Gassy Cows Are Warming The Planet, And They’re Here To Stay

April 12, 2014 5:06 AM ET

Correction April 12, 2014

An earlier version of this story said that the methane emissions associated with livestock come from their farts. In fact, most of those methane emissions come from belches.


These guys are gassy, and their emissions are contributing to global warming.

These guys are gassy, and their emissions are contributing to global warming.

Sorry to ruin your appetite, but it’s time to talk about cow belches.

Humans the world over are eating meat and drinking milk — some of us a little less, some of us a lot more, than years past. Farmers are bringing more and more cows into the world to meet demand, and with them escapes more methane into the atmosphere.

In 2011, methane from livestock accounted for 39 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, according to a report that United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization released Friday. That’s more than synthetic fertilizer or deforestation. Methane from livestock rose 11 percent between 2001 and 2011.

The bulk of the emissions — 55 percent — came from beef cattle. Dairy cows, buffalo, sheep and goats accounted for the rest.

Those emissions, combined with emissions from all the other sectors of food production, aren’t likely to go down anytime soon. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry and fishing have doubled over the past 50 years, according to the report. Emissions could go up by 30 percent by 2050.

All this talk about cow belches might make you want to give up meat. So should we all become vegetarians? Asking everyone to reduce their meat consumption isn’t a very practical strategy, says Francesco Tubiello, a natural resources officer for the FAO.

The demand for meat is rising most quickly in developing countries. And since the diets of many in the developing world are short on protein and calories, the poorest of them could really benefit from more meat production. Plus, “for many developing countries, agriculture is their main economic sector,” Tubiello tells The Salt.

Global meat consumption is likely to keep going up over the next 30 years, Tubiello says. (Though, as many have argued, it does make sense for the affluent people of the world who currently over-consume meat to cut back.) But the FAO says the best way to reduce agriculture’s contribution to global warming is to tackle other sources of emissions.

For example, we could improve how efficiently we use agricultural land. “There are many ways to improve the productivity of land,” Tubiello says, like increasing crop yields. That means we need to find more ways to use less land to make the same amount of food.

Encouraging farmers to use fertilizers more judiciously would also help. When farmers spray their fields with nitrogen fertilizer, microbes in the soil convert it to nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas. “A lot of the fertilizer is not used efficiently,” Tubiello says.

The FAO report found that fertilizers accounted 14 percent of agricultural emissions in 2011. And the amount emissions from fertilizers has risen 37 percent since 2001.

Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that raising livestock takes a huge toll on the environment. But, Tubiello says, there are ways to mitigate the environmental impact of raising livestock without doing away with meat altogether.

For example, we could also try to switch up what we feed cows. Having cows graze on grass isn’t a very efficient use of land, as the grass makes for smaller animals, who end up emitting more greenhouse gases per pound of meat produced, than animals raised on grain.

However, corn and soy that most cows eat makes them especially gassy, so feeding them alfalfa and supplements could reduce how much they belch. More research on how to optimize what we feed livestock could help farmers reduce emissions.

But even if we can’t control how much cows belch, we can control what we do with their poop. When nitrogen in livestock manure and urine is also broken down into nitrous oxide — and emissions from manure accounted for 16 percent of agricultural emissions in 2011, according to the FAO. Managing all that manure — or even reusing it as fuel, is one way to reduce emissions.

The wolf hunt returns to France as species makes a European comeback

Conservation groups furious as government allows limited hunting of protected grey wolf amid rise in attacks on farm animals

Henry Samuel and Lewis Whyld 22 Mar 2014copyrighted Hayden wolf walking

As day broke, around 50 French hunters, wolf lieutenants and local farmers stood motionless, rifles in hand, gazing silently into the forest of Caussols in the Alpine foothills of Provence.

A few miles upwind, dozens of beaters in fluorescent orange and yellow tops began their arduous march though deep snow over steep, wooded terrain, making strident calls and firing shots into the air as they went.

Sandwiched between the two lines, the hunters hoped, were anything up to three packs of wolves that local sheep farmers say are ruining their age-old pastoral existence with incessant attacks on their flocks. Camera traps caught images of them only 48 hours previously. The clamour of the beaters was designed to flush them of the woods and into the line of the hunters’ fire.

