Stories tagged US Fish and Wildlife Service


Preble's meadow jumping mouse: Preble's meadow jumping mouse.  Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Preble's meadow jumping mouse: Preble's meadow jumping mouse. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In what I personally consider to be a sweet move, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed rulings that denied seven endangered species increased protection, after an investigation found the actions were influenced by political pressure.

Once such species that is now given increased protection is one of my personal favorite rodents (I like so few rodents) – the Preble's meadow jumping mouse.

The person responsible for limiting the protection for these animals, Former Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Julie MacDonald (who was at the time responsible for overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service) was pressuring Fish and Wildlife scientists to alter their findings regarding the endangered animals. What other actions have been done – what other damage has been done – that we don’t know about? MacDonald was influential in delisting the Sacramento splittail, a fish found only in California's Central Valley where she owns a farm on which the fish live - come on!

The Center for Biological Diversity reports that the current administration has listed only 52 species under the endangered species act, the fewest of any administration since the law was passed in 1973. I hope this decrease is because of politics and not because we’re running out of species.

I know this sort of thing happens on both sides of the aisle, but I guess I would way rather that there be too many species listed as endangered, and that we were being overly cautious, rather than being to strict about what species deserves protection and then finding out later that we acted too late to preserve them. I would rather err on the side of caution, rather than crossing my fingers and hoping the problem fixes itself.

And there are very real trade offs here too. Set aside a habitat for a spotted owl you’re removing a source of income for families that have limited options. It’s not an easy choice.

What do you think?


Bald eagle: Photo US Geologic Survey
Bald eagle: Photo US Geologic Survey

Ed Contoski has a problem. He wants to sell some of his land in central Minnesota. But a pair of bald eagles are nesting there. The eagles are listed as endangered species by the Fish and Wildlife Service, so the land cannot be developed. Which means no one's going to want to buy it.

The thing is, the bald eagle has recovered pretty nicely in the wild. In the last 40 years, the population has grown from under 500 nesting pairs to over 9,000. President Clinton asked the Fish and Wildlife Service to de-list the eagle in 1999, but they never got around to it. Contoski sued, and the judge ordered FWS to de-list the eagle by February 16, 2007. Recently, FWS asked for more time, and the judge extended the deadline to June 29.

Some people think that FWS, under pressure from environmental groups, is using the Endangered Species Act to stop development, and unfairly deprive a citizen of the use of his land. Others say a decision this important should not be rushed. What do you think? Leave a comment.


Skipjack herring: Illustration courtesy Duane Raver and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Skipjack herring: Illustration courtesy Duane Raver and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

I work at the Science Museum and I often learn unusual things during the course of my day. Some things are funny, some I store away to pull out in a Cliff Claven moment, and others make me want to run screaming to my desk to put them into this blog.

This is one of the latter.

Yesterday I learned that herrings may communicate with one another through their anuses by farting. I almost exploded when the person leading the meeting casually mentioned this fact. I ran back to my computer, and sure enough. Researchers at not one, but TWO institutions are studying the phenomena. Both the Institute of Coastal Research at the National Board of Fisheries in Sweden and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver have researchers looking into the matter.

Before this remarkable discovery, it was known that herrings communicated with one another through sounds produced by their swim bladder. Researchers thought that all the sounds they heard coming from the herring were coming from the swim bladder. But, and I am laughing as I type, they noticed that a stream of bubbles would leave the herring’s anus in time with the sounds they were hearing. Sure enough, they are connected, and that sound was soon dubbed by the quick-thinking researchers as a Fast Repetitive Tick (or FRT, if you will).

Researchers note that the unlike the gas we pass, these sounds are not produced by the digestive process, but rather a connection between the swim bladder and the anus. The exact purpose or reason behind the FRTs is not exactly known. One theory is that is a way for the herring to communicate with each other at night. Another is that is an anti-predator tactic. Seriously. Or, it could just be an incidental release of air from the swim bladder as the fish adjusts its buoyancy.

You can hear the herring communicating in this manner here.


Preble's meadow jumping mouse: Preble's meadow jumping mouse.  Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Preble's meadow jumping mouse: Preble's meadow jumping mouse. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This little fellow, the Preble's meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) is causing quite a stir. Almost a year ago, Interior Secretary Gale Norton suggested removing the bouncing rodent from the endangered species list. She based her suggestion on a study done by a biologist hired by Norton's department that showed there was no genetic difference between the Preble's meadow jumping mouse and the much more common Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse. However, in a recent United States Geological Survey report geneticists found that the mouse was, in fact, a distinct subspecies.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said the new study results raise significant questions about the previous study, and that it will convene a panel and study the mouse for at least six months before deciding on its status.

If the mouse were removed from the endangered species list a large section of Colorado and Wyoming, which is identified as critical habitat to be conserved for the recovery of the mouse, would be available for new development.

The Preble's meadow jumping mouse is capable of jumping 18 inches into the air and can change direction in mid jump. It can leap distances up to three feet, and also can swim. The mice are hibernating now, but when they wake up I'm sure this will be a huge relief.