Melting Arctic Ice is Changing Whale Migration. How One Choice We Make Every Day Can Help

It seems that every day brings a new discovery regarding the impacts of climate change on our planet. From its contribution to the Sixth Mass Extinction to its threat to coral reefs worldwide, to its impact on animal migration patterns, the negative effects of a changing climate are being seen everywhere.

Not even the farthest reaches of the globe can escape climate change or the damage it brings with it. The melting of sea ice around the Arctic Circle may not exactly be news, but we are only now starting to understand just how destructive these changes can be to wildlife.

As ice disappears in the Arctic Circle, a passage is opening up where marine animals can move between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The warming Arctic Ocean is also inviting new species to the area. The full impacts of this phenomena may yet to be seen, but the prognosis is not exactly a good one.

A New Passage in The North

The Northwest Passage is a pathway through the Arctic Ocean, north of Canada, that passes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Historically, it has been appealing to shippers and explorers as navigating the icy water could offer an alternate route around North America. However, given the strong presence of dangerous sea ice, the Northwest Passage has rarely been navigated. That is, until recent years.

Since the 1970s, Arctic sea ice has declined by 14 percent. And while the year 2012 set the most recent record summer low of sea ice levels in the Arctic, the region has been on an overall downward trend. November 2015 has shown a growth in sea ice. However, this is expected given the returned winter. The National Snow and Ice Data Center still reports that November 2015 data shows a rate of decline of sea ice at 4.7 percent per decade.

Melting Sea Ice Is Mixing Up WhalesNASA Goddard Space Flight Center/ Flickr
With the opportunity of ice-free sailing in this swath of the Arctic Ocean, 

With the opportunity of ice-free sailing in this swath of the Arctic Ocean, shippers are finding benefit in the unfortunate loss of our frozen habitat. And even a yacht race in the once frozen ocean has been proposed for 2017 based on the assumption the region will be hazard-free enough for the event. (Whaaaat?!)

Human activity around the Arctic Ocean is certainly changing along with the terrain, so it’s no wonder the animals in the region are also changing how they interact with their new environment.

Whales On the Move

The impact of climate change on Arctic sea ice has been pretty well documented over the last few years. The rising concern for loss of habitat for animals like polar bears and walruses has made the daily news on occasion, but these aren’t the only animals that are having their habitat changed under warming skies.

As the ice in the Northwestern Passage melts during the warmer months of the year in the northern hemisphere, the Passage is opening up. While an open sea lane free of thick ice may be appealing to shippers, marine mammals are also taking to exploring and utilizing the brand new path of ocean.

Take the gray whale, for instance. These animals went extinct in the Atlantic Ocean and were gone from sight 300- 400 years ago. Yet, in 2010, scientists documented a gray whale in the Mediterranean Ocean! A study released in the Marine Biodiversity Records the following year acknowledges that the chance that such an animal could go unnoticed by researchers for hundreds of years is pretty unlikely, and this animal most likely used the melting Northwest Passage to make its journey from the Pacific. Will more gray whales make this journey in the future? Will they reestablish a population of gray whales in the Atlantic Ocean?

Gray whales aren’t the only species of whale to show peculiar behavior changes as the result of melting Arctic sea ice. The altered habitat is inviting new visitors that compete with the Arctic’s year-round residents.

Bowhead whales make their home in the Arctic Circle all year. Not only would heavier ship traffic in the area be of concern, but new competition is also a worry as the sea ice in their homes melts away. Humpback and fin whales which tend to hang around the Arctic mainly in the summer may choose to stay longer, competing with bowhead whales for food.

Melting Sea Ice Is Mixing Up WhalesDay Donaldson/ FlickrAnd of concern to all baleen whales in the Arctic is the new presence of their natural predators: killer whales. The largest member of the dolphin family and a formidable threat to even large whales has been documented over recent years with increasingly frequent sightings in the cold waters of the Arctic. With the assistance of Inuit hunters in the area, scientists can confirm that killer whales are now appearing in the warming Arctic in numbers not ever seen before. Whereas their towering dorsal fin once made their navigation of icy waters difficult, the melting sea ice is now open territory for the animals to hunt. These charismatic black and white animals can now more easily prey on animals like bowhead whales, narwhals, and belugas in their new Arctic habitats.

The Take-Home Message

The fact that climate change is altering the habitats of animals not just in the Arctic, but all over the world is reason to be concerned. It’s also reason to take action!

