From Inquisitr August 19, 2015
Nature has been most helpful to scientists aiming to study climate change, and thus, changes to the planet are very well documented. It has long been thought by scientists though that while herbivores adapted to the change in climatic conditions, carnivores did not. The recent findings of a study regarding the evolution of dogs has, however, disabused us of that notion.
On Tuesday, Nature Communications released a study by a group of scientists that analyzed North American wolves and fossils that were as old as 40 million years. It was found that these prehistoric dogs had an evolutionary path that was directly linked to climate change. A lot of the main evolution points of these animals occurred in tandem with major shifts in the climate.
The North America known today is very different from 40 million years ago. Back then, the area was a warm woodland. Canine ancestors living in that North America were small animals and bore more of a resemblance to a mongoose. Native dogs 40 million years ago had forelimbs that were not suited to running and instead relied on ambush methods. After a few million more years, though, the forests thinned and gave way to grasslands as the climate became cooler and drier. Herbivores evolved right along with the times, and long-legged animals like the bison and deer proliferated. The prehistoric dogs also were found to evolve at this time from their smaller counterparts.
Now that there was enough room to run, and less possibility of springing from dense bushes to trap prey, predators adapted also. Upon examination of the over 32 species of fossils, it was determined that the dog’s elbow joints and forelegs evolved to facilitate long-distance running, offering more support and less flexibility. Their teeth became more durable as well, which is speculated to have made it easier to deal with dry raw hides or perhaps the grit of the high plains mixed in with their meat. The dogs evolved from ambushers to the likes of predators like foxes and coyotes, and eventually into wolves, who use more pursuit then pounce methods. These species are so closely linked in the evolution gene pool that modern day scientists still make surprising discoveries.
Christine Janis, who is a co-author of the study and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University, said that this study may have a broader impact than on dogs alone.
“It’s reinforcing the idea that predators may be as directly sensitive to climate and habitat as herbivores.”
Our modern day domesticated dogs do not have the need to hunt for their own food, and thus, it is arguable if our current climate change will have much of an impact on them. However, these human-wrought climate shifts may still lead to a change in the physiology of predators.
In inarguable fact, though, is that the study has proven that climate change has had a dramatic impact on both predators and their prey.
[Photos Courtesy of Discovery News and Mauricio Anton / Brown University]
From onEarth by Alisa Opar
This Montana cattle ranch is trying to ensure its operations benefit wildlife—and yes, that means wolves, too.
PHOTO: BRYAN ULRING
On a cool, sunny May morning, Hilary Zaranek set out on horseback from her log house in southwestern Montana with one thing on her mind: wolves.
Zaranek lives in the Centennial Valley, an immense expanse of grass- and wetlands ringed by the ragged peaks of the Centennial and Gravelly mountain ranges. The handful of people, mostly ranchers, who call this place home are vastly outnumbered by animals. Trumpeter swans and sandhill cranes are among the more than 260 bird species that inhabit the sweeping landscape, along with river otters, deer, elk, and, of course, loads of cattle. As grizzly and gray wolf populations have recovered in Yellowstone National Park (about 20 miles away), predators have been joining the ranks in increasing numbers, too.
Cattle ranchers have traditionally been hostile to large carnivores; wolves were nearly hunted, trapped, and poisoned to extinction in the Lower 48 a few decades ago, due in part to the threat they posed to livestock. Zaranek, who has done wolf research in Yellowstone and Canada and now works for the Centennial Valley Association, is trying to ease that relationship. She is testing whether range riders on horseback and ATV can minimize conflicts between livestock and predators.
Zaranek and two other riders she oversees are looking out for cattle from a half-dozen ranches in the area, including the J Bar L, a 30,000-acre operation where her husband works.
These cowboys, who all happen to be women, are just one of the ways J Bar L is trying to manage its grass-fed beef operation to benefit livestock, people, wildlife, and habitat. To figure out how best to do that, the ranch works with numerous partners, including NRDC (disclosure), the Nature Conservancy, and the Sage Grouse Initiative. Scientists are studying, for instance, whether structures that mimic beaver dams, installed to rehabilitate stream channels, may benefit Arctic grayling, a rare native fish that sports flamboyant, turquoise-spotted dorsal fins. And on two greater sage grouse leks, biologists are investigating what factors enable populations of these iconic—and possibly soon-to-be-endangered—birds to nest successfully.
