Beyond politics — the science behind gray wolves

Capital News Service
LANSING — Over a hundred years ago, gray wolves roamed North America from Maine to California. With numbers likely in the hundreds of thousands, the top predator had a large impact on its surroundings, from controlling deer population to altering the behavior of other species such as coyotes. But during the 1800s and 1900s, this keystone species began to clash with another predator — the humans who increasingly inhabited the land. People significantly reduced wolf populations as they competed for food and threatened livestock, according to Leah Knapp, an ecologist and professor at Olivet College. It’s a clash that particularly resonates today, as politicians, activists and hunters fuel heated debates on the current state of the species’ endangered status.

Tough winter good for some endangered species

Capital News Service
LANSING – Heavy snowfall is proving to be helpful for some of Michigan’s endangered species. Karner blue butterflies are federally listed endangered insects that are taking advantage of the protection the heavy snow brings, said Chris Hoving, an adaptation specialist with the DNR in Lansing. “Karner blue butterflies do best when there’s continual deep snow through the whole winter,” he said.  “That’s what we’ve had this winter for the first time in decades. It’s excellent weather for blue butterflies.”

The Karner blue butterfly has been found in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and in western Michigan. In Michigan it used to be common from Lake County to Allegan County, but the butterfly sightings have dropped 50 percent to 90 percent every year for the past four years, said Hoving.

Kirtland's warbler grant boosts effort to end endangerment

Capital News Service
LANSING – State workers and environmental groups will use a federal grant to help get the Kirtland’s warbler off the list of endangered species. The $171,000 grant will go toward a range of activities in Northeast Michigan, including the planting of two million jack pine seedlings, which are the only habitat the bird can nest in. “The Kirtland’s warbler is probably North America’s rarest songbird, and we’re really fortunate here in Northeast Michigan to have the type of forest system that this rare species depends upon,” said Abigail Ertel, the Kirtland’s warbler coordinator at Huron Pines, a Gaylord-based nonprofit conservation group that received the grant. The money is just the latest development in the nearly 40-year-long effort to bring the bird back from the brink of extinction, she said. Michigan’s northern forests contain about 98 percent of the species’ population during breeding season, according to Daniel Kennedy, an endangered species coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources.