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The Animal Source is Us

Think Exotic Animals Are to Blame for the Coronavirus? Think Again.

Scientists have fingered bats and pangolins as potential sources of the virus, but the real blame lies elsewhere—with human assaults on the environment.

Read Article at The Nation

It could have been a pangolin. Or a bat. Or, as one now-debunked theory that made the rounds suggested, a snake.

The race to finger the animal source of COVID-19, the coronavirus currently ensnaring more than 150 million people in quarantines and cordons sanitaires in China and elsewhere, is on. The virus’s animal origin is a critical mystery to solve. But speculation about which wild creature originally harbored the virus obscures a more fundamental source of our growing vulnerability to pandemics: the accelerating pace of habitat loss.

Since 1940, hundreds of microbial pathogens have either emerged or reemerged into new territory where they’ve never been seen before. They include HIV, Ebola in West Africa, Zika in the Americas, and a bevy of novel coronaviruses. The majority of them—60 percent—originate in the bodies of animals. Some come from pets and livestock. Most of them—more than two-thirds—originate in wildlife.

But that’s not the fault of wild animals. Although stories illustrated with pictures of wild animals as “the source” of deadly outbreaks might suggest otherwise, wild animals are not especially infested with deadly pathogens, poised to infect us. In fact, most of these microbes live harmlessly in these animals’ bodies.

The problem is the way that cutting down forests and expanding towns, cities, and industrial activities creates pathways for animal microbes to adapt to the human body.

Habitat destruction threatens vast numbers of wild species with extinction, including the medicinal plants and animals we’ve historically depended upon for our pharmacopeia. It also forces those wild species that hang on to cram into smaller fragments of remaining habitat, increasing the likelihood that they’ll come into repeated, intimate contact with the human settlements expanding into their newly fragmented habitats. It’s this kind of repeated, intimate contact that allows the microbes that live in their bodies to cross over into ours, transforming benign animal microbes into deadly human pathogens.

Consider Ebola. According to a 2017 study, Ebola outbreaks, which have been linked to several species of bats, are more likely to occur in places in Central and West Africa that have experienced recent episodes of deforestation. Cutting down the bats’ forests forces them to roost in trees in backyards and farms instead, increasing the likelihood that a human might, say, take a bite of a piece of fruit covered in bat saliva or hunt and slaughter a local bat, exposing herself to the microbes sheltering in the bat’s tissues. Such encounters allow a host of viruses carried harmlessly by bats—Ebola, Nipah, and Marburg, to name a few—to slip into human populations. When such so-called “spillover” events happen frequently enough, animal microbes can adapt to our bodies and evolve into human pathogens

Mosquito-borne disease outbreaks have been similarly linked to the felling of forests, although less because of the loss of habitat than to its transformation. As trees’ leaf litter and roots disappear, water and sediment flow more readily along the shorn forest floor, newly open to shafts of sunlight. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes breed in the sunlit puddles. A study in 12 countries found that mosquito species that carry human pathogens are twice as common in deforested areas compared to intact forests.

Habitat destruction also scrambles the population sizes of different species in ways that can increase the likelihood that a pathogen will spread. West Nile virus, a virus of migratory birds, is one example. Squeezed by habitat loss as well as other affronts, bird populations in North America have declined by more than 25 percent over the past 50 years. But species don’t decline at a uniform rate. Specialist bird species, like woodpeckers and rails, have been hit harder than generalists like robins and crows. That increases the abundance of West Nile virus in our domestic bird flocks because, while woodpeckers and rails are poor carriers of the virus, robins and crows excel at it. The likelihood that a local mosquito will bite a West Nile virus–infected bird and then a human grows.

Similarly, the expansion of suburbs into the Northeastern forest increases the risk of tick-borne disease by driving out creatures like opossums, which help control tick populations, while improving conditions for species like white-footed mice and deer, which don’t. Tick-borne Lyme disease first emerged in the United States in 1975; in the past 20 years, seven new tick-borne pathogens have followed.

It’s not only the fact of habitat destruction that ratchets up the risk of disease emergence, it’s also what we’re replacing wild habitat with. To sate our species’ carnivorous appetites, we’ve razed an area around the size of the continent of Africa to raise animals for slaughter. Some of these animals are then delivered through the illicit wildlife trade or sold in so-called “wet markets.” There, wild species that would rarely if ever encounter each other in nature are caged next to one another, allowing microbes to jump from one species to the next, a process that begot the coronavirus that caused the 2002–03 SARS epidemic and possibly the novel coronavirus stalking us today.

But many more are reared in factory farms, where hundreds of thousands of individuals await slaughter, packed closely together, providing microbes lush opportunities to turn into deadly pathogens. Avian influenza viruses, for example, which originate in the bodies of wild waterfowl, rampage in factory farms packed with captive chickens, mutating and becoming more virulent, a process so reliable it can be replicated in the laboratory. One strain called H5N1, which can infect humans, kills more than half of those infected. Containing another strain, which reached North America in 2014, required the slaughter of tens of millions of poultry.

