— Dear Blog Followers — For the past 18 months I have been posting pieces from my project, Extinct & Almost Extinct. The project is now complete and the book with all paintings and text is available only at Amazon.com http://smile.amazon.com/Extinct-Almost-Paintings-Notes/dp/1522793364/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454179424&sr=8-1&keywords=extinct+%26+almost+extinct
Greater Sage Grouse –
species of concern –
Male Greater Sage Grouse weigh up to seven pounds making them the largest grouse in North America. Males are known for their spectacular courtship displays sometimes involving up to 200 birds. Adults eat insects and survive on sagebrush in winter. Their range before the 19th century was nearly all the American West into the Midwest and three Canadian provinces with a population estimated as high as 16 million. In 2000 estimates had their numbers as low as 100,000.
Greater Sage Grouse are dependent on large areas of of continuous sage brush habitat for their survival. Overhunting and degradation and fragmentation of their habitat caused their historic decline. Today habitat loss is escalated by invasive species such as cheatgrass, wildfires, energy development, urbanization, agricultural development, intensive grazing, and infrastructure development.
In 2010 it was determined that the Greater Sage Grouse warranted being protected by the Endangered Species Act, but other species in greater need came first. Still federal and state wildlife agencies were already working together to develop a comprehensive strategy to conserve sage grouse habitat, leading to many years of work for these agencies in collaboration with ranchers, industry, and conservation groups to save the bird from extinction. Commercial interests joined the efforts in order to to keep the sage grouse from being listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act which would create actions they found too restricting.
In 2015 these efforts climaxed with the Greater Sage Grouse being determined to not merit being listed as threatened. This outcome was due to the agreement between a myriad of private interests and government agencies to protect and restore millions of acres for the continued existence of not only the grouse but the 350 other species that call the remarkable sagebrush lands their home.
Northern Spotted Owl –
Northern Spotted Owls are about 18 inches in length and have wing spans up to four feet. They are nocturnal hunters and prey primarily on squirrels, voles, wood rats and mice. They are non-migratory and prefer large territories of old-growth forest that have been maturing for 150-200 years. The range of Northern Spotted Owls stretches from Northern California to Southern British Columbia.
In 1990 they were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This was primarily due to declining numbers caused by habitat loss from timber harvesting by companies that favor the same old growth forests that the owls need for nesting and hunting. Even with efforts to conserve habitat for the owls, their numbers have been dwindling about 3 percent a year.
In addition to habitat loss, the Northern Spotted Owl also suffers from a new threat, the migration of Barred Owls into their traditional territory. The Barred Owl spread from the eastern United States to the west coast in the 20th century. They are larger, more aggressive owls who have a more diverse diet making them more adaptable. They prefer the old growth forests where spotted owls make their homes. Both species are territorial and do not tolerate the other in their nesting and hunting areas. But with Barred Owls needing less territory, Northern Spotted Owls may have to protect their areas from multiple Barred Owls. This competition and the continued decline of the Northern Spotted Owl has led some people to propose the elimination of the Barred Owl. A pilot program was instituted in Northern California of shooting the Barred Owls, and another proposal calls for killing 3,600 Barred Owls throughout the Northwest, an approach that has created warranted controversy.
The following is one of the paintings with notes from my Extinct & Almost Extinct project –
Western Lily –
The Western Lily is a perennial flower that reaches a height of five feet. It can be distinguished from other native lilies by its unique coloring, non-spreading stamens, and unbranched bulb. It grows at the edges of marshes, in poorly drained forests or thickets, and in coastal prairie and scrub forest near the ocean. In 1987 only 25 populations survived in an area that extends for 200 miles in southern Oregon and northern California. In 1994 it was listed as an endangered species by the federal government.
A number of factors have combined to threaten the survival of the Western Lily; the clearing and draining of wetlands, the development of cranberry agriculture, competition by shrubs and trees for suitable growing sites, and the collection of its bulbs by lily growers, breeders, and other horticultural enthusiasts.
