Rare butterflies, growing wolf hunt and a wildfire dispute: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

The Poweshiek skipperling. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University Extension.

The Poweshiek skipperling. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University Extension.

Michigan could be last hope for rare butterfly, feds say (Detroit News): The Poweshiek skipperling is a brown and gray butterfly that used to be found in seven states and one Canadian province. It is now found at only one site in Manitoba, two sites in Wisconsin and eight sites across Michigan. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is pushing for the butterfly to be put on the endangered species list. This would make it illegal to kill, remove or harm the butterfly that becomes scarcer every year.

Two more wolves killed in Michigan’s first wolf hunt, bringing total to four in slow start (MLive): Four wolves have been killed and reported to the Department of Natural Resources in Michigan’s first wolf hunt. The wolves shot must be reported within 24 hours. Only 43 wolves are to be killed in the wolf hunt from zones in the Upper Peninsula where they are deemed problematic. It is estimated that there are at least 658 wolves in Michigan in total.

Wildfire dispute between sheriff, local fire chief (ABC News): A sheriff in Colorado is claiming the Colorado wildlife was intentionally set, and also said the Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey is being “less than truthful about other circumstances with (the) disaster.” Although there is no evidence, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is claiming the fire that destroyed 486 homes and killed two people was “human caused” and that Harvey was “covering his own mishandling of the event.”

Report: Climate change threatens to alter big game in Michigan (WKAR): A new report from the National Wildlife Federation is saying climate change could negatively impact many big game species. Frank Szollosi, Great Lakes Regional Outreach Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, said big game animals in Michigan are seeing changing habitats and an increase in parasite populations due to warmer winters.

Elk’s sad tale a reminder not to feed wildlife (Mother Nature Network): An elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was euthanized after a video of it head-butting a photographer went viral, having over 1 million views. Park officials say they tried many other options before ultimately deciding the elk had lost its instinctive fear of people and had to be put down. Officials believe this is the result of wild animals being fed by visitors in the park.

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Modified poplars, Asian carp and a new invasive species: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

Poplar trees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Poplar trees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Poplars modified for ethanol production still fight bugs (Great Lakes Echo): A recent University of Wisconsin study found that genetically modifying poplar trees to more easily produce ethanol had little to no effect on the tree’s susceptibility to insects. The trees were modified in two ways, making the production of ethanol easier. These findings may bring genetically modified poplar trees closer to commercial use for a biofuel made from the cellulose in plant cell walls.

Asian carp DNA detected in Lake Michigan sample (ABC News): Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin has tested positive for the invasive Asian carp, which is the second water sample to test positive for the invasive species in recent years. The Asian carp was accidentally introduced into the Mississippi River and has made its way north. Scientists fear the Asian carp could out-compete native species in the Great Lakes and damage the $7 billion fishing industry. Scientists say it is unknown whether the sample came from a live fish or not, so the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take more samples.

New invasive species battle brewing in northern Michigan (Up North Live): The Department of Natural Resources has turned their attention to a new aquatic invasive plant called the European frog-bit. This species has been detected in Saginaw Bay, Alpena and Munuscong Bay in Chippewa County. Frog-bit shades out submerged native plants, which reduces plant biodiversity, disrupts natural water flow and may adversely affect fish and wildlife habitat. Control measures are underway, including removing 1,500 pounds of the free-floating plant.

Crying wolf: Michigan’s first hunt heavily influenced by outside interests; follow the money (MLive): The Humane Society of the United States has donated more than $300,000 in an effort to end the Michigan wolf hunt. More than $600,000 was donated in total. Jill Fritz, the director of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign said the newest petition drive is all volunteers. Other opponents to the hunt include native tribes, the Doris Day Animal League and individual contributors from outside the state. Many of these people provided statements to Michigan lawmakers.

Tsunami debris ‘island’ isn’t Texas-sized, but it is headed toward the U.S. (Mother Nature Network): About 1.5 million tons of debris from the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 is drifting across the Pacific Ocean toward the United States. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cannot accurately predict when the debris will arrive on U.S. shores. Debris has been washing up along the shores of Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska. The docks that washed ashore in Washington and Oregon contained large amounts of marine life that had to be decontaminated to prevent invasive species from entering the U.S. coast.

Plastic pollution, wolf hunt regulations and Great Lakes cuts: this week in environmental news

By Allison Raeck, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

Masses of plastic particles found in Great Lakes (The Weather Channel): In the already polluted Great Lakes, scientists are discovering great quantities of tiny, plastic pellets, some of which are only visible through a microscope. It is suspected that the pellets are abrasive “microbeads,” commonly used in facial washes and toothpaste. Because of their miniscule size, many of the plastic specks flow through water treatment plants and into the lakes. The plastic beads soak up toxins from the water and harm the fish that mistakenly eat them, causing significant ecological damage. Research groups are urging personal care companies to stop developing microbead products, hoping to keep the plastic out of the Great Lakes altogether.

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A gray wolf.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Michigan’s first wolf hunt will no longer include trapping (Detroit Free Press): Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission has rejected the use of steel-jaw leg traps during the state’s first-ever wolf hunt, applying to both public and private land. According to specialists from Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, the regulation was added to the approved hunt to help ease into the public harvest as a management tool and to start the hunt conservatively. Still, other groups believe the regulation is a tool to compromise with the hunt’s many opponents.

Could these mice save threatened Midwestern prairies? (Huffington Post): Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo is raising mice in an effort to bring back restored prairies. Researchers are releasing the mice in hopes that the animals will mate and distribute the grassland seeds that they eat, aiding in the spread of plant life. Currently, biologists believe that only 1 percent of historical prairie grasslands remain in Illinois. The Chicago team is implanting trackers on the mice to see if spread of the species can work as a natural restoration agent for plant life in diminishing prairies.

Michigan senators and congressman consider Great Lakes cuts (Petoskey News): The U.S. House Committee on Appropriations considered a bill Wednesday with the potential to cut 80 percent form Great Lakes funding. The funds have been gradually dropping form the initial amount of $475 million in 2009, and would fall from $285 million to $60 million if last week’s draft of the bill were passed. The committee chose to raise this proposed amount to $210 million for the 2014 year. Michigan senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow still oppose the cuts, believing that the initiative funds critical restoration efforts such as combating the invasive Asian carp species.

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Crested auklets rely on scent during breeding season.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By a nose: Birds’ surprising sense of smell (National Wildlife Foundation): While previously believed to be anosmic, or unable to smell, new discoveries show that some birds extensively rely on scent. Biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Wildlife Diversity Program are studying small seabirds called crested auklets, located off western Alaska in the Bering Sea. In groups or pairs, the birds bury their faces into each other’s citrus-scented feathers, occurring every summer during breeding season. Additionally, other findings suggest that songbirds are able to recognize their kin based on smell, and that European starlings rely on scent when selecting certain plants for their nests.

Climate change report: As Michigan warms, new crops, plant life and disease may take hold (mlive): A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists predicts radical consequences of climate change for the state of Michigan, anticipating the state’s climate to become similar to that of northern Arkansas by the end of the century. Along with increased temperature, the report states that incidents of flooding and extreme storms will rise, lake levels will drop and wetlands will shrink. Though the predictions of this report parallel many other analyses, its findings make clear the potential ecological and economic results of climate change in Michigan.