The Urban Ecotone

Urban Ecotone: Urban Mule Deer in Central Utah Courtesy & Copyright Lyle Bingham
Urban Mule Deer in Central Utah
Courtesy & Copyright Lyle Bingham
A small herd of deer bounded away over the manicured grounds of the Logan Cemetery, tumbled through its faux wrought-iron gateway, and hurdled across empty campus streets. I watched the deer disappear into alleyways between ocher-bricked University buildings, contemplating their explosion of wild life as my city woke to a quiet dawn.

I’ve spent the majority of my life in cities. They have a human element to them I have not yet been able to forgo, but one I sometimes find myself running away from, toward the wooded hinterlands to hide. This experience, though, with the deer in the cemetery, startled back into my memory a truth inherent to our humanity. Our domestic metropolises are just another type of ecosystem for wild beings to populate. After all, we are wild beings ourselves.

An ecotone exists where differing ecological systems meet; and along their shared border, a great wealth of biodiversity abounds- the edge effect ecologists call it. I bore witness to a variation of this phenomenon along the Northern Wasatch urban ecotone on a chilly October morning as a half-dozen deer escaped my advance.

The urban ecotone wears a wardrobe of many styles, the most obvious being the type I’ve described wherein a conspicuously wild ecosystem-my home range of Bear River Mountains in this case- meets a decidedly civilized humanscape- the small city of Logan, UT. We call Logan the “city on the edge” for good reason. It’s the last great bastion of the Wasatch Front’s human imprint before wilderness takes over. From here, our Bear Rivers bear northward into an unobstructed wall of mountains all the way to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. These mountains are, in fact, one of the last intact ecological corridors connecting the northern and southern Rocky Mountains, and Logan sits on the edge of it all, reaping all the wild benefits thereon.

The subtler iterations of this sort of ecological spectacle may be smaller but are no less exciting. Ripping out a conquering crowd of last season’s mint crop in my garden this spring produced a surprised garter snake from an abyss below pungent leaves. The thin serpent slithered quickly away only to find himself upon a barren concrete expanse of patio. It paused for a moment to assess the situation, looked back at me and its former dwelling, then skipped on its belly across a freshly mown lawn and into the bushes adjacent to the creek that runs beside my home. More weeding produced several wolf spiders, a praying mantis, and a plethora of earthworms. I look forward to next year’s garden cleanup now.

Then there are the green spaces: parks and natural areas that make a city worth living in beyond what we humans may more or less bring to it. Indeed, the scientific evidence is clear; those cities, towns, and villages whose urban ecotones are active and robust produce not only a slew of diverse wild species but a slew of wildly content people as well. It seems happy people go hand in hand with happy critters and their accompaniments.

A 17-year study conducted by the University of Exeter Medical School in the UK concluded that, quote, “Findings show that urban green space can deliver significant benefits for mental wellbeing.” In an interview with the UK’s renowned Guardian Newspaper, another researcher is quoted: “We’ve only really had mass urbanisation for the last 200 years, say, out of our hunter-gather experience of 100,000 years.” End quote. Perhaps we have not grown as far from the natural world as we sometimes fear. Even in our cities, these brightly lit harbingers of our species’ growth and accomplishment, we are reduced to our elemental selves by a flash of fur through dawn’s fog. In those moments, we are just animals again.

This is Josh Boling writing and reading for Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photo: Courtesy & Copyright Lyle Bingham
Text: Josh Boling

Sources & Additional Reading

Alock, Ian, White, Matthew; Green spaces deliver lasting mental health benefits, Exeter University, Jan 7, 2014, , http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_349054_en.html

Van Woerkom, Erik, Urban Legends–Trophy mule deer in city limits, Muleyfreak.com, June 30,2016, https://muleyfreak.com/2016/06/30/urban-legends/

Urban Deer Management, Logan City, http://www.loganutah.org/residents/conservation/urban_deer/index.php

Greene, Jack, Jack’s Urban Deer, Oct 31, 2016, http://wildaboututah.org/jacks-urban-deer/

http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/news/local/article_9a1d5a06-decd-11e4-adb9-b7f399e014b1.html

https://news.hjnews.com/news/court-date-set-in-shooting-of-beloved-hyde-park-buck/article_49bc16d0-a438-11e4-9ff4-ab67a6a36548.html

Trotter, Rachel, Pesky deer a widening problem in North Ogden, Standard Examiner, Ogden Publishing Corporation, Mar 12, 2015, http://www.standard.net/Local/2015/03/12/Deer-a-problem-in-North-Ogden

Non-Lethal Deer Population Control for Urban and Suburban Environments, DeerFriendly.com, http://www.deerfriendly.com/deer-population-control

Utah Mule Deer Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, https://muledeer.org/state/utah/

Mule Deer Working Group. 2003. Mule Deer: Changing landscapes, changing perspectives. Mule Deer Working
Group, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. https://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/mule_deer_wafwa.pdf

