Who would have thought old socks could drive a media storm? A call from participants in UC's Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project for donations of gently used socks for Pacific fisher research generated a flurry of response, and now the overwhelming public response resulted in a front-page story in the Sacramento Bee. The article also ran on the front page of the Fresno Bee.
Bee writer Matt Weiser reported that bulging padding envelopes and duct-taped boxes filled with socks trickled in at first. In time, boxes of socks from Girl Scout troops and elementary schools forced the researchers to wheel their mail from the post office in carts.
"We basically generated several truckloads," said UC Berkeley associate adjunct professor Rick Sweitzer. "It was incredible."
Sweitzer said Weiser had called him last week to ask about porcupines in California. Weiser said he and his wife had sent socks themselves last December. When he heard about the unexpected outpouring of socks, he turned his immediate attention to telling that story.
News about animals under study in distinct branches of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources were featured recently in the Merced Sun-Star. A female Pacific fisher being tracked in the Sierra Nevada by UC Berkeley scientists has established a den within Yosemite National Park, the paper reported. Meanwhile, UC Davis scientists are joining in research with Michigan State University to study the housing of egg-laying hens, another story said.
Researchers with the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Program Fisher Project track fishers, endangered members of the weasel family, using radio-telemetry. The Yosemite fisher was first captured in October 2009 in the Sierra National Forest and remained near the capture site for nearly a year. Recently, the fisher moved her kits to a den on the south side of Yosemite.
This is the first fisher that is part of the study to make a home within park boundaries.
In the chicken story, the newspaper reported that UC Davis and Michigan State received $6 million for the study from the Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a group made up mostly of egg producers, purchasers and universities with major agriculture programs.
The research will compare three approaches to chicken housing:
- Conventional cage housing, now used by most U.S. egg producers.
- Enriched cage housing, larger than conventional cages and equipped with perches, nesting areas and foraging/dust-bathing materials.
- Cage-free aviary, a non-cage system that enables hens to roam along a building's floor level and have access to perches and nest boxes.
"The information gained will be useful to all consumers as they make decisions about what kinds of eggs to buy," the story quoted Joy Mench, a UC Davis animal science professor and director of the Center for Animal Welfare.
Four Pacific fisher kits who were returned to the wild last week will be closely monitored by UC Berkeley wildlife biologists who are interested in knowing how the animals assimilate to the forest after being reared in captivity, according to the Fresno Bee.
The kits were rescued last May, when their mothers - part of a multi-year Pacific fisher study - were killed, one by a bobcat, the other by a car. UC Berkeley wildlife biologist Rick Sweitzer delivered the animals to the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, where they were nursed to health.
Zoo veterinarian Lewis Wright told Bee reporter Marc Benjamin that zoos are preferable to ordinary veterinary hospitals for weasel-like fishers because the wild animals are susceptible to dog and cat illnesses. The juvenile fishers were later pen reared near Bass Lake.
The fisher rescue and release became part of the seven-year Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project, in which fishers are fitted with radio transmitter collars and monitored to study their fate in a forest ecosystem subject to timber harvest and development.
Currently 23 fishers are monitored daily. Scientists surgically implanted transmitters in the four fishers released last week to eliminate the risk of losing their collars.
Five Pacific fisher orphans were featured on Fresno's KSEE Channel 24 news last Friday. The story includes great video of the five tiny, weasel-like animals now being cared for at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo.
The orphaned fishers were rescued by an Oakhurst-based UC Berkeley team that is studying the Pacific fisher population in the southern Sierra Nevada. The animals are the offspring of two fisher females that were part of the study. One was killed by a bobcat, the other hit by a car. Get all the rescue details in this UC news release.
Unfortunately, the Channel 24 story omitted the fact that researchers are looking for support from the community to care for the fishers so they can be returned to the wild. To make a contribution for milk replacement formula and supplies to build a temporary habitat, contact Anne Lombardo of UC Cooperative Extension at firstname.lastname@example.org, (559) 676-0576.
UC Berkeley wildlife ecology professor Reginald Barrett will present a 15-page letter to the California Fish and Game Commission at their meeting in Monterey tomorrow explaining that a new Department of Fish and Game report about the Pacific fisher misrepresents his input.
The Pacific fisher is a small, nocturnal carnivore that typically perches all day high in large, old-growth pine and oak trees. Related to the mink, otter and marten, fishers historically ranged throughout the mountainous West, from the southern Sierra into Canada. However, only two isolated populations remain today, one in the Sierra Nevada and one near the California-Oregon border.
The Department of Fish and Game submitted its Status Review of the Pacific Fisher in California to the Fish and Game Commission in February. The report concludes the fisher does not warrant protection under the California Endangered Species Act.
In his letter to the Commission, Barrett said he reviewed and commented on a DFG draft report that "is so different in content and tenor from the final (report) that I recommend you request a re-analysis by the panel of reviewers, as would normally be done when a manuscript is substantially modified."Barrett's letter was the basis of a Sacramento Bee story last week that said the new status report was altered by state officials to favor the logging industry.
In 2008, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Fish and Game Commission to list the Pacific fisher under the Endangered Species Act. After at first declining, the commission asked the Department of Fish and Game to prepare the report based on biological information, Barrett said.
"It is evident that more emphasis was placed on timber industry input via personal communications and unpublished industry reports than the scientific literature," Barrett wrote. "What I am concerned about is the fact that the Commission is being given a recommendation by DFG that has apparently gone beyond the expected biological, scientific information to include political and economic considerations."
Consideration of the DFG report is the third item on the commissioners' April 7 agenda. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. at the Best Western Beach Resort, 2600 Sand Dunes Drive, Monterey.