Gray wolf death toll grows as US hunters take their bounty

Hunters have killed 299 gray wolves in the Rocky Mountain states where trophy hunting is set to continue through the winter, and in some cases through the spring. Conservationists say the packs could nosedive in the face of robust trophy hunting and trapping that has been set up to whittle the wolves down to around 400 in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming combined.

Angst over wolf hunt in Michigan

Hunters opened fire on Michigan’s wolves today, the first day of the first wolf hunt in the state since the animals were delisted from the Endangered Species Act protections. The move toward hunting these top predators has been contentious in the Wolverine state, where Native Americans paid homage to their “brother” spirit.

Nature in Danger: The Red Wolf

Red wolves, commonly mistaken as coyotes, have stunning copper and gray coats. They live in packs composed of one alpha male and one female, along with their litter. When their pups are age 2, the males begin the search for another female to start their own packs, and their parents continue having litters once a year.

Chalk Mountain, between a rock and a nesting place

By Barbara Kessler

Every spring, as sure as the sun warms the cedars and the birds flock back from Mexico, Lee Clauser leads a stealth group of intense adults dressed in khakis and boots to the edge of a wild thicket near his house in north central Texas.

They creep into the brush, quietly unloading their weapons of mass observation.

Putting binoculars to eyes, they look, and listen, for the brilliant Golden-cheeked warbler, and for the reclusive Black-capped vireo. Both songbirds are listed as endangered in the United States, their nesting grounds having been narrowed to a strip of Texas Hill Country that supplies just the right shrubbery and old-growth cedars. The birders, who come from Fort Worth, Dallas, New England, the Pacific Northwest and beyond, know that catching a glimpse of one of these delicate creatures is a rare treat.

“People have come from Europe to see those birds, both species. For birders all over the world, it’s a huge deal,” says Clauser, a retired banker and life-long bird rescue and rehabilitation expert.

Despite scary Halloween image, bats are environmental helpers

By Catherine Colbert

Bats have historically gotten a bad rap as rabid, blood-thirsty creatures. While it’s agreed that the very thought of them conjures up vivid images of Béla Lugosi-style Dracula flicks, a growing body of research proves the mammals are beneficial to the environment in several ways.

Bats are chemical-free exterminators. A National Geographic profile on bats calls them “nature’s own bug zappers.”

The pint-size creatures also spend their time pollinating and feeding on crop-damaging bugs. “Worldwide, bats are important pollinators, dispersers of seeds, and help to control insects, including serious crop pests,” says Barbara French, a biologist and Science Officer for Bat Conservation International (BCI), located in Austin, Texas.

“Each summer, a colony of 150 big brown bats can protect farmers from up to 33 million rootworms, which are serious crop pests. Many bats feed on moths. The moths lay eggs that develop into caterpillars, like corn earworms and army worms, which feed on an amazing variety of crops,” says French. “Important agricultural crops, such as bananas, breadfruit, mangoes, cashews, dates, and figs, rely on bats for pollination or seed dispersal. And bats are critical for rain forest regeneration,” asserts French.