National Wildlife Refuge System, The Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds, US Fish & Wildlife Service, https://www.fws.gov/refuges/education/urbanBirdTreaty.html

Urban images from GoHunt.com (Images may not scroll), GoHUNT LLC, https://www.gohunt.com/tag/town

What are California quail doing in Utah?, Wildlife, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Sept 17, 2013, https://wildlife.utah.gov/uplandgame/quail/quail.php

UPDATE: Bountiful Urban Deer Translocation, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Mar 8 3027,
https://sfw.net/2017/03/08/update-bountiful-urban-deer-translocation/

Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Last modified: September 22, 2017, https://www.fws.gov/urban/

Build a Certified Wildlife Habitat at Home

Build Community Wildlife Habitats Ron Hellstern See also: http://www.nwf.org/Home/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx
Build Community Wildlife Habitats
Ron Hellstern
See also:
http://www.nwf.org/Home/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx
Most people appreciate viewing impressive forms of wildlife, such as Desert Bighorn Sheep in Zion, or Wolves and Grizzlies in Yellowstone, but they may not completely understand the quiet contributions that are being made to earth’s ecosystems every day by the small creatures around our own neighborhoods. These little ones help us in many unseen ways.

It is estimated that one third of the food that humans eat has been provided by small pollinators such as Hummingbirds, Butterflies, and Bees. Having these creatures in our own yards can produce hours of entertainment, and education, as we observe them working feverishly among our flowers, shrubs and trees.

Many citizens, and cities, are diligent in providing beautiful landscaped areas for these pollinators to gain nourishment as they work to increase the production of flowers and fruits.

A couple of quick tips as you decide to help these workaholic animals:
You can make your own hummingbird food by mixing one cup of sugar to four cups of water. Never put food coloring in hummingbird feeders. It can be harmful to them, and the red color of the feeder will automatically attract them. You should also use native, fertile plants in your landscaping design. And, unless you have a severe allergic reaction to bee stings, be assured that they are far more interested in gathering pollen than sacrificing their life to sting someone. Most people can work right alongside bees in their flower gardens. Wasps are another story.

So, as you design, or alter, your property to be more usable by pollinators and songbirds you can be rewarded by the National Wildlife Federation through their Wildlife Habitat Certification program. If you provide food, water, shelter and a place to raise young…you are eligible to have your yard certified. Remember, we’re not talking about Mountain Lions and Elk, just pollinators and songbirds. If you have a birdfeeder, birdbath, and shrubs or trees you qualify.

Nobody inspects your property. Go to their website at (www.nwf.org) and complete the simple application listed under Garden for Wildlife and, for a one-time fee of only $20, they will send you a personal certificate for your home, and a one year subscription to the National Wildlife magazine. They also have metal signs that you can post to show others that you care about wildlife. Once you see the value in this, encourage neighbors to do the same. In fact, you can have portions of your entire community certified as wildlife habitat as did Nibley City in Cache County. They were the first city in Utah to do so by certifying 100 properties, and they are ready to help others around the State to join them in this rewarding effort.

Next time you’re in the grocery store, or harvesting from your own garden, remember that a lot of that food would not exist without our diligent pollinators.

This is Ron Hellstern for Wild About Utah


Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Ron Hellstern
Text:     Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association


Additional Reading

Certify Your Wildlife Habitat, National Wildlife Federation, Accessed 20 July 2017, http://www.nwf.org/Home/Garden-For-Wildlife.aspx
Certify: http://www.nwf.org/Garden-For-Wildlife/Certify.aspx

Creating Landscapes for Wildlife… A Guide for Backyards in Utah, Written by Sue Nordstrom and Illustrated by Kathlyn Collins Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Utah State University with Margy Halpin, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources; Second Printing 2001,
Updated for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, by Frank Howe, DWR Avian coordinator; Ben Franklin, DWR–Utah Natural Heritage Program botanist; Randy Brudnicki, DWR publications editor; and landscape planning illustrations by Stephanie Duer.,
Published by:
State of Utah Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources,
Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service and
Utah State University Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning;
1991 updated 2001 http://digitallibrary.utah.gov/awweb/awarchive?type=file&item=10215




Climate Change and the Christmas Bird Count

Climate Change and the Christmast Bird Count: Bald Eagle on light post
Bald Eagle
Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Courtesy US FWS
On December 17th, I will join several others for an exciting day of counting bird species and numbers in our lovely, snowy valley. The numbers will be entered on a database that will be shared globally.

The Christmas Bird Count began on Christmas Day in the year 1900 when ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an officer in the nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition—a “Christmas Bird Census” that would count birds during the holidays rather than slaughtering them, which had been the past ritual.

The data collected by observers over the past 116 years has allowed researchers to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space. This long-term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategists to better protect birds and their habitat and helps identify environmental issues, with implications for people as well.

