I think I found one of the worst videos on YouTube:
Nope that little bird could NOT ruin my day but that’s because I’m not a soulless capitalistic ghoul caring only for the monetary value of property and getting upset over the mere presence of a threatened bird species on my land. This video literally just rants about how inconvenient Florida scrub jays are for land developers and how they’re tiny birds that “make an annoying squawk” 🙄
People get like this with our Gopher tortoises as well and I just don’t get it. I literally do not care how annoying you find the laws to protect these species; they are in place for a reason. Yeah, sure, it sucks that you can’t immediately turn the land you bought into a parking lot and turn a profit but my god how hard is it to spare a tiny crumb of empathy for the animals that were there first and are literally just trying to survive in their shrinking world? How can you go through life with such a heartlessly miserable perspective?
"Not sure if you’ll know anything about this but it’s worth a shot! So, in my conservation bio class today, we got to the topic of animals being extinct and the eastern mountain lion. I go to college in the mountains but according to my teacher many locals claim to have seen mountain lions and even a student has seen one. I was wondering, even if there is a small population of eastern mountain lions, would they only be taken off the extinct list only after proper evidence was given and they’re shown to be able to grow or is it likely a species like that is too small to come back from extinction?"
If it was able to be definitively proved that animals in the eastern mountain lion subspecies were still alive today, they'd no longer be considered extinct. That's all that goes into that decision. That doesn't mean they'd inherently have any protections under federal law or anything, however, because as an extinct subspecies they were delisted from the Endangered Species Act in 2018.
An analysis of over 100 credible studies covering over 100 years led US Fish and Wildlife to determine that eastern mountain lions have probably been extinct for decades - plausibly since before the Endangered Species Act was even passed. Here's their statement on what they found from a media release sent out in 2018 when the official de-listing occurred: "Accounts suggest that most eastern cougars disappeared in the 1800s, killed out of fear for human and livestock safety and were victims of massive deforestation and overharvesting of white-tailed deer, the cougar’s primary prey. The last records of eastern cougars are believed to be from Maine (1938) and New Brunswick (1932)"
But! That doesn't mean the reports of local cougars sightings are incorrect! (Although, they can be, people do tend to see smaller wildcats and immediately think mountain lion). Here's the thing: western cougar populations are recovering very well, and so a lot of documented cougar sightings in the eastern part of North America are thought to be western cougars dispersing eastward. There's good data for this in peer-reviewed studies, such as this one discussing the recolonization of southwest Saskatchewan and southeast Alberta from 2015.
Probably the most notable example of this long-range dispersal was a young male cougar who was hit by a car in Connecticut, of all places, in 2011. That's so far east of what was thought to be their current range that it was pretty widely assumed the cat had to be an escaped exotic pet. But no! Camera trap data confirmed that the same individual had been seen making his long trek, and genetic analysis confirmed that he was originally from the Black Hills population in North Dakota.
A lot of cougar sightings in the Midwest and points further east are - as with the 2011 cougar - assumed by the media to be escaped captive animals. A couple of years ago I analyzed the last 20 years of publicly available data from advocacy orgs that track big cat escapes and attacks, and a large percentage of the sightings of loose cougars seemed likely to be dispersed wild animals: they didn't fit the patterns you see around captive exotic pet escapes nor did the cats behave like animals habituated to people, they almost always occurred in suburban developments that were situated right next to large patches of open land and/or protected areas, and they were generally within the geographic areas where dispersal has been increasingly documented. Most supposed cougars were seen once in passing, or only a few times, and generally never were a nuisance enough to be caught or killed (excepting the ones hunting domestic animals or the ones that got hit by cars). In some cases, it was really obvious they were wild: there was one incident in McGregor, MN in 2001 where a female cougar was found attacking a dog in a suburb right next to a wildlife preserve, and two very young cubs were sighted in the area a few days later. A lot of times, local wildlife officials couldn't confirm any formal reintroductions of cougars into the area and/or referred to historical data for eastern cougar sightings when discussing the most recent sightings of wild cats in the area - so with that ruled out by the easily accessible local experts, local media defaulted to "probably a pet."
Over the years, I think the general awareness that cougars are dispersing farther east has become somewhat more common due to major outlets like the New York Times covering stories like the 2011 dispersal. But as you mentioned, on a community level, it's still sort of like a cryptid sighting! People know that cougars don't exist outside of western North America and Florida anymore, so why do they keep seeing them?
So no, unfortunately, it's pretty unlikely Eastern mountain lions are extant at this point - but that doesn't mean that other mountain lions aren't expanding into the lands they used to roam.
Environmental Scientist Jessica Hernandez
Jessica Hernandez found her way to conservation science and environmental justice through her grandmother — and her knowledge about the natural world, accumulated over generations.