The primary effort to restore the Western Lily is to establish populations within protected and managed areas. To save the lily a coalition of federal, state, and local governments, industry, and private landowners is needed. Twenty areas have been designated as viable places for populations to exist, and the goal is to have 1,000 plants in each area. To create suitable habitat, programs have been developed for controlled cattle and goat grazing, manual clearing, conservation easements, and a genetic management plan to enhance the population. These efforts offer promise for the survival of this beautiful flower.
Key Deer –
saved from extinction –
This diminutive sub-species of the white-tailed deer, sometimes called the “Toy Deer,” stands 24” to 32” at the shoulder and weighs 50-75 pounds. It once lived throughout the Florida Keys but is now found primarily on Big Pine Key. The Key Deer inhabit pine forests, mangroves, and freshwater wetlands. Males live about three years while females can live to six years. Occasionally they swim between islands in search of freshwater. Their favorite foods includes mangrove tree leaves and thatch palm berries. By the 1950’s only around 50 of the little deer survived. The National Key Deer Refuge was formed in 1953 and when the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1966 the deer became one the first species protected. Now around 600-700 deer inhabit the area.
The future of the deer is far from certain and they are still listed as an endangered species. There is a continuing loss of habitat due to increased human development in the area and road traffic kills an average of 45 deer a year. They have a lack of fear of humans that draws them into communities and dangers such as free-roaming dogs. The destruction of hurricanes and the diminishment of habitat by global warming also threaten their survival. Hope lies in people being able to coexist with the little deer and there are signs of that with increased land-use regulation and habitat protection.
Woodland Caribou —
Woodland caribou differ from the northern tundra dwelling caribou in not only habitat but also diet and body structure. The woodland caribou are larger, darker, and are not migratory but move to different elevations in the mountain during different seasons. They live in the temperate mountainous forests that extends from Eastern British Columbia to Northeastern Washington and Northwestern Idaho. Caribou are the only species of the deer family in which both sexes grow antlers, although the males are much larger. Woodland caribou graze on the spring and summer vegetation and in the winter mostly eat tree lichen. Caribou are the only large mammals that can eat lichen due to specialized bacteria and protozoa in their stomachs. Their large feet give them support on the snow and shovels for digging in the snow. Surprisingly caribou are also excellent swimmers, using their large feet as paddles and gain extra buoyancy from their hollow hairs. Females do not breed until two years of age and often only have one calf every two years.
Estimates have the number of woodland caribou in Canada at about 1900. The Southern Selkirk mountains herd in Northeastern Washington and Northwestern Idaho has dwindled to around 20 caribou and is listed as endangered. Efforts in the 1980’s and 1990’s to reintroduced more woodland caribou to the area failed. Challenges to the woodland caribou include logging and fire reduction of habitat, mortality due to predators and highway collisions, and human development including roads, pipeline construction and motorized recreation such as snowmobiling. Recovery programs have been instituted to protect the habitat of the woodland caribou and to decrease the number of predators.
- Bull Trout
Bull trout are a member of the family know as char. Their name originates from their large head and mouth. They are distinguished from trout and salmon by their absence of teeth in the roof of the mouth and the presence of light spots on a dark background on their body. Once native throughout the Pacific Northwest they are now found primarily in upper tributary streams and a few lakes and reservoirs. They spawn in the Fall in cool water that is below 48 degrees Fahrenheit and need steams with cold, unpolluted water, and clean gravel to spawn. Lake bull trout have been known to weigh more than 20 pounds.
The factors that have led to the plight of the bull trout are many. Around the turn of the 20th century game manager began introducing brook trout and other non-native fish to Northwest steams. The predatory nature of the bull trout took a toll on the introduced fish and it was decided to eradicate the bull trout. Commercial net fishing, bounties, and even poisoning campaigns were initiated and some continued up to 1990. Dams and irrigation systems placed on rivers and streams greatly hindering the migratory bull trout. Mining and agriculture silted up streams eliminating clean spawning gravel. Some isolated populations are not large enough for adequate genetic diversity. Problems with climate change warming stream water and causing reduced snow melt are worsening conditions for the bull trout.
Now federal and state programs are trying to conserve and propagate the bull trout population. Their efforts include stream and habitat protection and restoration, reduction of siltation, and modifying land use to improve stream quality. Strong commitment by private citizens, industry, and federal, state, and tribal agencies are all needed to protect the bull trout.
