Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Links

The weather outside is frightful--or turning that way--across much of Idaho. We'll be taking a blogging break for the holidays. Join us for more stories, news and nature notes resuming on January 3. In the meantime, here are some links for the season.

Great news in the Wood River Valley: Read about a great new purchase for conservation south of Bellevue.

Real or Fake Christmas tree? This Cool Green Science post explores which one is better for the environment.

Best and Worst Environmental Stories of 2010: Another Cool Green Science post, by Conservancy staffer Nicole Levins.

Year in Review: Ten great projects around the globe funded by Nature Conservancy members.

Grolar bears: What happens when you cross a grizzly with a polar bear? It's happened. And this Treehugger story suggests it might be happening more often in a warming future.

On behalf of the staff of The Nature Conservancy in Idaho, we wish you a joyous holiday season, and a new year filled with adventures in Idaho's great outdoors!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Hope for Animals & Their World

Hope for Animals and Their World, Jane Goodall with Thane Maynard and Gail Hudson

Are you a “Debbie Downer” at your holiday gatherings, depressing family and friends with factoids about mass extinction events?

If so, maybe you need to sit by the fireplace with this collection. Primatologist Jane Goodall and others share inspirational stories of a long list of species brought back from the very edge of extinction by ingenuity, passion and hard work.

This is pretty light reading, but it’s a nice antidote to all the doom and gloom that dominates environmental news. The stories presented here show that it’s almost never too late to turn things around for wildlife, if we have the will and determination. The tales are well told and contain plenty of nuggets of good advice for conservation practitioners and naturalists.

We need to be telling the hopeful stories, too. This book offers a nice selection of those stories—perfect if you need a little holiday conservation cheer.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Deer Diet Redux

In my previous post, I wrote how eagerly deer feed on sagebrush, bitterbrush and other shrubs during the winter. Apparently, they also enjoy munching on a pumpkin or two.

This deer visited my backyard today (and stayed much of the morning). It's always amazing to see how adaptable wildlife can be.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Winter Wildlife Chronicles: Deer Diet

With the holidays approaching, many of us start to worry about running the gauntlet of tempting treats and massive meals that characterize so many celebrations. Come January, the gyms will be packed with those of us trying to shed those extra pounds we gained.

Let's be honest, though: Cookies, a full turkey dinner, or mug of hot chocolate are awfully comforting on a cold winter day.

And for good reason. Not so long ago in our evolutionary past, winter was a tough time. Losing weight was not a desirable outcome. Calorie-rich foods ensured survival.

It's still that way for mule deer. They need enough energy to make it through the long, cold winter.

At this time of year, mule deer move into valleys and low elevations (and even backyards, in the case of the one pictured above) to escape the heavy snow.

But to survive the winter, deer need nutritious plants. Cheatgrass, the non-native weed so common in foothills, has low nutrition value in the spring, when it is green. In the winter, it is worthless to wildlife, particulary when it's buried by a foot of snow.

Sagebrush, on the other hand, pokes out of the snow and is highly important to deer, elk, pronghorn, sage grouse and other wildlife.

Dr. Carl Wambolt of Montana State University reports that many big game species prefer sagebrush in the winter. One Montana study showed that sagebrush consisted of more than 50% of a mule deer's winter diet. A similar study for pronghorns found that sagebrush comprised 84% of their diet.

Other shrubs like bitterbrush, winterfat and salt brushes complement a mule deer's winter diet. Some biologists call bitterbrush "deer candy" because the animals go out of their way to eat it. (It can be very hard to establish these in an xeriscaped yard for this reason; the deer mow the plants down as soon as they're planted).

According to Bureau of Land Management botanist Roger Rosentreter, sagebrush is like the “meat and potatoes” of a mule deer’s diet in winter. Just as with human diets, a variety of foods helps deer stay healthier. Bitterbrush and other shrubs provide different nutrients to help the deer make it through winter.

“A mule deer diet of sagebrush and a little bit of bitterbrush is high quality winter forage,” says Rosentreter. “The deer prefer the bitterbrush but they will do very well if you have both. They compliment each other with proteins and nutrients. It also aids in deer digestion to have both.”

Protecting and restoring native plants ensures that deer can bulk up. This in turn makes it easier to survive heavy snowfall, parasites, predators and encounters with humans.--Matt Miller

Friday, December 03, 2010

McArthur Lake Forest Land Protected

McArthur Lake is where the wild things cross.

Each year, North Idaho elk, moose and other wildlife roam from the Selkirk and the Cabinet-Yaak Mountains. In between these large tracts of forest is McArthur Lake, located between Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry in the Idaho Panhandle.

For animals that need room to roam, McArthur Lake is a life line.

These lands are largely private forest land. They not only provide this vital wildlife habitat, they also contribute to the local economy. If these lands are developed, their values to wildlife would be lost forever.

That's why The Nature Conservancy is excited to announce with our partners the Idaho Department of Lands, U.S. Forest Service and Forest Capital Partners the protection of 3900 acres of private forest lands at McArthur Lake.

Forest Capital Partners will continue to manage the working forest for timber production, and the Idaho Department of Lands will hold the conservation easements. The Nature Conservancy participated in the negotiations and is the sponsoring land trust for the project.

Read more.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

2010 Fishing Season

Photo courtesy of Nick Price

November 30 was the last day of fishing on the preserve!

What a season we had. It was an unusual weather year-- summer did not seem to come until late September. The hatches were all over the place with their timing and intensity-- I only saw a few mahongany duns in September but did see some trico hatches!! Then winter came with a bang. On the last day of fishing season, I am usually cruising the preserve, taking down signs, cleaning the outhouses and saying hi to people. This year, I spent the morning helping two of our local guides, Nick Price and Hunter Chruchill dig their suburban out of the snow. They made it out to fish, finally, and enjoyed an unusual winter day on Silver Creek.

Thanks to all of you for another great fishing season!