I dug this up from a project I did a few years ago, but wildlife factoids never go out of style. So go ahead and test your wildlife savvy with this wacky wildlife trivia. Some you probably know without breaking a sweat, but others might take you by surprise. (Answers are upside down in the green border at the bottom. You can click on the quiz to view it bigger.)
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Here’s some food for thought.
The mountain plover’s populations now range around 20,000 birds left in the world. Across the globe, a very different creature, the saiga antelope, only boasts about 40,000. One of these animals is globally listed as critically endangered, and one was found not qualified for federal endangered species status. Any guesses?
Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, after a review of the current scientific and commercial information found mountain plover not warranted for listing, citing threats to its habitat as less significant than previously thought.
Mountain plovers are a small ground-nesting bird that rely on short-grass prairies and shrub-steppe environments in the American West for breeding habitat. Land use and habitat loss have been a primary suspect in the disappearance of the plover, an animal so good at hiding, that science is just now starting to get a better idea of how many are left. Recent research shows that rather than being pushed out by agriculture, mountain plovers are actually using farmland as a refuge during nesting season.
I want to take this as good news, but with short-grass prairie and steppe disappearing, swallowed up by energy development and overgrazing, active cropland does not sound like the most stable of refuges for a bird of small numbers, stature and a master of camouflage. My hope is that not being listed will help avoid animosity of the animal by landowners, and perhaps even foster pride and care of the plover so that farmers will not have to contend with being the harbor of an endangered species.
How many of an animal is left is not necessarily determinant of whether a species should be protected. Many factors go into the decision. But one has to wonder, what makes a population of 20,000 birds so much more stable than 40,000 of another species?
For the dormouse, life can be hard. Raising the kids takes obscene amounts of energy. Anyone’s who’s ever tried to raise one knows these little guys are divas when it comes to feeding time. So dormice only breed when the acorns are good.
To the other extreme, they’re also on a lot of menus: owls, weasels, pine martens and both wild and domestic cats all like to eat them. The poor guy is even called the “edible dormouse.” Basically, a public life for the dormouse is nothing short of a way to punch the ticket. That’s enough stress to tucker anyone out. So how do these guys survive? By sleeping through 8 months of the year.
You can learn more new science about the dormouse from the new study by Professor Thomas Ruf firstname.lastname@example.org at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna or in the journal paper:
Survival rates in a small hibernator, the edible dormouse: a comparison across Europe by Karin Lebl, Claudia Bieber, Peter Adamík, Joanna Fietz, Pat Morris, Andrea Pilastro and Thomas Ruf at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0587.2010.06691.x/abstract