Are large mammals coming back to Iowa?


Black bear at Lake Ekultna, Alaska. Photo by Doug Brown; Flickr
Black bear at Lake Ekultna, Alaska. Photo by Doug Brown; Flickr

Sightings of large mammals such as bears, moose, mountain lions, and wolves have become increasingly common as of late. Many Iowans are beginning to wonder what would change if the mammals established breeding populations within the state.

In July, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources confirmed a set of bear tracks and scat outside of Wadena, Iowa after a sighting was reported. A beekeeper saw an adult female bear with two cubs destroy a set of beehives before vacating the area. If there are cubs, they are the first to be documented in Iowa in over a century. Other beekeepers have complained of damage to their bee yards as well. Black bears are not protected in Iowa and can legally be shot, although such extreme measures are rarely necessary.

A lone moose was spotted wandering through Iowa at the end of last year, and a wolf was shot by a coyote hunter in February. Both moose and wolves are protected by state law.

Several mountain lion sightings have been reported to the DNR in the past few weeks, but none have been confirmed.

Researchers meeting to discuss link between lead ammunition and dying bald eagles


Researchers found 168 dead bald eagles in the upper Mississippi area for a lead exposure study. (Contributed photo)
Researchers found 168 dead bald eagles in the upper Mississippi area for a lead exposure study. (Contributed photo)

Officials in the Upper Mississippi River U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge will meet today in Prairie du Chien, Wis., to discuss recent findings which link dying bald eagles and lead ammunition.

Beginning in 2011, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists Ed Britton, Sarah Warner, Mike Coffey and Drew Becker collected dead bald eagles from Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin. After testing the livers of 168 dead birds, they found that 48 percent came back with detectable lead concentrations. 21 percent had lethal amounts of lead, indicating lead poisoning.

The lead most likely came from the carcasses of wild game left behind by hunters using lead ammunition. According to a fact sheet by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, eagles frequently scavenge deer and pheasant carcasses, many of which contain lead fragments left behind by hunters who cleaned the carcasses on-site and left behind gut piles which may contain lead fragments. High amounts of lead can be lethal, and non-lethal exposure can cause vision and respiratory problems, leading to secondary trauma.

Lead is currently the most popular material used in shotgun ammunition because it is dense, inexpensive, readily available and soft enough not to damage vintage gun barrels, a common problem with steel ammunition. Fortunately, companies in the hunting and shooting industry have already created several non-toxic alternatives, including Tungsten-Matrix, which has nearly the same density and softness as lead, key factors hunters look for when choosing ammunition.

The meeting today in Prairie du Chien is part of a series of information sessions being held in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Quad Cities over the course of two weeks. For more information on these meetings and the effects of lead on bald eagles, visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Endangered butterflies in Iowa


Photo by Roger Smith; Flickr

 

According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, one-fourth of Iowa’s native butterflies are endangered, threatened, or are of special concern.

Head over to the Des Moines Register to read an excellent piece on our butterflies, and to find out what you can do to help.

Frigid weather threatens Decorah eagle eggs


Photo by Brendon Lake, Flickr.
A bald eagle nest in Iowa.
Photo by Brendon Lake, Flickr.

This winter’s polar vortex is expected to generate subzero low temperatures and daytime temperatures hovering around ten degrees for over a week, threatening the Decorah eagle’s eggs.

The pair laid their first egg on Sunday and more are expected to arrive this week.

In order to keep the eggs from freezing, one of the parents will have to stay on the nest at all times.

To read more about the Decorah eggs in peril, head to the Gazette. Or, the eagle pair and their nest can be live streamed here.

 

Iowa’s Deer Harvest Declined for Eighth Straight Year


Photo by Rich Herrmann; Flickr
Photo by Rich Herrmann; Flickr

For the first time since the mid-1990’s, the DNR reported that Iowa’s deer harvest has dropped below 100,000. In 2013, hunters reported 99,406 deer.

This indicates a positive response from hunters when asked to reduce the size of the herd, but now the DNR is encouraging hunters to work with landowners and base their harvest on local herd conditions.

Deer hunting provides an economic impact of almost $214 million, paying more than $15 million in federal taxes and nearly $15 million in state taxes. It also supports 2,800 jobs and provides more than $67 million in earnings.

Iowa Considering Turtle Harvest Season


Image
A painted turtle near the Cedar River in Iowa. Photo by Heishehui; Flickr.

Iowa’s turtle populations are unlikely to sustain the current level of commercial harvest. Overharvesting of turtles with little to no regulation and loss of habitat are two reasons for concern.

Then Iowa Environmetal Council reported that the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is considering a turtle harvest season to protect female turtles while they are nesting.

Stakeholders have until February 23, 2014 to provide comments to Martin Konrad at his email address: Martin.Konrad@dnr.iowa.gov.

To read more about the potential harvest season, click here.

Iowa DNR trains volunteers to monitor wildlife


Photo by smalleraperture, Flickr.
Photo by smalleraperture, Flickr.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is training volunteers around Iowa to help monitor the state’s wildlife.

The volunteers will get trained in February, March and April to monitor either raptors and colonial waterbirds or frogs and toads.

Monitoring these populations can indicate issues with different wildlife habitats. For instance, the frogs and toads depend on clean water, so a decline in their population may indicate a lack of clean water sources.

For more information on the training sessions, click here.