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Wayne Post
  • Outdoors: Saying goodbye to bats and amphibians?

  • It’s official. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome at Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge in Jackson County, Alabama. Fern Cave provides winter hibernation habitat for several bat species, and contains the largest documented wintering colony of federally listed en...
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  • It’s official. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome at Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge in Jackson County, Alabama. Fern Cave provides winter hibernation habitat for several bat species, and contains the largest documented wintering colony of federally listed endangered gray bats.
    White-nose syndrome (WNS) has decimated bat populations across eastern North America, with mortality rates reaching up to 100 percent at some sites. First documented near Watertown, NY, in 2006-07, the disease has spread into 22 states and five Canadian provinces. Bats have been found sick and dying in unprecedented numbers near infected sites.
    White-nose syndrome has been documented in seven hibernating bat species, including two federally listed endangered species, the Indiana bat and gray bat. Significant disease-related mortality has been documented in many colonies of hibernating Indiana bats. Fortunately no dead grey bats have so far been detected, but scientists are still concerned with this latest discovery.
    What about amphibians? Scientists who have been researching these critters around the world all report that amphibians have been dying off in ever-increasing numbers since the late 1980s. And because the fungus that is killing them is so prevalent and easy to spread, there is little hope that any of these unique critters will survive for very much longer.
    The fungus is called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd). It arrived in this country with shipments of African clawed frogs. That frog species is immune to the deadly effects of this fungus, but it is lethal to virtually every other amphibian that becomes infected.
    The African clawed frog was imported in great numbers, primarily into California. They were used for research and for pregnancy testing in humans. Hospitals and research laboratories bred colonies of this easy-to-keep species, often in open, unsecured ponds.
    When modern pregnancy tests were established during the late 1960s,, some people who raised the clawed frogs simply released them into the wild. They quickly spread into any available fresh-water systems.
    California officials confirm that this fungus is responsible for killing off 99.9 percent of all populations of frogs in the California mountains.
    It is suspected that waterfowl and other water-birds assist in spreading the fungus. It is now found in every state, and it is adversely affecting every species of native amphibian.
    A recent U. S. Geological Survey has found that frogs, salamanders and toads have been disappearing at a rate of 3.7 percent per year for nearly 30 years. That situation is nation-wide. And the worst news is that there is virtually no hope the continuing loss can be reversed. The fungus is simply too lethal and it is now found everywhere.
    Now, about all those dead honeybees ...
    * * *
    Attention campers: The 2013 Directory of New York Campgrounds and RV Parks is now available, and it is free upon request. It is made available by the Camp Owners of New York (CONY). You can obtain a copy by calling 800/497-2669. Or, you can contact the CONY rep directly by calling Suzanne Bixby at 315/771-7778.
    Page 2 of 2 - The directory contains detailed and specific information about each campground and RV park in the state. Each individual listing includes onsite services and amenities, nearby tourists attractions and local events. That information allows a family to select a camping spot that is near their favorite outdoor activities such as swimming, fishing, game courts, and a host of others.
    Family camping is one of the most enjoyable activities any family can participate in. It is also one of the least expensive ways to spend quality time together. Just remember not to feed the wildlife.
    * * *
    I have always had a fascination with cougars. I’m not sure why I am that way. In high school I wrote an essay on those critters, and got the highest grade in the class. In college I did another and did well on that one, too. And I managed to seize eleven of those cats during my career.
    But now it is modern technology that is giving us the best glimpses into the secretive lives of these big cats. Trail cameras are catching photos of cougars doing all sorts of strange and interesting activities.
    What does a mountain lion eat? While most of us would guess deer, the actual answer is just about anything it can catch. We now know these cats will eat insects (mostly large grasshoppers so far), snakes, skunks, geese (from ambush), and sage grouse.
    There is one video of a rather large raccoon crossing a log bridge over a creek. As it reached the far shore it was smothered by a cougar that made short work of dispatching it and then feasting until there was nothing left. Raccoons are known as fierce fighters, but this one never had a chance to show his stuff.
    And a guy living near Missoula, Mont., might have taken the most unusual cougar hunting photo of all. He set up a camera on a tributary of Seeley Lake while hoping to catch a black bear fishing for rainbow trout. What he ended up with was a mountain lion peering into a pool on one infrared photo, then pouncing in and coming out with a large rainbow in its mouth in another.
    Folks, this kind of fishing activity by a cougar has never been documented before. And the area where the photo was taken has lots of prey animals, and lots of lions, too. Which tells me this is learned behavior on the part of that cat. It has learned how to take advantage of a seasonal source of protean (spawning trout), and it has obviously developed an efficient hunting system as well.
    Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at lisenbee@frontiernet.net

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