The avalanche of excreta produced by our livestock introduces yet more opportunities for animal microbes to spill over into human populations. Because animal waste is far more voluminous than croplands can possibly absorb as fertilizer, it is collected in many places in unlined cesspools called manure lagoons. Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli, which lives harmlessly inside the guts of over half of all cattle on American feedlots, lurks in that waste. In humans, it causes bloody diarrhea and fever and can lead to acute kidney failure. Because cattle waste so frequently sloshes into our food and water, 90,000 Americans are infected every year.

This process of transforming animal microbes into human pathogens is accelerated today, but it is not new. It began with the Neolithic revolution, when we first cleared wildlife habitat to make way for crops and yoked wild animals into servitude. The “deadly gifts” we received from our “animal friends,” as Jared Diamond put it, include measles and tuberculosis, from cows; pertussis from pigs; and influenza from ducks. It continued during the era of colonial expansion. Belgian colonists in Congo built the railroads and cities that allowed a lentivirus in local macaques to perfect its adaptations to the human body; British colonists in Bangladesh cut down the Sundarbans wetlands to build rice farms, exposing humans to water-borne bacteria in the wetlands’ brackish waters.

The pandemics those colonial-era intrusions created plague us to this day. The macaque’s lentivirus evolved into HIV. The water-borne bacteria of the Sundarbans, now known as cholera, has caused seven pandemics so far, the latest churning just a few hundred miles off the coast of Florida in Haiti.

The good news is that, because we are not passive victims of animal microbes invading our bodies but fully empowered agents who turn harmless animal microbes into pandemic-causing pathogens, there’s much we can do to reduce the risk that these disease-causing microbes emerge at all.

We can protect wildlife habitat, so that animal microbes stay in their bodies and don’t cross over into ours, an approach championed by the “One Health” movement, among others.

We can conduct active surveillance in places where animal microbes are most likely to transform into human pathogens, hunting for ones that show signs of adapting to the human body—and squelching them before they cause epidemics. For the past 10 years, scientists funded by the USAID’s Predict program did just that. While the human footprint has continued to expand across the planet, Predict scientists have pinpointed more than 900 novel viruses around the world that emerged as a result, including new strains of SARS-like coronaviruses

Today, the shadow of the next pandemic looms. But that’s not just because of the novel coronavirus. The Trump administration’s liberation of extractive industries and industrial development from environmental and other regulatory constraints can be expected to accelerate the habitat destruction that brings animal microbes into human bodies. At the same time, the administration is reducing our ability to pinpoint the next spillover microbe and to contain it when it starts to spread. The administration decided to end the Predict program in October. Officials reportedly felt “uncomfortable funding cutting-edge science.” Last week, the administration proposed cutting funds to the World Health Organization too, by 53 percent.

The epidemiologist Larry Brilliant once said, “Outbreaks are inevitable, but pandemics are optional.” But pandemics only remain optional if we have the will to disrupt our politics as readily as we disrupt nature and wildlife. In the end, there is no real mystery about the animal source of pandemics. It’s not some spiky scaled pangolin or furry flying bat. It’s populations of warm-blooded primates: The true animal source is us.

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Minority Report of HB 1571

According to RSA 206:4 the mission of the Fish and Game Commission is to, as all the citizens’ representatives, conserve and protect the state’s wild resources, using scientific data to maintain healthy populations of wildlife and maintain public lands for all lawful recreation.  The Commission is therefore inherently meant to conserve our public trust of wildlife and lands, based on scientific data, and not be friendly to only one interest group.  However, in recent years there has been a troubling pattern of the Commission overruling recommendations from the department’s own wildlife biologists.  Bobcat trapping, a refusal to set bag limits on declining species like red and grey fox and fisher, and a refusal to have an off-season during coyote whelping, as well as a lack of response to numerous Department audit recommendations, and what has been widely reported as a politicized decision in the ending of the director’s tenure, have all fallen under heavy public and media criticism.  Currently the only effective requirement to be a Commissioner is to have had a hunting, fishing, or trapping license in five of the previous 10 years, and to be nominated by sporting organization.  The minority feels that this leads to a commission that only represents the interests of hunters, sometimes to the exclusion of science and conservation.  No other state requires their Fish and Wildlife Commissioners to hold such a license, and yet all states have hunting, and many have excellent hunting.  HB 1571 would change the requirements of the Commissioners, guaranteeing that half of the commission would represent consumptive interests like hunters and anglers, and that half of the commission would represent conservation interests like wildlife biologists.  It also guarantees that some commissioners will represent non-consumptive recreation groups like hikers, which are also impacted by department decisions and are stakeholders in the public commons of our state’s wildlife.  Further, although hunting and fishing licenses are commonly believed to completely fund the department, upon studying the revenue sources for the department, only 40% of the department’s revenue is linked to actual hunting, trapping, or angling.  The majority of the Department’s revenue comes from the general fund, federal funds based on firearm and ammunition sales not related to hunting and boating registration not related to angling, non-game program donations, the Hike Safe card, and other recreational activities like OHRV.  Because the majority of the Department’s revenue comes from taxes and fees on those not hunting or fishing, because the Commission’s decisions affect many stakeholders other than hunters, because wildlife is a public trust for all NH citizens, and because the mission of the Commission is to protect that trust using scientific data, the minority feels strongly that all those stakeholders, not only hunters, should be represented on the Commission, and that the Commission will be able to make the best decisions when the voices of both the hunting community and scientists are brought together.  HB 1571 ensures that both interests always have equal representation on the Commission, and the voices of other outdoor recreationists are always heard.  Therefore the Minority strongly supports OTP.