But the danger was not just for the wolves. “The trackers will be behind the animals. Be sure to shoot downwards,” Louis Bernard, regional head of the hunting and wildlife commission, ONCFS, told the party beforehand.

“We’ve already had one fatal accident in the area this year, so please be careful. Only shoot when you have identified the animal.”

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Situated in the pre-Alps just 25 miles inland from Nice and 15 miles from Grasse, France’s perfume capital, the wild, rugged landscape of Caussols could not be further removed from the glitz of the Riviera.

In January alone, farmers in these hills lost around 100 sheep to the grey wolf, which is making a lightning comeback in France and other parts of Europe; in Spain, packs are breeding a mere 40 miles from Madrid.

For Ludovic Bruno, 20, whose 350 sheep graze here in the winter months before he takes six days to walk them to higher summer pastures, respecting the age-old practice of “transhumance”, the hunt was personal.

“Over there just behind that hill on January 5, four wolves attacked my flock and there was nothing I could do about it. I had no gun on me,” said the young farmer who suffered eight attacks last year killing scores of animals and has lost 18 in the past month.

“I saw one running off with one of my lambs in its jaws. Two more sheep lay dead. I felt only rage. The wolf is a threat to my way of life and my future.”

Miraculously, he managed to save his black billy goat, which the wolves had pinned to a rock by its throat. The wound was still raw.

“Look,” he suddenly said, pointing to tracks in the thick snow ahead. “Paw prints. This is a wolf. He must be quite big. A male of around 30 kilogrammes. But these are several days old, made in fresh snow that has frozen over now.”

With official encouragement, herders and farmers hunted wolves to extinction in France in the 1930s but in 1992, an alpha mating pair crossed the border from Italy.

Since then, Canis lupus has spread throughout the French Alps, across the Rhône valley into the Massif Central and up the eastern border of France to the Jura and Vosges mountains.

It recently reached the sparsely populated plains of eastern France, and last month the corpse of an illegally shot wolf was found in Coole in the Marne, just 100 miles east of Paris.

Today, there are at least 300 individuals in up to 25 packs across the country. As their number and reach increase, so do attacks, resulting in the death of more than 6,000 sheep last year – double the number five years ago. More than a third occurred in the Alpes-Maritimes département where the hunt took place.

The wolf is a protected species under the Berne convention and European law. It can no longer be hunted or poisoned. Yet culls can exceptionally take place when all other attempts at protecting local livestock have failed. Under a government wolf plan, some 24 individuals can be “removed” – the official term – in this way per year.

Initially this was a job only for state marksmen, but given their lack of success – only seven were killed last year – the government widened the remit to “wolf lieutenants”. Now, wolves can be shot in ordinary hunts in areas where they pose problems.

Conservation groups are furious. “To return to wolf hunts as if we were in the Middle Ages is scandalous. That the local authorities are organising them is even worse,” said Jean-François Darmstaedter, president of Ferus, who threatened to challenge their legality in the European courts.

“We call them ‘political killings’ as their only aim is to allow farmers to let off steam but they will solve nothing. Blindly shooting wolves will have no effect other than to exacerbate the problem. If you kill the alpha male, you can split up a pack, which will cause far more damage.”

The only solution, he said, was to protect flocks properly by using fierce Pyrenean “patou” mountain dogs, penning sheep inside high electrified fences at night and firing warning shots if wolves approach. “These measures can reduce predation to almost nil,” he insisted.

But Pierre and Deborah Courron, who own 900 sheep and goats near Caussols, have tried all this and despite their best efforts – including sleeping beside flocks in the summer months – lost 60 animals last year and have suffered eight attacks in 2014.

Mrs Courron scoffed at the suggestion they were not doing enough to protect their sheep.

“We already have four patous. If I had 15 of them, we would doubtless have no wolf attacks, but a pack that big would pose a threat to humans as they are semi-wild. They would make mincemeat of hikers.”

As for electrified enclosures, they help, but the wolves are deft at spooking the sheep so much they knock down fences in panic. The wolves are now so bold they sometimes attack yards from the farm. Techniques such as linking a sheep’s heart rate to an alarm have proved ineffective.

