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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

CONSERVANCY SEEKS END TO BIOLOGICAL POLLUTION OF GREAT LAKES


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


 
CONTACT:    Dennis Fijalkowski                  OR                  Bill Taylor
                        Executive Director                                          President
                        Michigan Wildlife Conservancy                      Michigan Wildlife Conservancy
                        (517) 641-7677                                                (517) 857-4218


CONSERVANCY SEEKS END TO BIOLOGICAL POLLUTION OF GREAT LAKES


BATH, Mich. - The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy’s Board of Trustees recently adopted a resolution to protect the Great Lakes from invasive exotic species entering via the Mississippi River watershed (on the west) and the St. Lawrence Seaway (on the east).  The non-profit organization, based in Bath near Lansing, joins numerous other conservation groups and five states in asking the federal government for a physical separation of Lake Michigan from the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.  In addition, the Conservancy is calling for a ban of saltwater-going ships in the freshwater part of the St. Lawrence River.

“The Great Lakes have been impacted by more than 160 invasive exotic species that entered via the St. Lawrence Seaway, and today are threatened by Asian carp moving through the Chicago River to Lake Michigan,” said Conservancy President Bill Taylor, of Duck Lake.  “It makes no sense to continue harming this invaluable resource for relatively little economic gain.”

The Conservancy’s position is based on studies that have shown the annual costs of dealing with a myriad of exotic species ranging from lamprey eels to zebra and quagga mussels to round gobies far exceed income generated from shipping activities.  The Conservancy believes the annual cost to the regional economy of closing the Great Lakes to saltwater shipping would be just $55 million, a fraction of the cost of dealing with exotics.

“This is not a case of economy versus ecology,” said Taylor.  “This is about abusing one of the world’s unique resources and the misuse of public money,”

The Conservancy’s resolution reads:

WHEREAS, the Great Lakes constitute an unique and priceless natural resource for the citizens of the United States and of Canada; and,

WHEREAS, the values and functions of the Great Lakes have, and continue to be, impaired by invasive exotic species transported through the St. Lawrence Seaway from the Atlantic Ocean via ships; and,

WHEREAS, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal has been identified as a likely pathway for entry of invasive Asian carp into Lake Michigan; and,

WHEREAS, attempts to prevent or mitigate damages caused by invasive exotic species that have entered or are likely to enter the Great Lakes far exceed the value of shipping of materials via the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE MICHIGAN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY SUPPORTS FEDERALLY-FUNDED PROJECTS TO PROVIDE PHYSICAL SEPARATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER FROM THE GREAT LAKES; AND,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THE MICHIGAN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY SUPPORTS PROHIBITING SALT-WATER SHIPS FROM ENTERING THE FRESHWATER PORTION OF THE ST. LAWRENCE RIVER ABOVE THE TIDAL ZONE.

“Some people consider biological pollution of the Great Lakes to be a case of the ‘horse already out of the barn’,” noted Taylor.  “But new exotic species are arriving each year, as saltwater shipping shifts to ports seldom visited by Great Lakes ships in the past.” 

In considering the resolution, the Conservancy concluded: 

·         In 1988 zebra mussels reached the Great Lakes in the ballast water of ocean-going ships. Many citizens began requesting a requirement that ocean ships purge their ballast water before entering the Great Lakes. However, no effective requirement has been implemented and serious new threats like quagga mussels and round gobies followed the zebra mussels here. In addition, we now know that many unwanted pests can hitchhike across the ocean on the hulls of ships as well as in their ballast water.  The shipping industry has too much influence over the current policy to ever reach effective solutions short of physical barriers or bans against ship movement. 

·         In 2000 Asian carp reached the Illinois River that connects the Mississippi River system with Lake Michigan through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The environmental community began requesting that a physical barrier be re-established between these watersheds, and in 2007 Congress directed the Corps of Engineers to study ways "to prevent" invasive species from passing between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. However, the Corps has still not identified a separation plan, and it has unilaterally reinterpreted the Congressional directive as a study on how "to prevent or reduce the risk" of such passages.

·         The St. Lawrence River recommendation would obviously have to be implemented by Canada with encouragement and assistance from the U.S.  American agencies should begin serious talks with their Canadian counterparts to prohibit movement of ocean-going ships into the Great Lakes.

For additional information about the Conservancy’s resolution, you may contact the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy 517-641-7677 or at wildlife@miwildlife.org.  The Conservancy published a related article by longtime Detroit Free Press outdoor writer, Eric Sharp, in its January-February 2012 issue of The Wildlife Volunteer newsletter and will make the article available.

The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy is a non-profit citizens group established in 1982 to restore Michigan’s wildlife legacy.  The Conservancy has restored more than 8,100 acres of wetlands, 2,500 acres of prairies and grasslands, and hundreds of miles of trout streams, in addition to several rare species recoveries and the creation of many backyard habitats.  The Conservancy website highlights some of the completed habitat restoration work. 

