A vampire bat in Mexico. Photo by Luis Lecuna, USDA APHIS, International Services, Mexico.
All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. For APHIS, changes in environmental conditions will increase the likelihood of shifts in the distribution and nature of current domestic diseases, invasive species and agricultural pests. These changes will likely influence the dynamics of invasion and establishment of these diseases and pests, and therefore much of APHIS’ work. Understanding and adapting to these changes is therefore critical to meeting our mission.
Vampire bats rank high on the list of animals that scare us the most. Spooky Halloween tales of their blood-sucking, nocturnal, and secretive habits have likely led to their bad reputation. The fact that some also carry and spread the deadly rabies virus doesn’t help.
The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of Central and South American wildlife and livestock. They also sometimes bite and feed on the blood of people. Recently, vampire bats have been documented within 35 miles of the Texas border. This has caused concern and speculation about the potential movement of vampire bats to areas within the United States as a result of rising global temperatures. To gain a better understanding of the likelihood of such movement, USDA-APHIS geneticist Dr. Toni Piaggio with the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center partnered with U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Mark Hayes to analyze and map the potential distribution of vampire bats under various climate scenarios. Read more »
The new face of USDA/APHIS Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Jack Shere, is also a familiar one.
Dr. Jack Shere, a long-time employee of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), was recently named USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer leading APHIS’s Veterinary Services program.
Dr. Shere joined APHIS in 1990 and has held a variety of field and leadership positions – serving as the area commander during the exotic Newcastle disease outbreak in 2003 and spending many weeks in Iowa during the 2015 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak where he represented USDA and Secretary Vilsack. Dr. Shere also spent several years in private veterinary practice prior to joining APHIS. Read more »
Turkeys in Texas engaging in courting before laying eggs, which are increasingly at risk from feral swine. Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Spring brings new life to the fields and forests and wild turkeys are one of the most interesting spectacles this time of year. Male turkeys gobble and strut to attract the attention of hen turkeys. Hens, in turn, go off and lay their eggs- one egg each day until the clutch is complete and the hens then begin incubation.
Unfortunately, this spring more than ever, wild turkeys across the U.S. are facing an increasing threat from a new and rapidly expanding population of nest predators…feral swine. Feral swine, also known as wild pigs, feral hogs, and wild boars, are not native to North America and are the descendants of domestic swine which either escaped or were liberated. In some cases, feral swine are intentionally released to create new hunting opportunities. But these opportunities come at the expense of other wildlife, including ground nesting birds such as the wild turkey. Feral swine are highly adaptable and can learn to seek out turkey nests even before the hen starts incubation, consuming the eggs when left unprotected. When a partially completed clutch is depredated, the hen is forced to start over, depleting vital reserves within herself as well as risking lower nest success and chick survival. Read more »
Oriental fruit fly infestations can ruin more than 400 types of fruits and vegetables. Photo by Stephanie Gayle, USDA-ARS.
There’s a good reason why USDA and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) constantly monitor more than 56,000 fruit fly traps they have strategically placed across Florida. An outbreak of exotic fruit flies—one of the most destructive pests of fruit and vegetables—could threaten Florida’s powerhouse agricultural industry. By detecting these pests early and responding rapidly, USDA, FDACS, county officials, and growers can avoid large-scale agricultural losses and keep valuable export markets open.
In August 2015, some of those traps captured Oriental fruit flies (OFF) in Miami-Dade County.
The OFF attacks more than 430 different fruits, vegetables, and nuts, including avocado, mango, guava, papaya, and pitaya. All of these crops and more grow in the county, which is Florida’s top producer of tropical fruit, tropical vegetables, and ornamental nurseries. The county’s $1.6 billion agricultural industry supports 11,000 jobs. Read more »
Brown treesnakes, European starlings and feral swine are just a few of the invasive species whose damages are lessened by Wildlife Services activities. Photos by USDA.
This month USDA highlights some of the important partners that work with us to care for our land, air, water, and wildlife. The National Invasive Species Council is one such group.
When you hear the word “invasive,” most people automatically think of bugs and weeds. Unfortunately, invasives (or non-native pests) can also include wildlife, such as birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Read more »
USDA Wildlife Services research has led to the development of an aerial bait to control invasive brown tree snakes on Guam. The effort was awarded the Department of Defense’s 2015 Project of the Year Award for Resource Conservation and Climate Change.
This month USDA highlights some of the important partnerships that work with us to care for our land, air and water. The work stretches into areas and takes USDA employees to places you wouldn’t suspect.
For example, the damage wreaked by invasive brown tree snakes on Guam is hard to imagine.
Infestations of the snake have led to the loss of all but two of the twelve native forest birds on the island, millions of dollars in damages to the island’s electrical power grid, and physical injuries to residents from snake bites. Read more »