At what point should an animal be removed from the endangered list? In my own home state of Florida, black bears listed as threatened were rewarded for a rebound in population numbers with a one-week hunt. The issue of 3200 hunting permits for the taking of 300 bears in a one week hunt of the estimated 2,640 statewide was overkill, pardon my pun. The hunt quota was filled in only two days. With those odds, is it any wonder? It’s hard to argue with the logic of our state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Thomas Eason, the commission’s director of habitat and species conservation recently said, “We’re having more bears born and surviving than are dying.” Wow. Perfectly reasonable criteria for granting hunting permits. The commission is considering another hunt in 2016.
Lovers of large mammals will be aggrieved to learn the gentle manatee is the conservators’ next target. The “sea cow” is now being considered for removal from the Endangered Species List.
With encouragement from the federal government, which recently proposed dropping the sea mammal from the list, the commission is now zeroing in on the manatee, not with a hunt, but by removing its protection. If you do any boating in South Florida or the Caribbean, you will be hard pressed to find a manatee without numerous gashes in its flesh from propellers of speeding boats.
According to Savethemanatee.org, there were 6,250 Florida manatees documented in the February, 2016 aerial survey. In 2015 there were 405 deaths in the state of Florida waters, some from red tides, most from boat encounters. Tell me this gentle, slow-moving sirenian is not in danger. Better yet, tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. At least they’re asking for input from the public. Go to www.regulations.gov and post a comment. Unfortunately, I learned yesterday the deadline for comments is 11:59 P. M., April 7. Please act fast. Manatees can’t.
I stumbled onto devil’s corkscrews on my way to something else. I thought you might enjoy my further exploration of the strange formations. In the mid-1800s early ranchers in Sioux County, Nebraska were discovering spiraled tubes, up to nine feet long, which they nicknamed “devil’s corkscrews,” more formally, Daemonelix.
What were they? Only when teaching children at the Florida Museum of Natural History did I learn about trace fossils, evidence that something had been in a place: a footprint or leaf print, a burrow, coprolite (fossilized poop). The ranchers’ fossils were remnants of spiral burrows dug by rodents found at the spiral base. They had super long front teeth like modern beavers, with stubby tails instead of paddles like the modern beaver. These clever little rodents burrowed near water, but instead of digging straight down, they dug spirals, making it harder for predators to reach them, and perhaps, slowing water.
Paleocastor, which means “ancient beaver,” died out during the Oligocene when the planet cooled down and dried out. Could he not adapt from the wet world he knew to the grasses and prairies? Then why did some aquatic beavers survive to become great dam builders? What do you think?
You can visit Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Nebraska or check out nps.gov/agfo/learn/nature/mammalfossils.htm to see more interesting (extinct) critters.
Two species of elephant, right? Asian and African. Wrong! This is what I love about science. There’s always room for improvement. Theories, new discoveries, new theories. Until recently, biologists believed there were just two elephants. A recent study by Fauna and Flora International and the South Sudan Wildlife Service included DNA tests and led to the classification of a distinct species, smaller, with straighter tusks and rounder head and ears.
The new species was initially thought to be a subspecies of the savannah elephant but DNA eventually showed that approximately 2.5 million years ago, two genetically different strains of elephants evolved in Africa. The forest elephant lives in the forests of central and western Africa. Genetically and smaller in size than the savanna elephant, it has lived hidden and virtually forgotten. But even in remote central African forests, it faces the same threats as it’s bigger cousins: poaching, illegal logging and war. In fact, between 2002 and 2013 populations declined 62%. New species or not, conservationists believe it may be only five years before elephants are completely extinct. Better take the kids to the zoo!
New York Post Nypost.com/2015/12/11/the-greta-garbo-of-elephant-species-photographed-for-the-first-time