While farmers are compensated for the loss of animals they can prove were eaten by wolves and receive a “stress bonus” to cover potential miscarriages, the psychological strain is permanent.

“In 2013, we lost almost 2,500 sheep in 719 attacks,” said Jean-Philippe Frère, vice president of the chamber of agriculture for the Alpes-Maritimes.

“You can imagine the distress this causes farmers. To live 24 hours a day with the strain of thinking the wolf is going to eat my sheep is unbearable.”

Jean-Marc Moriceau, a historian who has studied the relationship between man and wolf over the ages, said that it was a “lie to simply say if you add more means, there will be no more problem”.

“As a historian I can tell you there has never been perfect cohabitation between man and wolf. It has always been imposed and under constraint,” he said.

In April, Mr Moriceau is launching a website documenting the 8,000 humans killed by wolves between the 17th and 20th centuries, many of them children between six and 15 sent to guard flocks.

“There is a kind of law of silence about this because it is seen as not politically correct to describe what is a historical reality. It was a tiny minority, but it is the reason for our ancestral fear of the wolf.”

Today public opinion is very much on the wolf’s side. A recent poll, commissioned by a pro-wolf group, found that 80 per cent of French people wanted wolves to be protected from farmers, rather than sheep from wolves. But Mr Moriceau said that could change as the wolf approaches built-up areas.

“The wolf is an indicator of all humanity’s weaknesses throughout the ages, including today. It will exploit any drop in the strength and domination of man on his environment,” he said. “The closer the wolf physically gets to people, the less they are in favour of its presence.”

With little to stop the wolf spreading all round France, some are calling for certain areas to be declared “wolf-free zones”.

“The wolf is gaining ground. If we left nature run its course, then certainly we will see them soon in the forests around Paris,” said Jean-Pierre Poly, national head of France’s wildlife and hunting commission, whose delicate mission is to protect the wolf, compensate farmers and organise culls.

“Some think that we should hem the wolf in to certain areas and organise a sort of defence zone to make sure it doesn’t get too close to built up areas. The jury is out,” he said.

Wolves undoubtedly prowl these woods, but they are remarkably elusive and can smell a man more than a mile off. At one stage, Mr Courron paused to point out fresh tracks in a clearing.

“Look at the pads, all in a line. When they follow each other, they step in each other’s paw prints. It looks like one, but could be several,” he said, pushing another cartridge into his rifle and firing into the blue sky.

“These are probably from yesterday.”

Despite what are, for the hunters, these encouraging signs, after an exhausting three-hour march the packs local farmers say are causing them such trouble were still nowhere in sight.

And help was at hand for the wolves: just as the trackers entered the final furlong, at last approaching the stationary marksmen’s line of fire, the hunt was abruptly cut short by furious ramblers demanding to know why their Sunday stroll had suddenly taken them into a war zone.

As tempers flared and the guns fell silent, the farmers railed against “tourists” whose right to roam had foiled their hunt. “All these people mobilised against the wolf, yet we get stopped by a bunch of walkers. It beggars belief,” said Mr Courron.

In truth, however, this is the third such hunt in the area in which the wolf has evaded his ancient foe. Last time, a marksman even missed one that dashed for cover right past his sights.

“Today is Sunday. If we had done the hunt on Friday we would probably have come across wolves,” said Mr Bernard. “But as they roam over a large territory of around 30,000 hectares (110 square miles) per pack, they constantly move around and today were not on the Caussols plain.”

Gripping his gun and clenching his jaw, Mr Courron stared dejectedly into the middle distance. “Better luck next time,” he murmured. “Even if we just get one or two, we will be a little less troubled.”

• Wolf hunt returns to France: 360 degree view

The meat industry could be driving wildlife extinct

by Lindsay Abrams

Ok, so you don’t feel bad about cows having to die in order for you to enjoy a hamburger. That’s fine — most people feel the same way. But what about the grizzly bears? Or the wolves? Or the 175 other species threatened by extinction? Would you keep eating that burger if you found out it was endangering all of those animals, too?

Well, would you?

