Glacier National Park is home to around 50 Canada lynx, more than expected, surprising scientists who recently conducted the first parkwide occupancy survey for the North American cat.
The Washington State University-led survey reveals the iconic predator resides across most of Glacier’s 1,600 square-mile landscape, although at lower densities than in the core of its range further north.
“The population in the park is still substantial and exceeded our expectations,” said Dan Thornton, WSU wildlife ecologist and senior author of the study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management. “Our results suggest the park could provide a much-needed climate refuge for the cats in the future.”
“Most surveys for lynx happen in the winter when you can use bait to lure the animals to live traps,” said Alissa Anderson, a recent WSU master’s graduate and first author on the study. “Glacier is sort of unique in the sense that it is a difficult place to survey in the wintertime. There aren’t really maintained roads and you can’t use snowmobiles. It is extremely difficult to access compared to other areas.”
A significant portion of Puget Sound shoreline will be permanently conserved, providing environmental research and education opportunities to the entire region, thanks to a new cooperative effort by Capitol Land Trust (CLT), Washington State University and affiliated groups, including the Squaxin Island Tribe.
As part of that effort, the land trust has purchased a permanent conservation easement on nearly 95 acres of land, known as Meyer’s Point Environmental Field Station, owned by WSU on the western shore of Henderson Inlet. The majority of the $1.6 million paid for the easement comes from grants from the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program and the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office.
The easement allows for the maintenance of WSU’s existing facilities, plus the development of up to 20 upland acres for teaching, research and outreach. The university is investing the revenue from the sale of the easement in an endowment to permanently support the research and teaching that occurs there.
Development of the rest of the property is limited by the conservation easement to maintain the wildlife habitat values.
“This new partnership will provide additional resources to further advance WSU’s vision of a teaching, research and outreach facility at the Meyer’s Point Environmental Field Station, where students and scientists can incorporate the extensive nearshore, wetland and upland forested habitats into outdoor learning and research projects,” said Stephen Bollens, director of the field station and WSU professor of biological and environmental sciences.
Attacks on humans by carnivorous animals have increased steadily since 1950, as growing human populations in new areas make such incidents more common, according to a study published last week. According to other experts, climate change may also be contributing to increased human-wildlife conflict.
The report, which includes 33 contributors, was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Biology. Spanning 70 years, the collected attack incidents were compiled from personal datasets, published literature and news reports.
Generally, wild animals try to avoid contact with humans, said a co-author of the study, Daniel Thornton, an assistant professor at Washington State University studying carnivore ecology and conservation.
“When animals are forced into close quarters, when there’s not enough habitat or you have these climate-driven changes that are pushing animals and people together, that’s when conflict is more likely,” Thornton said.
While many want to put the pandemic in the past, unfortunately, 2022 proved that COVID‑19 is very much still here.
Washington State University’s most widely covered research of the year involved the discovery of a virus, a type of cousin to SAR-CoV-2, in Russian bats that could possibly jump to humans. This study demonstrates the impact and importance of WSU’s leading infectious disease research that hopefully, can help prevent or minimize the next viral outbreak.
Much of the WSU research that had the broadest general interest reach this year also had to do with health and wellness, ranging from the benefits of exercise to a new potential autism test to finding clues to fight diabetes from hibernating bears.
Top coverage about CAS research includes articles about biologist Michael Skinner’s study of twins that links exercise to beneficial epigenetic changes, and other biological and environmental scientists’ work to learn which proteins enable bears to regulate insulin.