Alaska’s Wildlife: on the Verge of Extinction (Живая природа Штата Аляска на грани исчезновения)
Дата создания: 25.10.2001
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FAR-EASTEN STATE TRANSPORT
Foreign language department
“Alaska’s Wildlife: on the Verge of
“Alaska’s mountains rise like walls; four seas and unimaginable distances form a mighty moat; and a patchwork of national parks and wildlife refuges protects more than a third of the state. It’s a fortress for wildlife.”
Shielded from civilization, bears, wolves, moose, and caribou cast their huge shadows from coast to coast, and musk oxen travel the far north like refugees of the last ice age. Migratory birds flock river deltas each summer, and raptors prowl Alaskan skies year-round.
As with any fortress, wild Alaska’s perimeter is especially vulnerable. Tankers laden with oil from bays and coastal wetlands skirt the seaboard. Though now protected, endangered whales resist to rebuild their populations. Like sea lions and other marine mammals, they now must compete with massive trawlers—floating factories—for the sea’s falling harvest.
In this research paper I would like to investigate extinction problem. Many facts I have found show that this problem is very urgent. I am not sure that everybody understands it but if more people realize this many problems will be solved.
Wildlife can be found everywhere in Alaska, from cities where moose, bears and wolves roam to more than 18 million acres designated by Congress as wilderness areas as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. However, most refuges in Alaska require travel via air transport, making them difficult and expensive to reach.
Many species in Alaska such as black and brown bears, wolves, moose and many others are on the verge of Extinction. They are interesting in their own way. So, let’s learn about them more than we do.
Black bears are usually smaller than brown bears. They can look alike, but there are several ways you can tell the bears apart. Black bears don't have a shoulder hump like brown bears. Black bears also have a straight face, compared to the brown bear's bowl-shaped face. Their paws are different too. Black bears' claws are short and curved and brown bears have longer, straighter claws. Black bears have been known to live in every state, except Hawaii. They can be found in most forested areas in Alaska.
Like brown bears, black bears hibernate in the winter. They start hibernating in the fall and come out of their dens in the spring. Their dens are found in hollow trees or rocks. They also build dens on the ground. A person may walk right over a bear den and not even know it, unless the bear wakes up, of course.
Moose like bears can be brown or black but they have longer legs and larger body than bears do. Alaska is full of moose. In Anchorage, you have a good chance of spotting a moose on the Coastal Trail or in Kincaid Park early in the morning or just before sunset. Moose like to roam along roads and highways that are close to rivers and ponds. They also take walks through the city and neighborhoods.
Musk oxen look huger than bears and moose. They are large animals with humped shoulders and dark brown shaggy fur that is so long it almost drags on the ground. A light brown patch of fur is on their back. Their legs are also light brown. Musk oxen have horns that look like big curls on the sides of their head. During the winter, they use their hooves to dig through the snow for grass to eat, but they try to stay in areas where the snow has blown away.
The fur on a musk ox helps it survive the cold and windy winters on the arctic tundra. Under their brown shaggy fur is another layer of soft brownish fur that keeps them warm. Musk oxen have so much fur that if you were to shave it all off, they would only be the size of a small cow.
If we move from the forest to the beaches we will see walruses. They are big and they eat a lot. Some can weigh up to two tons. They eat hundreds of pounds of clams, mussels, snails and sea worms almost every day. Using tiny whiskers on their face, they feel around for food on the bottom of the sea. When they find a clam, they use their lips to suck the meat out of the shell.
Walruses change color when they go in and out of the water. On land, they are reddish-brown and when they swim, their skin turns pink or white. Their skin is so tough and thick that only killer whales and polar bears can chew through it.
The polar bears are the world’s largest land carnivore. The bears can weigh more than 1,000 pounds. These “sea bears” are excellent swimmers. They use their front feet to dog paddle and their back legs to steer. But the walrus is faster so can kill a polar bear by swimming under it and stabbing the bear with his long ivory tusks.
Other sea species that you can see in Alaska are sea otters. They’ve been nicknamed “Old Man of the Sea” comes from the silver hairs and whitish-silvery head of older otters. The underfur is brown, dark brown or black; pale brown or silver guard hairs.
Puffin’s nickname “Parrots of the Sea” because of their brightly colored beaks. But these birds aren’t always colorful. At the end of breeding season, their black feathers turn brown and their white face patches become dark, almost turning black.
So, it must be very interesting to know how species are breeding. First of all, males should attract female’s attention. For example, male walruses sing love songs to female walruses underwater. The songs sound like church bells. They also grunt and snort, and they stink like pigs.
What is happing after that? As for puffins, both of parents incubate the single egg for 42 to 47 days. After it hatches, the chick stays in the nest for another 45 to 55 days, until it can fly.
This is the variety of Alaska’s wildlife. Many species are so beautiful but everything can’t be so good in our life. There is one “little” problem: EXTINCTION!
“Since life began on this planet, countless creatures have come and gone - rendered extinct by naturally changing physical and biological conditions.”
