You can spend thousands of dollars watching wolves in Yellowstone or $50 – $200 to get a much closer and scientific view of the new canine species that is replacing the wolf: the coywolf. And if you’ll have trouble getting to Cape Cod by dusk or dawn, you can even stay in the house of wildlife biologist Dr. Jon Way so he can take you out to see the animal he studies.
Way can take you along for field work when he’s using his radio collars to track the animals that are laregely taking on the role of predator across the east, where the wolf was wiped out. He describes his accomodations as “rustic casual:” you sleep in the basement and eat with his family. But the real attraction is the coywolf and Way, one of its strongest advocates. He is pushing to change the way the coywolf is classified and treated.
Some state wildlife agencies (in the mid-Atlantic) have been treating these coywolves, which are conspicuously larger than western coyotes, simply as an invasive species from the west. They appeared after the wolf was wiped out. Invasive (as opposed to native) means they don’t belong and were introduced by humans. The invasive designation means about the only management these new coyotes get is hunting by the federal government through its controversial Wildlife Services agency. Even in states where it’s not labeled invastive, there’s no bag limit and long hunting seasons–something Way wants to change.
“We should not be
Keep reading Meet the Coywolf, the New Canine Predator of North America
Ilya, the Florida manatee rescued from New York harbor two weeks ago, should be well enough to be released in the Florida Keys in about a month, says Dr. Maya Rodriguez, the veterinarian at the Miami Seaquarium, which supplied the picture of Ilya (left) swimming with his poolmate. “We expect him to get a clean medical mill in next couple weeks,” says Dr. Rodriguez. Identified by his mangled tail and white scar on his forehead, Ilya at least didn’t pick up any new distinguishing scars on his journey up to Cape Cod that perplexed marine biologists. Stuck in the cold water of New York harbor, Ilya initially suffered cold stress, which can shut down manatees’ long digestive track and immune system. He lost about 100 of his 1,200 pounds, had low blood sugar and was having trouble digesting, Dr. Rodriguez says. A video (below) of the event shows him getting wrapped in mylar survival blankets and getting spritzed with water to keep moist. Ilya is recuperating in a 82 degree saltwater pool at the Seaquarium with an orphaned, female, 18-month-old manatee picked up in the Everglades and named Glade. Normally Dr. Rodriguez would be reluctant to put such a big male in with her but Ilya has been very gentle. “He’s just a really docile manatee,” Dr. Rodriguez says. Ilya is unusual among manatees, which normally handle food just with their prehensible lips, because he grabs with his flippers. “He’s all flippers,” says Dr. Rodriguez. Ilya, who touches
Keep reading Ilya the Manatee Recovering, Impressing Ladies with His Sweetness
Ilya, the missing manatee, may be headed the wrong way–back up to New York City, instead of down south to Florida and the warm water he needs to survive. Someone saw what they thought was a manatee near Bayonne, NJ, but by the time rescuers came out, there was no animal, says Bob Schoelkopf, founding director of Brigantine’s Marine Mammal Stranding Center, which would rescue Ilya if they could just find and catch him.
FWC photo by Tom Reinert
Ilya, who is 16 and known for his missing tail chunk and a white scar on his head, befuddled scientists by swimming from his native Miami all the way up to Cape Cod this summer. Now he needs to get to waters at least 68 degrees–the Carolinas at this time of year–or he could die.
The last time anyone definitely saw Ilya was when he ate a crate of lettuce from biologists outside the Conoco Phillips refinery in Linden, NJ, last Friday. Then he disappeared into the dark, cold waters of the Arthur Kill, the 10-mile tidal estuary between New Jersey and Staten Island. If that was him near Bayonne, that puts him in the Kill Van Kull, a shorter passage that’s a few miles closer to the Statue of Liberty, Manhattan and the heavy traffic of the Port of Newark.
But rescuers are dubious it really was Ilya. It’s not so much that they think there’s a second manatee up here–though one did spend the summer in Raritan Bay.
Keep reading Ilya the Manatee May Be Going Wrong Way–Back to NYC
Ilya, the manatee that reappeared off Staten Island Thursday–way too far north for his safety–has gone missing again, thwarting any attempt to rescue him from the cold waters. Ilya ate a whole case of lettuce “and was last seen going back into the river,” says Chuck Underwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “This was late yesterday afternoon, and there’s been no sighting of the animal since then.”
