Carnivore Mystery: Why Fishers Thrive in East, Not West

Zoologists Scott LaPoint and Roland Kays weigh a weasel-like fisher in the wild.

Zoologists Scott LaPoint and Roland Kays weigh a weasel-like fisher in the wild. Fishers, which weigh 4 to 12 pounds, are fierce predators.

For weasel-like fishers it’s a good time to live in the East.  The fierce little carnivores are reclaiming historic habitats, including the Bronx, New York.  But it’s a different story for fishers in the West, which haven’t been as successful in repopulating areas they once roamed in the Pacific and Northwest.

Dr. Roland Kays in the College of Natural Resources at NC State University is part of a team investigating reasons for the regional differences and devising strategies for successful reintroduction.

This National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society funded research has been published online in Animal Conservation.

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Why We Should be Worried About the Rapid Growth in Global Households

dense urban housing
Demographers are not as worried today as they were several decades ago about the prospect of a “population bomb,” a scenario where so many people come to populate the planet that we exhaust its resources.  Population growth has slowed in many parts of the world.  And in much of North America, Europe, China, and Brazil, fertility rates are so low that local populations are on pace to decline.

These trends, however, don’t cover the whole story of human impact on the environment.  The growth in the number of humans on earth may be slowing. But something very different is happening in the growth of human households.

A “household explosion” long underway in developed countries is now rapidly accelerating around the world.

Researchers Mason Bradbury, M. Nils Peterson* , and Jianguo Liu identify some hidden but seismic shifts on this front in a new paper in the journal Population and Environment.  For years – in some countries, centuries – the average household has been shrinking in size.  As a result, the total number of global households is growing much faster than the growth of the world population itself.

Why does this matter?  In the U.S. and Europe, the average household included about five people in the late 1800s. Now it has more like 2.5.  That means the same number of people today live in twice as many homes, requiring twice as many resources to build and furnish them, to heat and cool them, to pave roads to their front doors.

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An excerpt from The AtlanticCities  – February 14, 2014
Article author – Staff Writer Emily Badger


* Dr. M. Nils PetersonDr. M. Nils Peterson is a professor in the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology Program in the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University.


Increase in Human-Alligator Encounters Spurs Student Research

captured alligatorIt’s becoming more and more common these days to run into an alligator, whether near your home, in the park, or somewhere else. Now wildlife researchers in Raleigh are interested in finding out why.

Lindsay Garner - graduate studentNorth Carolina State University student Lindsey Garner spent this summer and last summer counting alligators in the swamps, rivers, and marshes of eastern North Carolina so researchers can estimate the state’s current alligator population.

Garner’s research will inform alligator management planning by the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission. She is a graduate student in NC State’s College of Natural Resources.

See the complete story on WNCT9>> 

Rainforest Life: Food Versus Fear

An Agouti

An agouti ventures outside its burrow in Panama at night, when predators are out. Photo courtesy of Roland Kays.

For a rainforest animal like the agouti, life revolves around the tension between food and fear. While foraging for seeds from the black palm tree, the rabbit-sized rodent has to avoid hungry ocelots.

Living in an area where food is scarce greatly increases an agouti’s willingness to venture out of its burrow between sunset and sunrise, when the danger of being eaten by a nocturnal ocelot is four times greater, says Roland Kays, zoologist with NC State’s College of Natural Resources and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

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Just ask the animals!

Using animal tracking data to better predict animals’ use of natural movement corridors through urban lansdcapes.

weasel-like fisher

Using GPS transmitters and cameras, Scott LaPoint documented the movements of fishers. Photo: © Roland Kays, NC State University

A new study, published this week by Dr. Roland Kays, a professor in CNR and director of the Biodiversity Lab at the NC Museum of Sciences with colleagues from Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, used small GPS devices to track the weasel-like fisher through suburban Albany, NY.

The study found that fishers will use movement corridors outside of their usual habitat preferences, and make use of culverts to cross roads.

The report, “Animal Behavior, Cost-based Corridor Models, and Real Corridors,” appeared in the October issue of Landscape Ecology –

Learn more about what they discovered and see videos @