But the ranch’s primary focus is moving the herd along in a way that mimics how bison once roamed: regularly rotating grazing to allow pastures to recover for months or even years between munching sessions, and ensuring the animals don’t cause lasting harm to sensitive areas, like springs and leks. As the herd chomps along, the ranchers put up portable, wildlife-friendly electric fences to keep them from wandering.
“People are willing to pay a premium for sustainably raised beef,” says J Bar L Ranch general manager Bryan Ulring. Last year, through Yellowstone Grassfed Beef, the ranch sold about 145,000 pounds of meat (or roughly 600,000 servings) to consumers across the country.
A NEW ATTITUDE
Despite the throwback to bison behavior, this is a thoroughly modern approach. Ranchers have traditionally turned out their cattle to graze largely unattended. But with predators rebounding, J Bar L and other operations in the Centennial Valley and Tom Miner Basin are taking a different tack, relying on Zaranek and the other range riders to patrol herds and keep an eye out for sick, injured, and dead animals. They also gather and settle cattle in the evening, part of an ongoing effort to rekindle the herd instinct. The mere presence of humans acts as a deterrent against attacks, Zaranek says.
Animals go missing from ranches for a slew of reasons, including predation, poisonous plants, lightning (yes, really), and brisket disease, which can cause heart failure in cows at high altitudes. The riders help get to the bottom of what’s causing deaths and disappearances out on the range because, as Zaranek says, “You can’t make good management decisions based on myth.”
That’s why she was out early that May morning, scouting for predator activity in the days before thousands of cattle would arrive for the summer. Grizzlies, of which five or six roam the valley, killed one calf last summer, as well as an adult cow—no small feat considering the bear likely weighed half as much as the 1,400 pound ungulate. This time, Zaranek saw evidence of wolves. “I found a really great hot spot,” she says while we sit at her kitchen table the day after the recon mission. “There were tons of tracks.” She says it looks like there may be three packs carving out territory in the valley this year, up from two in 2014.
PHOTO: YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
Wolf pups in Yellowstone National Park
Last year, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana were home to an estimated 1,657 wolves in 263 packs with a total of 75 breeding pairs, according to the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Program. The canids were confirmed as the killers of 140 cattle, 172 sheep, 4 dogs, a horse, and a donkey. Private and state agencies shelled out almost $275,000 in compensation for wolves damaging livestock. Wolves died, too, of course—ranchers and wildlife managers culled 161 of them for coming into conflict with livestock or other wildlife.
Rekindling the herd instinct is key to protecting cattle from wolf and grizzly attacks, says J Bar L Ranch general manager Ulring. He points to how the range riders encourage cattle to move as a herd and stick together, rather than run and scatter, when carnivores draw near—the old safety-in-numbers approach employed by animals ranging from bison to walruses to fish. Since J Bar L first started using range riders a few years ago, it hasn’t lost a single animal to predation when herds stay intact.
“Even last year, when we had cattle right by an active wolf den, we didn’t lose any,” says Ulring. “Cattle or wolves.” They used electric fencing to keep the herd tight and the wolves outside the perimeter.
“This is not just about dead animals,” says Ulring. “A stressed animal has minimal weight gain or can even lose weight. Our animals, even when they were near that den, they’re gaining more than three pounds a day.” All that extra poundage translates into dollars, allowing the ranch to sell more steaks and burgers.
“These techniques are proactive rather than reactive, so they prevent conflicts from happening in the first place,” says Zack Strong, a wildlife advocate with NRDC. Along with conservation strategies, NRDC helps J Bar L and other ranches purchase equipment and hire range riders (and even lends a hand with the electric fencing).
The approach may very well be a selling point, too. John Marzluff, a University of Washington biologist, is launching a statewide poll to gauge whether people would pay more for predator-friendly beef. “We’re also working with some stores to test-market it,” he told MotherBoard.
