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March 3: World Wildlife Day

Nifa Author
Lori Tyler Gula, Senior Public Affairs Specialist

There are more 1,300 endangered or threatened species in the United States today, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Endangered species are those plants and animals that have become so rare they are in danger of becoming extinct.

Endangered species are those plants and animals that have become so rare they are in danger of becoming extinct. Threatened species are plants and animals that are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. On World Wildlife Day, learn about some of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded research at Land-grant Universities that aims to conserve endangered and threatened wildlife species.

Establishing Monarch Butterfly Habitat Near Crops May Help Stem Decline

Establishing habitat in the agriculturally dominated north central United States is key to reversing the decline of the monarch butterfly, under consideration for listing as a threatened or endangered species. However, there are long-standing concerns that, rather than enhancing recovery, habitat patches near crop fields could function as ecological traps that increase mortality, due to insecticide exposure.
To better understand the risks and benefits to monarch populations from establishing habitat near crop fields, Iowa State University researchers conducted an in-depth investigation using a variety of approaches and data from field and lab studies, looking at the potential impacts of insecticide exposures to the insects in four different habitat establishment scenarios.

The team’s findings suggested that overall, the benefits of establishing additional habitat near crop fields in the monarch’s prime summer breeding grounds of the agriculturally dominated north central United States likely outweigh the risks to monarch population growth, especially if Integrated Pest Management practices are used that tailor insecticide applications to economically significant pest pressure.
Researchers Working to Manage Spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in Wyoming Elk

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a serious threat to the wildlife population health of elk, deer and moose in Wyoming and other states. It now exists in both captive and free-range members of the deer family, in at least 26 states and three Canadian provinces. This disease causes weight loss, behavioral changes and nearly 100% mortality.
Previous studies indicate some elk have genetic mutations in the prion protein gene that correlate to slower disease progression and potentially lower susceptibility. However, data on prevalence and causes, including genetic factors, have been seriously lacking.

University of Wyoming researchers are working with the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish to test elk samples collected at hunter check stations for the presence of the CWD prion. Positive samples are then gene sequenced. Genetic data and epidemiologic analyses from this study benefit will wildlife and natural resource stakeholders, including the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish, by providing data and observations necessary to develop predictive models and plan measures to prevent and manage the spread and devastation caused by CWD in elk populations.


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