Groups Seek Protection for Wolf Subspecies in Southeast Alaska

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Becky Bohrer

Environmental groups want special protection for a subspecies of gray wolf found in Southeast Alaska old-growth forests.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace say the Alexander Archipelago wolf is threatened by unsustainable logging and road building in the Tongass National Forest.

The groups have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Endangered Species Act protection for the wolf. An agency spokesman hadn’t seen the petition Wednesday.

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The Incredible Arctic Tern

The Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) is an Arctic to Antarctic traveler with annual migrations of up to 24,000 miles round trip, the longest annual migration of any creature on Earth. On its wintering grounds, this Olympic flyer benefits from a “second summer”, giving it more hours of daylight than any other bird.

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In addition to excellent flying abilities, this slender tern is also known for its elegant breeding plumage. The bill, feet, and legs are blood-red. The upper wings and back are light gray, contrasting with a jet-black cap. The tail is long and deeply forked.

Nests of the Arctic Tern are commonly made near fresh or salt water in open, usually treeless environments. The nest is very difficult to spot unless it contains eggs; it is little more than a shallow depression scraped in the ground. Intruders in nesting areas are often met with aggressive dives and pecks on the back or head.

Diet varies from place to place, but fish is the primary food given to chicks. Prey is captured by plunge-diving or dipping. Occasionally insects are taken on the wing.

In Alaska, in addition to its’ wide breeding distribution on the arctic coastal plain of the Beaufort Sea, it nests along the coasts of the Chukchi and Bering Seas and on St. Lawrence Island. There are also breeding sites in the western Aleutian Islands and many sites throughout the Gulf of Alaska, some as far south as Southeast Alaska.

It is not known specifically where Arctic Terns from North America spend the winter, but birds from the entire northern hemisphere are thought to intermingle around Antarctica. Some birds also winter in southern Africa, southern Australia, and New Zealand.

There are no data for general population trends in Canada, Alaska, or on the Atlantic Coast, but declines have been reported within each of these areas. In the Gulf of Alaska, both coastal colony counts on Kodiak Island and surveys at sea in Prince William Sound indicated declines of more than 90%. Except for the effects of the 1964 earthquake in Alaska, factors causing the population decline and preventing population recovery are unknown.

Since Arctic Terns are long-lived, far-traveling, and spend part of their year at each pole, they may contribute valuable insights into numerous scientific questions about birds (e.g. daylight exposure and migration, accumulated environmental impacts, and abstention from breeding and movement as responses to changes in food supplies).

However, the Alaskan population is not monitored and there is a lack of knowledge about most aspects of their population. Very little is known about nonbreeders in the Antarctic and most of the mortality occurs during this part of the yearly cycle. Therefore, we need to begin with a better understanding of the species distribution, numbers, and trends throughout its range.

courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

UAF Tests Unmanned Aircraft to Study Wildlife

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Dan Joling

Greg Walker is looking to fly in places where blue sky and runways are in short supply.

Walker is manager of the unmanned aircraft program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He’s at the beginning of a project to evaluate how unmanned aircraft can be used to monitor endangered Steller sea lions as they haul out on remote rocky outcroppings of the Aleutian Islands hundreds of miles between airports.

The project is a technology development experiment, evaluating manufacturers’ claims versus researchers’ needs, Walker said from his office at Poker Flat Research Range northeast of Fairbanks.

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Judge Backs Scientists in Polar Bear Ruling

courtesy of Anchorage Daily News
by Dina Cappielo

A federal judge on Thursday backed a finding by government scientists that global warming is threatening the survival of the polar bear.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that a May 2008 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to place the bear on the endangered species list as threatened because of melting sea ice was rational given the facts and best available science. Environmental groups had sued, saying the polar bear needed more protection under the Endangered Species Act. The state of Alaska, under the leadership of then-Gov. Sarah Palin, and hunting groups argued that the listing was unnecessary. They say the bear is protected by other laws and that the scientific case is shaky when it comes to predicting global warming’s toll on the mammal.

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