Wild reindeer shrink in size and number


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A recent study found that the largest herd of wild reindeer in the world’s population is decreasing rapidly due to warming temperatures in northern Russia. (Hermanni Tommonen/flickr)
Jenna Ladd | December 13, 2016

The wild reindeer, a holiday icon, is facing sharp population decline due to climate change.

Andrey Petrov, director of the University of Northern Iowa Arctic Center, led a study of the largest reindeer herd in the world, located on the Taimyr Peninsula in the northernmost tip of Russia. Petrov’s work shows that the herd’s population has dropped from 1 million reindeer in 2000 to about 600,000 today. Scientists say rising temperatures in the region may be the cause.

Petrov said, “Climate change is at least one of the variables.” He added, “We know in the last two decades that we have had an increase in temperatures of about 1.5C overall. And that definitely impacts migration patterns.” During his presentation at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco on Monday, Petrov explained that the longer distance the animals have to travel in order to find cold weather is increasing calf mortality. When the reindeer have to travel further and to higher elevations in the winter, it is also more difficult to find land bearing food in the summer months. Petrov also explained that the region’s rivers are growing wider as ice in the area melts, causing more deaths as the herd attempts to swim across bodies of water.

“Reindeer are tremendously important for biodiversity – they are part of the Arctic food chain and without them other species would be in trouble,” he said. Petrov added, “Thousands and thousands of people rely on wild reindeer; it is the basis of their subsistence economy. So it’s about human sustainability too.”

Wild reindeer are also shrinking in size. Scottish and Norwegian researchers recently released a study which found that the average weight of reindeer on Svalbard, a chain of islands north of Norway, has fallen from 121 lb. in the 1990’s to 106 lb. today. Professor Steve Albon, an ecologist at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, said, “Warmer summers are great for reindeer but winters are getting increasingly tough.” The researchers explained that less snowfall during warmer winters means that the reindeer have to traverse sheets of ice, making it harder for the animals to reach food sources.

In contrast to the Tamiyr population, the Svalbard herd is growing in size.”So far we have more but smaller reindeer,” Albon said. He added that the growing population means competition for food has become more intense.

Deer harvest reduced for sixth consecutive year


Photo by BugDNA, Flickr.

Iowa hunters reported harvesting 121,407 deer during the 2011-2012 hunting seasons – a 4.5 percent drop from the 127,094 deer harvested in 2010 – 2011. Since 2006, Iowa’s deer population has dropped by 30 percent.

“Deer numbers in many areas are near or below the department’s objective,” said Dale Garner, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Bureau. “We are hearing complaints from hunters that they are not seeing the number of deer that they had in the past and some are voicing their concerns that the herd reduction may have gone too far.”

This spring, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources intends to review the population surveys and take appropriate action.

For more information, read the full DNR news release.

On the Radio: Butterfly species sees sharp population decline in Iowa


The Poweshiek Skipper. Photo by Mike Reese, wisconsinbutterflies.org.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses the declining population of a once common Iowa butterfly.

Is it too late to save a once common Iowa butterfly?

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Poweshiek skipper is a small moth-like butterfly that was discovered in Iowa’s Poweshiek County in 1870. Now due to its plummeting population the Poweshiek skipper is a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Continue reading

On the Radio: Extreme weather causes decline in Iowa’s pheasant population


Photo by gerrybuckel, Flickr.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses the effects of extreme weather on Iowa’s pheasant population.

Year after year of extreme weather has caused a severe decline in Iowa’s pheasant population.

Continue reading

Iowa City to evict crows from downtown


Crows tend to become a problem in Iowa City throughout November and December.

The City of Iowa City is fighting back against a growing population of crows that’s been infesting downtown streets and worrying local business owners.

“As it gets colder, the crows are attracted to three things: trees, light and heat,” said Michael Moran, Iowa City Parks and Recreation Director. “These seem to be a perfect storm in the ped mall.”

The city will attempt to scare the crows off using a collection of reflective streamers and eye-colored balloons. These devices, when stirred by the wind, should simulate a moving predator and motivate the crows to gather somewhere else.

Moran said the streamers and balloons have been used elsewhere with some success, but he is unsure where the crows will go if they’re successfully enticed away from the downtown area.

For more information, read the full article at the Press-Citizen.

DNR reports reduced deer harvest


Photo by M Glasgow, Flickr

Iowa deer hunters reportedly took roughly 70,000 deer throughout the 2011 shotgun hunting seasons – a 9 percent drop from 2010, despite similar numbers of hunting licences.

Dale Garner, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Bureau, attributes the reduced harvest to a declining deer population throughout the state.

 “Deer numbers in many areas are near the department’s objective and we are now encouraging hunters to be more selective with their harvest,” said Garner.

The Iowa Department of Natural resources will review the harvest and population surveys at the end of the hunting seasons in January, and will consider efforts to stabilize the deer population.

For more information, read the full DNR press release here.

On the Radio: Declining bee population hurts Iowa and nation


Honeybees play an important role in the pollination of crops.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that threatens Iowa’s bee population. Continue reading