Posted on May 9th, 2013 Add a comment >>
Rock climbers will have a few more routes to climb this weekend, according to Joe Racette, a biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation who monitors the nesting of peregrine falcons on cliffs.
Racette said the Upper Washbowl cliffs near Chapel Pond are now open to climbers. DEC closes Upper Washbowl and Lower Washbowl each spring at the start of the falcons’ breeding season. DEC has ascertained that that this year the falcons are nesting on Lower Washbowl.
Upper Washbowl has twenty-one climbing routes, including one established by Fritz Weissner, one of the top climbers of his era, in 1938. There will be a story about the historic Wiessner Route in the next issue of the Adirondack Explorer. Meantime, you can read more about the route on Adirondack Almanack.
Lower Washbowl will remain closed to climbers until the falcons fledge.
DEC hopes to pinpoint soon the location of a falcons’ next on Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain, one of the largest climbing areas in the Adirondack Park. For the time being, most of the routes on the Main Face will remain closed.
RockSport, a climbing gym in Queensbury, recently informed DEC that falcons were nesting on the Main Wall of Shelving Rock, a climbing destination near Lake George. As a result, DEC has closed the routes between Snake Charmer and Wake and Bake.
Click here for updates on climbing-route closures.
Posted on April 1st, 2013 Add a comment >>
A sure sign of spring is when the state Department of Environmental Conservation closes rock-climbing routes in the Adirondacks to protect the nesting sites of peregrine falcons.
Each spring, DEC bans climbing on routes on Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain, Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs, and Moss Cliff. Once biologists ascertain where falcons are nesting, some routes are reopened. Sometime in summer, after the falcons fledge, all routes are reopened.
Following is a notice sent out today by Joe Racette, a DEC wildlife ecologist:
Effective today, April 1, 2013, the following Adirondack rock climbing routes are closed to protect Peregrine falcon nest sites.
Moss Cliff – All routes closed
Chapel Pond – All routes on Upper and Lower Washbowl Cliffs closed
Poke-o-Moonshine Mountain – All routes on the Main Face are closed except the following routes described on pages 39-45 of Adirondack Rock: A Rock Climber’s Guide:
2. Goat’s Foot on Rock
3. High and Dry
5. Big Buddha
8. Pearly Gates
10. Battle Creek
11. Static Cling
12. Certified Raw
13. Air Male
14. Son of a Mother
15. Phase III
18. Puppies on Edge
19. Hang ‘Em High
20 Group Therapy
24. A Womb with a View
Current route closure information will be posted at trailheads and online at:
Posted on September 26th, 2012 5 comments Add a comment >>
State officials felt they had no choice but to kill an injured moose that had been hanging out in the Ausable River in Wilmington Notch, according to David Winchell, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Conservation.
“The primary factor was its deteriorating condition,” Winchell said this morning. “It was not able to move out of there on its own, and the likely outcome would have been its death anyway.”
The bull moose showed up last weekend in a steep ravine on the West Branch of the Ausable. Over the next several days, motorists would stop to gawk at the animal, creating a traffic hazard along the narrow Route 86 corridor. On Saturday, a DEC wildlife technician shot the moose with a paintball gun to try to get it to leave. Although favoring its left leg, the moose was able to move into nearby woods. At the time, DEC thought the animal stood a good chance of recovery.
The next day the moose returned to the ravine. On Monday, DEC shot the animal with rubber buckshot, but it stayed in the river. Winchell said it became apparent that the injuries were more severe than first believed: the moose was having trouble putting weight on its hind legs.
On Tuesday afternoon, after closing the highway, DEC dispatched the moose with a rifle shot. “This is considered one of the quickest, safest, and most humane ways to kill large wildlife,” Winchell said.
Although authorities also had been concerned about the traffic hazard caused by spectators, he added, “it was not the primary factor in the decision-making.”
Given the treacherous nature of the terrain, Winchell said, tranquilizing the moose was not a practical option. “This would have been dangerous to the animal and the people participating, mainly due to the steep slopes, the large rocks, and the water found in that location,” he said. “The moose could have slipped on the rocks and injured itself even more or it could have fallen into the water and drowned before wildlife staff could reach it.”