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NH Fish and Game Commission Letter

Letter to the Editor: NH Fish and Game Commission

https://www.eagletimes.com/opinion/letter-to-the-editor-nh-fish-and-game-commission/article_77f3c355-236b-5e17-8bea-6fc15ff4ba84.html

  • Jan 21, 2020

At the most recent NH Fish and Game (NHFG) Commission meeting on Jan. 15, a NHFG Fisheries Biologist made a presentation to the commission on the benefits to New Hampshire’s native trout population that would result from removing a dam on the South Branch Gale River in Bethlehem.

NHFG Executive Director Glenn Normandeau corroborated the positive results on trout populations indicating that his experience was that once dams are removed fish begin almost immediately to utilize upstream tributaries which they had used prior to the dam construction. However, the commissioners gave unscientific reasons why they don’t want to spend the money. One commissioner even said how he used to dynamite beaver dams for much less money than what was proposed to complete the dam removal project.

This is just another illustration of why we need a more diversified, engaged NHFG Commission. We need commissioners who understand or are willing to learn the science behind removing a dam and the habitat restoration that is needed. It takes a lot more than a stick of dynamite to do the job correctly.

Please support HB 1571, the 2020 legislation that will give the governor and executive councilors more choices when appointing commissioners and will remove those who would rather use dynamite than science to solve problems. Please check out the Voices of Wildlife in New Hampshire website for more info on HB 1571 and send comments to the New Hampshire House Committee that will hear HB 1571 at 2 p.m. on Feb. 4.

Linda Dionne

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NH Fish and Game Commission Does Not Represent the Majority

https://www.concordmonitor.com/Fish-and-Game-31790254

Letter: Fish and Game Commission doesn’t represent majority
Published: 1/7/2020 12:01:42 AM
Modified: 1/7/2020 12:01:11 AM

According to New Hampshire statutes, the Fish and Game Commission must have no more than six members from the same political party. Currently, there are seven Republicans and four undeclared. There are no Democrats. Yes, this is “just” the Fish and Game Commission, but they make all of the important decisions for the whole Fish and Game Department, even though they do not hold biology degrees, or have land and water conservation experience.
It disturbs me too that there are no actual Democrats on this commission, as I suspect that the undeclared folks may be Republicans as well. Maybe this is the letter of the law, but certainly not the spirit.
The other problem with this commission is that all of them are also required by law to hold a hunting or fishing license in five of the previous 10 years, but only 3% of New Hampshire residents have hunting licenses. This means that the commission makes all of its decisions with a hunting and trapping point of view and doesn’t take into account the wishes of the majority of New Hampshire citizens. They sometimes even disregard the recommendations of the department’s own biologists, such as they did in setting fox and coyote hunting rules.
It is time that both of these issues are addressed. We, the 97% of New Hampshire residents who don’t hunt, want a commission that reflects society’s current views of wildlife management, not one that is back in the 1800s. We all need to be represented, not just Republicans or the 3%.
B.J. WAHL

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NH Fish and Game Commission Out of Compliance

Letter: NH Fish and Game is out of compliance
https://www.fosters.com/…/letter-nh-fish-and-game-is-out-of…
Jan. 12 — To the Editor:
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission is out of compliance.There is a law stating that there can be no more than six of the eleven members belonging to the same political party. There are seven Republicans. This matters because the Commission is supposed to be unbiased and that means on the political front too. The rest of the Commission are Undeclared and there are no Democrats. One can imagine that they are just “Undeclared” to try and not register as Democrats. There are Democrats that hunt and fish. Why do they get zero representation on this important government commission, which has the task of setting rules for wildlife management?
Thankfully Senator Dan Feltes looked into this and is asking for accountability. Dan has been very interested in the concerns quite a few members of the public have with the Fish and Game Commission. Wildlife is important to all the people of New Hampshire. Right now there is a bill (HB 1571) which would open up the Commission to maybe include wildlife conservationists and biologists (from both parties) that do not hunt. Please consider supporting HB1571
John and Patricia Snyder
Durham

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Snowshoe hare Letter


Published in the Concord Monitor April 8, 2018

Letter: Snowshoe hares shouldn’t be used to train dogs

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Did you know that the N.H. Fish and Game Department allows the capture of our wild snowshoe hares so that they may be used as live tools for training beagles on how to assist in hare hunting?