The State of Alaska is frightened of extinction. More than 1,000 wolves killed every year. Not a single wolf pack is protected from hunting and trapping throughout its entire variety in Alaska. Trapping within and outside of the park, cruelly impacts Denali National Park wolves, the longest studied and most widely viewed in the world. Trappers killed Denali’s Savage River pack, and the last remaining female of the Headquarters’ pack. Nearly 12,000 grizzly bears were killed in Alaska in the past 10 years. Alaska hunters kill about 22,000 caribou every year.
Sea otters were nearly extinct due to heavy commercial harvests until the Fur Seal Treaty of 1911 gave them full protection. An estimated 2,000 sea otters existed then, compared to as many as 160,000 by the mid-1970s. Alaska Natives may still hunt sea otters, which they use for food and other purposes.
Moose meat is also a popular food among Alaskans. Between 6,000 and 8,000 moose are hunted every year. That’s 3.5 million pounds of meat. Some of meat from the moose that are hit and killed on highways is used to feed the hungry.
Puffin populations are abundant in Alaska, but they are declining in the Lower 48. Oil pollution and fishery conflicts are to blame for their decreasing numbers. Alaska Natives used to hunt the birds for food and clothing, making parkas out of puffin skins. Today federal and state laws protect their nesting colonies.
The State does not have accurate population figures for wolves, bears, lynx, fox and other species – yet thousands are legally killed each year. It is legal to hunt and trap on most National Park lands in Alaska. Though wildlife viewers represent over 80% of Alaskan’s, the Alaska Board of Game (Alaska wildlife-policy decision makers) consists entirely of hunters and trappers. Less than 3% of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s budget is devoted to wildlife viewing.
Wolves Legally/Reported Killed
Every year the population of wolves decreases. According to the table many poachers kill more and more wolves from year to year. The problem of killing wolves makes the government pay attention to the critical situation in Alaska.
The problem of extinction worries Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center. This center was created for helping animals, birds and mammals that can’t fight for surviving.
Last year Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center received moose, deer, black and grizzly bears, owls, bison musk ox and a variety of game are birds to care for. Big Game Alaska is entirely self-supported and relies on customer support to continue its mission of wildlife rehabilitation.
The original members of Big Game's bison family were abandoned calves that had to be bottle-fed. The largest, named Big Boy now weighs more than 1 ton.
Bison are gregarious and live in herds whose range includes grasslands and open woodlands. They have poor eyesight and depend on their sense of hearing and smell.
Big Game Alaska has cared for and stabilized a large number of moose, the largest member of the deer family. Mattie, a 5-year-old cow moose was brought to Big Game when she was less than 5-days-old. Stray dogs in Palmer, Alaska, killed her mother. Mattie has starred in more than 10 commercials and loves to eat bananas. Seymour, a 4-year-old bull, was brought to Big Game when he was 1-year-old and faltering due to malnutrition.
Black-tailed deer are often orphaned in areas where there is active logging and the deer are run over by trucks. Big Game has rehabilitated deer from the outermost tip of Southeast Alaska, as well as deer from the Prince William Sound area. These tiny fawns usually weigh less than 5 pounds when they arrive at the wildlife center.
Black-tailed deer are smaller than their southern cousins. The antlers are similar to the mule deer, forking rather than all points coming from a single main beam. The black-tail deer is rarely found on the mainland of Alaska, preferring the islands of Alaska's coastal rain forests.
Caribou are rarely orphaned because another member of the herd will usually care for any calves who lose their mother. A number of Big Game's caribou were rescued from islands that were overpopulated and could not sustain healthy animals. To prevent starvation some animals were removed and Big Game shared in the rescue effort.
The Musk Oxen is a member of the goat family. It is an arctic survivor with a thick coat consisting of long (up to 36 inches) guard hairs covering a dense winter coat of harvestable warm fur called Qiviut. Qiviut is considered to be one of the warmest material in the world.
The two male musk oxen at Big Game Alaska are part of a research program in conjunction with the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The under wool is combed out in May and Qiviut products are sold in the gift shop.
Musk ox populations have been drastically reduced in recent years. Hunted to extinction in Alaska in 1865 and successfully reintroduced with a small herd from Greenland in the 1930s.
Alaska is often called the last frontier and with good reason, it contains some of the most remote and unexplored wilderness areas left in the world today. Alaska has always seemed to draw those looking for adventure and the Wildlife and Nature lovers. Alaska is made up of many diverse ecological regions and each has it's own special features that makes it a unique place.
The Wildlife of Alaska is to me though, the most remarkable thing about "The Great Land", Seeing Eagle, Bear, Caribou and Moose on a daily basis never gets old, it just amazes! But we shouldn’t forget that the beauty of Alaska isn’t eternal. If we want to show our children where we lived we should take care of animals, birds and mammals. The problem of extinction isn’t related to Alaska only. In our country this problem exists too.
And in conclusion all of us should always remember the wise advice of a great English writer John Galsworthy who said: “If you don’t think about the future you will not have it.”
Robert B.Weeden. Alaska. Promises to keep. – Boston, 1978.