Wild Matters: Relocation Redux and More

by Heidi Ridgley and James Navarro

Relocation Redux

Prairie Dog Relocation, Photo: Lacy Gray / Defenders of Wildlife

© Lacy Gray / Defenders of Wildlife

Highly social and dependent on one another, prairie dogs share a lot of muzzle time—chattering, grooming and doing what even looks like kissing and hugging. But things are not so rosy for these rotund rodents, which have declined by more than 95 percent across the Great Plains.

Considered pests because they eat grass that ranchers would rather feed their livestock, prairie dogs are shot and poisoned even on public lands. Without them, the highly endangered black-footed ferret—which dines on the dogs almost exclusively—hasn’t a hope. Many other species use their burrows as homes.

That’s why, for the second year in a row, Defenders and our conservation partners stepped up to help save hundreds of prairie dogs at the edge of Thunder Basin National Grassland in eastern Wyoming. Rather than see them poisoned or shot, Defenders’ Montana field office helped relocate them to a fully protected spot in the middle of the basin. Here, the U.S. Forest Service’s goal is to restore 18,000 acres of prairie dog colonies for the benefit of all the wildlife that depend on them.

“That may sound like a lot of land, but it’s less than 4 percent of the 550,000 acres that make up Thunder Basin,” says Jonathan Proctor, Defenders’ prairie expert. “The project is setting a new standard for managing this keystone species. We hope this will become a model for nonlethal management at all nine national grasslands.”

Proof positive that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

See a gallery on the relocation with Defenders' staffers Jonathan Proctor and Lacy Gray and our partners at the U.S. Forest Service, the Humane Society of the United States and World Wildlife Fund.

Frog with Chytrid Fungus, © Brian Gratwicke

© Brian Gratwicke

Fast and Furious Fungus

Scientists confirmed this summer that chytrid fungus, a deadly and rapidly spreading amphibian disease, has reached Panama’s Darien region, one of Central America’s largest remaining wilderness areas and its last fungus-free region. This is troubling news for the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, a consortium of zoos, government agencies, research organizations and conservation groups, including Defenders, that is trying to build a Noah’s Ark for the 20 species of frogs in the most imminent danger of extinction. Captured animals are kept at a breeding center until a cure for the disease is found.

First observed in Australia and Central America in the 1980s and 1990s, the highly contagious disease is at least partially responsible—along with habitat loss, climate change and pollution—for the loss of 94 of the 120 frog species thought to have gone extinct since 1980.

Within five months of arriving in western Panama, chytrid wiped out half of the frog species. “The unrelenting and extremely fast-paced spread of this fungus is alarming,” says Doug Woodhams, a researcher with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

The mountainous regions of eastern Panama are one of the last remaining strongholds of native amphibian populations in the New World.

To Spot an Ocelot

Ocelot, © Tony Battiste / Portraits in Nature

© Tony Battiste / Portraits in Nature

This elusive feline has wildlife officials in Arizona doing a double take. That’s because until this ocelot photo was snapped by the Arizona Game and Fish Department in February—and a camera trap caught what may be the same cat again in July—there had been only four sightings in the Grand Canyon State since 2009. The only U.S. breeding population of ocelots exists in southern Texas, even though the rare cat once roamed across the Southwest. Habitat loss, the fur and pet trades, and more recent threats like climate change and the U.S.-Mexico border wall have all taken a heavy toll on the North American population. Still, the sightings suggest that there may just be enough habitat left in Arizona for these wandering wildcats to put down roots.

For a daily dose of stories like this and other up-to-the-moment wildlife news, visit the Defenders' blog.

Learn more about frogs around the world.

More Articles from Fall 2011

America's only true bison herd needs more room to roam. Will they find it in Montana?
In a huge victory in July 2011, wildlife champions on both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives struck down the so-called “extinction rider” by a vote of 224 to 202, with 37 House Republicans supporting the measure.
Sea Turtle, © Christina Albright-Mundy
The dead and stranded sea turtles began washing up on Gulf Coast beaches last year. There were so many that the National Marine Fisheries Service investigated, finding both the BP Gulf oil disaster and shrimp trawling were likely to blame.
Polar bear, © Tom Schneider
Coexistence is the order of the day in Oregon, thanks to months of discussions among Defenders of Wildlife, Oregon wildlife officials, the governor’s office and the ranching community. A livestock compensation and wolf coexistence bill unanimously passed the state House and Senate and was signed into law by Gov. John Kitzhaber in August.
Wolves in the West fan some people’s passions and fuel other people’s rage. The one thing they can’t seem to do is stay out of the crosshairs.
In recent years, the aquarium trade has decimated the wild population, which had declined by almost half in the last decade in areas still open to collection.
Weighing in at up to 60 tons, bowhead whales hold the record for the biggest mouth of any living animal and they have the densest blubber, measuring up to 2-feet thick.

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