Monday, December 22, 2008

Week of December 22, 2008

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!


Mussel sightings have raised concerns

By Molly Murray, The News Journal

A decade ago, scientists in Delaware and Maryland were on high alert for zebra mussels, a creature that reproduces so quickly that thousands could quickly reduce the stream of water through intake pipes to a trickle.

But over the years, as zebra mussels stayed to the north, south and west, people here pretty much stopped thinking about them -- until last month, when they started showing up in the Maryland portion of the Susquehanna River.

The mussels aren't the only species concerning state regulators. Invasive plants such as rock snot, a problem in the upper Delaware River, can also be a major concern, Miller said.

He said some states are looking at banning felt bottoms on fishermen's wading boots. The felt, used to help prevent slips and falls, can pick up potentially invasive plants.

Zebra mussels get their name from the stripes on their shells. They are small and are native to the Black and Caspian seas and Ural River. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they spread to most of Europe. They first were discovered in North America in 1988, when they were found in the Canadian waters of Lake St. Clair -- which connects Lake Huron and Lake Erie.

Within two years, they were found throughout the Great Lakes and had begun spreading to the Illinois and Hudson rivers. Link


Puerto Rico hunting, killing troublesome monkeys

LAJAS, Puerto Rico (AP) — The easy life is over for hundreds of monkeys — some harboring herpes and hepatitis — that have run wild through southwestern Puerto Rico for more than 30 years.

Authorities launched a plan this month to capture and kill the monkeys before they spread across the entire island, threatening agriculture, native wildlife and possibly people. But some animal experts and the farmers who have complained for years about the rhesus and patas monkeys think it may be too late.

"I don't honestly believe they will ever get rid of the patas monkeys in Puerto Rico," said Dr. Mark Wilson, director of the Florida International Teaching Zoo, which has helped find zoos willing to take some of the animals. "They may go deep into the forest, but they will never go away. There's just too many of them, and they are too smart."

At least 1,000 monkeys from at least 11 distinct colonies populate the Lajas Valley. After a year of study, rangers began trapping them in steel cages that are about 10 feet long, baited with food and equipped with a trip lever. Two of 16 monkeys were released with radio collars for further tracking. Each of the others was killed with one shot from a .22-caliber rifle.

The scourge of nonnative animals is particularly acute in Puerto Rico because of its lush climate and lack of predators. Several species of dangerous snakes, crocodiles, caimans and alligators — imported, kept as pets, then released into the wild — now flourish in more than 30 rivers, said Sgt. Angel Atienza, a ranger who specializes in exotic animals.

As Atienza spoke, his agents were investigating reports of a mountain lion running wild in hills near the small central town of Adjuntas. Behind his office, cages confined snakes, monkeys and a 400-pound black bear confiscated from a private menagerie.

The Lajas monkeys arrived in the 1960s and '70s after escaping research facilities on small islands just off the mainland. They adapted easily, fueled by plentiful crops, including pineapple, melon and the eggs of wild birds.

The creatures cost about $300,000 in annual damage and more than $1 million in indirect ways, such as forcing farmers to plant less profitable crops that don't attract the animals, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies. The monkeys are also blamed for a dramatic drop in the valley's bird population. Link


Brooklyn Parrots Seek Legal Perch

By Amy Lieberman

NEW YORK -- Quaker parrots are not your average urban pigeon.

With their brilliant green feathers and salmon-colored beaks, the birds are certainly worth a crane of the neck -- especially when spotted perched upon power lines in New York City, a far cry from their native Argentinian landscape.

Yet the parrots, also known as monk parakeets, are not indigenous to the United States, leaving them virtually unguarded from predators and electric companies alike.

New York City Councilman Tony Avella is hoping to provide a legal nest of protection with a resolution he is now drafting.

"I want to ask state legislators to include the parrots as a protected species, so the city can enforce the law and stop the netting that is occurring," Avella said. "And second, I want to ask the city to take all the reasonable steps so when people come across these nests they can try to relocate them, rather than just destroying them." Link


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