Knowing what we do about the impact of climate change, it can be easy to feel defenseless or that this is a problem too large for us to even make a dent in. This, however, is hardly the case. While the carbon emissions of large industries like coal and oil need to be regulated, as an individual you have an incredible opportunity to start reducing your own carbon footprint. People are making small changes every day like choosing to walk or bike to work rather than driving, seeking out recycling bins for plastic waste, and even being mindful of the impact of their consumption choices. In keeping with this theme of doing small things, there is another solution that can have an enormously positive impact for the planet – and, it might just be the simplest one yet: changing the way you eat.

We all have the chance to lower our personal carbon footprints every time we sit down for a meal. By opting to eat fewer meat and dairy products in favor of plant-based alternatives, you can literally halve your own carbon footprint. How? Well, one of the largest drivers of greenhouse gas emissions is animal agriculture. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent.

As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future.

To learn more about how you can use your food choices to fight climate change, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement.

Click on the graphic below for more information

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Camera-trap research paves the way for global monitoring networks

Why won’t the provincial government give injured animals a fighting chance?

http://globalnews.ca/news/3478909/danielle-smith-why-wont-the-provincial-government-give-injured-animals-a-fighting-chance/

Alberta Fish and Wildlife needs to seriously rethink how it manages injured and orphaned wildlife.

Last week, a woman in Sherwood Park had a young moose limp into her yard with a broken ankle. She tried to get Fish and Wildlife out to assess whether it could be rehabilitated and, if not, at least euthanized humanely.

Fish and wildlife did neither, and the homeowner watched in despair over 10 days as the moose slowly got weaker and died. Not exactly what you expect when you call government wildlife officers for help.

Then there is the story of the three bear cubs found in a bathroom in Banff.

READ MORE: Confusion over fate of 3 bear cubs found in Banff bathroom from government, rehab societies

They had to be shipped out to Ontario via BC, after it was revealed Alberta has a policy against releasing rehabilitated bears back into the wild. I guess we should be thankful the bears were found in a federal park. Presumably if mama bear was killed by hunters, or run over on provincial crown land, the official policy would be to just let her cubs starve to death.

I’ve also received several stories from listeners who report widely different responses when they’ve called in injured animal reports, mostly for deer.

READ MORE: Orphaned or injured wildlife

Typically they are told to “let nature run its course,” no matter how cruel that is. If the caller asks if they can put down the animal themselves, they are told no. If they want to call in a rehabilitation centre for help, the centres are forbidden to in most cases, with the threat of losing their permits to operate.

It didn’t always used to be this way. Alberta has seven rehabilitation centres and Clio Smeeton has been involved with operating the Cochrane Ecological Institute for over 50 years. She told me stories of the success they have had in saving and releasing moose and bears back to the wild. But starting in 2010 the rules changed.

WATCH BELOW: Bear encounter in Banff highlights issue of human activity in animal habitat

They are now forbidden from accepting for rescue and release bighorn lambs, mountain goats and pronghorn antelope kids, elk calves, grizzly bears, black bears, wolf fox, coyote cubs, lynx, bobcats, skunks, raccoons and cougar kittens. With all these exclusions, you have to wonder if the government wants to save any distressed wildlife at all.

Considering most animals become orphaned or injured due to human causes, it seems preposterous that these private agencies, who operate with no government funding, wouldn’t be allowed to give these animals a fighting chance to survive.

What can you do to get the government to change its policy? Listen to my full interview with Clio Smeeton to find out.

 

If you want to know know more about reporting injured wildlife in Calgary click here.

 

Border Wall May Negatively Affect 111 Endangered Species

http://www.wildlifelandtrust.org/news/press-releases/border-wall-may-negatively-2017.html
Ben Callison, president of the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust

No matter where you stand on the issue of the border wall between the United States and Mexico, we can all agree that the deleterious harms a border wall could have on wildlife is not getting the attention it should. Barriers currently cut across roughly 40 percent of the nearly 2,000-mile long border. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 precipitated the addition of a variety of fencing types, concrete vehicle barriers and sensors.

Researchers found that where barriers are already in place, wildlife is impaired. Impacts include disrupting their migration patterns and limiting the dispersal of populations, which promotes inbreeding between subpopulations of a species.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predicts a wall may negatively affect 111 endangered species, such as jaguars, ocelots, jaguarundi and Mexican wolves, and 108 migratory bird species, including sparrows, warblers and hummingbirds. Four wildlife refuges, such as Lower Rio Grande Valley, Buenos Aires and Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuges, and fish hatcheries could all be negatively impacted.