N.H. Fish and Game, about 10 years ago, began allowing beagle hunt clubs to capture and keep in captivity these wild animals for that purpose. This is unnecessary cruelty. There is no need to use live animals in dog training. Dogs are smart and can be trained without using live animals.

At the February 2018 Fish and Game Commission meeting there was one commissioner who opposed this practice and had the courage to say, “I don’t think it is right to live trap our wildlife, to capture and use them for training.” He is right, and kudos go to him. This captivity is an exception to New Hampshire’s long-standing policy of keeping our native wildlife wild and free.

There is a proposal in rulemaking to extend the season for capture and for increasing the number of persons permitted to do so. This is happening, now, in rulemaking. Please write and say no to this increase. However, go the step further and let Fish and Game know that the capture of wild snowshoe hares to train hunting dogs is an abusive practice that should end completely.

Comments are needed; send them to comments@wildlife.nh.gov. Make sure to put “Snowshoe Hare Capture Rule” in the subject line of your email.

You have until April 11 at 4 p.m. to submit your comments.

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HSUS Support of Limited Coyote Hunting

Callahan photo

HSUS support for NH coyote rulemaking petition

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NH Coyotes in the News

Experts howl at ‘coywolf’ headlines; limited NH hunting season called for

By SHAWNE K. WICKHAM
New Hampshire Sunday News
January 13. 2018 8:08PM

Eastern coyotes have some wolf DNA, but New Hampshire experts say the animals are still just coyotes, so the moniker making headlines lately — “coywolf” — does not apply. (Christine Schadler)

A wildlife advocacy group is asking the state Fish and Game Department to shorten the season on coyote hunting, currently allowed year-round.

The petition by Voices of Wildlife in New Hampshire, which calls for a hunting season from Oct. 15 through March 31, will come before the Fish and Game Commission in Concord on Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Coyotes are “the most persecuted of all the wild animals,” says Linda Dionne of Raymond, VOW’s president. “They’re the only fur-bearer right now that has open season all year long.”

The petition, which is supported by the Humane Society of the United States, is likely to reignite a long-standing debate about the value of these wild creatures.

Many consider them varmints, a threat to deer, livestock and domestic pets. But others believe they play a critical role in New Hampshire’s ecosystem, preying largely on rodents and other pests while keeping the deer herd healthy by culling the weakest animals.

The debate also comes amid alarming media reports from other states about the animal. A Fox News report warned of a “coywolf,” a “mutant animal” stalking people and pets in a suburb of New York City “as authorities try to track down the beasts.”

There’s just one problem, experts here say: There’s no such thing.

“It’s not a phrase that biologists use,” says Christine Schadler of Webster, a researcher who has studied coyotes for decades. She is New Hampshire’s representative to Project Coyote, a national organization that she said “promotes coexistence.”

The eastern coyotes that we see and hear in New Hampshire have some DNA from wolves – as well as from domestic dogs, the result of cross-breeding as the western coyote made its way eastward, starting around 1875, she explained.

So our coyotes are bigger, heavier and, well, wolfier than their western cousins. But that doesn’t make them wolves, says Schadler.

Schadler is friends with the researcher who coined the term “coywolf” years ago after doing DNA studies of coyotes living on Massachusetts’ North Shore. His work proved that New England coyotes have wolf DNA, she said.

But so do our domestic dogs, Schadler said. “If you have ever walked into a person’s house who owns a chihuahua, you know how terrifying that animal can be,” she said.

As coyotes moved east across the Great Lakes states, they bred with a type of red wolf found in Michigan as well as with the eastern wolf in Canada, Schadler said. Meanwhile, both red and gray wolves were being wiped out in eastern states by extermination campaigns, she said.

“We eliminated the wolf and that opened up a hole in the ecosystem for coyotes to come in,” she said.

And coyotes were happy to move into the breach.

The first sighting here was reported in 1944, but it’s likely they had been here for a few years by then, according to Patrick Tate, a wildlife biologist for the Fish and Game Department.

Tate says “there is no such thing” as a coywolf. “They are eastern coyotes,” he said.

Ordinarily, it takes hundreds of thousands of years for a species to evolve and change size, Tate said. But as the western coyote interbred with wolves on its way here, those changes happened more quickly.

The proper term for the coyotes we see and hear in New Hampshire is “canis latrans variant,” Tate said. “It’s a hybrid, or a variant animal; it’s not a distinct species.”

