Animals/Wildlife

Joe Lewandowski / Colorado Parks and Wildlife

For the first time, pronghorn hunting will be allowed in the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area north of Fort Collins. Six doe pronghorn permits will be offered by lottery until the end of February. Officials estimate there are over 3,000 pronghorn in the area.

“It’s indicative of a pronghorn population that’s quite a bit over what they [Colorado Department of Wildlife] would like to see in that area, so they are trying to find ways to reduce the pronghorn herd,” said Red Mountain District Manager Travis Rollins. “They have been getting a lot of complains from ranchers and local farmers in that area with crop damage and a variety of things.”

Courtesy Bur-Wall Registered Holsteins

Once a generation, a diva is crowned. She earns a reputation for being independent, polished, fearless and of limitless talent, unreachable by us normal folk. After years of climbing the ladder, she claims her title.

Holsteins of the world have their new queen, and her name is Gigi.

A 9-year-old cow, who spends her days grazing at Bur-Wall Holsteins in Brooklyn, Wisconsin, Gigi has broken a U.S. record for milk production, churning out 74,650 pounds of milk in a 365-day period. The average American Holstein produces 24,953 pounds of milk in a given year.

Paul Cryan / U.S. Geological Survey

How do bats die? Over time, the answer to that question has changed.

They used to die by accident. Or by getting eaten. Perhaps they got caught in a natural disaster like a fire or flood. Many were intentionally killed by humans, who feared them for a variety of reasons. Nowadays, the ways bats die has changed. 

Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Some native fish in the Colorado River and its tributaries are struggling to stay afloat. Invasive species, dams and water diversions all complicate the recovery of endangered fish. One long-standing program is part of a multistate effort to save four species of fish native to the Colorado River Basin: humpback chub, Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and bonytail.

It all started in 1988 when the federal government signed an agreement with Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, establishing what's called the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

A kind of salmon that's been genetically modified so that it grows faster may be on the way to a supermarket near you. The Food and Drug Administration approved the fish on Thursday — a decision that environmental and food-safety groups are vowing to fight.

Wikimedia Commons

In 1999, West Nile virus snuck into the United States. Like many border-crossing diseases, the virus wreaked more havoc in its new home, where those it infected hadn't developed immunity. While the virus infects humans, and can be fatal, it was deadliest in a different population: North American birds.

When the virus first appeared, Luke George, a researcher at Colorado State University who studies birds, said there were reports of dead birds. Lots of them.

"That was how people knew it had showed up in North America is they were seeing lots of dead crows and jays, especially in suburban areas."

George and other scientists knew West Nile killed other birds too, but many thought after an initial die-off most populations recovered. No one really knew the true effect on North American birds, until George and some other researchers decided to take a closer look.

courtesy Colorado State University

It's a windy morning in early June, and Colorado State University researcher Jennifer Barfield is peering anxiously at a herd of bison. One is trying, really hard, to have a baby. Its her first birth, and the mama bison keeps laying down, then standing up, trying to get the calf out of her body.

Barfield takes another look at the mama, who is penned in with a small herd of other bison at the CSU Foothills Campus.

"The feet of the baby are sticking out about 3-4 inches, and she's pushing which is a good sign," she notes. Barfield's normally-smiling face is furrowed with anxiety though; the birth, which usually takes less than an hour, is moving too slowly. Today, she knows, is more than just a birth. It's the culmination of years of work.

Something unusual is happening in America's wilderness — some animals and plants are moving away from their native habitats. The reason is a warming climate. It's getting too hot where they live.

Species that can't migrate may perish, so some biologists say we need to move them. But they admit that's a roll of the dice that violates a basic rule of conservation: If you want to keep the natural world "natural," you don't want to move plants and animals around willy-nilly.

Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

On a chilly morning outside Colorado Springs, Erin Siepker is learning to shoot clay pigeons.

“Pull,” Siepker says.

The target springs from a trap. Siepker aims, then misses, muttering, “Oh, shoot. I messed that one up, didn’t I?”

Siepker is part of a group of about 15 women who gave up half their day to attend a Ladies Cast and Blast event at the Pikes Peak Gun Club. The free, women-only training is offered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Bente Birkeland / RMCR

The U.S. Department of Interior decided Tuesday that the greater sage grouse does not need protection under the Endangered Species Act. The bird spans 11 western states including Colorado, where it lives in pockets along the western slope, but is mostly concentrated in the northwest part of the state.

Gov. John Hickenlooper was one of the many people working to avoid a federal listing for the bird. While the sage grouse decision is a win for the governor, a few other initiatives – and longtime battles in Colorado – still need his attention.

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