Winchell said DEC doesn’t know what would have drawn the moose to Wilmington Notch. He noted that it’s hardly ideal moose habitat: “It’s a narrow ravine, very rocky, not a lot of food for the moose, and hard to get around.”
DEC sent the carcass to its wildlife pathology unit outside Albany. It likely will be several weeks before the results of a necropsy are known.
Moose vanished from the Adirondacks more than a century ago, but they have made a strong comeback in recent decades. DEC estimates that there are now eight hundred to a thousand of the large ungulates in the region.
Winchell warned that motorists may see more moose in the coming weeks. “It is that time of year when they start moving around and looking for mates,” he said.
Posted on April 19th, 2012 Add a comment >>
Little brown bats were once the most widespread .bat species in New York State, but its population has declined about 90 percent since the discovery of white-nose syndrome in a cave south of Albany several years ago.
Now there may be a bit of good news: the latest survey of caves in the Albany region detected an increase .in the number of little browns.
“While we remain cautiously optimistic of encouraging trends for some species seen more recently, it will likely take several years before we fully know how to interpret this,” said Kathleen Moser, assistant commissioner of natural resources for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
DEC’s full news release follows.
DEC REPORTS: 2012 WINTER BAT SURVEY RESULTS
The results of the winter survey of hibernating bats in New York are now available, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today. This survey was a cooperative effort among state wildlife officials, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and numerous volunteers to monitor the effects of white-nose disease, a fungal infection that has devastated regional bat populations since it was first documented in New York in 2006.
The most encouraging observations came from surveys of the five hibernation caves in the greater Albany area where the disease was first discovered. Previous reports have suggested that little brown bat counts at these sites seem to be stabilizing in recent years. This year’s surveys saw substantial increases in little brown bats at three out of five of these caves. The largest and best documented of these sites saw an increase from 1,496 little brown bats in 2011 to 2,402 this year. It is premature to conclude that population recovery is underway for this species, however, because of the small number of hibernation sites that have experienced increases and the fact that alternate explanations are plausible. Bats are highly social animals and observed increases could be the result of consolidation of individuals from other hibernation sites, for example.
“While we remain cautiously optimistic of encouraging trends for some species seen more recently, it will likely take several years before we fully know how to interpret this,” said Kathleen Moser, DEC’s Assistant Commissioner of Natural Resources. “DEC is assisting in national bat research and with those seeking solutions to the effects of the white nose disease. As a preventative measure we can take now, we encourage the public who enter caves recreationally, to refrain from entering hibernation sites while bats are there.”
Based on this year’s survey, total observed declines in population attributed to the disease for tri-colored bats have been revised upward. Prior to the arrival of white-nose disease in 2007, a total of 2,285 tri-colored bats were counted at 37 representative hibernation sites in the state. Since that time, a total of 112 bats were observed during surveys of those same sites, suggesting a statewide decline of 95 percent for the species. Northern long-eared bats have also been affected with a 98 percent observed decline (18 individuals observed in 36 sites compared to a pre-disease total of 911 bats at the same sites). Although neither bat was considered a threatened species prior to the arrival of white-nose disease, both species are now extremely rare in New York.
No surveys were performed this year for the federal and state endangered Indiana bat. Previous surveys indicate that losses for this species have totaled 71 percent statewide (15,650 individuals remaining, down from a high of 54,689). The population status of Indiana bats in New York will be reassessed in 2013.
Records of small-footed bats, a rare species even prior to the disease, show only a relatively small decline of 13 percent. This species is difficult to count due to its secretive habits when hibernating, but focused survey efforts this season have bolstered previous observations that the impact of the disease is far less severe for small-footed’s than for most other hibernating bats.
Prior to the arrival of white-nose disease, the little brown bat was the most common bat species in New York State and has been observed hibernating in more than 100 caves and mines here. Statewide losses for the species attributed to white-nose disease remain at approximately 90 percent. For more information on white nose syndrome in New York, visit the DEC website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/45088.html.
Posted on January 23rd, 2012 20 comments Add a comment >>
The state Department of Environmental Conservation wants to allow more hunting and/or trapping of bobcats in many parts of the state, including the Adirondacks.
In a draft five-year management plan, DEC reports that the state’s bobcat population—now estimated to be five thousand—has been growing, especially in the Southern Tier. Roughly twice the size of housecats, bobcats prey on a variety of species, from small voles to white-tailed deer.
