Conserve Wildlife Blog

June 28th, 2016

Shark & Ray Conservation Week (Part 3 of a 6-part series – the Sand Tiger Shark)

This story marks the third of six blog stories spotlighting New Jersey’s shark species.


THE SAND TIGER SHARK: PREDATORS EVEN BEFORE THEY’RE BORN

By Michael Davenport, Wildlife Biologist & GIS Manager

Sand tiger sharks look ferocious. With a mouth agape with rows of outward-pointing needle-sharp teeth, they are often regarded as deadly man-eaters. However, their appearance doesn’t tell the whole story. Although they have been known to attack humans, they are not man-eaters. Those needle-sharp pointed teeth are very poor tools for cutting through mammal flesh (unlike the great white’s serrated triangular teeth which are perfect for cutting through mammal flesh). Sand tigers are primarily fish eaters and attacks on humans are often made either when the shark is approached to closely or if a diver happens to be spear fishing and the shark is attempting to catch the speared fish.

A sand tiger shark. Photo courtesy of Gerald Walters & Jenkinson's Aquarium.

A sand tiger shark. Photo courtesy of Gerald Walters & Jenkinson’s Aquarium.

Sand tigers are very ferocious when it comes to eating fish. So ferocious, in fact, that they are known to feed on their siblings even before they are born. Sand tigers give birth to live young. The mother sand tiger has two uterine sections within her body in which up to 50 young sand tigers will develop. As they grow, the larger, stronger sand tiger pups will nourish themselves by feeding on the others. Eventually, only the two young will then be born, already born killers.

To learn more about this shark species which occurs in New Jersey waters, visit our Field Guide page.


 

June 27th, 2016

Emergence of Clinging Jellyfish in New Jersey’s Coastal Waters

Invasive Species reported in the Shrewsbury and Manasquan Rivers along with Barnegat Bay

by Corrine Henn, Program Coordinator

Clinging Jellyfish photo by Dann Blackwood, U.S. Geologoical Survey, Woods Hole

Clinging Jellyfish photo by Dann Blackwood, U.S. Geologoical Survey, Woods Hole

The presence of the clinging jellyfish off the New Jersey coast has been stirring up quite the commotion lately. Dr. Bologna, a biologist and ecologist at Montclair State University, confirmed the identity of the Gonionemus vertens. Distinguished from other species by the distinctive red, orange or violet X-like marking on their pad, Gonionemus vertens is often no larger than the size of a dime.

 

An invasive species from the Pacific Ocean, there have been reported sightings of the introduced jellyfish in Southern California, Massachusetts, Europe and the Mediterranean Sea for the greater part of the last 100 years.

 

This relatively small species was given the nickname due its ability to, quite literally, cling onto eelgrass and other shallow-water flora when at rest using the pads on their tentacles. Typically harmless, this unique trait keeps the jellyfish away from the sandy beaches of the New Jersey shore, preferring calmer, quieter back bays and rivers.

 

Sightings to date have been reported in the Shrewsbury and Manasquan Rivers along with Barnegat Bay, but the reach of their presence has yet to be determined. Biologists are working diligently to confirm the status of the jellyfish by trawling a number of New Jersey waters over the next 30 days. They also hope to gather vital information regarding their life cycle, including where the polyps are settling.

 

Although the arrival of the Gonionemus vertens should not be ignored, it’s important to keep in mind beachgoers are unlikely to encounter the species. However, if you or someone you know has been stung, there are a number of steps that can be taken for preventative care:

  • Wearing gloves, white vinegar may be used to remove any remaining tentacles.
  • Rinse the area with salt water.
  • Apply a hot compress to the area.
  • Contact your doctor, or seek immediate medical assistance if necessary.

 

Learn More:

 

Corrine Henn is a Program Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

June 27th, 2016

“For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest: First Place Winners

CONGRATULATIONS, FRANCESCA BUCHALSKI AND BILL DALTON!

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Earlier in 2016, Conserve Wildlife Foundation launched the “For the Love of Wildlife” Photo Contest. Our photography contest was meant to showcase the love for and need to protect the endangered and threatened wildlife that call New Jersey home. We encouraged youth and adult photographers across the Garden State to submit photographs in the following categories:

  • New Jersey’s Rarest Residents: Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern Wildlife Species Only
  • The Garden State: New Jersey Landscapes
  • Experiencing Nature: People Enjoying the Outdoors
  • Wild New Jersey: All Animals in the Garden State

We were blown away by the amount of submissions we received! Over 1,470 entries were counted! New Jersey wildlife photographers, CWF board members and staff poured over the entries to choose our winners. Today, we are thrilled to announce both first place winners.