The genetic makeup of these animals can vary from one region to another, he said. Some even have genes from modern dog breeds, the result of interbreeding with domestic pets.

But Tate said it’s a disservice to this animal to call it a coywolf. “And it causes great confusion amongst the public,” he said.

Eastern coyotes have not replaced wolves in New Hampshire, Tate said. While they do take fawns when they can, they “have no ability to impact moose,” he said. “They simply don’t have the body size that a wolf would have to do that.”

The interbreeding with wolves has continued north of the Canadian border, Schadler said. And because coyotes will disperse as far as 500 miles to find a mate, she said, “Those coyotes are carrying those wolf genes now far and wide.”

Today, she said, “the largest eastern coyotes are as big as the smallest eastern wolves.” But that still doesn’t make them wolves, Schadler said. “I think the eastern coyote is a coyote,” she said.

Tate said those most opposed to coyotes are people who have lost pets, sheep or chickens to the animals. He said in his experience, the trapping community here sees the value of having coyotes on the landscape, while deer hunters are more likely to want them wiped out.

A Jaffrey sports store currently is holding a contest, awarding a prize to the hunter who brings in the heaviest coyote by March 31.

Tate said Fish and Game does not regulate such contests, which he said have been controversial. From the hunters’ perspective, he said, it’s comparable to a bass fishing competition or deer pool.

But he also understands why others find such contests offensive.

Hunting coyotes doesn’t seem to reduce the population, Tate said. These territorial animals actually produce larger litters if their packs decrease.
But Schadler said that’s not the point. “The part of this that I find repugnant is the lack of morality or ethics that is involved in encouraging wanton waste of a wild creature,” she said.

New Hampshire is one of 42 states that allow year-round hunting of coyotes, she said. “It’s recreational killing of an animal, which is obscene,” she said.

Dave Anderson is director of education for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests; he is a co-author of the “Forest Journal” column in the New Hampshire Sunday News.

Anderson said coyotes are “superbly adaptable,” which explains why they’ve been spotted on Boston Common, in New York’s Central Park and even trotting down Main Street in Concord.

He thinks part of our fascination with coyotes is the traits they share with domestic canines. “How can we love our dogs and then profess to hate their wild cousins?” he asked.

“My own personal feeling is that we should learn to appreciate the ecological niche they’re filling and their role in the forest,” Anderson said.

But he knows a lot of folks, including deer hunters, “who have this real deep-seated antipathy about coyotes,” he said.

He has both deer and coyotes in his backyard and orchard. And he said it’s “a special thing” to hear them howling in the distance.

But Anderson said he’ll never forget hearing a coyote up close when he was in the woods one night. “When they vocalize nearby, that can really make all the hair stand up on the back of your neck,” he said.

“It’s a very primal, very humanizing experience. The idea that once we would have been prey.”

When Schadler first moved to New Hampshire, she made a research project out of a sheep farm in Kensington with a history of coyote predation. She got border collies, built fences, cleared brush and “hazed the hell out of the coyotes for the first few years.”

She chased them with airhorns and put pepper along the fence lines. “And all the years I had sheep, I never lost a sheep,” she said.

“I am living proof,” she said. “All people need to have is the desire to coexist with these things.”

Evolution favors coyotes here becoming larger, Schadler said. And she believes the animals are moving toward “a more wolf-like niche in the ecosystem.” She’s working on a book on the subject, “Becoming Wolf.”

But she said eastern coyotes “are not there yet.”

Her favorite coyote story didn’t happen in the woods, but in downtown Portsmouth. Schadler was waiting in her car at a red light when she saw a group of about 10 people waiting for the light to change.

Waiting with them was what she first thought was a large dog. Then she took a closer look and realized, “That’s a coyote.”

“The light changes, the people cross and the coyote paddles his way across the street. And the people are completely oblivious.”

It’s emblematic of how well adapted these animals are, and “how unconcerned they are with our lives,” she said.

It also shows that coyotes are everywhere, she said.

“Every one of us lives within the territory of a pack of coyotes.”

swickham@unionleader.com

Another View — Christine Schadler: The ugly sides of coyote hunting

The recent article in the Union Leader about coyote baiting lifts the curtain on the world of coyote killing. In this recreational activity, a hunter can leave bait such as the dead pigs and chickens mentioned. Coyotes scavenge whatever they can, and unwittingly become target practice for the waiting shooter.There is no hunt involved, no fair chase and no biological justification for this — just killing a useful predator, sorely needed to control rodent and deer populations. Why is this allowed? Ask the wildlife managers at New Hampshire Fish and Game and you will learn that since the coyotes will quickly replace any members removed, they are infinitely replaceable and therefore are in no danger of becoming extinct.

This is hardly justification.