Researcher Azzurra Valerio of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University says she isn’t surprised to hear of the program’s success. Ranchers taking similar steps elsewhere in the West report fewer losses, too: the Blackfoot Challenge, in northwestern Montana, for instance, has seen a 93 percent drop in grizzly bear conflicts since it started using range riders and other deterrents in 2003. But Valerio cautions that although there are a lot of stories and anecdotes of livestock and predator harmony, “to my knowledge, there are no evaluations of the efficacy of nonlethal methods such as range riders or fences.” She hopes to change that.
Valerio is in the second year of a three-year study that aims to collect hard data; she’s got collars on six wolf packs, eight cattle herds, and one sheep operation, and is working with four range riders and three sheepherders. Valerio is looking at the number of livestock killed and the indirect influences wolves may have on a flock, such as weight loss and reproductive rates. Her findings, however, won’t be in for a few years.
Zaranek, too, speaks cautiously about the effort. “There’s a lot of potential,” but it’s still very new, she says. Rather than basing success on the number of cattle killed—or not—by predators, Zaranek uses another metric: the number of ranchers who say yes and stick with it. It won’t matter whether the measures work if nobody is willing to take a chance. So far, no one has dropped out.
PHOTO: BRYAN ULRING
By Holy Kaw July 7, 2015
Photo credit: Canva
When food is scarce, animals that would normally avoid each other come into conflict for resources. This Grizzly, for example, took on four wolves in order to get a bite to eat.
I regeringens proposition om en ”hållbar rovdjurspolitik” framställs minimala rovdjursstammar och jakt på tusentals rovdjur som en lösning på landsbygdens negativa utveckling. Men faktum är att rovdjur är ett förhållandevis litet bekymmer för människor på landsbygden. Det visar en Sifo-undersökning som Svenska Rovdjursföreningen beställt. Endast sex procent av landsbygdsborna uppgav att rovdjur påverkade deras vardag negativt.
Svenska Rovdjursföreningen har via Sifo frågat människor boende på landsbygden om vilka faktorer som påverkar deras vardag mest negativt. Åtta olika alternativ presenterades och det gick att kryssa i flera av dem. Störst var missnöjet med kollektivtrafiken och mobil/bredbandstäckningen, som listades som negativa faktorer av 39 respektive 38 procent av de tillfrågade. Förekomst av rovdjur var det minsta bekymret. Endast sex procent uppgav förekomst av björn, järv, lo eller varg som en negativ faktor.
– Att alla människor på landsbygden skulle lida svårt av rovdjuren är en myt som sprids av jägarkåren, säger Ann Dahlerus, generalsekreterare i Svenska Rovdjursföreningen. De politiker som låter rovdjursfrågan skymma sikten för landsbygdens verkliga utmaningar gör majoriteten av sina väljare en stor otjänst.
Dubbelt så många män som kvinnor upplever att de blir negativt påverkade av rovdjur. Lågutbildade anser sig vara mer negativt påverkade än snittet. Äldre påverkas mer än yngre.
– I landets mest glesbefolkade områden är det främst äldre män med låg utbildning som bor kvar. Där skyller man ofta avfolkningen på varg men det finns inget som helst stöd i statistiken för att den negativa utvecklingen beror på vargen. Flyttlassen började rulla från glesbygden långt innan vargen
etablerade sig där.
Sverigedemokrater, 12 procent, är de som anser sig påverkas mest negativt av rovdjur, medan endast 1 procent av vänsterpartisterna anser att rovdjur är ett problem. I övrigt är skillnaden mellan partierna liten, mellan 3 och 8 procent.
– Det är förhållandesvis få som någonsin sett en varg och forskning visar att det som påverkar människors mest är vad andra tycker, även om de inte heller har någon egen erfarenhet av varg. Stämningen på orten där man bor spelar alltså en stor roll för hur man upplever förekomsten av rovdjur, säger Ann Dahlerus.
Ann Dahlerus, generalsekreterare
08-441 41 17
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