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Wyoming Wolves in Peril with Potential Removal of Federal Protection

Wyoming Wolves in Peril with Potential Removal of Federal Protection

Defenders of Wildlife

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a proposed rule Oct. 4 that would remove federal protections for endangered gray wolves in Wyoming. USFWS is moving forward with the delisting even though the state wolf management plan has yet to be approved by the Wyoming legislature. As currently written, the plan treats wolves as predators, allowing the animals to be killed at any time by any means across nearly 90 percent of the state, including on the public’s national forests where wildlife management is a core purpose. Wolves in the rest of the state could still be killed with a hunting license, and this licensed hunting area will expand seasonally to allow for dispersing wolves. Inside Yellowstone National Park, wolves will remain fully protected.

The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife:

“The Fish and Wildlife Service should not be removing protections for wolves in Wyoming under these circumstances. The proposed delisting rule effectively endorses a state management plan that permits unmanaged wolf killing across the vast majority of the state, and it only perpetuates the notion that wolves are unwanted predators.

“Our country has spent decades restoring these animals because they are vital to maintaining balanced ecosystems and a healthy environment. We can’t achieve full recovery by relegating wolves to one corner of the state. This plan does an extreme disservice to all the hard work that’s been done to bring wolves back from near extinction and could reverse the many benefits they bring to the landscape.

“What’s particularly disconcerting is that this plan will allow wolves to be needlessly killed in our national forests. Wolves are part of our national wildlife heritage and should not be shot on sight on public land that belongs to all Americans. We expect our nation’s wildlife agency to uphold our commitment to good stewardship of our lands and wildlife, not rubber-stamp an irresponsible wolf management plan for the sake of political expediency.”

Gray wolves across the northern Rockies were protected as an endangered species until this spring, when a rider attached to a must-pass budget bill stripped protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana. Wolves in Wyoming remained protected since the state did not have a federally approved state management plan in place. In recent months, the state of Wyoming and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) have agreed on the terms of a state management plan. DOI announced the principles of that agreement in early August, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved a state management plan based on those principles on Sept. 14. The Wyoming legislature must still approve the plan before it is finalized.

For more information, click here.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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