DEC says up to 20 percent of the state’s bobcats (i.e., a thousand animals) could be killed by hunters and trappers each year without hurting the population. In recent years, sportsmen have harvested between four hundred and five hundred a year. Under its proposed plan, DEC estimates that this tally would increase by less than a hundred, still well below the critical threshold.
As indicated by the map above, the trapping season in the Adirondacks and the rest of the North Country would be extended. The season now runs from October 25 to December 10. Under the plan, it would be extended to February 15. The hunting season will not change.
The trapping season in the Adirondacks had been shorter than elsewhere to protect fishers. Since the fisher population has rebounded, the department feels that rationale no longer obtains.
The plan also calls for extending both the hunting and trapping seasons in central Tug Hill to February 15.
In the biggest change, DEC wants to initiate hunting and trapping of bobcats in much of the Southern Tier, where the population has increased dramatically over the past decade. “What began as occasional sightings along the New York/Pennsylvania border has progressed to large numbers of observations, trail camera photos, and incidental captures and releases by trappers,” the proposed plan says. “Over the past five years there have been 332 bobcat observations documented in the harvest expansion area.”
DEC also seeks to allow hunting and trapping of bobcats in the region just north of New York City.
The public has until February 16 to comment on the proposal.
Click the link below to read the plan (PDF file).
Posted on January 13th, 2012 1 comment - Add a comment >>
In his latest Birdwatch column for the Explorer, John Thaxton said we might see an influx of snowy owls this winter. The man is a soothsayer.
Snowy owls live in the Canadian tundra, but once in a while they migrate south in great numbers in search of food. This is one of those “irrupution” years.
National Public Radio reported last week that snowy owls have been sighted in many states this winter, from Maine to Washington State and as far south as Oklahoma.
Jim McCormac, a biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, told NPR that the owl’s movements are influenced by the lemming populations in the far north. Most likely, he said, “there was a superabundance of lemmings this year up in the Arctic. And there were so many lemmings that the owls in response will lay more eggs, so there’s a lot more young owls. And so there’s not enough food to get through the winter, so a lot of them come south.”
Before Thaxton wrote his column in early December, there already had been three sightings in our region. Larry Master, a Lake Placid birder, said snowy owls are usually seen during irruption years along the edges of the Adirondack Park, including the Champlain Valley. They also may frequent the St. Lawrence Seaway. “Snowy owls are birds of the open tundra and don’t feel comfortable in woods,” Master said. “I’ve never seen one in the Tri-Lakes area, although a friend saw one a few years ago on the Whiteface Inn golf course–a one-day wonder.”
Although the irruption is good news for birders, they should be careful not to stress the owls. McCormac noted that when snowies arrive this far south they usually are emaciated and hungry. “Photographers, avid birders, give the birds a lot of distance, don’t disrupt them, cause them to fly, things like that because that’s another peril that they face,” he said.
With their white plumage, snowy owls blend in with the arctic landscape. Given our dearth of snow this winter, they might find it difficult to camouflage themselves in these parts.
Posted on January 11th, 2012 4 comments Add a comment >>
Wildlife biologist Paul Jensen will give a lecture on “Big Cats of the Adirondacks” at the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts in Blue Mountain Lake at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, January 29.
Jensen will talk about the historical distribution of mountain lions, Canada lynx, and bobcats in the Northeast and how these species may be affected by changes in the landscape and the climate in the years ahead.
Mountain lions and Canada lynx no longer live in the Adirondacks, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Last year, however, officials confirmed that a mountain lion struck by a car in Connecticut had passed through the Lake George region. The cat had migrated east from South Dakota.
Jensen, a senior wildlife biologist with DEC, has been researching martens and fishers in the Adirondacks as part of a doctoral program at McGill University in Montreal.
The Adirondack Museum is sponsoring the lecture. Because of construction at the museum, the Adirondack Lakes Center for the Arts is hosting the event. Museum members and children of elementary-school age or younger will be admitted free. The fee for others is $5.
For more information, call (518) 352-7311 or visit www.adirondackmuseum.org.
Posted on November 15th, 2011 2 comments Add a comment >>
After hiking, biking, canoeing, and sailing 7,600 miles over 280 days, John Davis says the hard work has just begun.
