Category Archives: human wildlife conflict

Did a dog run the Sea Lions off of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco?

This is rather worrisome, coming right on the heels of my post about poor farmers in India allowing migratory geese to coexist with them!

One of our favorite things to do in San Francisco is to wander down to Fisherman’s Wharf for a nice walk breathing in the salt air, get some chowder in a bowl (or crab if feeling rich!), and go hang out on Pier 39 to watch the Sea Lions lounging out on the floating wooden docks most times of the year. You may have read my post about this, or seen these pictures:

Earlier this week, @GarySoup raised an alarm by tweeting that the sea lions have moved on, accompanied by this photo of the empty docks at Pier 39. This was immediately picked up by a couple of writers at Wired magazine, @pgcat and @alexismadrigal, with the latter digging into the story further to post this report, which includes this quote:

“We have no idea where they moved on to or why,” said Shelbi Stoudt, who manages a team that helps stranded animals in the San Francisco Bay from the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California.

The sea lions’ disappearance is as strange as their initial colonization of the pier about 20 years ago, in late 1989. They just started showing up one day and as their numbers increased, their traditional hang out, Seal Rocks, became less populated. There are all sorts of theories about why the pier became a favorite haul-out spot for the sea lions, but no one knows for sure why the animals’ behavior changed.

Stoudt averred that the officials at the Marine Mammal Center weren’t worried about the animals’ disappearance from their standard location. The sea lions are migratory animals, after all, and it’s natural for them to move around.

No reason to worry then? Apparently there hasn’t been anything else unusual weather(or other)wise in the Bay this winter, despite the El Nino currently brewing in the Pacific. Yet:

The disappearance is unusual, though. The animals’ numbers usually peak in late fall and many stick around during the winter months before heading south for the summer. According to the Marine Mammal Center’s FAQ on the animals, “from late summer to late spring, 150 to 300 sea lions haul out here,” though their numbers can run much higher.

This year saw a massive influx of sea lions. In fact, a Marine Mammal Center survey conducted in the fall found 1,585 mammals hauled out on the spot, an all-time high. Some of them invaded a neighboring area, the Hyde Street Pier, where they may have been scared away by an itinerant fisherman’s dog.

Apparently some of the fishermen aren’t as enamored of the sea lions as us urbanites:

One recently told a local radio station, “They’re cute when they’re in here lying on the docks by Pier 39, but they’re not too cute out in the ocean when they’re stealing your livelihood.”

So it appears that at least one fisherman, and his pit bull/golden retreiver mix dog, managed to scare off the sea lions from Hyde Street Pier (which does not provide the exclusive protected docks that Pier 39 does, and therefore doesn’t normally get large numbers of these animals hanging out there), apparently to the relief of some there, the Marine Mammal Protection Act notwithstanding. While Pier 39 remained protected and far enough from that dog (or any others) hassling the beasts, one is still left with the nagging feeling that they may have decided that they’d had enough of this tenuous relationship with this human habitat. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time that a dog has contributed to local extinction of some species.

“It’s exactly opposite of what we’ve seen over the last 10 years,” said Sheila Chandor, Pier 39’s harbor master. “I think it’s food. Usually this time of year, we have a lot of herring coming through.”

Chandor said that some sea lions tagged by the Marine Mammal Center had been located south of Monterey but cautions that the link to the sea lions’ food supply is just “guesswork.”

A quick check on the Webcam mounted at the Pier 39 Restaurant proves the sea lions are definitely gone from Pier 39’s K Dock. A dozen or so remain on J Dock, according to Chandor.

The population of human sea-lion watchers remained steady.

Stoudt and her team aren’t sending out a search crew. The sea lions are, after all, migratory, she told

So, whatever the reason, the sea lions just up and left – but where to? And will they return? Or is it really “So long, and thanks for all the fish” time? After all, the sea lions may be aliens too, like their cousins the northern elephant seals that seem to come from another planet according to Rudy Ortiz’s recent talk at Fresno State.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

We love you too!

A short and sweet exhortation from Oscar Fernandez (Biol 110, Human Ecology) for all of us!


What you and I do to each other is fair game because we belong to the same gene pool. But did you ever think at some point that all of our infighting is effecting everything else? CO2 emissions are endangering species such as the Emperor penguin, koalas, arctic foxes, and many other not so well known organisms stowed away in the Arctic and Antarctic. Emperor penguins, like the adorable ones pictured above, have less space to, uhm, procreate because global warming is melting away ice platforms that act as their habitat. Arctic foxes are being out-competed by the warm climate adapted Red foxes. Lets not forget about the Koalas either. Global warming is reducing the availability of the euphoric and very intoxicating Eucalyptus leaf that keeps them dizzy and feeling o.k.! Come on people, we need to become better managers of this planet.

Now that’s one tough hombre of a coyote!

Now I know why they call him the trickster!! And no wonder the coyote is such a survivor in the modern American wilderness and suburbia:

When a brother and sister struck a coyote at 75mph they assumed they had killed the animal and drove on.

