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Tag Archive | "endangered"

Michigan’s Endangered barking Owl

OUT-barking-owl-(short-eared)-photoThe Short-eared Owl is listed as a vulnerable species worldwide and somewhat common in North America, South America, Eurasia and many oceanic islands. However, in Michigan it is listed as an endangered species, having been observed in less than a dozen counties state-wide within the last three decades. The Short-eared Owl has been showing a steady decline in numbers for the past several years in most of its range.

The Short-eared Owl is a medium sized owl, measuring 13-17 inches in length. As the name suggests the owl displays short ear tufts but is accompanied by a heightened sense of hearing. This owl has a large head with big eyes and a wide wingspan ranging from 33-41 inches, more than 2.5 times its own body length. The coloration of streaked brown and buff helps it blend in with its surroundings and can make it difficult to identify. The scratchy barking call that the Short-eared Owl makes is its most distinctive feature and the easiest way to identify the owl.

This species of owl prefers large, open grasslands close to marshes, streams or wet meadows with a good mix of small rodents and insects on which to feed. The Short-eared Owl is unique from most owl species because it hunts both day and night and is not strictly nocturnal. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources it is likely that the Short-eared Owl was never overly abundant in Michigan due to the lack of large contiguous grassland habitat in our state. However, the population numbers in Michigan have been rapidly declining due to the loss of habitat to development and succession and the use of pesticides that kill off the owl’s food sources.

Luckily, the owl can benefit from many of the management plans currently in use for restoring bird populations in grasslands and marshes. The best techniques to help bring back the Short-eared Owl include prescribed burning and scheduled mowing, done every few years between mid-April to mid-July.

A good place to observe the Short-eared Owl in Michigan is at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw County.The refuge has teamed up with the Saginaw Valley Audubon Society (SVAS) to provide high quality habitat for theendangered owl while also providing unique opportunities to observe this rare bird. Members and volunteers from the SVAS now host auto tours of the refuge to see the bird without disturbing its habitat. In 2006, the refuge had a record 18 owls observed.

Short-eared Owls are also consistently observed on the Raco Plains in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, near Saulte Ste. Marie according to Tom Funke, Michigan Audubon Conservation Director.

Although the owl was never overly abundant in Michigan, many Short-eared Owls migrated and spent time in Michigan.

Management plans in place for Pheasants will help increase population numbers of Short-eared Owls in Michigan and hopefully remove the bird from the Michigan Endangered Species list.

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Wolves removed from endangered species list

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to remove wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the federal endangered species list. The decision returns management of the species to the state level.
The federal delisting rule removing wolves from the endangered species list will be published in the Federal Register Wednesday, Dec. 28, and will take effect Friday, Jan. 27, 30 days after its publication.
Returning wolves to state management will allow the Michigan Department of National Resources to more effectively manage the species under Michigan’s highly-regarded Wolf Management Plan, which was created through a roundtable process involving interested parties representing viewpoints from all sides of the wolf issue.
“This is great news for the state’s wolf population and for Michigan citizens who have been affected by this issue,” said DNR Director Rodney Stokes. “Treating wolves as an endangered species, when the population has exceeded federal recovery goals in Michigan for more than a decade, has negatively impacted public opinion in areas of Michigan where wolves are established on the landscape. I firmly believe that the more flexible management options allowed under the state’s Wolf Management Plan will help increase social acceptance of the species while maintaining a healthy, sustainable wolf population.”
Once wolves are removed from the endangered species list, the DNR will continue to recommend nonlethal methods of control first, including flashing lights, flagging and noisemakers. In addition, the DNR administers a grant program that provides some funding to livestock owners with depredation issues for improved fencing and guard animals such as llamas, donkeys and Great Pyrenees dogs.
However, in cases where nonlethal methods are not working or feasible, DNR officials will now have the ability to kill problem wolves when appropriate. Under federal Endangered Species Act protection, wolves are protected from lethal control measures except in defense of human safety.
Livestock and dog owners in Michigan will also be able to legally protect their private property from wolf depredation once wolves are removed from the endangered species list.
The Michigan Legislature passed laws in 2008 to allow livestock or dog owners, or their designated agents, to remove, capture, or, if deemed necessary, use lethal means to destroy a wolf that is “in the act of preying upon” (attempting to kill or injure) the owner’s livestock or dog(s). These state laws will go into effect on Friday, Jan. 27, 30 days after the Final Rule is published in the Federal Register.
After the wolf is taken off the federal endangered species list, the animal will remain a protected species in Michigan. There is no public hunting or trapping of wolves allowed in Michigan. The DNR and the US Fish and Wildlife Service will investigate and continue vigorous prosecution of any wolf poaching cases. Illegally killing a wolf is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both, and the cost of prosecution. Reports about poaching can be made to the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Hotline, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at 800-292-7800.
For more information on Michigan’s wolf population and to see the state’s Wolf Management Plan, go to www.michigan.gov/wolves.

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