First Place: Francesca Buchalski
Allentown, New Jersey
Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis on Lens

Praying Mantis on Lens, youth first place winner Francesca Buchalski

Francesca was so happy to have won our contest! She shared more about the image and her passion for photography with CWF: “I took that photo at the Cape May Meadow during last year’s fall hawk migration festival. My mom and I are avid birders, and we love going to the migrations in Cape May! We were bringing up the rear on a guided walk, and just as we started walking down the path through the reeds, I heard ‘Wows!’ and ‘Cools!’ up ahead. As we caught up, we saw that everyone was looking at a praying mantis perched on a man’s telephoto lens! I had my camera with me to photograph birds, but that was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed! I thought it was pretty interesting and ironic that the man couldn’t photograph the praying mantis, even though it was on his camera (he couldn’t stop laughing), and it posed there for a long time. It was a great way to start the walk!

 

“I’ve only been photographing wildlife for about 3 years, just for fun. I started off by taking pictures of the birds that came to our feeders, and now I bring my camera on all of my birding adventures. As for my favorite New Jersey species…that’s a tough one! I think I would have to go with the osprey; they’re so charismatic in their coloring, hunting habits, and cool ‘opposable’ talon. I also really enjoy how easy it is to observe them by boat; whenever I think about the wetlands or the back bays of New Jersey, I automatically think ‘osprey.’ They also have such a great comeback story, its almost impossible not to love them!

 

“A close second would be the horseshoe crab; I find it simply incredible that they have remained unchanged for millions of years, and that so many migrating shorebirds depend on them. And who can forget their incredible immune system and blue blood! I also love how you can learn about and help horseshoe crabs by participating in hands on counting, tagging, and flipping walks (my mom and I have done some of those, and they’re such great experiences!)

 

“New Jersey has such an amazing array of wildlife, and sadly, so many people miss it amid all of the big cities; big thanks to everyone at Conserve Wildlife [Foundation] for helping to promote New Jersey’s wildlife and keep them around for years to come!”


First Place: Bill Dalton
Interlaken, New Jersey
Black Skimmer

Sky Skimmer Bill Dalton

Sky Skimmer, adult first place winner Bill Dalton

Bill was so pleased to have won our contest. He said he is “truly honored to have [his] ‘Sky Skimmer’ photo selected as the grand prize winner from such a prestigious organization.”

 

Bill explained to CWF, “I once read that a photographer’s definition of luck is: Preparedness over opportunity = LUCK! That was certainly the case when I photographed the skimmers at Forsythe on a early spring morning. On a previous visit, I saw a mature peregrine falcon perched at sunrise not far from the observation tower. I returned a day or two later with the proper equipment for low light, high speed photography, with hopes to get early light shots of the peregrine. The falcon was there but I noticed 6 to 10 black skimmers feeding about 50 yards from my location. The light from the predawn sky and clouds reflected perfectly on the windless water’s surface. I took about 50 shots but one shot caught the skimmer in exactly the right position. The line between sky and water vanished! The camera should get all the credit, I just pushed a button! I’ve been a nature photographer (hobby) for decades. My first camera back in the 70’s was a Minolta SRT 101. Boy has photography come a long way since the days of only film!

 

“I love to kid people by telling them I’m an endangered species. By that, I mean, I was born and raised in Monmouth County. One of the most important goals in [CWF]’s mission statement is, ‘educating everyone who lives in New Jersey about our shared wild heritage and our shared responsibility to protect it.’ We’ve come a long way in accomplishing those goals but so much more has to be done.

 

“I must admit being a born and raised Jersey Shore boy that my favorite species is the osprey. I vividly remember back in the 1950’s asking my dad while driving down a shore road in Monmouth County, why the power company men were knocking down bird’s nests that were atop of the poles! Those nests were ospreys and the nests on the poles were considered a nuisance! Years later I am proud to have been partly responsible for one of the first osprey nesting programs in Monmouth County. I convinced the company I worked for to enter into an agreement with the NJDEP to relocate a nest from the Keansburg pier to our location in Union Beach. At that time ospreys were on the threatened and endangered species list.

