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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Wolf hunt, lionfish and protecting butterflies: 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:

A gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A gray wolf. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

With Michigan wolf hunt less than a month away, debate rages onward (Great Lakes Echo): Wolf hunting in Michigan will be legal for the first time on November 15. The hunt will end on December 31, or once 43 wolves have been killed. Supporters argue the hunt will curb the threat wolves pose to livestock and pets. The conservation group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is collecting signatures to put the Natural Resources Commission’s authority to put the hunt to a vote. If the group collects enough signatures, there will be a statewide vote in November 2014 regarding the hunt.

Lionfish wreaking havoc on Atlantic Ocean (Yahoo): The population of lionfish along the U.S. east coast is growing out of control. The lionfish is a venomous predator that has no natural predators of its own in the Atlantic Ocean. The Christian Science Monitor estimates that at least 40 native species have suffered because of the invasive lionfish. Scientists believe that introducing only six lionfish into the area caused the boom. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association suggests the only way to control the population is to capture and eat the lionfish.

Wildlife officials seek protection for Dakota, Poweshiek butterflies (Holland Sentinel): Federal wildlife officials believe two types of butterflies should be classified as threatened or endangered. The proposal to protect the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling will be published in the Federal Register. The Fish and Wildlife service wants to designate different sized tracts in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota to protect the Dakota skipper, while designating tracts in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota to protect the Poweshiek skipperling.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions drop 3.8 percent (Mother Nature Network): The U.S. Energy Information Administration announced on Monday, October 21 that there was a 3.8 percent drop in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from 2011 to 2012. Although the population increased in 2012, the country released 208 million metric tons less than it did the year before. A milder winter, new car efficiency standards and a continuing switch from power plants run by coal to power plants run by natural gas contributed to the decrease.

Up or down? Which way are Great Lakes water levels headed? (MLive): Officials have considered closing Leland Harbor in Lake Michigan because of record-low water levels that could damage boats and freighters. Although significant rainfall from April to August caused a rise in water levels in the Great Lakes, climate change and manmade alterations have greatly affected the makeup of the lakes. Most studies conclude lake levels will go down in the future, due to climate change. Scientists also predict climate change will cause a continued increase in water temperatures, less ice cover and more evaporation from the lakes.

ENDANGERED!

At MNA, our Mission is to protect special natural areas and the rare species that live there. The goals of our blog are to cover the latest environmental issues affecting these areas and provide information about the efforts of our volunteers. Our weekly “ENDANGERED!” column serves to inform you about the endangered and threatened plant and animal species found in and around these special natural areas, and how you can contribute to conservation efforts before it is too late.

Gray Wolf
By Brandon Grenier

The gray wolf (Canis lupus) was once found in every county in Michigan. Now it is most commonly found in the Upper Peninsula. When Michigan was originally settled, state-driven efforts to get rid of wolves via paid bounty were hugely successful. By 1960, the gray wolf was nearly wiped out in both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Since then, the state has changed its aims from eradication to protection.

Physical Appearance:
The gray wolf is the largest member of the dog family. On average, adults are 30 inches in height and weigh 65 pounds. They have oversized paws, which is the best indicator to differentiate between wolves and coyotes in the wild. Gray wolves have a distinct black tipped tail and a white-gray coat of fur, sometimes mixed with light brown. Generally, gray wolves (also known as Timber Wolves) have light-colored fur around their muzzles and a black nose.

Preferred Habitat:
The gray wolf is an extremely adaptive animal and can survive almost anywhere in North America with large areas of contiguous forest. Surprisingly, some timber cutting and land management are good for wolves’ hunting; however, too much development restricts where the wolves can hunt and limits their range. Their choice of habitat is based more on a steady food source than their surroundings. They prey on deer, elk, beavers, hares, rodents and other animals.

Life Cycle:
Gray wolves in the wild live for approximately six-to-eight years, but can sometimes live for up to 13 years. Gray wolves mate for life, and breeding occurs in February between the alpha male and female of a wolf pack. Once the pups are born in April, the alpha female cares for them until they are weaned. All members of the pack provide nourishment for the pups until they are old enough to learn hunting skills.

List Status:
The status of the gray wolf is among one the most controversial of animals in Michigan. The wolf was first listed as endangered in Michigan in 1973 after it was almost wiped out from both peninsulas. Confirmed sightings were only of solitary wolves until 1989, when a pair was spotted travelling together. The state wolf population grew from an estimated 20 in 1992 to 520 in 2008. In Michigan, the gray wolf was still listed as an endangered species as of June 2009. It was briefly delisted in May 2009, and lethal measures of control were legal throughout the state. After several complaints, the USFWS relisted the wolf as endangered.

The gray wolf is endangered mostly because of human development and because it is seen by many as a threat. Farmers do not want wolves eating their livestock; some people do not want wolves in their community. The more forests that are destroyed, the harder it is for gray wolves to find a sustainable food source and sufficient land to roam.

Protection Efforts:
With their lowest recorded population at six animals in 1973, there have been multiple efforts to repopulate Michigan’s gray wolves. The USFWS has attempted to introduce animals from Wisconsin with some success, and since killing was banned, populations have made steady progress. Currently, gray wolves are found in every county in the Upper Peninsula.

How You Can Help:
Speak up! The DNR and USFWS are attempting to come to a final decision of whether gray wolves should be endangered, and will be asking the public for its opinion. If you believe the gray wolf should be saved, let them know before it is too late.

MNA protects wolves’ habitat at sanctuaries such as Echo Lake and Keweenaw Shores, which are known to be transportation corridors for the gray wolf.

MNA volunteers are currently working to protect this and other endangered and threatened species, and you can help too. Join our efforts as a volunteer removing invasive plants in the special natural areas where this species lives. Or, become a steward and take responsibility for planning efforts to maintain a specific MNA sanctuary. To find out how to get involved, visit our website.