Ilya, a 16-year-old manatee distinguished by his boat scars (a white one on his head and a missing chunk of tail), surprised biologists this summer by migrating all the way up to Cape Cod from his Florida home. Now he’s racing the cold weather–and seems to have been entranced by the false promise of warmth from the warm water run-off of an oil refinery in Elizabeth, NJ. The spot that he’s at is warm enough, says Underwood, but the rest of the Arthur Kill tidal estuary dips below his requisite 68 degrees. That means he should be in North Carolina by now, according to NOAA’s water temperature map. That’s about 200 miles, or three or four days manatee travel.
Biologists figured Ilya was safely headed to warmer waters after he wasn’t seen since an appearance in Milford, CT, on September 26. Then he showed up in a heavily industrial area. Underwood won’t say exactly where–but it’s guarded private property anyway.
The Brigantine Marine Mammal Stranding Station has plans to rescue him–if they can find him and catch
Keep reading Ilya the Travelling Manattee Missing Again
Ilya, the manatee who swam all the way up to Cape Cod from Florida this summer, may need to be rescued today from the stormy, cold waters off Elizabeth, NJ, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Chuck Underwood says. The endangered 1,000-pound manatee was positively identified yesterday from photos taken near a refinery in Elizabeth, a heavily industrial part of New York harbor near Staten Island.
For weeks biologists and manatee lovers wondered where Ilya was, hoping he was making it back down to Florida, where manatees need to spend the winter to keep warm enough. He was last seen in Milford, CT, on September 26. So, everyone figured–or at least hoped–that he would be down at least around the Carolinas by now.
Then yesterday, Underwood says, the Wildlife Service got a call: “We’ve got your manatee.” A quick consultation with U.S. Geological Survey NOAA, which keeps an elaborate database of 2,000-some manatees known by their boating scars, confirmed it was Ilya. His run in with boats have made him easy to ID: he has a big chunk taken out of his tail and a white scar on his head. Nicole Adimey, who runs the manatee rescue and rehabilitation program says that he still is relatively lucky for a manatee: he’s never before had to be brought in for treatment.
Right now the wildlife service is trying to keep Ilya in place at a private, undisclosed refinery while a Nor’easter storm blows through. He was attracted to the
Keep reading Biologists Try to Rescue Ilya the Manatee from Elizabeth, NJ
When I heard of biologists using manatees’ many boat scars to tell them apart, I pictured a fast CSI-like computer sorting flippers like fingerprints until, seconds later, MATCH flashed on the screen. Unfortunately, says wildlife biologist Cathy Beck, who runs the program for the U.S. Geological Survey, it’s a lot more slow and still requires a human to make a match. (Cops say the same thing about fingerprint matching, too.)
“Years ago we looked at various software,” she says. “It’s way out of the kind of budget we’d ever get.”
So the Geological Survey mantains a meticulous database of 2,200 known manatees known as the Manatee Photo Identification System (MIPS). Of those 300 are known to be dead. With a U.S. population roughly estimated at about 3,000 to 4,000, that could be half the population. But the facts about manatees and their populations are so uncertain that Beck doesn’t like to speculate.
Instead, she’s trying to make sure everything in the database is certain. So, she only allows in manatees that have at least two distinguishing features. There has to be pictures of each manatee’s tail, back and each side. In theory that could be done with just four pictures, she says “but that’s never happened.” And then the match has to be verified by two humans. Complicating the process, manatees are constantly aquiring new injuries and changing their appearance. “We need to keep up,” Beck says. “A new injury may obliterate an old feature.”
At least two
Keep reading Meet the Manatee Profiler
Manatee (not Ilya) in Titusville, FL,Courtesy of Dave’s Digits ArtWithRays.
The last time anyone saw Ilya the manatee on Sept. 25, he was hanging around the docks of Milford, CT, (the middle of the state’s coast) presumably headed towards New York City and then the warm water he needs in Florida. I got to write a fun story about Ilya for New York Magazine and to talk to a bunch of manatee rescuers, identifiers and caretakers along the way. Ilya may have already passed New York since Milford is only 60-some miles away. Manatees normally only swim about 3 mph–aside from short burst of up to 20 mph–and they sleep half the day. If Ilya turns out to be hanging out in New England still, he’s in trouble. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service might try to rescue him if he lingers. Last year they tried to save Dennis the manatee from Dennis, MA, by trucking him 27 hours to Florida in the back of a rental truck, surrounded by a heating blanket and medical care. He died, but Nicole Adimey, who runs the USFWS rescue program, says that he was in bad shape to start; they can truck manatees around the country. “They’re pretty resiilent animals, actually,” she says. They would’ve grabbed him sooner if he stayed in one place. Terry Clen, the Dennis harbor master, says Adimey instructed him to do what is normally forbidden with manatees: give him a hose to keep him happy and in
Keep reading Ilya the Manatee Last Seen Headed Towards New York City
New Englanders want to see sharks; that much is clear from the way they’ve crowded Chatham on Cape Cod in recent weeks, hoping for a glimpse of the sharks preying on the seal colony. There were enough sharks to close some beaches, but not really enough to make shark-watching successful. Few would-be shark tourists realize that New England is starting to have a thriving shark cage-diving industry, with three tour companies, one right on Nantucket.
