Published February 17, 2013, 04:32 AM

OUTDOOR NOTES: Group warns that warming climate already is affecting fish and wildlife

Urging fast action to curb human-caused greenhouse gases, a group of Minnesota hunters and anglers recently warned that a warming climate already is affecting fish and wildlife across the United States and in their home state.

By: Herald Staff Reports, Grand Forks Herald

Urging fast action to curb human-caused greenhouse gases, a group of Minnesota hunters and anglers recently warned that a warming climate already is affecting fish and wildlife across the United States and in their home state.

Several fish and wildlife groups joined researchers for the release of a new report earlier this month that highlights species already being stressed by warmer temperatures and increased extreme weather events.

Examples from Minnesota include:

• The summer of 2012 resulted in fish kills in Minnesota and throughout the region. This was a result of less water and warmer water because of heat and drought. Fish growth rates declined, making them more susceptible to toxins, parasites and disease. Warm water also holds less oxygen and spurs harmful algae growth.

• Severe drought and heat also affect duck and pheasant populations as prairie potholes, essential for breeding, dry up.

• The steep decline of moose in Minnesota may be the result of increasing temperatures and the increase of parasites, such as ticks, as well as a tendency of moose to feed less when it is warm in favor of seeking shelter from the heat. That makes moose less fit and able to survive winter.

• A recent study looked at 305 species of birds in North America and found that 177 species have expanded their range northward by an average of 35 miles in the past four decades.

The study, “Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis,” is available at www.NWF.org/ClimateCrisis.

— Forum News Service

Feeding bears is almost universally discouraged, but several top polar bear scientists now are considering the idea.

As sea ice disappears and habitat deteriorates in some polar bear ranges, a newly published paper by 12 of the world’s foremost experts suggests it’s time to consider how to manage increasingly troubled populations.

One idea? Setting out big piles of polar bear chow on the tundra.

“We just raise it as one of the options,” said co-author Andrew Derocher of the University of Alberta.

The study points to the bears around Hudson Bay, one of the most southerly populations and perhaps the most vulnerable to the loss of sea ice, which the animals use as a hunting platform.

But feeding polar bears would not be cheap.

Using figures derived from zoos that keep polar bears, the paper calculates that it could cost nearly $1 million a month to distribute commercial bear chow to the southern Hudson Bay bears.

All management tools bring their own problems, and Derocher said the paper is intended to put the issue before the public.

“The changes are coming a lot faster than we thought,” he said. “We’re seeing clear indications that populations are getting close to the tipping point.”

— Canadian Press

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is sponsoring an Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest in conjunction with the eighth annual national Endangered Species Day on May 17.

The Service and numerous conservation organizations observe Endangered Species Day to recognize conservation efforts under way across the nation aimed at helping America’s imperiled species.

This year also commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

As part of the contest, the International Child Art Foundation will select 40 semifinalists from thousands of entries, and winners will be chosen in four categories: K through grade 2, grades 3 through 5, grades 6 through 8 and grades 9 through 12. Winners will receive plaques and art supply gift packs, and one grand prize winner will be honored with their name engraved on a special trophy and receive a round-trip flight to Washington, D.C., with a guardian to attend a reception in May.

Entries must be postmarked by March 15.

For more information, including judging criteria and an entry form, go to www.endangeredspeciesday.org. Information on regional Endangered Species Day events is available at fws.gov/endangered.

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