CONTACT: Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation, 734-904-1589
Heat, Drought, Disease Threaten Big Game and their Habitats
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN (November 13, 2013) – Rising temperatures, deeper droughts and more extreme weather events fueled by manmade climate change are making survival more challenging for America’s treasured big game wildlife, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation. Nowhere to Run -- Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World details how climate change is already putting many species of big game at risk, including those in Michigan, creating an uncertain future for big game and the outdoor economy that depends on them.
“The recovery of big game species is one of America’s wildlife conservation success stories,” said Frank Szollosi, regional outreach consultant for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “But today, a changing climate threatens to rewrite that success story. The good news is that we have solutions. It’s up to our nation’s public officials to act.”
Read the report at NWF.org/Sportsmen
Nowhere to Run, an assimilation of current science addressing climate change’s impacts on big game, shows rising temperatures, deeper droughts and more extreme weather events fueled by manmade climate change are making survival more challenging for wildlife by altering habitat, increasing disease risk and changing migration patterns.
Several big game species in Michigan will face increased challenges due to climate change, including:
· White-tailed Deer: White-tailed deer are susceptible to hemorrhagic disease caused by viruses transmitted by biting midges. HD typically subsides shortly after the first autumn frost because colder temperatures kill the midges. Longer summers are likely to expose deer to more disease-carrying midges.
· Moose: Moose are facing multiple threats – rising temperatures, changing forest species and increased mortality from parasites. Moose can become heat-stressed in warm weather, especially in summer if temperatures climb above 60 to70 degrees when moose coats are thinner. Heat stress leads to lower weights, declining pregnancy rates and increased vulnerability to predators and disease. Moose will also likely become more susceptible to deer-born diseases as deer expand their local distribution as temperatures warm.
· Elk: Warming temperatures will likely reduce the type of vegetation that elk need for food and shelter. Elk have already begun to expand their range in Michigan in search of suitable food and habitat and this will likely be exacerbated with global warming—leading to increased conflict with people, including vehicle accidents and crop depredation. The spread of diseases, such as bovine tuberculosis, between deer and elk may also increase.
“Climate change is already impacting the deer population in Michigan,” said Chris Hoving, adaptation specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division. “We can expect more new wildlife diseases and more changes to winter severity in the future.”
“Climate change has dealt moose a very difficult hand,” said Rolf Peterson, research professor at the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Tech. “One of the big challenges will be: ‘How do we prevent moose from contracting deer-borne diseases?’ Warmer, shorter winters will mean local increases in deer density, increasing likelihood of overlap with moose in winter. One of the ways to help prevent the transmission of deadly deer diseases such as brain worm is to ensure a healthy wolf population.”
“Climate change is expected to alter elk habitat, available food sources, and range,” said Rique Campa, associate dean and professor of wildlife ecology at Michigan State University. “This is creating challenges for wildlife managers charged with helping ensure a healthy, stable population.”
Michigan’s big game species have made a remarkable comeback in the second half of the last century. Like in other parts of the country, Michigan’s big game species suffered steep declines in the early 20th century due to habitat loss, unregulated hunting, and other threats. The establishment of an effective wildlife management system supported by funds paid for by hunters through excise taxes on guns and ammunition helped many species rebound. The North American Conservation Model, as it is known, has been an example for wildlife managers around the world.
To this day, hunters continue to be an important cornerstone of Michigan’s and the nation’s efforts to support strong wildlife management, as well as a robust outdoor recreation economy. In 2011, there were more than 488,000 adult big game hunters in Michigan, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunters of both big and small game species spent more than $2.3 billion in Michigan. More than 920,000 people observed big game near their homes in the state. Sportsmen have invested more than $280 million in Michigan since 1939 to restore big game habitats and populations, in excise taxes and hunting and fishing licenses and fees.
“To protect Michigan’s outdoor heritage,” said Szollosi, “we must cut carbon pollution, speed our transition to clean energy and safeguard big game and their habitats from climate change.”
Nowhere to Run outlines the key steps needed to stem climate change and save big game:
1. Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030.
2. Transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy like offshore wind, solar power and next-generation biofuels and avoid polluting energy like coal and tar sands oil.
3. Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.
4. Manage big game considering a changing climate in plans and management.
Contact information for wildlife experts on this release:
Rolf Peterson, Research Professor, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Michigan Tech
Christopher Hoving, Adaptation Specialist, Wildlife Division, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, 517-373-3337, email@example.com
Henry (Rique) Campa, III, Ph.D., Associate Dean, The Graduate School and Professor of Wildlife Ecology
Michigan State University, firstname.lastname@example.org
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National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center
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Ann Arbor, MI 48104