These protected species and all animals should be able to access food, water and safe habitat. Walls and fences already in place are destroying the habitat connectivity that wild animals depend upon to fulfill these basic needs. Essential migratory routes may span from country to country, as a means for animals to access appropriate habitats in different seasons. A herd of bison, for example, is known to visit a pond on Mexico’s side of a barrier—as it is the only year-round water in the area—and cross into the U.S. to feed on native grasses.

The ability to roam is important since access to mates and a healthy-sized population maintains genetic diversity. Walls and fences prevent animals from following natural migration patterns and divide healthy-sized populations, leading to inbreeding and a loss of genetic diversity. Resulting mutations can eventually weaken species, making them more vulnerable to diseases and disasters such as floods, fires and climate change.

North America’s cat species are among the species most imperiled by current and future barriers. Any hope for jaguars to repatriate part of their former U.S. range depends upon any remaining jaguars in the U.S. having access to jaguars in Mexico. Few ocelots still reside in the U.S., and a fence separates them from a larger, more genetically diverse population in Mexico. Jaguarundis have been protected in the U.S. since 1976, but the last known individual died on a Texas road in 1986. A population south of the border is the only hope for this species to again flourish in its former U.S. range.

Only around 100 Mexican gray wolves remain north of the border and a few dozen south of the border. Passing across the border is essential for the two populations to maintain genetic diversity. The ferruginous pygmy owl depends upon mating between populations in Arizona and Mexico, but only flies as high as 4.5 feet. The proposed height for a new wall would be impassable for many species.

Much is at stake for wildlife as well as the integrity and health of habitats situated on the borderlands. If it is decided that the expansion of the wall must happen, wildlife biologists and others must be consulted to guide the process so that any foreseeable harms to wildlife are minimal and habitat connectivity is preserved and restored wherever feasible. We need to explore creative options such as designing wildlife crossings, leaving gaps in barriers for small animals, and having removal barriers to allow for migration or breeding seasons.

When constructing national policy, there are many important issues facing decision makers, but we should take the needs of animals and conservation into account as well. Congress and President Nixon did as much in enacting the Endangered Species Act in 1973. “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us,” wrote Aldo Leopold. “When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Where’d the animals go? GOP targets landmark Endangered Species Act for big changes

http://www.salon.com/2017/01/17/gop-targets-landmark-endangered-species-act-for-big-changes/

Republicans say the act hinders drilling, logging and other activities

SKIP TO COMMENTS

TOPICS: CONGRESS, ENDANGERED SPECIES, ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT, FROM THE WIRES, REPUBLICANS, , ,

Where'd the animals go? GOP targets landmark Endangered Species Act for big changesFILE – In this July 25, 2005, file photo, tiny fish, including delta smelt, caught in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, are seen through a microscope at a California Department of Fish and Game laboratory in Stockton, Calif. In control of Congress and soon the White House, Republicans are readying plans to roll back the influence of the Endangered Species Act, one of the government’s most powerful conservation tools, after decades of complaints that it hinders drilling, logging and other activities. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)(Credit: AP)

BILLINGS, Mont. — In control of Congress and soon the White House, Republicans are readying plans to roll back the influence of the Endangered Species Act, one of the government’s most powerful conservation tools, after decades of complaints that it hinders drilling, logging and other activities.

Over the past eight years, GOP lawmakers sponsored dozens of measures aimed at curtailing the landmark law or putting species such as gray wolves and sage grouse out of its reach. Almost all were blocked by Democrats and the White House or lawsuits from environmentalists.

Now, with the ascension of President-elect Donald Trump, Republicans see an opportunity to advance broad changes to a law they contend has been exploited by wildlife advocates to block economic development.

“It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. It’s been used for control of the land,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop. “We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.”

Bishop said he “would love to invalidate” the law and would need other lawmakers’ cooperation.

The 1973 act was ushered though Congress nearly unanimously, in part to stave off extinction of the national symbol, the bald eagle. Eagle populations have since rebounded, and the birds were taken off the threatened and endangered list in 2007.

In the eagles’ place, another emblematic species — the wolf — has emerged as a prime example of what critics say is wrong with the current law: seemingly endless litigation that offers federal protection for species long after government biologists conclude that they have recovered.

Wolf attacks on livestock have provoked hostility against the law, which keeps the animals off-limits to hunting in most states. Other species have attracted similar ire — Canada lynx for halting logging projects, the lesser prairie chicken for impeding oil and gas development and salmon for blocking efforts to reallocate water in California.

