Population Ecology


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population ecology Bears Beware

In our world today many animals and plants are loosing their fight
against human intervention in their once well-balanced ecosystem.  We are all
aware of the extinction of the dinosaurs and the dodo birds, however most people
do not realize that annually thousands of species of our flora and fauna are
now becoming extinct.  This on going trend is increasingly threatening our
bio diversity and global ecology.  To give a specific example of animal depletion
I will focus on Canadian bears.  The following factors are responsible for
their decline. Hunting, loss of habitat, and just plain apathy on part of the
public to preserve the bio diversity of our land.
During 1994/95, a total
of 19,430 bear hunting licenses were issued to both residential and non-residential
people.  There were 3,790 so-called legal bear kills in BC alone.  It is estimated
that out of every one legally killed bear be it grizzly or black two are killed
illegally by poachers primarily just for their paws, head, gall bladder, and
reproductive organs.  These body parts are considered by Orientals to increase
strength and rejuvenate male potency. Given these facts 11,190 bears were killed
last year.  Biologist estimate that to keep the bear population at a balanced
figure only 4% should be allowed to be harvested annually. The current annual
harvest rate it is more like 8-12%.  In my opinion this is really outrageous.
We are watching it in front of our eyes and little is being done to prevent
it. We have already witnessed the rhinos, African elephants and the Siberian
tiger go through the same process and now they are on the brink of extinction.
Legal
hunting and poaching are similar in the sense that they both result in the
slaughter of animals be it bears or any creature.  Having depleted the animals
in their own countries, the rich flock here in the hundreds to go on big game
hunting expeditions and kill; anywhere from one to who knows how many bears.
I really don't understand what is going on with our government to allow this
to happen.  Soon grizzlies will be deemed endangered and when this happens
the price for their head will skyrocket and encourage further poaching.  
The
typical responses heard from hunters are:
"We are the top of the food chain";
"That's why they are here, to satisfy man",  "it don't hurt their numbers",
"Its just a bear".  Their ignorant attitude is very short sighted and self-indulgent.
In my opinion if we want these magnificent creatures to be here for us, our
children and their children we should not allow foreign game hunters to come
here and slaughter any animals. There should be imposed a greater  penalty
for poachers.  Fewer and much more expensive hunting licenses would help to
reduce the killing of the big game. There should be an increase in wildlife
officials.  
While hunting is a major factor in the decrease of bears, loss
of habitat is even a greater issue.  This is due primarily to the escalating
population and civilization's increasing encroachment.  An example of this
is clear cut logging and the building of roads through these animals' habitats.
A parallel to this encroachment into wilderness is if someone were to go through
your house everyday.  I personally couldn't cope with this.  
Biologists keep
trying to figure the dynamics of depleting animal population only to discover
that the major factor is man.  My reaction to this is that the more concerned
individuals must lobby the government to take a stand and say "enough" to logging
companies and land developers.
Why are people like this today?  They see something
wrong happening and they don't react to it unless it directly involves them.
Well here is reality. The bears and other wildlife are following the footsteps
of the once countless bison that roamed the prairies. While the majority of
society are either unaware or don't care. At present, the fate of our wild
creatures lies in the hand of small organizations like 'Bear Watch' and 'Western
Wildlife Committee' who are trying to stop the destruction.  They are putting
little dents into the hunting businesses and logging companies.  But this is
not enough.  Society waits until the last minute to react but its usually too
late.  It is just plain apathy on the part of man today to preserve the bio
diversity of our land.

It is not bears per say that I particularly have
a passion to save.  For the First Nations people the bear is a totem of strength,
endurance ... more

population ecology

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American alligator

Alligator mississippiensis is in the family Crocodylidae.  This family has existed since the upper Triassic period, but the modern family members appear in the fossil record as little as 80 million years ago.  There are three subfamilies, Alligatorinae, Crocodylinae, and Gavaialinae.  Some people also include a fourth subfamily, Tomistominae, which contains a single species, the False Gharial.  Alligatorinae includes the American and Chinese alligators and the caimans.  Crocodylinae includes the crocodiles. Gavaialinae contains the gharials (or gavials).  The alligators are unusually tolerant of cold and have been found frozen in ice at the most northern parts of their ranges (Beck).  
PROTECTION STATUS
All of the family Crocodylidae is endangered.  However, the American alligator has undergone a dramatic population resurgence because of human protection.  Restrictions are still in place on capturing alligators from the wild (Beck).  Studies have shown that using hormones such as norethindrone can be used to feminize alligator embryos at the male producing temperature (Lance, 79).  This could lead to a way to help alligators increase in numbers of both sexes as well as help other members of the family Crocodylidae.  Alligators are important ecologically and are dependent on the spatial and temporal patterns of water fluctuations.  Patterns of courtship, mating, nesting, and habitat use are all dependent on marsh water levels.  Alligators are a great study organism to study the adaptations and responses to the seasonal changes to the hydrological conditions in the everglades.  Alligators seem to be able to adjust the height of the nest egg cavity based on the spring water levels, which historically indicated the water levels later in the nesting season.  Water levels also determine the availability of food therefore affecting the patterns of growth and survival.  Alligators are most abundant in central sloughs, which is probably due to recommendations regarding managing hydrological conditions for alligators focused on maintaining alligators in central slough habitats (Mazzotti, 485).
PRIMARY HABITATS
The American alligator is one of the keystone species in the Florida everglades and other marsh systems.  It is the only large, abundant, widespread nonmarine carnivore left in the southeastern United States (Mazzotti, 485).  They are spread as far west as reserves in Texas, and their northern boundary is in South Carolina.
REPRODUCTION
The interesting thing about alligators is the temperature determination of sex.  At 29C all females will be produced.  At 32C all males are produced. Temperatures in-between will produce mixed sets of young.  The lower the temperature the less yolk there is for the young, there fore the young turns out smaller and female (Allsteadt, 76).  It would be the opposite for warmer temperatures.  The female alligator chooses the nest site, which in turn determines the sex of the young.  The sex of the young is determined in the first two-thirds of incubation.  During the final third of incubation the quality of the young is determined.  Snout length, carcass lean dry and lipid mass, and yolk sac lean dry and lipid mass are determined by the final third of the incubation period (Congdon, 497).  These characteristics could affect the vitality of the young in competition after they hatch.  In South Carolina growth rates of alligators were thought to be slower, but it seems that alligators reach sexual maturity at a later age and larger body size than alligators elsewhere.  It is assumed that the delayed breeding of alligators in South Carolina may be related more to social dominance than to growth rates.  It is essential that age and size relations need to be understood better if alligators are to be managed effectively (Wilkinson, 397).
FOOD HABITS
All alligators, caimans, gavials, and crocodiles are carnivorous.  In the wild, each depends upon a somewhat different selection of prey from its local fauna. For captive specimens, diet should vary with the size of the animal and the availability of prey.  Small captives will do well on small animals (e.g.. goldfish, insects, or mice.)  As the reptile grows, its diet should change from mice to rats to rabbits, chickens, and other suitable larger prey.  It's prudent to supplement meals with added calcium.
VULNERABILITY AND THREATS
Reptiles are susceptible to a variety of cutaneous and deep mycotic infections, however relatively few cases are reported in the American alligator. ... more

population ecology

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