Resilience characterizes the coyote, a trait for which it should be admired. Instead, it is the trait that causes coyotes so much trouble. The coyote is the predator we cannot control. Decades of extermination effort has yielded only hundreds of thousands more coyotes and a remarkable expansion in their range. Biologists understand the power of unleashing this responsive reproduction characteristic but at Fish and Game agencies, unlimited killing of coyotes is tolerated to appease the hunters who wish to kill for the sake of killing.

Ask one of these hunters why they kill coyotes and they will quickly respond, as did Mr. Toomey, the baiter, that coyotes have no predators and would get out of control if they weren’t constantly taken.

Of course, in nature, everything has predators and in the case of coyotes, it is disease. Mange, distemper, rabies, Parvo virus, tularemia, canine hepatitis and even porcupines all take their toll on coyotes. Meanwhile coyotes, a major predator of rodents (which make up 62 percent of their diet,) help to control the spread of Lyme disease.

As New Hampshire Fish and Game turns a blind eye to the reality of coyote killing, as discovered by the young man in Plaistow, they allow cruelty to pups, orphaned when their parents are killed, to a slow death by starvation. Yes, coyotes can be killed during their breeding and denning season, day and night in this state. Ask a wildlife manager at Fish and Game about this and you will be told that there aren’t that many taken to really make a dent in the population, but this is not the point.

First, no one is keeping track of the numbers of coyotes killed by hunting, baiting and denning (killing pups while in their den), and hunters are not required to report what they have killed. Secondly, the ethics of killing coyotes 365 days a year and at night from January through March are not part of the management decision-making.

The eastern coyote, like predators in general, regulates its own population naturally in several ways. When pack structure, crucial to self-regulation, is impacted by hunting, the young breed. Normally two thirds of all females never breed due to brief estrus cycles (just one week per year.) Also, vigilant parents do not tolerate their young breeding on their territory. Only the breeding pair breeds, period.

As long as no one asks too many questions, irresponsible hunters will continue to kill, kill, kill coyotes. Now that New Hampshire Fish and Game needs $1.5 million from the General Fund, our voice must be heard in defense of wildlife. The hunter, giving fair chase, holding ethical standards and using that animal for food, has every right to continue.

Christine Schadler is the Vermont and New Hampshire representative for Project Coyote. She lives in Webster.

 

____________________________________________________________

Editorial: Bill ignores basic coyote biology

Opinion Concord Monitor

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Another Epsom representative, Republican John Klose, is sponsoring a bill that should end up in the reject pile. It calls for allowing the hunting of coyotes at night, now limited to the frigid months of January, February and March, until the middle or end of August. Klose called coyotes “a 24-hour killer, seven days a week” whose numbers must be reduced. The “vicious” animals are “multiplying like it’s going out of style.”

There are plenty of problems with the bill. It was filed as a non-germane amendment to a bill about student hunting licenses and thus caught the state’s Fish and Game Department by surprise. It also ignores basic coyote biology. The more coyotes are hunted and killed, the more pups the females have in a litter. An average litter of four or five could become six or eight so you end up with more coyotes than you started with. Kill all the coyotes and more quickly move in. Kill some of the coyotes and there’s more food for the remaining ones so more of the pups survive to adulthood. Kill the bigger, older coyotes and you end up with more in their prime reproductive years.

Coyotes can, on rare occasions, kill a moose, as Klose says, but that’s rare and victims are the young and very old moose. Some, when driven to it by hunger or attracted by easy prey, do kill livestock and, since they defend their territory against other canids, they’ll kill dogs. Mostly, though, they live on mice, voles and small game.

On its website, New Hampshire Fish and Game warns farmers who have resident coyotes but no predation problem to leave well enough alone: “The resident coyote may actually be an asset to the farm by removing rodents and preventing problem coyotes from moving into the area.”

Glenn Normandeau, the department’s commissioner, said police and residents would prefer not to hear gunshots during the night. A generation or two ago shots meant that someone was hunting raccoons, legally, or jacking deer, very illegally. Now gunshots in the night spawn images of drug deals gone bad and domestic violence. Lawmakers should say “no” to shots in the dark.

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Beavers Fighting Drought

Beavers Help Battle Ongoing Drought, from Northwestern University: Climate Change Beaver article

Busy Beavers Can Help Ease Drought, from Science Daily:  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080220130511.htm

Beavers are being welcomed in states with serious drought problems because of the beaver ponds mitigating effects on drought, from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.  http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/NE/20141220/NEWS/141229981

NH has just gone through one of its worse droughts ever, with more predicted. Drought impacts to NH (2)   DES Drought info and links (1)

From Ohio:

Keystone Role of Beavers in a Restored Wetland (Ohio)

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Keystone Role of Beavers in a Restored Wetland (Ohio)

The Shaker Trace Wetlands is a restored wetland area in southwestern Ohio (Klein 1992). Several years ago, a small number of American beavers (Castor canadensis) took up residence in an ephemeral lake in the wetlands. These beavers cut down willows (Salix spp.)—thus allowing more light to reach other vegetation—built a lodge, and dug an extensive system of canals (Figure 1). There is no stream flowing into the lake, so no dam. In some places, this lake can be over 1 m deep during the spring and early summer, but by late summer it may dry up completely owing to normal dry conditions. During the driest periods the canals dug by beavers provided an important reservoir of water for amphibians, fingernail clams, snails, and other aquatic organisms (Figure 1). During canal excavation, the beavers churned the soil and exposed seeds from deeper in the soil seed bank. In addition to these ecological benefits, the beavers provided wildlife viewing opportunities for visitors to the wetlands. After a couple of years in this ephemeral lake, the beavers abandoned their lodge and moved on, probably to a river or pond less likely to dry up.