Maria de Jesus, a member of southern Mexico’s Zapotec community, showed her granddaughter how to tend the family milpa, the plot where they harvested beans, corn, squash, medicinal plants and even grasshoppers. She led Hernandez on hikes through the mountains surrounding her house, explaining how plants and animals interact in the local ecosystem. “She instilled in me the kinships that we carry on as Indigenous peoples,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez grew up in South Central Los Angeles, the daughter of Indigenous immigrants from Mexico. As a child, she frequently visited her mother’s native Oaxaca. “The community that we had that went beyond humans, to include the animals and the plants.” When Hernandez went to graduate school to study ecology, she thought the wisdom passed on from her ancestors would be seen as an asset. But to her surprise, she was humiliated for it.
“The professor asked me, ‘Is this Jessica’s theory? Where is your citation?” Hernandez recalls in Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes Through Indigenous Science, out this month.
Hernandez, 31, is an environmental scientist at the University of Washington and an outspoken critic of Western conservation movements, which she says often ignore or co-opts Indigenous science and sideline the communities who have produced that knowledge.
“We’re often seen as areas of expertise rather than experts ourselves,” she said. “We’re seen as research subjects rather than researchers.” In writing Fresh Banana Leaves, Hernandez said she hopes to bring attention to the ways Indigenous science has preserved ecosystems for generations.
Western science has always had a narrow lens, said a professor at the University of Washington and one of Hernandez’s PhD advisors. “What [Hernandez] has always been able to do is look past that.”
The scientific method may be built on data points, but Indigenous knowledge is also built on observations. It’s just packaged differently — not in academic papers, but in stories. “People are drowning in the data,” said the PhD advisor, but that data doesn’t always translate to practical solutions.
The conservation movement has a long history of sidelining Indigenous peoples and discounting their ecological expertise. When the United States established its national parks system, ultimately setting aside some 85 million acres of territory, it forced Native American tribes from lands they’d stewarded for millennia.
Park monuments still bear the names of men who advocated for the genocide of Indigenous peoples or carried out massacres themselves. Native groups are advocating for the monuments’ removal.
Instead of honoring those responsible for genocide, Hernandez said she’d like to see monuments to those who preserved the lands for millennia. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that Indigenous peoples are the most effective stewards of the Earth. Though they make up just 5 percent of the global population, they protect some 80 percent of its biodiversity, according to the World Bank, and biodiversity on Indigenous-managed lands often exceeds that of protected areas. Indigenous peoples with titles to their land tend to have the most success at preserving lands, research has found.
Western researchers and companies also have a long history of co-opting Indigenous discoveries — like traditional medicines. Some scholars estimate the market value of pharmaceuticals derived from Indigenous medicine to be in the tens of billions.
Permaculture is another field that borrows heavily from Indigenous practices, Hernandez said.
Hernandez wants to see environmental organizations, governments and the descendants of settlers reckon with their anti-Indigenous histories and elevate Indigenous voices. “It’s like peeling onions. There are so many layers that we have to undo,” Hernandez said. “The first layer is the history that has been silenced or hidden for so many years.”
For her part, Hernandez is using her credentials — and her large social media following — to bring Indigenous science and voices into academia. “I look at the knowledge that my parents and grandparents held, and I always say they know more about the environment than any professor I have ever had in my career. Indigenous peoples don’t necessarily need a bachelor or a doctoral degree for their knowledge to be valid.”
Last fall, Hernandez taught an Introduction to Climate Change course that included lessons on Indigenous land stewardship and discussions on the ways that Indigenous women are impacted by climate change.
She hopes she can bring a new generation of Indigenous thinkers into the conservation field — while reminding students to look beyond the ivory tower for climate solutions.
Waking up early after a long weekend isn't easy!
Researchers came across this grumpy customer in deep waters during a research expedition aboard E/V Nautilus in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Scorpionfishes have venomous spines for protection that they will erect if they feel threatened. A master of camouflage, this animal can blend into the rocks and corals, which helps to find prey and avoid predators.
When it's not yelling at you of course.
Photo Credit: OET/NOAA - Scorpionfish displaying an aggressive posture to the camera.
Each species and ecosystem contributes to the richness and beauty of life on Earth. Each is unique and, according to the increasingly influential doctrines of Earth jurisprudence or Wild Law, each is an integral part of the web of life and consequently has rights that must be recognized and revered. Once a species or an ecosystem is destroyed, it is lost forever. The great wave of destruction that is the sixth extinction radically impoverishes not just the planet but humanity as well.
Ashley Dawson, Extinction: A Radical History
This weeks weirdo is...
The Humboldt Penguin:
Not to be confused with Humboldt California, the Humboldt penguins live where the Humboldt current meets the shore: Chile and Peru. Both the current and bird were named after explorer Alexander Von Humboldt who called the penguin “pajaro-nino” or “baby bird” due to their waddling and apparent lack of coordination on land. Little did he know how hearty these short kings actually are.
An extreme environment
Standing only 2 feet, the Humboldt penguin is tough bird, and you have to be to live where they live. The Humboldt current is very cold and rough, the land itself is rocky with many cliffs and in the hotter months, ground temperature can reach triple digits! This short king can swim 30 mph and can dive up to 500 feet underwater!! Once they’ve had their fill of fish and squid, they come back to shore the rest on the rocky coast where they have to use their sharp claws on their webbed feet to climb out of the water. These birds are excellent climbers! They have to be to escape the sea lions who prey on them. Humboldt penguins pairs have 2 chicks in a nest that they make from bird guano (ew) and they can live for about 20 years in the wild!