They didn’t realise this was the toughest creature ever to survive a hit-and-run.

Eight hours, two fuel stops, and 600 miles later they found the wild animal embedded in their front fender – and very much alive.

[From Pictured: The coyote who was hit by a car at 75mph, embedded in the fender, and dragged for 600 miles – and SURVIVED | Mail Online]

Read the whole story at the Daily Mail link above, or check out the pictures below the fold. And the next time you hit some small critter on the highway, it might behoove you to stop and look into and under your fender, just in case said critter is hanging on:

You just might find such a surprise inside:

This survivor appears to have had a fairly happy ending, having survived the 75 mph encounter with the Honda Fit without even a broken bone:

The coyote even escaped from the rescue center three days later and is presumably out regaling its mates with quite the tale of adventure on the high roads!

A Kinglet for Furlough Friday

A Kinglet, Ruby-crowned!

I caught (in pixels) this Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Lost Lake Park just north of Fresno last weekend, when we spent an afternoon there with visiting friends (including the biology colloquium speaker last week). Kinglets (Regulus spp.) are among my favorite warblers in north America, revealing my Old World bias – for they are the closest relatives on these shores to the Phylloscopus Leaf Warblers I spent almost a decade chasing during graduate school. Indeed, Regulus were classified as within the same family, Sylvidae, as the Phylloscopus, but now have their own family Regulidae. I first encountered the Kinglets’ Asian congener cousins, the Rubycrest and Goldcrest among the forests of the Himalaya where I strove to catch a glimpse of their “crests” and learnt to listen to them to tell them apart from so many other little green jobs flitting about restlessly among the dense foliage often high up in the canopy! That was over 20 years ago, and I’m still fascinated by the lives of these wee creatures (although I haven’t studied them formally for a while – maybe its time to resume?). For wee they may be, indeed (weighing a mere 6 grams or so!), but they are quite capable of long-distance flight! Like so many of their Sylviid cousins, these Ruby-crowned Kinglets are also migratory, breeding all they way up north from Alaska to Newfoundland, and down into the conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada in California, and wintering at southern latitudes and lower elevations across north America. Around here in the San Joaquin Valley, they just showed up a couple of weeks ago and will hang around until April or so, in all kinds of tree-filled habitat, ranging from the “natural” riverine forests to urban parks to backyards, and even parking lots (see image below!).

I like having them around, and thought I’d share the above and a few more images below the fold with you on this friday when I’m off campus on furlough for the day!

A ruby-crowned kinglet caught in flight!

Caught in flight at Lost Lake Park

A shy Kinglet!

A shy Kinglet – this is how you glimpse them most often!

Fighting reflections in a human-dominated world

But not too shy of taking on a challenge! Although this one is unfortunately boxing at shadows we throw up in our strange habitats! I found this bird in a parking lot in Los Banos a few years ago.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet on SUV mirror

Finally at rest atop the conquered foe!

Trapping leopards using ringtones?!

Now that might sound like another one of the craziest f#?king thing you’ve heard, but according to this article in the Houston Chronicle, some forest officials in India have apparently used ringtones of roosters and cows to trap leopards! (And don’t ask why I’m getting this from the Houston Chronicle – they picked it up as filler from the AP, I guess):

<!– –>

Ringtones used to trap leopards in India
© 2007 The Associated Press

AHMEDABAD, India — Those ubiquitous ringtones have reached the forests of western India, where leopards are answering their call.

So far six leopards that have strayed too close to villages have been lured into traps by ringtones playing the calls of roosters, goats and cows, said H.S. Singh, chief conservation research officer in the state of Gujarat.

“Now instead of using live bait, sounds of animals have been downloaded as ringtones on mobiles, which are attached to speakers kept behind cages and then played at regular intervals,” Singh said Tuesday.

“The leopard drawn by the sound is an unsuspecting victim,” Singh said, adding that the trick only worked at night.

All the leopards were later released unharmed in forests away from the villages, Singh said.

Thousands of leopards roam the Indian countryside, but continued loss of habitat has forced them into more frequent contact with villagers, resulting in the deaths of both humans and leopards.

Like me, you might be wondering why they didn’t use straighforward playback of these sounds with a boombox or something (as I did when I was trapping warblers in India some years ago)? I’m hoping someone on Nathistory-India (where I picked up this story) will shed some further light on this.

Educating children to become environmental vandals?!

As I try to find some time, amid the thin interstices of these last weeks of the semester, to finish ID’ing the critters we saw during our bioblitz and write up my report here, I’ve been skimming the reports from our fellow blogger bioblitzers. And I just came across this rather depressing account by Karmen of her encounter with the dark-side of humanity: how some members of our species “relate” to other species, i.e., another example of how much contempt some grown men have for nature, and how these a**holes actively inculcate such attitudes among their own children! Karmen was out sketching some geese by a pond in Colorado, when this happened:

As I sat, softly sketching, watching the geese out of the corner of my eye, I noticed one of the guys who was fishing across the cove had started “exploring”. He walked right across the narrow strip of land that I was drawing, and marched right up to the goose’s nest. I watched, horrified, as he bent down and picked up an egg out of the nest. The geese went nuts, honking at him, but he ignored them, and started to walk back, egg in hand. I was pissed. I put down my pastels, and called out.

