Posted on 30 July 2012.
This common yellowthroat risks collision with cell towers during migration. © Michael R. Duncan
Migrating birds fly high, fast and far from the United States and Canada to Central and South America. But on a cloudy night, the sight of a red light on a communication tower can draw them in and hold them spellbound.
Nearly 7 million migrating birds die a year, victims of the 84,000 towers that dot the North American skyline, according to a University of Southern California study, funded in part by Defenders of Wildlife.
During stormy weather, clouds obscure the stars and force birds to fly at lower levels without their navigational tools. Blinking tower lights don’t confuse them. It’s the steady-burning red ones. The birds end up circling the tower and run into the dozens of cables, known as guy wires, that prop up a tower.
Researchers found the taller the tower, the greater the threat. Of the 84,000 communication towers in North America, only 1,000 or so rise above 900 feet, but they account for 70 percent of the tower-related bird deaths. “That amounts to a staggering 4.5 million birds each year,” says Chris Haney, Defenders’ chief scientist.
The study does offer some solutions: Change the steady-burning lights on tall towers, share towers and build freestanding towers to reduce the need for guy wires. “Methods to reduce this lethal mortality are the best long-term solution,” adds Haney.
Read more stories from the summer issue of Defenders.
Posted in Birds, Defenders Magazine, Features, Wildlife
Posted on 23 July 2012.
A bumble bee pollinates a purple coneflower in Indiana.
Far from a bumbler, the bee is a productive pollinator with a reputation for diligence. That’s fortunate for us because close to 75 percent of flowering plants rely on insects to help them produce fruit and seeds.
And none does it better than a bee. That’s because most have fuzzy, feathery body hairs that carry an electrostatic charge to snag pollen. It’s not intentional. As bees feed, court or gather nectar, pollen sticks to their bodies and rubs off accidentally as they buzz from flower to flower, pollinating on the fly.
We rely on pollinators like the humble bumble bee for a full third of our food supply. Wildlife—from songbirds to grizzly bears—rely on them even more. Without them, we’d have no apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee or orange juice, to name a few delicacies we’d have to forgo.
Given the importance of bees, their dramatic decline in recent decades is particularly alarming. Native bees from California to Maine have been disappearing because of habitat loss or degradation, pesticides and the spread of diseases and parasites. Massive honey bee die-offs—coined “colony collapse disorder” after it was first noticed in 2006—still have scientists puzzled and searching for a solution.
To keep the world abuzz and blooming, we must protect these vital pollinators.
Here’s what you can do to help bees:
- Provide nesting sites in your yard (untilled, unmulched, partially bare ground with leaf pieces or mud for nesting materials).
- Avoid pesticides.
- Advocate for bees with neighbors and local policymakers.
Read more in the summer issue of Defenders.
Posted in Defenders Magazine, Features, Species at Risk, Wildlife
Posted on 19 July 2012.
This summer’s issue sports a wide-eyed harbor seal on the cover–one of this year’s honorable mentions in our annual photo contest. Go inside to get the story behind the grand prize winner’s grizzly bear shot.
This edition also tackles the problems of lead in endangered condors and highlights the critical importance of bees to our food supply. You’ll also find grim statistics behind Wildlife Services war on predators and the animals they kill by accident. On the climate change front, there’s an on-the-ground example of what is already happening at a national wildlife refuge on coastal land in Delaware.
And if you don’t yet subscribe to the hard copy, which comes chock-full of beautiful photos not featured on the website, get it delivered right to your doorstep by joining Defenders today.
Posted in California Condor, Climate Change, Defenders Magazine, Features, Species at Risk, Wildlife
Posted on 24 April 2012.
Sea otters frolic off the coast of California.
With their expressive faces and soft, furry bodies, sea otters exude charisma. But when it comes to survival, cute and cuddly doesn’t always cut it.
As few as 2,800 sea otters call California’s waters home. The population descends from a single remaining colony of about 50 hidden amid the crags of Big Sur, out of sight from fur hunters who nearly wiped out the world’s entire population by the early 1900s. Today they are at risk from pollution-caused disease, oil spills and fishing gear.
But even in such small numbers, these marine mustelids—related to weasels, ferrets and minks—have a profound influence on the marine ecosystem, keeping crucial kelp forests healthy by eating urchins that can overgraze. The otters’ diverse diet includes clams, crabs and mussels, which they cleverly crack open with a rock—every otter keeps one tucked away in a chest pouch.
Unlike most of their blubbery brethren, sea otters have fur—the densest of any mammal at up to 1 million hairs per square inch—to keep the chilly waters at bay. Because they can’t afford a bad hair day, much time is spent grooming their “do.” If their fur becomes soiled, it’s no longer waterproof and they can freeze to death. That’s one reason oil spills are so lethal.
Despite these amazing adaptations, California sea otters still need our help to keep their heads above water—so they can frolic and we can be charmed throughout this century and into the next.
Read more from the spring issue of Defenders magazine.
Posted in California, Defenders Magazine, Features, Marine Animals, Sea Otter, Species at Risk, West Coast
Posted on 18 April 2012.
The spring issue of Defenders is here! Check out “Shoring up the Red Knot” to find out how conservationists are teaming to help this shorebird recover. While you’re here, get some good news on Florida panthers and Mexican wolves, and find out how Defenders is working to increase protection for right whales, which are too often harmed by commercial fishing gear.
Find more great wildlife stories and photos in the spring issue of Defenders Magazine.
Want to receive your own copy of Defenders Magazine, delivered right to your doorstep? Join Defenders today!
Posted in Birds, Defenders Magazine, Features, Florida Panther, Marine Animals, Photo
Posted on 08 December 2011.
Bison gather near the road at the archway marking the entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
Montana poised to approve the return of 68 bison to tribal lands
We’re almost there!
This Friday the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission will decide what to do with some of the last genetically pure bison left in America: keep them locked in a quarantine facility or relocate them to start new wild herds on the Fort Belknap and Fort Peck Indian Reservations.
As part of a government experiment to see if the disease brucellosis could be removed from a herd of genetically pure Yellowstone bison, hundreds of bison were placed in quarantine. These bison have been proven time and again to be free of brucellosis, yet they remain in quarantine more than 5 years later.
Governor Schweitzer and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff have recommended that the Commission approve the transfer of the 68 Yellowstone bison remaining in quarantine to these tribal lands.
Defenders of Wildlife supports release of these bison for restoration on tribal lands. After years of working towards restoring additional herds of these American icons, one final approval remains.
The Assiniboine and Sioux tribes of Fort Peck Reservation and the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes of Fort Belknap Reservation have stepped up to the plate and welcome the responsibility of living with these respected animals, the way their ancestors did for years before.
This is an offer our state should not refuse.
If the relocation proposal passes, these bison could be moved anytime in the next few months.
Read more about bison in the latest issue of Defenders magazine…
Posted in Bison, Defenders Magazine, Experts, Features, In the News, Rocky Mountains and Great Plains, Species at Risk, Wildlife