPA reports that Pebble Mine, a large gold and copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, could be devastating to the world’s largest salmon fisheries. Bristol bay produces about half of the world’s sockeye salmon and the mine footprint would affect up to 94 miles of streams. The mine has strong opponents that include some jewelery chains who will refuse gold from the mine. The oppositions have negatively affected the project and there are strong allegations that the report will inevitably shut down the project.

Studies show invasive species not as abundant as some assume (Great Lakes Echo): A new study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that invasive species are not as big of an issue as previously believed. Most populations do not grow very large and ones that do get out of control are very uncommon. On average, the invaders live at three times the abundance of their native counterparts. Evaluating the abundance and identifying the areas where their populations are more likely to grow too large will better able scientists to approach the invasive species issue.