A new campaign from the Center for Biological Diversity is presenting a broader perspective on the environmental damage wrought by the livestock industry. NPR has the scoop:

The conservation group says that some populations of grizzly bears and wolves have already been driven extinct by the livestock industry, and an additional 175 threatened or endangered species, like the prairie dog, could be next. Most of this drama is playing out on federal lands, where the needs of wildlife conflict with the needs of grazing cattle, says [population and sustainability director Stephanie Feldstein].

The federal government has for decades promoted and subsidized cattle grazing on 270 million acres of public lands in 11 Western states. According to Feldstein, one of the hot spots of livestock-wildlife conflict is predator species like wolves and bears preying on cattle.

The California grizzly subspecies, for example, was driven extinct in the 1920s by hunters assisting farmers and ranchers, according to historical documents at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ranchers also all but wiped out the Mexican gray wolf, the most endangered wolf species in the world, in the U.S. (A few survived in Mexico and in zoos, and scientists have been trying to bring them back through breeding, the group Defenders of Wildlife says.)

A study published back in January adds large carnivores, like pumas, lions and sea otters, to the list of meat industry casualties. All that, of course, comes along with the major impact our growing demand for meat has on the climate. Taken together, it’s worth considering whether that burger is, in fact, worth it.

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Killing wild animals spurs new debate

Slicing into a slab of chocolate cake on a picnic table at Hendricks     Park in south Eugene, Linda Gray said she wasn’t concerned about the possibility of a cougar roaming the area as she celebrated friend Betsy Priddle’s 71st birthday on Tuesday.

She was, however, upset about the fate of two cougars that were     trapped in the area and euthanized by the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, the first on March 11 and the second on Monday.

“If people go into areas where there are wildlife, they should expect to treat them with respect,” Gray asserted.

The cougars were euthanized largely because of a string of livestock     killings on a nearby property, where one man lost two goats and     three chickens over three consecutive nights. While landowners have     the right to kill animals on their property, state fish and wildlife     officials say they stepped in on behalf of people such as Gray and     Priddle who enjoy picnicking and hiking in the nearby park, some     with dogs or small children.

But Gray doesn’t see it that way, and on Tuesday offered alternative     solutions, beginning with preventing such attacks in the first     place.

“If you’re going to raise livestock in an area where there are     predators around, you need to protect your livestock,” she said.

A local wildlife advocate also questioned how the state has handled     the recent cougar incidents.

“I personally believe that this was a grave overreaction to set the     traps out to begin with,” said Brooks Fahy, executive director of     Predator Defense, a national wildlife advocacy group based in     Eugene. “There had been no complaints other than from this     individual” whose livestock was killed.

Fahy said the fish and wildlife department’s claims that it does not     relocate cougars due to potential territorial conflicts, spread of     disease and future livestock killings don’t necessitate killing an     animal. While relocation is difficult, he said cougars are not major     carriers of disease and that tales of repeated livestock killings     are purely “anecdotal.”

Fahy did agree, however, that adult cougars are typically unable to     adjust to captivity, as was the case with the second cougar, which     was trapped Friday and euthanized Monday after a state wildlife     veterinarian observed its behavior in captivity.

Fahy said he is concerned that even though Oregon lifted its bounty     on cougars in 1960 and has prohibited the use of packs of dogs for     hunting cougars and bears since 1994, the state’s annual cougar     killings continue to climb — citing fish and wildlife department     statistics, Fahy noted that 530 cougars were killed in Oregon last     year as a result of hunting and other causes, Fahy said.

“Cougars are being slaughtered in the state of Oregon on a historic     level,” he said.

The fish and wildlife department last year issued more than 55,000     hunting tags for cougars — up from 588 in 1994 — which accounted for     nearly 300 of last year’s cougar deaths, Fahy added. The department     says about 5,700 cougars currently reside in Oregon.

State officials say the increase in tags is directly linked to the     ban on hunting with hounds — since the dog packs had a higher     success rate than other hunting methods, the state says it can now     issue more tags with a relatively small increase in hunting     harvests.

But Fahy said the killing of large, dominant “trophy animals” could     be cause for even more conflict between cougars and humans.

“When you hammer a population, you end up with very young animals —     juveniles and sub-adults,” he said. “These are the animals that     stereotypically get into trouble, such as preying on livestock, or     even ending up in some of these (urban fringe) places, such as     Hendricks Park.”