Climate Change and the Christmast Bird Count: Frank M. Chapman, organizer of the first christmas bird count, Courtesy Wikimedia, Image in the public domain
Frank M. Chapman
Courtesy Wikimedia
Image in the public domain
 

Along with the fun it brings, the count has special significance for our changing climate’s impact on birds which is disrupting populations and their spatial distribution that are changing at an accelerating rate.

Audubon’s 2014 Climate Change Report is a comprehensive, first-of-its-kind study that predicts how climate change could affect the ranges of 588 North American birds. Of the bird species studied, more than half are likely to be in trouble. The models indicate that 314 species will lose more than half of their current range by 2080.

Audubon’s Climate Initiative, the organizational response to this threat, taps into its members’ love and commitment for birds to build population resilience and demand solutions to slow the pace of warming. Audubon is encouraging its members to take steps to address the climate change threat in their backyards and communities. Visit their website at audubon.org for how to take action.

The Environmental Protection Agency has included Audubon’s climate change work from CBC data as one of 26 indicators of climate change in their 2012 report.

In 2007, CBC data were instrumental in the development of Audubon’s Common Birds in Decline Report, which revealed that some of America’s most beloved and familiar birds have taken a nosedive over the past forty years.
142 species of concern are found in Utah including our state bird, the California gull and our national bald eagle. Averaging the most recent 10 years, our valley has seen 16 species increase and 11 species decline. Of course we would need a much broader sweep to know the true story of these species, but our data may play a significant part in the overall analysis.

And please, keep those bird feeders full as we enter the coldest month of the year!

This is Jack Greene for Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Image: Courtesy Wikimedia and in the public domain
Text:     Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon Society


Additional Reading:

17 Dec, Cache Valley (Logan) Christmas Bird Count, Bridgerland Audubon Society, http://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/cache-valley-christmas-bird-count/

Join a BioBlitz this Year

BioBlitz Logo, Courtesy Audubon International
BioBlitz 2016 Logo
Courtesy Audubon International
auduboninternational.org/BioBlitz2016

 

National Parks BioBlitz Logo, Courtesy National Geographic SocietyNational Parks BioBlitz Logo
Courtesy National Geographic Society
nationalgeographic.org/projects/bioblitz

See also:
https://www.nps.gov/subjects/biodiversity/national-parks-bioblitz.htm

“So what is a BioBlitz anyway”, by far the most common question we get from the public who visit our parks and other venues offering the event.
A BioBlitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. Scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to get an overall count of the plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms that live in a place.

For the past decade the National Geographic Society and National Park Service have collaborated on a BioBlitz in a different park each year. This year in order to celebrate the NPS centennial, over 250 BioBlitzes are happening across the country and throughout the year. The resulting recordings can be impressive with hundreds of organisms showing up. It is great fun, a celebration of life in all of its myriad forms

My first experience occurred two years ago at the Golden Gate NRA where several thousand folks joined us. One of many highlights was standing on the Golden Gate bridge with a bunch of college students during a wind driven rain storm counting porpoises swimming through far below. Joining us was a lead mammologist who had been researching the return of these remarkable beings. The porpoises had been excluded from the bay by a massive cable net installed during WWII to prevent enemy submarines from entering the bay. Many new species of life were added to the Park list as is often the case.

Last year I joined the Hawaii Volcanoes NP for another grand experience including many native Polynesians adding a marvelous cultural component to the experience, then on to Yellowstone NP where my team investigated pika numbers near Mammoth Hot Springs. The park is especially concerned with the warming trend and reduction of snow pack on their long term survival.
I just returned from blitzing New Mexico’s Bandelier NM. As with Hawaii Volcano, they included a strong cultural presence by inviting in the Pueblo people to perform and exhibit their rich life ways. During the two-day event 17 inventory teams collected 877 observations and identified 363 species.

Back home we had our first event on the Logan River golf course a week ago sponsored by Audubon International and our local Bridgerland Audubon chapter. For our first run we did well. 57 bird species, 67 plants, 1 reptile, 1 amphibian, and a few fungi made the list. There are many more species that were overlooked given our short window of time and limited numbers of observers.
Perhaps you will find opportunity to join a Bioblitz, or create one of your own in your area. Gather up some folks, load the I Naturalist program on your smart phone or I pad and spend a few ours or few days reveling in what nature has to offer- many surprises to say the least!
This has been Jack Greene reading for WAU.
 
This is Jack Greene reading for Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy Audubon International and National Geographic Society
Text:     Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon Society & USU Office of Sustainability

Additional Reading:

National Parks BioBlitz, National Park Service, https://www.nps.gov/subjects/biodiversity/national-parks-bioblitz.htm

Audubon International BioBlitz 2016, Audubon International, https://www.auduboninternational.org/BioBlitz2016

BioBlitz 2016, National Geographic Society, http://nationalgeographic.org/projects/bioblitz/