Living here isn’t easy
The Humboldt penguin has more to deal with than just the cliffs and ocean. Apart from their extreme way of life, they also have a clever way of dealing with the warmer days. Some animals pant to expel heat, other sweat, this weirdo expels heat through the bare patches of pink skin around their eyes and beak by blushing.
They also have more threats than just sea lions. Human disturbances in the form of fishing, mining, the harvesting of the guano that they nest in (ew), reduced breeding grounds has caused their population to decline, and unfortunately that trend is continuing. Facilities like the Saint Louis Zoo has taken initiative in helping these weirdos by upping the number of Humboldt penguins in captivity and travel to Chile to participate in population counts.
Birch Trees, Rockport, Maine, 1981. John Sexton. Gelatin silver print
A great campaign from the Xerces Society to remind us not to clean up our yards too much in the fall!
Our little invertebrate friends need winter homes :)
Make your yard a haven for local wildlife!
More information about how leaf litter benefits wildlife here.
Make a donation to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation here. They do great work, and I’ve been a monthly donor for a long while now.
Donate $57 and get this Leave the Leaves yard sign here!
Don’t feel obligated to donate, but spreading the word on tumblr or other social media using these graphics is super helpful!
After years in decline, kiwi numbers are bouncing back thanks to intensive conservation efforts by the government and volunteers.
The good news for New Zealand’s national bird was revealed in the Department of Conservation’s report into the conservation status of birds.
Of the five species of kiwi, the North Island brown kiwi is faring best.
Its numbers have grown to more than 20,000 which saw it reclassified from “at risk – declining” to “no longer threatened”, with its population expected to grow by more than 10 per cent over the next three generations.
Some good news to start the year.
"Elizabeth Ann is the first cloned black-footed ferret and first-ever cloned U.S. endangered species. She was created from the frozen cells of “Willa,” a black-footed ferret that lived more than 30 years ago."
So, why is this a big deal? Because, "All living black-footed ferrets are descended from 7 individuals, resulting in unique genetic challenges to recovering the species." Willa died 30 yrs ago, but she wasn't one of the 7. Her genome represents an important revival of genetic diversity.
Source: Revive & Restore
Wishing you a crabulous Wednesday!
Hermit crabs can be found in many of your national marine sanctuaries, including Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary! These wee crustaceans use empty shells to protect themselves. As they get bigger, they move into larger, more accommodating shells (or whatever they can find).
Photo Credit: NOAA - A closer look at a hermit crab from Hawaiian waters.
A look beyond the surface reveals that the current protection agenda is not only a dangerous distraction from the root causes of environmental degradation but is also the ongoing legacy of colonial practices and modes of thinking. As historian Corey Ross describes, European colonisers in the 19th century decimated wildlife across large parts of Africa, primarily for forestry, mining, agriculture, and elite sport hunting. When the colonisers realised the impacts of their actions, they sought to redress them through protected areas for conservation, blaming locals for their generations-old subsistence practices and proclaiming themselves the experts of nature protection. Ross emphasises that Europe’s proclaimed “mastery over nature” was a core feature of its imperialist history, and a justification for subjugating populations around the world.
Gert Van Hecken and Vijay Kolinjivadi, The “White Saviour” Deal for Nature
thylacinus cynocephalus - extinct since the 1930′s
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Forest and Stream, Château d'Haroué, Lorraine, France, 2013. Michael Kenna. Toned gelatin silver print
Puppet Pals That Save Birds
Prepare for bird puppet spamming! These puppets are used in rehabilitation and captive breeding programs to prevent human imprinting in young birds.
San Diego Zoo & Safari park’s well known California Condor puppet that aids in the California Condor Recovery Program.
African Raptor’s Centre’s hyper realistic Bearded Vulture puppet used for propagation.
Saint Louis Zoo’s King Vulture puppet used for captive rearing of a King vulture chick.
Denver Zoo’s vulture puppet used for captive rearing of a Cinereous vulture chick. “Mmmmmmmmmm…” Sorry, just a Dark Crystal reference..
Liberty’s Owl, Raptor & Reptile Centre’s Falcon & Turkey Vulture puppets used for captive rearing.
Raptor head puppet used at Beijing’s Raptor Rescue Center for rehabilitation. *Extends Xenomorph baby feeding tongue.*
A childhood favorite! A sock puppet! Used at the Jersey Zoo for captive rearing Javan Green Magpies. (Cue Lamb Chop’s song!)
Last but not least, Philippine Eagle Foundation’s hyper realistic Philippine Eagle puppet used for propagation. This amazing puppet was made by Nambroth who makes spectacular bird related fursuit/cosplay pieces.
Urban biomes are more biodiverse than a lot of people realize. Here’s a shoutout to the resilient, adaptive creatures that thrive on the periphery of human-dominated habitats. Please be kind to them - they are our neighbors.