The following is #30 in my ongoing project Extinct & Almost Extinct.
The Purple Paphiopedilum is an Asian Lady Slipper orchid and is representative of 84 Asian Lady Slipper species most of which are threatened with extinction. Purple Paphiopedilum is a rare species with few growing sites. Three are found in Vietnam and a few in China. It grows in humid, well drained rocky soils and steep limestone slopes. It flourishes in shaded tropical mountains and flowers between June and September. The life of individual plants is up to eight years.
The population of this orchid has plummeted by 90% over the past decade. The total number of individual plants is estimated at less than 250. The reasons for this drastic decline in numbers include destruction of habitat, logging, fires, deforestation, climate change, and the ruthless collection of the plant in the wild for regional and international commerce. The collection of this and many other species of orchids has become rampant with wild cuttings of rare orchids bringing up to $7,500 each. While international law bans the trade of endangered plants, a recent study showed dozens of threatened species of orchids on public sale at Thai markets.
Proposals have been made of ways to protect the Purple Paphiopedilum and other plants in danger of extinction. They include the propagation and repatriation of plants back to native habitats, cultivating specimens specifically for trade in hope lessening wild plant harvest, protecting habitats with surveillance and fencing of wild populations, and raised public awareness of the plight of these plants.
Northern Pacific Right Whale
Right whales were given their names by 19th century whalers who considered them the “right” whales to kill due to the plentiful oil in their blubber and the demand for their baleen, long bone-like plates made of keratin that extend down from the upper mouth used to filter their food, that was used for corsets, buggy whips and other things.
Northern Pacific Right whales are a newly designated subspecies of Right whale that are found in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea and have been sighted as far south as the California coast and the waters of Hawaii. They can weigh up to 70 tons and range from 45-55 feet in length. Their enormous head takes up a third to a quarter of their length. They eat primarily zoo-plankton and live 50 or more years. The females do not mature sexually until ten years of age and their gestation for a single offspring takes a full year.
The fierce whaling of the 18th and 19th centuries nearly led to their extinction with many thousands of whales killed. While prohibitions on whaling were begun in the 1930’s, notably Japanese and Russian whaling continued for many decades. Today the Northern Right Whale is the most endangered of any whale species with only one or two hundred surviving. Continued threat to the few remaining whales include ship strikes with the heavy transpacific shipping lines, entanglement in enormous fishing nets of commercial fisheries, high decibel sonar testing of the U.S. military and even continued poaching.
Northern Atlantic Right Whales are similarly endangered with only approximately 400 whales surviving.
Below is the painting and text of one of the creatures in my ongoing project, Extinct & Almost Extinct: 50 Paintings.
Coral organisms or polyps are tiny soft-bodied sea creatures related to jellyfish. At their base the creatures build a hard, protective limestone skeleton of by secreting calcium carbonate. They divide into many thousands of clones forming coral reefs. These colonies grow over hundreds, even thousands of years. Some of todays coral reefs may have begun growing 50 million years ago. The vivid color of many corals come not from the coral polyps themselves but from the colorful algae that the corals host on their surface.
Elkhorn coral are found in the Caribbean Sea and gained their name from their large antler-like branches. They primarily reproduce when branches break off and reattach to the substrate. Sexual reproduction does take place annually but few larvae survive. Elkhorn coral are fast growing with branching increasing 2-4 inches a year gaining maximum size and up to twelve feet in diameter in 10-12 years. Most colonies are found in reefs of less than 20 feet deep but some have been found in depths over 60 feet.
Elkhorn coral were once the most common coral in the Caribbean Sea, sometimes called the “redwoods of the reef.” Since the 1980’s the population of these corals has been reduced by 80-98%. The cause of the drastic reduction has been disease, climate change, and other human factors that has brought the species to near extinction. The warming of the waters has made the species more susceptible to a disease called white pox where the warm temperatures cause the coral to expel their algae symbionts and the coral polyps often die.
While coral reefs cover only 1% of the ocean floor they support nearly 25% of the ocean’s creatures. It is feared that a combination of climate change, pollution and sedimentation could kill 30% of the world’s existing reefs in the next 30 years.