Within a couple of years of the beavers’ departure, the extensive growth of willows and other woody vegetation made mechanical removal with a Hydro-Axe machine necessary (Conover and Klein 2010). This operation opened extensive areas to more light, and the large tires of the Hydro-Axe machine left deep tracks in some areas. Churning the soil exposed seeds from deeper in the soil seed bank. The Hydro-Axe operation served to increase plant diversity in the wetlands and provided more habitats for herbaceous species. The tire track depressions hold water during the summer drought period longer than surrounding areas, giving larval amphibians more time to develop into adults. [End Page 212] Snails, fingernail clams, and other aquatic species also benefit from water held in these depressions. In other words, the Hydro-Axe operation provided services at a cost of about $5,000 for 20 ha—services that had been provided for free by the beaver colony before they moved on.


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Figure 1.

Beavers as ecological engineers can provide beneficial ecological services. A canal (above) dug in an ephemeral lake in Shaker Trace Wetlands in Ohio leads to the beaver lodge. A wildlife viewing shelter can be seen in the background. The canal retained water longer into the drought period, allowing tadpoles to survive (below) when other areas were already dry.


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Beavers were extirpated from Ohio by 1830 (Chapman 1949) but have been making a comeback during the last few decades. In some parts of the country, beavers have been reintroduced and have provided rapid improvements in hydrology, riparian vegetation, and wildlife habitat (e.g., Albert and Trimble 2000). In restored ephemeral wetlands similar to the Shaker Trace Wetlands, beavers can play a keystone role by cutting down woody vegetation and digging canals that hold water for longer periods into the dry season, and by churning the soil, exposing seeds buried deeper in the soil seed bank. Beavers could be encouraged to remain in such wetlands by scooping out some deeper pools. This would benefit aquatic organisms by holding more water longer into the drought period, and it might enable beavers to remain in the wetlands. Other parts of the wetlands could still be allowed to dry up during drought periods, discouraging the establishment of fish that could prey on amphibian larvae. Desirable larger trees in the wetland area can be protected from beavers by wrapping aluminum, chicken wire, or steel screen around the trunks up to a height of 80 cm (Albert and Trimble 2000).

Denis Conover
(Dept. of Biological Sciences ML 0006, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati OH 45221-0006, 513/556-0716, denis.conover@uc.edu)

References

Albert, S. and T. Trimble. 2000. Beavers are partners in riparian restoration on the Zuni Indian Reservation. Ecological Restoration 18:87–92.
Chapman, F.B. 1949. The beaver in Ohio. Journal of Mammology 30:174–179.
Conover, D.G. and J. Klein. 2010…
From California:

Beavers: A Potential Missing Link in California’s Water Future

The industrious rodents can offer a range of benefits for California water supplies and habitats. But they’re still officially considered a pest.

On California’s central coast, a region that usually receives drenching rainfall or fog for most of the year, some forests are now as arid as a desert. Streams that once ran at least at a trickle through summer have vanished in the ongoing drought, and environmentalists and fishermen fear that local salmon will disappear if climate conditions don’t improve.

The landscape desperately needs rain.

It could also use beavers, according to ecologists who say the near eradication of Castor canadensis from parts of the West in the 19th century has magnified the effects of California’s worst dry spell in history.

“Beavers create shock absorption against drought,” says Brock Dolman, a scientist in Sonoma County who wants to repopulate coastal California with the big lumberjacking rodents.

Beavers are a hated pest and a nuisance in the eyes of many landowners and developers, and the animals are regularly killed with depredation permits and by fur trappers. However, they are also a keystone species whose participation in the ecosystem creates benefits for almost all other flora and fauna, Dolman says. This is because of the way beavers’ hydro-engineering work affects the movement of water.

“Beavers aren’t actually creating more water, but they are altering how it flows, which creates benefits through the ecosystem,” says Michael Pollock, an ecosystems analyst and beaver specialist at the National Marine Fisheries Service Northwest Science Center.

By gnawing down trees and building dams, beavers create small reservoirs. What follows, scientists say, is a series of trickle-down benefits: The water that might otherwise have raced downstream to the sea, tearing apart creek gullies and washing away fish, instead gets holed up for months behind the jumbles of twigs and branches. In this cool, calm water, fish — like juvenile salmon — thrive.