Davis resigned as the Adirondack Council’s conservation director last year to undertake TrekEast, a muscle-powered journey designed to draw attention to the need to protect wild lands in the eastern United States and Canada.
He began his travels on February 3 in Key Largo, Florida, and finished this past Monday (November 14) on Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula. In between, he meandered through swamps, fields, and forests, along coastlines, and over mountains. He reached New York State in the summer and traveled through the Catskills, Shawangunks, and Adirondacks.
“While I’ve seen numerous threats to wild nature over the past ten months, I’ve also seen incredible efforts under way to counter those threats,” Davis said after reaching the Atlantic Ocean at Forillon National Park in Quebec.
In an interview with the Explorer, Davis said one lesson from his journey is that the East needs to bring back cougars to restore ecological balance. Without cougars to keep them in check, he said, deer are overbrowsing the woods, consuming wildflowers and saplings. “Our forests are likely to slowly degenerate,” he said.
Davis said conservationists need to focus on four other objectives in the East:
- Protect large tracts of wild land and the wild corridors connecting them.
- Create wildlife crossings over and under roads.
- Protect waterways with wild buffers.
- Encourage private landowners to protect wild lands.
Davis said TrekEast, though arduous, was the adventure of a lifetime. “Now comes the much more important and difficult leg of the trip—maintaining and growing the network of people needed to protect a continental-sized network of connected eastern wild lands,” he said in a news release.
He next plans to go to Washington, D.C., to discuss his journey with the directors of the Wildlands Network, which sponsored TrekEast. After that, he will return to his home near Westport in the Adirondacks.
“I’d be delighted to work at the Adirondack Council again someday, but there are no openings right now,” he said.
Meantime, he is planning his next big adventure: TrekWest in the Rocky Mountains.
Posted on October 27th, 2011 2 comments Add a comment >>
An advocate of reintroducing the cougar to the Adirondacks will speak at the Whallonsburg Grange at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Christopher Spatz, president of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation, has argued in the pages of the Explorer and elsewhere that reintroducing the cats would restore the Adirondack Park’s ecological balance.
Spatz will discuss cougar biology and behavior, recent studies of cougar populations, and the much-publicized case of the cougar that migrated from South Dakota to Connecticut.
The talk is sponsored by the Northeast Wilderness Trust and the Champlain Valley Conservation Partnership. For more information, call 802-453-7880 or e-mail Rose Graves at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on October 26th, 2011 3 comments Add a comment >>
A study published in the journal Nature confirms that the disease decimating bat colonies in New York and many other states is caused by a fungus known as Geomyces destructans.
Known as white-nose syndrome, the disease causes lesions on the bats’ skin and a white growth on their muzzles. Since its discovery in a cave near Albany in 2006, it has spread to sixteen states and four Canadian provinces.
The disease has so devastated bat populations that some species are in danger of extinction.
Earlier this year, Winnie Yu reported in the Explorer that the number of little brown bats in the Adirondacks—once the most common bat in the region—has plummeted 90 percent. Northern bats are down 98 percent. Indiana bats, an endangered species, are down 60 percent.
Biologist Jeremy Coleman of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one of the five authors of the study, said today that the disease is continuing to spread, though there is some evidence that it has stabilized in some colonies.
Scientists had suspected that Geomyces destructans was the cause of white-nose syndrome, but the new study confirms it. Researchers at the National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin found that healthy bats exposed to the fungus developed lesions and other symptoms associated with the disease. Before the study, some experts speculated that the fungus was itself a symptom, not a cause, of illness.
The researchers say little can be done to control the spread of white-nose syndrome. One possibility is manipulating the habitats of caves to make them less hospitable to the fungus.
The same fungus exists in Europe, but it has not decimated bat populations there. It’s thought that the fungus may have been inadvertently carried to the United States by a human and introduced to a commercial cave in Schoharie County, whence it spread to bat hibernacula.
Coleman’s co-authors included three scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey: microbiologist David Blehert, wildlife pathologist Carol Meteyer, and wildlife disease specialist Anne Ballmann. The fifth researcher was Justin Boyles of the University of Tennessee.
For more information about white-nose syndrome and its impact on the Adirondacks, we encourage you to read Winnie’s story.