Reforms proposed by Republicans include placing limits on lawsuits that have been used to maintain protections for some species and force decisions on others, as well as adopting a cap on how many species can be protected and giving states a greater say in the process.

Wildlife advocates are bracing for changes that could make it harder to add species to the protected list and to usher them through to recovery. Dozens are due for decisions this year, including the Pacific walrus and the North American wolverine, two victims of potential habitat loss due to climate change.

“Any species that gets in the way of a congressional initiative or some kind of development will be clearly at risk,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife and a former Fish and Wildlife Service director under President Bill Clinton. “The political lineup is as unfavorable to the Endangered Species Act as I can remember.”

More than 1,600 plants and animals in the U.S. are now shielded by the law. Hundreds more are under consideration for protections. Republicans complain that fewer than 70 have recovered and had protections lifted.

Continued: http://www.salon.com/2017/01/17/gop-targets-landmark-endangered-species-act-for-big-changes/

 

Drought forces wildlife to spread across larger areas

Hindustan Times:  Man-animal conflict increases as Kerala faces severe drought
INDIA Updated: Feb 19, 2017
http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/man-animal-conflict-increases-as-kerala-faces-severe-drought/story-ETkcrWYmj29vU2I2VGGN7K.html

As Kerala slips into an unprecedented drought, wild animals have started raiding human settlements in search of water and food, endangering lives of people settled in fringe areas of the forest.

Last week three people were gored to death by elephant herds in separate incidents in the forested Idukki and Wayanad districts.

In the drought-hit Wayanad – the north Kerala district saw 72% deficit rainfall during the last two monsoons – people say besides elephants, other animals like, bison, deer and boars, made regular incursions into their villages.

Pepper plantation worker Nagappan, 34, was gored to death by a tusker three days ago in the district. About one-third of the district has forest cover.

According to forest officials, usually nearly 800 elephants are spotted along the Kabani riverbanks, a favourite summer habitat of jumbos in the Nilagiris, but this year their numbers dwindled to 120 as the river has partially dried up.

“Devoid of food and water, the elephant herds have become aggressive. Small crackers or fire torches fail to deter them these days. Bison and deer are behaving like domesticated animals,” said Velayudhan, a farm labourer of Thalappadi in Wayanad.

Another farmer in Ambalavayal said he lost crops worth Rs 2 lakh in the last three weeks as animals raided his farm.

“Two weeks ago, a tusker strayed almost seven km inside the human settlement.

We dug up 12 small ponds deep in the forest to check this menace,” said Wayanad district collector, BS Thirumeni.

Fed up with monkey menace, a 52-year-old widow had committed suicide in Thiruvananthapruam last week following which forest officials put up monkey traps in the area. Her relatives claimed she resorted to the extreme step after her frequent pleas fell on deaf ears.

Climate change impacts on endangered wildlife massively under reported

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY Public Release: 13-Feb-2017

A team of scientists reporting in the journal Nature Climate Change say that negative impacts of climate change on threatened and endangered wildlife have been massively underreported.

Said co-author Dr James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and University of Queensland: “Our results clearly show that the impact of climate change on mammals and birds to date is currently greatly under-estimated and reported upon. We need to greatly improve assessments of the impacts of climate change on species right now, we need to communicate this to wider public and we need to ensure key decisions makers know that something significant needs to happen now to stop species going extinct. Climate change is not a future threat anymore.”

JOURNAL
Nature Climate Change
http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate3223.html

c1986-1485390555143

What Trump’s Triumph Means for Wildlife

http://www.takepart.com/article/2016/11/11/what-trumps-triumph-means-wildlife

Get ready for more drilling, mining, and logging on public lands and an agenda that values preserving wildlife—for hunters.

A 1,400-pound male coastal brown bear fishes while a one-year-old gray wolf waits for scraps in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. (Photo: Christopher Dodds/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)
NOV 11, 2016·
Richard Conniff is the author of House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth and other books.

For people who worry about the nation’s (and the world’s) rapidly dwindling wildlife, the only vaguely good news about Donald Trump’s election might just be that he doesn’t care. This is a guy whose ideas about nature stop at “water hazard” and “sand trap.” Look up his public statements about animals and wildlife on votesmart.com, and the answer that bounces back is “no matching public statements found.” It’s not one of those things he has promised to ban, deport, dismantle, or just plain “schlong.”

