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The Unsettling Reason Why We're Seeing More Snowy Owls
For birders and fans of Hedwig from the Harry Potter series, spotting a snowy owl in the wild is a special treat as these great white raptors spend most of their lives in the Arctic.
But sightings further south have become more common in North America in recent winters. As the Ottawa Citizen reported this week, sightings of the charismatic owl have soared in Eastern Ontario for the last six years.
This "irruption"—an influx of a species to areas they aren't usually found—could be a sign that there's not enough food for the snowies around their usual home.
As a result, rodents have more vegetation to graze on, thus increasing the prey base for snowy owls. This abundance in prey, a bird expert suggested to Ottawa Citizen, has resulted in successful breeding seasons for the snowy owls. But with more owls hunting in the same area, the less successful hunters end up traveling south in search of food.
"It could be climate change: The Arctic warming up, more vegetation available, so it's producing more rodents," birder Bruce Di Labio told the Ottawa Citizen. "In turn, the snowy owls are being successful (in breeding) every year."
The Audobon Society explains that "it's all about food availability: when the birds' rodent prey base either crashes or is in super-abundance, snowy owls push south in winter."
Over time, however, these southern sightings could be a much rarer occurrence:
"Audubon's climate model suggests that in the future such southward excursions may become less extensive. By century's end, climatically suitable areas for wintering Snowy Owls may have pushed north from southern Canada well into the Arctic. The big question for these owls isn't climate per se—these big predators can withstand harsh weather—but, rather, the indirect effect of climate on the owls' prey base."
Although snowy owl populations are linked to booms and busts of Arctic rodents, the bird's numbers are in steep decline overall, Smithsonian magazine reported. In the December 2017 Red List of Threatened Species, the bird's status was listed as "vulnerable" for the first time. Its population is currently around 28,000 birds, down from 200,000 in 2013.
Andy Symes, global species officer of BirdLife International, warns that the worsening effects of climate change could put the species at a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future.
"The dramatically revised population estimates are a further source for concern, and the species must now be a high priority for further research and conservation action," Symes said.
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Wolves and Jaguars Are Already Threatened by Border Razor Wire As Trump Vetoes Bid to Block Emergency Wall Funding
President Donald Trump issued the first veto of his presidency Friday, overturning Congress' vote to block his national emergency declaration to fund a border wall that environmental advocates say would put 93 endangered species at risk. However, the president's decision came the same day as an in-depth report from UPI revealing how razor wire placed at the border in the last four months already threatens wildlife.
Yet another whale has died after ingesting plastic bags. A young male Cuvier's beaked whale was found washed up in Mabini, Compostela Valley in the Philippines Friday, CNN reported. When scientists from the D' Bone Collector Museum in Davao investigated the dead whale, they found it had died of "dehydration and starvation" after swallowing plastic bags―40 kilograms (approximately 88 pounds) worth of them!
By Joe Sandler Clarke
"Don't expect us to continue buying European products," Malaysia's former plantations minister Mah Siew Keong told reporters in January last year. His comments came just after he had accused the EU of "practising a form of crop apartheid."
A few months later Luhut Pandjaitan, an Indonesian government minister close to President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo, warned his country would retaliate if it was "cornered" by the EU.
By Luis Torres
For some people who live along the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump's attempt to declare a national emergency and extend the border wall is worse than a wasteful, unconstitutional stunt. It's an attack on their way of life that threatens to desecrate their loved ones' graves.
At least 150 people have died in a cyclone that devastated parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi over the weekend, The Associated Press reported Sunday. Cyclone Idai has affected more than 1.5 million people since it hit Mozambique's port city of Beira late Thursday, then traveled west to Zimbabwe and Malawi. Hundreds are still missing and tens of thousands are without access to roads or telephones.
"I think this is the biggest natural disaster Mozambique has ever faced. Everything is destroyed. Our priority now is to save human lives," Mozambique's Environment Minister Celso Correia said, as AFP reported.