Photo courtesy of Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

November 1, 2023

Fish and Wildlife Research News

Urban Bees Face More Environmental Stressors

A study published in Global Change Biology reports that researchers have found that wild bees living in urban environments face more environmental stressors, such as parasites and pathogens, and have a harder time finding food, nest sites and mates than bees in rural areas. Researchers studied carpenter bees in the Toronto area and noted the importance of having connecting habitats to ensure genetic diversity in the bees.

A Record $394 Billion Spent on Outdoor Activities in 2022

The National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation reports that U. S. residents spent $394 billion on outdoor recreation in 2022. Participants took more than 1.7 billion trips over 14 billion days to hunt, fish, wildlife watch, boat and target shoot. The report also notes that more than half of Americans 15 years of age or older participated in wildlife watching, contributing $250 billion to the economy. Hunters and anglers contributed $145 billion. The survey has been conducted every five years since 1955.

Warming Climate Resulting in Fewer Young Birds Raised

Sunlight filters down to a group of 13 buff colored eggs in a grassy depression on the ground.
Wild turkey nest. Photo courtesy of Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Springtime stimulates birds to breed, but rising global temperatures are throwing off the timing for breeding, and in turn, successfully rearing a clutch of eggs. Researchers report the mismatch between spring and breeding in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Spring is expected to occur 25 days earlier by the end of the 21st century, but the researchers expect many species of songbirds to breed 6.75 days earlier, which could decrease productivity by 12 percent.

Climate Change Impacting Nesting Success of Wild Turkeys

Wild turkeys in the southern United States may face trouble successfully nesting as the climate warms. In a study of five southern states, researchers found a mismatch between the arrival of spring weather and wild turkey reproduction, with turkey poults likely to face a lack of food as insects hatch earlier than normal. Read more about the study in Climate Change Ecology.

Investing in Nature Produced Economic Benefits

Crop pollination, timber harvest, carbon storage and fisheries food resources are a few examples of the economic benefits of nature. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers estimated an annual gross domestic product increase of $100 million to $350 million in countries investing in nature. Conversely, continued environmental degradation would bring about an annual global economic loss of $75 billion.

A tick with a rusty colored abdomen is perched on the edge of a leaf. Four of its legs extend down beyond the leaf.
Photo by Erik Karits, Pixabay.

Do Ticks Spread CWD?

A research team in Wisconsin has been exploring the relationship between chronic wasting disease (CWD) and white-tailed deer. Their research, recently published in Scientific Reports, reports that black-legged ticks feeding on white-tailed deer can pass the prion responsible for CWD through their digestive system. Researchers also noted that when a deer grooms another deer it may eat a tick—possibly a tick carrying CWD prions.

Save Birds by Painting Turbine Blades

Researchers working on a Norwegian wind farm have found that painting one turbine blade black, instead of the normal white, decreased the number of bird deaths (especially raptors) by 70 percent. The painted blade is thought to interrupt the “motion smear” that makes three white blades difficult for birds to detect. Learn more about this study in Ecology and Evolution.

Plastics Killing Osprey Chicks in the Nest

In Montana, researchers have noted plastic hay bale binding twine in osprey nests. Reported in Global Ecology and Conservation, the study reports results of surveying osprey nests from 2014 to 2022 along approximately 375 miles of the Yellowstone River. Annually, twine was found in an average of 44 percent of the nests surveyed. Other humanmade products found in osprey nests included clothing, barbed wire and shredded tire rubber. Researchers reported at 3.4 percent of the osprey nestlings get tangled in artificial nesting material annually.

A researcher holds up a small yellow, white and black turtle in-between their thumb and forefinger. In the background is some research gear and a green grassland.
Ornate box turtle. Photo by Grayson Smith USFWS.

How Wildlife Survives in the City

An examination of bats, birds, bees, reptiles and amphibians dwelling in 379 cities on six continents found that wildlife are adapting to life in urban environments. One source of data for the study was the citizen science eBird program. Researchers report that the body size of many urban species examined were smaller than their rural counterparts. Clutch sizes of urban birds typically are smaller than rural individuals. The study was published in Nature Communications, with researchers stressing the importance of providing habitats that provide the resources needed for a variety of species.

Timing Prescribed Fires to Avoid Ornate Box Turtle Mortality

A paper in The Journal of Wildlife Management describes work led by University of Illinois PhD candidate Devin Edmonds on the behavior and physiology of Illinois-threatened ornate box turtles. The purpose of the study was to understand the best times to conduct prairie habitat prescribed fires, which are the periods of time when the turtles are underground. The researchers recommend burning Illinois ornate box turtle habitats before April 1, when air temperature is <10°C, and in fall after November 1, when air temperature is <15°C.

Understanding the Movement of Alligator Snapping Turtles

Research on the movement behavior and dispersal of a population of alligator snapping turtles reintroduced in a southern Illinois stream was recently published in The Journal of Wildlife Management. Movement behavior and passive dispersal of a reintroduced population of alligator snapping turtles. Researchers radio-tracked 183 immature reintroduced alligator snapping turtles between 2014 and 2016 using very high frequency telemetry. Overall, they noted that the behavior of reintroduced alligator snapping turtles was similar to that reported in wild populations. The alligator snapping turtle is an Illinois-endangered species.

Surrogate Species for Imperiled Freshwater Mussels

A recent publication in Freshwater Science describes the work of Illinois Natural History Survey aquatic ecologists to develop a model that will predict suitable habitat for freshwater mussels translocated to mitigate in-stream construction projects.

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