“Hey! You do realize that you are on a wildlife refuge, and that bird and its eggs are protected by the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, right?! You’re breaking the law!”

He sneered at me. “It was already broken,” he drawled, with a thick accent that seemed to match his cowboy hat.

I didn’t really know what to say. I sat there, watching and shaking with anger, as he brought his buddy and kid over to stomp around on the nest. Not only was he going to raid the poor bird’s nest, but he was going to teach his little kid how to do it, too. What a way to teach your kids to respect their environment. As they walked, the pile of sticks (one of the focal points in my painting) collapsed under them, sending debris spilling into the cove. They kept poking around the nest, while the geese shouted angrily. What could I do? I grabbed my camera, and took pictures of their despicable desecration of my bioblitz site.

She then also had the presence of mind to take pictures of the poachers’ trucks in the parking lot, including good shots of the license plates, and send all the information off to the Colorado Department of Wildlife’s Operation Game Thief. One now hopes that they haul this guy’s ass in, and that the kid learns something more positive about nature and wildlife than what his father (presumably) has been teaching him.

I guess we were luckier to only run into a sixth grade field trip where the kids were actually learning to appreciate (scientifically from what I overheard) rocks, and plants, and bugs, and birds.

We sure have a lot of work to do on our own species, don’t we? So I’m glad Jose has taken the lead to start a new sustainability club on our campus where we might begin to address some of these kinds of issues as well!

Conservation Challenges in Africa

Hi everyone,

This week we have three readings suggested by our guest speaker, Dr. Chantal Stoner:

  1. Newmark, W.D., Manyanza, D.M., Gamassa, D.M., and H.I. Sariko. 1994. The conflict between wildlife and local people living adjacent to protected areas in Tanzania: human density as a predictor. Conservation Biology 8:249-255.

  2. Thirgood, S.J., Mosser, A., Tham, S., Hopcraft, G., Mwangomo, E., Mlengeya, T., Kilewo, M., Fryxell, J.M., Sinclair, A. and Borner, M. 2004. Can parks protect migratory ungulates? The case of the Serengeti wildebeest. Animal Conservation, 7: 113-120.
  3. Struhsaker, T.T., Struhsaker, P.J., and Siex, K.S. 2005. Conserving Africa’s rain forests: problems in protected areas and possible solutions. Biological Conservation 123:45-54. [note: link takes you to an interview with Tom Struhsaker, the lead author of this paper; scroll down to the bottom of the interview for a link to the pdf reprint]

Continue reading below the fold for some discussion points from Chantal.

1) Newmark et al. 1994: This is an older paper but effectively illustrates the conflict between wildlife and human communities on the borders of protected areas in Tanzania. Some things to notice are the percentage of people reporting wildlife problems, differences in the control techniques used by people who felt they effectively controlled wildlife problems versus those who felt they could not, and the types of species that were easiest to control. How do you think people living next to the borders of protected areas view wildlife?

2) Thirgood et al. 2004: This is a case study of the movements of wildebeest relative to the borders of a set of protected areas. The main point of this paper is that a percentage of the wildebeests’ movements fall outside protected area boundaries. (Carnivores similarly tend to have ranges that tended to spill out of protected areas and encounter very high-human inducuded mortalities on the borders of protected areas.) Some things to think about are whether this small percentage is of concern, and whether or not protected areas are an effective conservation strategy for conserving wide-ranging species.

3) Struhsaker et al. 2004: This paper addresses the basic question of whether protected areas are an effective conservation strategy in Africa. In class, my talk will provide a background on a heated debate concerning whether the best strategy to conserve wildlife is to establish strictly protected areas where no human activities are allowed, or replace protected areas with other conservation schemes that include local communities (many strategies try to encompass both philosophies). The Struhsaker et al. 2004 paper is a review of the successes and failures of tropical protected areas in Africa. This paper does a nice job of summarizing the debate but I chose it because it illustrates a common method to assess the effectiveness of difference conservation strategies.

When you read this paper, you might consider the benefits and the weaknesses of Struhsaker’s approach. Do you think this is objective? Are there better ways to determine if a particular conservation strategy is effective? Or, is does this paper present the most realistic and logistically-feasible method of gauging whether a stategy (e.g., a protected area of community conservation project) is working? Do you think money should be allocated toward monitoring programs focusing on the status of wildlife species in protected areas? If you accept Struhsaker’s methodology, what do you think of his findings- do they show that protected areas are effective or not?

The papers will be on the blog or on blackboard. Dr. Katti is helping me put the papers up.