Year 4, Month 12, Day 7: Two Game Wardens, Seven Hunters, And A Cow

The Bellingham Herald (WA) notes a new report on big game’s unfortunate lot under a climate-change regime:

One example in the report is the elk population. The original elk population was estimated at 10 million, plummeting to about 50,000 or fewer by the early 20th century. But efforts led by sportsmen, the report said, have help the nationwide population rebound to about 1 million.

“But today, a changing climate threatens to rewrite that success story,” the report reads. “Severe drought, rising temperatures and greater weather extremes are affecting the health, habitat, and food and water supply of every big game species.”

Doug Inkley, a senior scientist for the federation, was one of the lead writers of the report.

“This is very real, it is happening right now. The success of the past is being challenged by climate change,” he said during a news conference.

Citing moose as an example, Inkley talked about the impact heat is having on populations nationwide.

“Moose become heat-stressed in warm weather, they stop eating, seeking out shelter instead,” he said. “That leads to lower weights, lower pregnancy rates, higher death rates.”

The report is careful not to solely blame climate change for population declines. It also cites habitat loss and predation. But climate change, the report emphasizes, impacts animals in so many ways.

Extreme weather threatens survivability. Animals weakened by declining food sources are more susceptible to disease.

The paper’s website says they’ll take letters only from people who live in their circulation area. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? November 25:

Genuine hunters operate from a position of deep respect for the natural world. So it’s hardly surprising that they recognize a shifting climate’s impacts on local and regional ecosystems all over the planet. As global heating intensifies, animal habitats become less hospitable, and migratory patterns are disrupted. Similarly, forest and plant populations are affected by changes in seasonal freeze and thaw patterns, resulting in disrupted pollination and increased vulnerability to pests. No wonder hunters are worried; their way of life is facing destruction in the wake of an accelerating greenhouse effect that promises only to become more extreme in the decades to come.

Conservative politicians and pundits are all too ready to stigmatize discussion of climate change as mere “politics,” Such a stance is deeply irresponsible. Hunters and environmentalists alike must cooperate to avert a humanitarian and environmental tragedy, not play rhetorical games while the planet burns.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 11, Day 10: A Dilemma For The Horns

The Albuquerque Journal (NM) runs an AP article on moose gradually going extinct…

Moose in the northern United States are dying in what scientists say may be the start of climate shock to the world’s boreal forests.

The die-off is most dire in Minnesota, where ecologists say moose could be gone within a decade. But it extends across the southern edge of the animal’s global range: Populations are falling as far away as Sweden.

No single cause seems to be responsible. In Minnesota, many moose seem to be dying of parasitic worms called liver flukes; in Wyoming, some researchers are pointing to a worm that blocks the moose’s carotid arteries; in New Hampshire, massive tick infections seem to be the culprit. This diversity of reasons makes some experts think they need to dig deeper.

“The fact that you’ve got different proximate causes killing off the moose suggests there’s an underlying ultimate cause,” says Dennis Murray, a population ecologist at Trent University in Canada.

Not surprising, but (as always) terribly saddening. October 31:

The decline in moose populations across North America is only one of many indications that climate change is already devastating the world’s biodiversity. While there are many local causes for the plummeting numbers of moose — tick infestations, habitat loss, etc. — each of these ultimately stems from the same basic problem: regional environments are changing too fast for animal and plant species to adapt.

While some life-forms are highly adaptable and will undoubtedly survive into a climatically-transformed future (we should probably start being kinder to cockroaches), our descendants may well remember moose and other such iconic animals as we think of the dodo and the passenger pigeon.

We are entering a period of mass extinctions as climate change intensifies; charismatic megafauna like moose and polar bears are only the tip of a (rapidly melting) iceberg. Scientists recently measured a forty percent drop in populations of oceanic phytoplankton, a major source of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.

Perhaps it’s time to stop denying the existence of climate change, and time to start working actively to stop it before it stops us.

Warren Senders