Court Decisions And State Elections, Tracking Urban Wildlife, Holiday Side Dish Recipes

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A UW-Madison research group is tracking the activities of coyotes and foxes that live in the city. The lead researcher explains what we can learn about animals and ourselves from studying urban wildlife. We also get some advice and recipes for perfect holiday side dishes, and explore how two federal court decisions could affect Wisconsin’s future elections.

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  • Federal Court Decisions Could Impact Wisconsin Voters In 2016, Law Professor Says

    Two federal court decisions reached this week could have sweepimg impact on Wisconsin’s voters and elections, according to a University of California law professor.

    On Thursday, a federal judge dismissed parts of a challenge to the state’s voter ID. In a separate case, a panel of federal judges allowed a lawsuit about the state’s redistricting plan to continue.

    University of California Law Professor Rick Hasen said U.S. District Judge James Peterson rejected the Voting Rights Act challenge to preserve it for a potential future appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but that he did leave some room for challenges on not accepting certain types of identification.

    “He also left open the possibility of challenges base on the idea that this was a law that was intended to discriminate against Democrats … and that’s not a theory that the courts had looked at the last time this law was challenged,” said Hasen, who also authors the Election Law Blog.

    He said all the states where these new strict voter ID laws pass on party lines, and it’s well understood that the extent these laws will have on voter turnout will likely affect groups that tend to vote Democratic.

    “Even Judge Richard Posner, of the 7th circuit, who had rejected that argument back in 2007 when there was a challenge to Indiana’s law, recently suggested a dissenting opinion in the last round of the Wisconsin voter ID case that is actually the reason that these laws are being passed,” said Hasen.

    He said it could be possible to put the law on hold for the 2016 election, depending on having enough evidence to suggest that a majority of people who would want this ID, could be unable to get them in time for the next election.

    In the redistricting case, Hasen said the Supreme Court justices have repeatedly said there hasn’t been a standard presented yet to determine the constitutionality of taking political party into account, and that the Wisconsin case is trying to come up with that new standard.

    “What the three judges said in the opinion yesterday was, there was enough of a theory of a new way of trying to do this that we’re going to let the parties gather evidence and make their case before the court,” he said.

  • Wildlife Researchers Studying Coyotes, Foxes In Madison's Urban Environment

    A wildlife research project is underway in Madison to study how coyotes and foxes are settling into the city’s urban environment.

    While both animals are now found in nearly every metropolitan city in the country, people seem to be reporting increased sightings — although studies have not yet completely backed that up.

    The Wisconsin State Journal reported that within a month span between September and October, coyotes killed four dogs in at least a half-dozen attacks on Madison’s east side.

    Wildlife biologists have amassed plenty of research on coyotes and foxes in their more traditional rural or wild settings, but little is known about their behavior in urban cities.

    The UW Urban Canid Project seeks to fill in that knowledge gap. The project’s pilot program launched in early 2014 after reports of a family of red foxes living under a UW-Madison campus building. It expanded last year thanks to grant money and will continue into 2016.

    To study the urban canines, animals are live-trapped and radio-collared, allowing the research team to analyze where they’re spending their time. Each animal also receives a health screening to help better understand disease transmission.

    Dr. David Drake, associate professor and extension wildlife specialist at UW-Madison, is leading the project with the help of several students. The project’s first phase had researchers examining how coyotes and foxes interact with each other in the urban environment, he said.

    In wild settings, coyotes prey on foxes. Drake said coyotes are typically around two-to-three times bigger and kill foxes to eliminate competition for food. But in Madison, Drake’s research is finding that the predator dynamic is much more relaxed. The two have become friendlier neighbors.

    “Our hypothesis is that there’s so many resources here, primarily for food, that the animals can share the resource. They don’t necessarily have to compete,” Drake said.

    Additionally, Drake said the animals are maintaining a strikingly similar native diet. In other words, while the dining location has changed, the menu mostly hasn’t.

    Another component of the research, said Drake, is trying to be proactive in limiting confrontations between coyotes and humans or dogs.

    “We’re trying to understand how these animals move through the urban landscape … so that we can head off these conflicts before they really get started,” he said.

    Drake warned that people don’t need to be nervous about coyote attacks, but should be vigilant. He suggested that owners of small dogs should be watchful when letting their pets alone outside, especially at night in areas of reported coyote sightings.

    “(Coyotes) just don’t differentiate between Fido and a rabbit necessarily,” he said. “They see it as something to eat or another dog is in their territory, and they want to get that dog out of the territory.”

    Wildlife biologists continue to contemplate what it means for the animals to be moving into the urban environment and whether the setting can sustain their needs. Whether you love coyotes and red foxes or become a little scared, Drake said the sightings excite people and it’s “kind of neat to have that connection to nature.”

    “I would personally much rather have these animals here in the city with us than not have them. I think it adds to our quality of life,” he said.

    Citizen involvement is crucial to the research. Drake encourage Madisonians to report coyote and fox sightings to the project’s website.

    Residents can also join the researchers during their daily check of the traps. But beware, said Drake, you may be put to work.

  • Federal Court Decisions Could Affect Wisconsin's Elections

    Two decisions by federal judges could affect Wisconsin’s voter ID law, and the state’s redistricting plan. Our guest explains what these cases mean for voters, and the 2016 elections.

  • Tracking Coyotes And Foxes In Urban Areas

    We learn about the Urban Canid Project and its efforts to find out more about the coyotes and foxes that make their homes in urban areas.

  • Food Friday: Holiday Side Dishes

    It’s peak holiday party season. But what should you bring as a dish? Food Friday regular Lori Skelton shares advice for bringing holiday side dishes.

Episode Credits

  • Judith Siers-Poisson Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Matt Oleson Producer
  • Veronica Rueckert Producer
  • Amanda Magnus Producer
  • Rick Hasen Guest
  • David Drake Guest

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