Meanwhile, the water percolates slowly into the ground, recharging near-surface aquifers and keeping soils hydrated through the dry season. Entire streamside meadows, Dolman says, may remain green all summer if beavers are at work nearby. Downstream of a beaver pond, some of the percolated water may eventually resurface, helping keep small streams flowing and fish alive.

Dolman, co-founder of the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center in Sonoma County, says this water banking process could even, in theory, partially offset the worrying shrinkage of mountain snowpack, historically California’s most important water source.

Dolman and his colleague Kate Lundquist, who are leading their organization’s “Bring Back the Beaver Campaign,” would like reintroduction of beavers from other regions to begin now as a measure for restoring salmon populations and building general drought resilience into the landscape.

In Oregon, something along these lines is happening. Here, a newly proposed Coho recovery plan would make it illegal to kill or harm beavers within the geographical range of the imperiled fish.

But in California, there is a problem: Government biologists aren’t entirely sold on the virtues of beavers. Kevin Shaffer, a fisheries biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, believes that beavers can have benefits for a watershed that is temporarily deprived of rainfall. Eventually, though, even beavers cannot cancel out the effects of long-term drought or climate change.

“As the drought gets worse, their ponds will dry up and the animals will just move somewhere else,” he says. “They won’t stay because there is no more water.”

Shaffer adds that introducing beavers into an environment that has been seriously stressed by drought may benefit nothing — not fish, not plant life and not the beavers themselves.

Releasing beavers can also create conflicts with people, especially in heavily populated watersheds like the Russian River, just north of San Francisco.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife classifies beavers as a “nuisance” species. That’s because, Shaffer explains, the animals’ activity can have direct negative impacts on people. Dams can inundate properties, and falling trees could potentially land in roadways.

In spite of agency uncertainty, the benefits of beavers on a landscape are considered fact by scientists in California’s North Coast region. Sarah Beesley, a fisheries biologist with the Yurok Tribal Fisheries Program, has been running a habitat restoration effort on the lower Klamath River system, where a small beaver population currently resides. Her goal is to increase the presence of year-round water, especially in slow-moving wetlands, by building stick dams that closely mimic those built by beavers. In the future, her project hopes to reintroduce beavers themselves to streams that the animals don’t frequent.

In several stream systems in the region, says Beesley, the only places where salmon — especially endangered Coho — have survived after four years of below-average rainfall are beaver ponds.

“Wetland features, whether built by people or by beavers, are definitely what’s getting the salmon here through the drought,” says Beesley.

Beavers still live in the Klamath drainage system. They also occur, among other places, in the Central Valley, near the Mexican border and in parts of the Sierra Nevada.

However, there is ongoing debate about where beavers historically lived — a debate that could hinder progress in any reintroduction campaign.

Dolman and Lundquist contributed to a report published in 2013 in the journal California Fish and Game that revealed evidence of beavers having inhabited regions of coastal California where they don’t live today. The evidence included beaver remains and accounts from early explorers. Similar literature has been produced making the case that beavers lived throughout the Sierra Nevada. As a prelude to reintroducing the animals, they hope to establish as fact that beavers once played key ecological roles in many watersheds.

Beaver reintroduction has seen success in Washington, where the Methow Conservancy has identified beavers as a valuable tool for restoring damaged watersheds. The organization has participated in relocating more than 300 beavers into the headwaters of the Methow River system, which feeds the Columbia River.

Heide Andersen, stewardship director at the conservancy, believes the ongoing decline of salmon on the West Coast began partly as a result of losing beavers.

“Beavers impact almost every aspect of the watershed,” says Andersen. “They lower stream temperatures, retain sediment, create refuge for fish, and create groundwater percolation that reappears downstream later in the year. When beavers disappeared, streams became channelized, we lost our flows earlier in the summer, and temperatures went up.”

While rain is sorely needed throughout California, the absence of beaver infrastructure could make the landscape less able to rebound should a more generous hydrological period resume. Dolman explains that, without woody debris in the creek gullies to slow water down, the land has less opportunity to soak it up when rain does fall. The result is raging floods in the winter and, once summer comes, a watershed that rapidly goes dry again.

“Losing beavers is a double whammy for a watershed,” Dolman explains. “You get exacerbated flooding, erosion and sediment, and reduced groundwater recharge, in the winter. Then, in the summer, you have land that dries up faster because you didn’t get that winter recharge. We’ve created a landscape much less resilient to drought.”

Alastair Bland is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. He can be reached at allybland79@gmail.com or via Twitter at @allybland.

About the Author

Alastair Bland

Alastair Bland is a freelance journalist in San Francisco, CA. He can be reached at allybland79@gmail.com or via Twitter.

 Reprinted from News Deeply
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