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Rarely Seen Michigan Animals


What animals are rarely seen, are efficient hunters, and weigh up to 9 ounces?  Any guesses?  The least weasel, short-tailed weasel, and the long-tailed weasel.    And guess what…they all live in Michigan.  In fact, these are only three of the ten members of the Mustelid family that inhabit the state of Michigan.  (Future posts will be written about all other Michigan Mustelds.)

 NPS Photo

Mustelids  (weasels) are characterized by their anal glands.  In other words, they stink.  The odor created by these glands is used for both defense and marking territory.  Some weasels have the ability to delay pregnancies through “delayed implantation”.  This allows for the postponing of births when harsh conditions are present.

Weasel
Weight
Length
Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis)
1-2 ounces
6-8 inches
Short-Tailed Weasel (Mustela erminea)
2-6 ounces
7-13 inches
Long-Tailed Weasel (Mustela frenata)
3-9 ounces
11-22 inches

All three weasels are known for their big appetites.  It is expected for a weasel to kill more animals than it can eat.  This behavior is crucial for their survival.  Weasels have high energy demands and fasting for more than one day is detrimental.  So when winter comes or prey is no longer plentiful, stockpiling food is a survival necessity.     

They are also known for their fierceness.  Although their diet is primarily voles, they are able to take prey such as rabbits, rats and snakes.  The long-tailed weasel has even been known to kill small woodchucks and even baby pigs.  One bite to the base of the skull to reach the brain or the spinal cord allows weasels to kill prey much larger than they are. 

It is sometimes difficult to tell these weasels apart.  The least weasel is of course the smallest of the three but, the short-tailed and long-tailed weasel are a bit more difficult.  Other than the length of their tails, the difference between the short and long-tailed weasels is in their feet.  The short-tailed weasel has white feet all year long.  The long-tailed weasel only has white feet in the winter.  Weasels turn white in the wintertime to camouflage themselves from becoming prey to other predatory species.    This is an adaptation developed by the species. 
 NPS Photo
They may be small and cute but they are fierce and cunning creatures, and vicious when it comes to hunting.        

Friday, February 17, 2012

Dancing Crane Gift Shop – Remodeled!

           
For those of you who have visited the Bengel Wildlife Center you know that housed inside the building is a beautiful hidden gem, the Dancing Crane Gift Shop.  I have some news for all of you!  Our gift shop has been remodeled!  We even have some new items!  You are all invited to come back in and see our gift shops’ new look and items.   If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Dancing Crane Gift Shop yet, come on in and wander around the grounds.  We would love to meet you. 




            The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy is located at the Bengel Wildlife Center at 6380 Drumheller Road, Bath, Michigan 48808.  If you need directions or would like to contact us you may email us at wildlife@miwildlife.org or by phone at 517-641-7677.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Come One, Come All

As you may already know the Michigan Audubon Society has moved their offices to the Bengel Wildlife Center.  On Saturday, February 25, 2012 they will be hosting one of their first events.  And we are invited!  Someone from the Michigan Audubon Society will be leading a bird walk and answer any questions you may have.

You will need:
a.       Binoculars
b.      Field guide (if you have one)
c.       Dress for the weather
Please come join the Michigan Audubon Society on a bird walk.  Not only will you be able to look at the birds at the Bengel Wildlife Center but you will meet new people too! 

If you plan to attend please notify me, Jennifer at (517) 641-7677 or email me at wildlife@miwildlife.org.

Friday, February 3, 2012

WHAT A CATCH!!


(Courtesy of one of our members)
When fishing the waters off Alaska one hopes to catch an Alaskan king salmon, sockeye salmon or a halibut, but a black-tailed deer?  How about four? 
I know, it sounds like another fish tale.  How can you go out fishing for an animal that has gills and lives underwater and catch four four-legged mammals that live on land?  For this fishing trip the proof was in the pictures. 
This story was first printed in the Sitka Gazette. 
I've heard of salmon jumping into boats, but never anything quite like this...Tom Satre told the Sitka Gazette that he was out with a charter group on his 62-foot fishing vessel when four juvenile black-tailed deer swam directly toward his boat.
"Once the deer reached the boat, the four began to circle the boat, looking directly at us. We could tell right away that the young bucks were distressed.

I opened up my back gate and we helped the typically skittish and absolutely wild animals onto the boat. In all my years fishing, I've never seen anything quite like it!

Once on-board, they collapsed with exhaustion, shivering."
We headed for Taku Harbour. Once we reached the dock, the first buck that we had pulled from the water hopped onto the dock, looked back as if to say 'thank you' and disappeared into the forest.  

After a bit of prodding and assistance, two more followed, but the smallest deer needed a little more help.  

My daughter, Anna, and son, Tim, helped the last buck to its feet. We didn't know how long they had been in the icy waters or if there had been others who did not survive. My daughter later told me that the experience was something that she would never forget, and I suspect the deer felt the same way as well!"  

I guess this proves that you can catch just about anything on a fishing trip.  Here are two articles that were written about the December 2011 experience.