Bryce Rohrer led shark cave dives off South Africa, the shark cage dive Capitol of the World, then realized he could start Nantucket Shark Divers closer to home. Rohrer grew up fishing in the area, but “that slowly evolved into ditching the fishing rod for a camera.” He knew there was enough sealife tantalizingly close to shore to make a good trip. “Not many people know sharks out there,” he says. “It’s a very attractive spot for people. The bottom line is there’s a ton of wildlife around there, lots of whales, sharks, dolphins–all the things people care about.”
This year he’s lead some free-diving tours–no cage, no airtanks–just a snorkel. He’s got a few warm, relatively shallow spots 10 to 40 miles off shore. Next year, he’ll also have a shark cage, which goes in the water behind the boat. He’ll let divers venture out of the cage at their own pace once they’re comfortable. He also has options for people like me, who can’t swim and are a little chicken; you
Keep reading Shark Cage Dives–Right in New England
Yesterday we reported on how the Great White Sharks that are closing beaches on Cape Cod are also drawing shark tourists. Today another seal boat captain tells us they’re looking in the wrong spot. Captain Keith Lincoln of Monomoy Island Ferry says that people are mistakenly hanging around Chatham Lighthouse since that’s where the shark was first sighted by kayakers a eating a seal in August. “That is all due to the misleading information given by the media,” says Captain Keith. “Massachusetts Department of Fisheries page shows all the taggings being done three miles south of the lighthouse near the area where South Beach and South Monomoy Island attached in 2006.”
Looking at the Fisheries map here, he’s totally right. Excellent tip, Captain Keith. (Though they do also show pictures of sharks offshore of the lighthouse.) He also warns that even if you’re in the right place, the odds of seeing a shark are pretty impossible. The tagging teams use spotters on planes and perches 35 feet out of the water.Captain Keith reports he’s “calls about seeing the sharks, which is nearly impossible to guarantee.” I think the seal tourists of Cape Cod have gotten spoiled; the tour boats can guarantee sightings because they’re dealing with the east coast’s biggest colony of gray seals, which is somewhere around 10,000. Normally wildlife watching is no sure thing.
Captain Keith, a 20-year veteran of the seal tours, says the sharks (and attendant media frenzy) come every year. “I think this year
Keep reading Cape Cod Shark Update: Look Further Up the Coast, Captain Says
When news got out that Chatham, MA’s, gray seal colony–the biggest on the east coast–was drawing sharks that closed beaches, a funny thing happened. Or didn’t happen. Instead of running away scared, more tourists came to this little town on Cape Cod’s elbow to see some sharks, hoping for a picture, or at least a glimpse.
“It’s a big draw,” says Lisa Franz, executive director of the Chatham Chamber of Commerce. “We have traffic jams… People are still walking in today and saying ‘Where can we see them?’”
Tony LaCasse, a former veteran Boston TV newsman, says years ago local TV news would’ve been filled with scared would-be swimmers. But that was before years of education that drilled home how very unlikely it is to be bitten, let alone eaten, by a great white shark in New England. (Last fatal attack: 1936) Now we get shark tourists. “It’s a long way from Jaws,” says LaCasse, where the premise was they couldn’t possibly close the beach on the Fourth of July.
The sharks are coming because the water is (briefly) warm and because the seal population has grown unchecked–well, that is, until the sharks showed up. Seal populations were kept artificially low for decades–maybe centuries. Until the 1960s, Massachusetts even paid a bounty for each seal (“a nickel a nose” in the early 1900s). Now seals are making a comeback. Cape has the biggest population on the American east coast, with roughly 10,000 (no one’s done a formal count since
Keep reading Sharks (& The East Coast’s Biggest Seal Colony) Draw Tourists