More good news (and you may sense that I am stretching here): Trump is not likely to appoint renegade rancher and grazing-fee deadbeat Cliven Bundy to head the Bureau of Land Management. When Field and Stream magazineasked Trump early this year if he endorsed the Western movement to transfer federal lands to state control (a plank in the Republican platform), he replied: “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold.”

This was no doubt the real estate developer in him talking, but his gut instinct against letting go of land will surely outweigh the party platform. “We have to be great stewards of this land,” Trump added. “This is magnificent land.” Asked if he would continue the long downward trend in budgets for managing public lands, Trump said he’d heard from friends and family that public lands “are not maintained the way they were by any stretch of the imagination. And we’re going to get that changed; we’re going to reverse that.”

This was apparently enough, in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s upset election, for Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, to suggest that “we share common interests in the protection of America’s wildlife and our great systems of public lands, which provide endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, wildlife observation, and other pursuits that all Americans value.”

Meanwhile, pretty much all others active on wildlife issues were looking as if the floor had just dropped out from under them, plunging them into a pool of frenzied, ravenous Republicans. At the website for the Humane Society, where a pre-election posting warned that a Trump presidency would pose “an immense and critical threat to animals,” an apologetic notice said, “The action alert you are attempting to access is no longer active.”

They have reason to be nervous. Trump has surrounded himself with political professionals who do not think sweet thoughts about wildlife. Newt Gingrich, for instance, loves animals—but mainly in zoos rather than in inconvenient places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Reince Priebus, a likely choice for chief of staff, was part of a Tea Party revolution in Wisconsin that put Gov. Scott Walker in power. Just to give you a sense of what that could mean for a Trump administration, Walker handed over control of state parks and other lands to the hook-and-bullet set while shutting out biologists and conservationists. Chris Christie? Rudy Giuliani? Let’s just not talk about them.

Trump’s main advisers on wildlife appear to be his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and they seem to care only about hunting and fishing. Donald Jr. has publicly expressed a wish to run the Department of the Interior, though his only known qualification for the job is his family name. More likely, as he told Outdoor Life during the campaign, he will help vet the nominees for Interior, “and I will be there to make sure the people who run the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and so on know how much sportsmen do for wildlife and conservation and that, for the sake of us all, they value the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.”

You may be stumbling over that Christ-like phrase “for the sake of us all.” But you should really be worrying about the “North American Model.” It’s a code phrase for managing public lands primarily for hunting and fishing and only secondarily, if at all, for nongame species—or for hiking, bird-watching, camping, or other uses. In practice it can mean eradicating wolves because hunters consider them competition for elk or moose. (Donald Jr.: “We need to reduce wolves and rebuild those herds.”) It can mean cutting back funding for songbird habitat and spending it instead on fish stocking.

Like his father, Donald Jr. has opposed selling public lands, mostly because it “may cost sportsmen and women access to the lands.” But he believes states should help govern federal lands, calling shared governance “especially critical when we pursue our idea of energy independence in America. As has been proven in several of our Western States, energy exploration can be done without adverse affects [sic] on wildlife, fisheries or grazing.” (America has come tantalizingly close to energy independence under President Obama—without moving new drilling rigs onto public lands—and there is no evidence for the broad-brush notion that energy exploration is harmless to wildlife.)

Two other major considerations to keep in mind: If Trump goes ahead with his favorite plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, it would cut off vital migratory routes and habitat for jaguars, ocelots, desert bighorn sheep, black bears, and many other species. (It might also impede the flow of fed-up Mexicans heading south.)

Likewise, trashing the Paris Agreement on climate change, as Trump has promised to do, would gain the United States nothing and risk committing the planet irrevocably to warmer temperatures, extreme weather events, and massively destructive coastal flooding. That doesn’t make sense even from a business perspective, and much less so for wildlife. The first documented extinction of a species by human-caused climate change occurred this year, when the Bramble Cay melomys succumbed to rising sea levels in its South Pacific island home. Thousands of other species also face disruption of their habitat and the likelihood of imminent extinction.

The bottom line is that a Trump administration is likely to be good for mining, drilling, logging, and the hook-and-bullet set. But for wildlife and for Americans at large? We are facing four dangerous years of self-serving gut instinct and reckless indifference to science, with the damage to be measured, as climate activist Bill McKibben put it the other day, “in geologic time.”

If you are feeling as if a Trump victory is the end of the world as we know it, you may just be right.