USBLM study finds energy development and WEST NILE VIRUS pushing SAGE GROUSE to brink of extinction ~ CALIFORNIA confirms HANTAVIRUS in nine RODENTS captured in San Timoteo Canyon ~ RABIES reports from CA, IL, MN, NC, & VA ~ FOLLOW-UP REPORTS: Did a BLACK BEAR really rescue an elderly hiker from an attacking MOUNTAIN LION?

Sage Grouse. Courtesy U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Wyoming 04/03/12 by Jeremy Fugleberg – Sage grouse in northeastern Wyoming are on the verge of extinction, hammered hard by a one-two punch from energy development and outbreaks of West Nile virus, according to a recently released U.S. Bureau of Land Management study. The species, whose health is a barometer for the sagebrush-covered high plains where they live, are one virus outbreak or severe weather event from being killed off in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and southeastern Montana, the researchers said. “Our results suggest that if development continues, future viability of the already small sage grouse populations in northeast Wyoming will be compromised,” said the three University of Montana wildlife biologists who authored the study. They recommended a range of actions for the BLM, which manages most of the land in the area that has seen intensive energy development in the past decade, particularly as coalbed methane development ramped up in the early 2000s.

Coal mining in Wyoming.

According to an earlier study, the sage grouse population in the coalbed methane fields dropped by 82 percent between 2001 and 2005. The BLM should focus restoration efforts on areas around plugged and abandoned wells, removal of roads and open water from energy development, and additional monitoring and counting, the researchers said. The study and its recommendations were lauded by the Powder River Basin Resource Council, a landowners group that has long called for more protection of the sage grouse and more careful energy development in the area.

Sage Grouse. Photo by Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife.

In a statement, PRBRC board member Bob LeResche said the BLM ignored a “more measured and holistic approach” to development supported by the resource council at the start of the coalbed methane boom, and “now we are paying the price.” “We must not allow the oil and gas industry’s political muscle to continue to overwhelm science and the need for careful planning,” he said. “We must balance oil and gas development with other resources.” A BLM representative referred questions to a question-and-answer page released by the bureau alongside the report. According to the page, the BLM will move forward with the suggestions of the study’s authors, and consider the information as it mulls changes to the bureau’s Buffalo field office resource management plan, which covers the area.

The bureau will continue working with operators and landowners and federal and state agencies to restore sage grouse habitat in the area and work on mosquito control measures to reduce the risk of a West Nile virus outbreak, the BLM said. Will the BLM halt oil and gas development? No, the bureau said, answering its own question. The “BLM will continue to work with leaseholders and operators to address impacts to sage grouse and other resources,” the bureau said.- For complete article see

Deer mouse.

California 04/04/12 Hantavirus is making a return appearance. Riverside County health officials tested nine rodents captured in San Timoteo Canyon and found they were infected. There has never been a documented human case of hantavirus syndrome in Riverside County. But, 56 human cases were identified elsewhere in California since 1980. Thirty-seven were fatal. Droppings and urine from deer mice infected with the virus create tiny droplets that can be inhaled by people. As the disease progresses, the lungs fill with fluid creating respiratory failure.

California 04/03/12 Monterey County: Late in March a dog and a skunk both tested positive for rabies in separate incidents. See

Illinois 04/03/12 Moultrie County: Two people who were exposed to a bat that has tested positive for rabies are receiving post-exposure prophylaxis treatment. See

Minnesota 04/01/12 Minneapolis, Hennepin County: Health officials have issued a rabies alert after a bat found in the vicinity of 26th and 27th streets near Lake of the Isles tested positive for the virus. There is concern that people in the area, especially children, may have touched the bat. Parents are urged to discuss this with their children and seek medical advice if necessary. See

North Carolina 04/03/12 Ahoskie, Hertford County: Authorities are looking for a pack of wild dogs that has killed several pets in the vicinity of N.C. Rt. 42, and there is concern that one or more of the dogs might be infected with rabies. See

Virginia 04/02/12 Callands, Pittsylvania County: A raccoon captured in the vicinity of Maple Road has tested positive for rabies and  officials are concerned that it may have had direct contact with other animals in the area, including pets. See–ar-1812785/

Follow-Up Reports:

(March 30, 2012: CALIFORNIA man claims BEAR rescued him when MOUNTAIN LION attacked)

Author’s Note: Some officials, including several from California Fish & Game, dispute the veracity of Robert Biggs report that he was attacked by a mountain lion and rescued by a black bear. As no one other than Mr. Biggs is taking a firm position on whether or not this actually happened,  this blog is taking no position on the matter.


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