Monday, March 03, 2008

Thriving in America


European naturalists occassionally come over to the U.S. just to see animals that once existed on their side of the Atlantic, but are now extinct over there. For example:

  • Beaver existed in the UK until about 1200, but were then extirpated until very recently when a handful were reintroduced. In the U.S., however, there are so many beaver it is now illegal in most states to trap and move them; they must be killed where found rather than relocated.

  • Bear may have existed in the UK as late as Roman times, but probably disappeared around 500 AD. The bear population of the United States, however, is thriving and now numbers over 500,000 individuals, with the population continuing to rise by about 3% a year (a population doubling time of about 24 years).

  • The last wolf in England was reportedly killed in the 14th Century at Humphrey Head, Cumbria, but wolves survived in Scotland up until 1700 and in Ireland until 1760. The wolf is doing so well in the U.S. today that the Grey wolf was recently removed from the U.S. list of endangered and threatened species. There are about 2,500 Grey Wolves in Minnesota alone, and others in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Michigan, as well as "red" wolves in North Carolina. The red wolf is a naturally occuring hybrid between the gray wolf and the coyote. The coyote (once called the Plains Wolf) is doing so well that it is now found in every mainland state, and their numbers are expanding despite the fact that 500,000 animals a year are shot, trapped or poisoned.

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