Northern Rockies Iconic Species Make New "Hot List"
Creatures have specific climate requirements to stay healthy.
By Public News Service|Deb Courson, 12-02-09
Three critters in the Northern Rockies are featured on a new list of species most at risk of extinction because of a changing climate that affects habitat, breeding cycles and food supplies. Salmon, Canada lynx and grizzly bears are singled out in the report "America's Hottest Species," released by the Endangered Species Coalition.
Leda Huta, the group's executive director, says although grizzlies have been touted as a success story in endangered species recovery, warmer winters are creating ideal conditions for diseases that are decimating white bark pines, a grizzly food staple. And, shifting seasons mean more run-ins with humans - which can be dangerous to people and bears.
"Having them den later, overlapping more with hunters who shoot them for self-defense or mistaken identity reasons, can be another problem for grizzly bears."
The Canada lynx also have specific climate requirements to stay healthy - they need a solid season of deep snows. When snowpack is low, Huta explains, bigger and more aggressive species, like coyotes, edge the lynx out of hunting territories.
"It's perfectly tailored for snow. I think that people really don't know what that's going to mean when this ecosystem sees so much less snow."
Other species on the list include bull trout, a Hawaiian songbird, and leatherback sea turtles. The report calls for federal action to help species adjust, and a reduction of the types of pollution associated with climate change. The debate on how to slow climate change and whether it is tied to human actions, continues next week at the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. It begins Monday, December 7.
The "America's Hottest Species" report is online.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org