 

“The transfer of the nest was successful and at that time (1987) it was the most northern osprey nest in Monmouth County. Now I see nests in dozens of locations throughout the county! The osprey is truly an example (along with many other species) on how educating the public about our wildlife heritage worked!

 

“My work has been wildly published over the years including leading magazines, books and educational publications. National Geographic has published my work several times, most recently in their book, ‘Sublime Nature: Photographs That Awe and Inspire.’ Once again, thanks to the judges and staff of the Foundation for this wonderful award.”


Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

June 27th, 2016

Shark & Ray Conservation Week (Part 2 of a 6-part series – the Basking Shark)

This story marks the second of six blog stories spotlighting New Jersey’s shark species.


THE BASKING SHARK: A GENTLE GIANT

By Michael Davenport, Wildlife Biologist & GIS Manager

Just as the largest whales are filter feeders, so are the two largest fish in the world. The basking shark, the second largest fish in the world after the whale shark, grows to a length of up to 33 feet long but feeds on organisms smaller than your fingernail. It swims through the ocean with its mouth open while tons of sea water and the small organisms with in it, enter the mouth and get filtered by the shark’s enormous gills. If you’ve used a pool net to skim leaves and insects off the top of a swimming pool, you have an idea of how the basking shark feeds.

A basking shark feeding. Photo courtesy of Flickr user jidanchaomian.

A basking shark feeding. Photo courtesy of Flickr user jidanchaomian.

Despite their enormous size, basking sharks are harmless to humans. Unfortunately, like many shark species, they are a species in decline. Basking sharks have been hunted as a source of food, fins, and liver oil for many years. They reproduce slowly, so if they are to recover, they will require protection throughout their range for many years.

To learn more about this shark species which occurs in New Jersey waters, visit our Field Guide page.


 

June 26th, 2016

Shark & Ray Conservation Week (Part 1 of a 6-part series)

This story marks the first of six blog stories spotlighting New Jersey’s shark species – and educating people about why shark populations are in danger throughout the world.


CONSERVE WILDLIFE FOUNDATION IS INITIATING CONSERVATION EFFORTS DIRECTED AT THE SHARKS, RAYS, AND SKATES WHICH OCCUR IN NEW JERSEY WATERS.

By Michael Davenport, Wildlife Biologist & GIS Manager

Sharks, rays, and skates are cartilaginous fish within the subclass Elasmobranchii. Elasmobranchs predate the dinosaurs by hundreds of millions years, having first appeared in the fossil record during the Devonian Period approximately 400 million years ago. They are a very diverse group, with over 350 species of sharks and over 500 species of rays and skates currently existing worldwide.

A sand tiger shark. Photo courtesy of Gerald Walters & Jenkinson's Aquarium.

A sand tiger shark. Photo courtesy of Gerald Walters & Jenkinson’s Aquarium.

Sharks and rays are highly specialized and occupy a wide variety of habitats. Some species are slow-moving bottom feeders which prey on crustaceans while others are fast-swimming predators of marine mammals. Many shark and ray species are apex predators, at the top of many food chains. They play a critical function within the marine (and occasionally freshwater) ecosystem preying on the weak, sick, or injured and maintaining a balance within their environment.

Sharks and rays are frequently misunderstood and feared as a result. Sharks have been portrayed in movies as man-eating monsters which target humans as a meal. Rays are also feared due to their appearance and because many species do, in fact, carry defensive barbs on their tail which have been known to injure or even kill people.

Because of their bad reputation, sharks are often targeted by recreational fishermen as trophy catches. However, the greatest threat to sharks and rays comes from commercial fishing for several reasons: (1) directed fishing for sharks, especially for their fins; (2) capture as bycatch during other fishing activities; and (3) overfishing of prey species.

Degradation of habitat is another threat to sharks and rays. Many species give birth within inshore coastal waters and those same areas are a nursery for the young. Pollution and/or development of those areas represent a threat to those species during a critical stage of their life. Climate change and its impact on food resources of sharks and rays is another potential major threat to sharks and rays which is poorly understood at this time.

Due to the biology of sharks and rays, these many threats are worsened by the fact that fewer individuals are replaced than are killed. Sharks and rays are generally long-lived species which don’t reach sexual maturity often until they’re in their teens or older. Then, they may give birth to as few as two young every two or three years.

Follow our blog posts throughout the week to learn more about some of the shark species which occur in New Jersey waters.


 

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