Friday, May 30, 2008
To visit and learn more about this area, join the Curlew Grassland tour on June 13 at 9 a.m. Visit interesting sites and discuss grazing, burns and wildlife on the grassland.
Lunch speakers include Ken Sanders from the University of Idaho, Ken Timothy from the US Forest Service and Howard Horton from Agricultural Research Service.
Attendees will meat at 9 a.m. at the Pavilion on Stone Reservoir, or can take a bus leaving at 8 a.m. from Malad (30 North 100 West).
To attend, please RSVP by calling 208-766-2243 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Curlew Grasslands Tour is sponsored by the University of Idaho, Oneida County Extension, Idaho Rangelands Resource Commission, Curlew Horse and Cattle Association, ARS, Buist Fields, Allied Industries and Idaho Cattle Association.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Fortunately, today people have grown to appreciate bats and the tons of insects they consume each night--a valuable ecological service. Instead of dynamiting bat caves, people now visit them to enjoy one of the great natural spectacles on earth.
I've seen some interesting bat emergences in Idaho, at the bat boxes of Ball Creek Ranch and in small caves in Hells Canyon. But the world's greatest bat flights are found in the Texas Hill Country.
The caves in the Hill Country contain the highest density of mammals on earth--with some caves containing millions of Brazilian free-tailed bats. The Nature Conservancy has protected important bat habitat here, including at the Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve. At dusk, the cave is quiet save for cave swallows darting around. But before sunset bats start streaming out.
Friday, May 16, 2008
It is not uncommon for people to describe sagebrush country as barren, monotonous or empty. And, indeed, sagebrush can look that way when seen from the interstate at 75 miles per hour.
But healthy sagebrush country actually includes a great mix of plants--not just sagebrush. These including lush grasses, stunning wildflowers and other shrubs, including bitterbrush (pictured above). You may notice the subtle gold of a blooming bitterbrush on a springtime hike in the high desert.
If people don't notice bitterbrush much, deer are quite the opposite. They love it: BLM botanist Roger Rosentretter has called it "deer candy."
In the winter, sagebrush makes up the bulk of a deer's diet, which Rosentretter likens to the "meat and potatoes" of a deer's diet. It's highly nutritious and is in many ways a perfect winter forage.
Bitterbrush complements the sagebrush diet, and provides additional nutrients. As with human diets, a diversity of food helps deer stay healthier. Deer also digest food better when eating both sagebrush and bitterbrush.
Sometimes deer love bitterbrush a bit too much. When my wife purchased a bitterbrush plant for our yard, she left the potted plant sitting outside overnight. The next morning, a deer had clipped off the young plant right down to the soil, killing the plant.
Deer will seek out bitterbrush, wherever it is. This can make getting new plants established in xeriscaped yards. In natural areas, the shrubs play an important role in maintaining high desert wildlife populations--Matt Miller
Monday, May 12, 2008
Monday, May 05, 2008
But tilapia in Idaho's Snake River? Not so good.
Tilapia are native to Africa, but due to all the good reasons listed above, have been transported for aquaculture around the world. And like many creatures transported to new lands, they inevitably escape.
Recently, the Idaho Statesman reported the catch of a state record tilapia in the Snake River. Perhaps your reaction is like mine: There are tilapia in the Snake?
Actually, they've been there for a while, living in areas near thermal springs. Tilapia need warmer water temperatures to survive, so it's unlikely that they'll spread--unless, of course, water temperatures rise due to a changing climate.
In other rivers around the world, tilapia can become a menace. As vegetarians, they devour all aquatic vegetation, eliminating the base of the aquatic food chain. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, rivers that have abundant tilapia have lost nearly all their native fish.
Will this happen to the Snake? Probably not for now. But with any non-native species, the real impacts are often not apparent until it's too late. Some never become a problem, and may even be beneficial. Others spread rapidly and become impossible to control. New Zealand mudsnails were found in Silver Creek several years ago, but the cold water there is limiting their spread. In other streams, they have crowded out much of the native invertebrates, and thus, the fish.
The easiest way to stop the spread of such species is to prevent their introduction. But that is difficult in a global society. And anywhere where non-native creatures are raised, there's always the risk that they'll escape. The tilapia is already likely a permanent part of Idaho's aquatic fauna. The question is: Just how much a part will it be? --Matt Miller