Thursday, 11 January 2018

Waterfowl Deaths Warming Lakes Linked

Photo of dead waterfowl on the beach.

Photo by Michigan Sea Grant – University of Michigan

Researchers at the UW Madison found that tissue in a majority of dead waterfowl found at three locations around Lake Michigan contained botulism toxin. They just published their findings in the Journal of Applied Ecology. These deaths followed warm water algae blooms where counts of botulism producing bacteria (Clostridium botulinum) spiked.

According to the USGS Field Manual of Wildlife Diseases, “Most botulism outbreaks take place during the summer and fall when ambient temperatures are high.”

Lake Michigan waterfowl botulism deaths linked to warm waters, algae

Wildlife Study

Professor Ben Zuckerberg led the research into botulism deaths in Great Lakes waterfowl.

Microscopy image of waterfowl with Clostridium botulinum.

Photo from Wikipedia

Invasive zebra mussels have increased water clarity which along with warmer waters temperatures created the low-oxygen environment where the botulism toxin-producing bacteria thrive.

Birds do not use bacteria as a food source, however, they eat the insects and other invertebrates that do. According to the USGS “Invertebrates are unaffected by the toxin and, because they feed on decaying matter, they can effectively act to concentrate toxin.” That is how birds get lethal doses of the botulism bacteria.

To keep track of these deaths, the USGS National Wildlife Health Center created a citizen-science program called AMBLE (Avian Monitoring for Botulism Lakeshore Events) in 2010. Volunteers from AMBLE walked beaches in three areas around Lake Michigan.

 The Zuckerberg team also found that die-offs were located within a roughly 25-mile radius of one another.

These findings are no surprise to anglers and duck hunters on the Upper Mississippi. Rafts of cutes have been washing up on Mississippi dams along the State’s western border for several years now. There too toxicology reports show botulism as the cause.

Looking Forward

The hope is that scientists may be able to predict when botulism outbreaks could occur by watching environmental conditions.

2017

May 2017

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Snapshots Improve Wildlife Management

Photo of fawn bounding out of a patch of goldenrod.

Photo from Wisconsin DNR website

Better wildlife management requires better science. Better science needs improved data. As a private landowner, you can help provide that better information that Wisconsin wildlife managers need to make better decisions.

Private landowners manage the majority of wildlife habitat in Wisconsin. While it does not seem like it sometimes, we manage most of the property on which our game and non-game species live.

Snapshot Wisconsin is a volunteer based monitoring effort to capture images of all types of wildlife including deer, elk, bears, fox, bobcats, whooping cranes and more to learn more about Wisconsin’s wildlife. This project is led by Department of Natural Resources staff in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UW-Extension.

This project offers a unique opportunity to view wildlife in their normal routines in the wild and data collected will help researchers better understand Wisconsin’s ecological landscapes. To date, 604 volunteers currently maintain 687 trail cameras – 10,336,444 photos have been collected.

“Snapshot Wisconsin is a great way to get involved in volunteer-based monitoring and learn more about all of our different wildlife species,” said Susan Frett, one of the volunteer coordinators working on the project. “We have volunteers in Wisconsin participating as trail camera hosts and approximately 4,000 volunteers from around the world participating in crowd-sourced classification of our images on www.snapshotwisconsin.org.”

If you are a landowner with access to at least 10 acres of contiguous private land in Dane, Grant, Rusk, Taylor, Marathon or Clark county and agree to maintain a trail camera on that land for at least one year. Training and supplies are provided and no prior experience with trail cameras is necessary. Basic computer knowledge and access to the internet is necessary to participate. Local, in-person training sessions are currently planned for July and online training is also available.

Snapshot Wisconsin is also recruiting applicants in Dodge, Iowa, Iron, Jackson, Manitowoc, Marinette, Oneida, Racine, Sawyer, St. Croix, Vernon and Waupaca counties. Tribal members or affiliates on tribal lands and educators throughout the state are also encouraged to participate. Additional counties will be added over the next few years.

Volunteers can sign up by visiting www.snapshotwisignup.org or find out more details by contacting Susan Frett, DNR Snapshot Wisconsin program, 608-221-6323.

March 2017

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Yew Killed Our Deer … and Elk

There is a killer shrub lurking in many Wisconsin yards. Japanese yew are, according to the Idaho Statesman, killing mule deer, elk and pronghorn sheep in large numbers. Heavy snow makes it difficult for deer and elk to find food. They become desperate and venture into people’s yards. The popular landscape shrub resembles native yew species, but contains a toxin called taxine B that causes cardiac arrest.

Matt Miller Cool Green Science blogger for the Nature Conservancy recommends, “If you live in deer or elk range, please don’t plant this shrub. Large mammals have a difficult enough time in the winter without this added threat.”

Wrapping Things Up

Many rural western landowners are removing the shrubs to prevent accidental poisonings. Others who are concerned about deer and elk but also love their Japanese yew bushes are wrapping them in burlap for the winter. Not only does it protect browsing wildlife but it also reduces water loss from the bushes. This prevents winter kill; a browning of branches that occurs when they dry out in winter wind.