Fahy acknowledged that the cougars’ close proximity to the park is     not ideal for either the animals or people, but said it’s not     uncommon for the transient animals to pass through the area.

“They’ve been there before,” he said. “Nothing’s happened.”

In the case of the recent cougar attacks, Fahy said, the man who     lost his chickens and goats could have taken more precautions to     protect his livestock, such as establishing an electric fence or     securing night housing — techniques of “basic husbandry,” he said.

He said he’s disappointed that what he sees as a lack of preparation     resulted in the death of two cougars — whose hides were offered back     to the livestock owner, John Schetzsle, per state law. Schetzsle has     said he plans to turn the hides into blankets.

“I find the whole thing grotesque,” Fahy said. “He’s going to     basically be rewarded for practicing poor husbandry.”

Schetzsle, who had secured his animals within a 5-foot-high fence     and constructed a small house for his goats last summer, had said he     believes the cougars got to his animals by scaling a nearby tree. He     could not be reached for further comment Tuesday.

But Schetzsle earlier this week said that he’s gathering friends     this weekend to build a stronger chicken coop, and that he plans to     add a door to his goathouse before bringing new goats to his small     farm in April. He’s using a boarded-up stable as a chicken coop in     the meantime.

Brian Wolfer, a state biologist for the department of fish and     wildlife, said Tuesday that his agency advises livestock owners to     take special precautions — such as locking animals up at night,     stationing a guard dog nearby and installing high fencing and a     motion light — but said the law doesn’t require such measures and     allows an owner to kill any predator that damages property.

Still, he added, eliminating one animal is only a temporary     solution.

“There are few situations where removing the cougar is going to be     the end of all problems,” Wolfer said. “When you remove that cougar,     another one will eventually take its place. If you don’t learn from     that experience and take some additional precautions, you’ll find     yourself in that same situation again.”

Indeed, a third cougar may still be in the area, having been caught     on a cougar cubtrail camera that was erected at Schetzsle’s residence by state     officials last week. Officials still have a trap on the premises in     hopes of capturing that animal, should it still be in the area — but     there was no word of the latest cougar being spotted or captured as     of Tuesday night.

Among Tuesday’s park users who said they hope the third cougar isn’t     captured and killed was 22-year-old Litisha Rollings of Springfield.

“These animals have souls. They’re intelligent beings,” she said.     “We put our habitat in their habitat — they’re going to mingle.”

Follow Kelsey on Twitter @kelseythalhofer. Email

Petition: Oppose Yellowstone National Park’s Bison Slaughter

In Defense of Animals

What a tragedy – Yellowstone National Park plans to slaughter 800 bison!

According to Yellowstone National Park’s spokesman Al Nash, the park is seeking “opportunities to capture any animals that move outside the park’s boundaries.” This means hundreds of America’s last wild bison are being brutally hazed into traps and sent to slaughter.

This atrocity has already started. It began in the early morning hours of February 7, when Yellowstone officials captured 20 bison and shipped the terrified animals to a slaughterhouse in Ronan, Montana. Other bison are currently being held in traps inside the park; forced to await their tragic fate.

This bison slaughter is happening because of an Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) developed by the US Forest Service, USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, Montana Department of Livestock, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks, and the National Park Service/Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone’s bison are being murdered because of Montana’s livestock industry.

The IBMP plan is archaic, politically motivated, and represents only the interests of the Montana livestock industry, which has zero tolerance for wild animals like wolves and bison, who occasionally leave the park. They use false threats of bison allegedly posing a risk of brucellosis transfer to cattle as justification for the murders of hundreds of bison, although this has never been documented

What you can do:Please speak up for America’s last wild bison population. Tell Montana’s Governor, Steve Bullock, and the agencies involved in the bison massacre that you will not visit Yellowstone National Park, so long as the park’s bison are being killed at the request of the livestock industry. Demand a new Bison Management Plan.

Personalize and submit the form below to email your comments to:

  • Montana Governor, Steve Bullock
  • Policy Advisor for Natural Resources, Tim Baker
  • Yellowstone National Park Superintendent, Dan Wenke
  • Director of Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), Jeff Hagener
  • Chief of the US Forest Service, Ti Tidwell
  • Associate Chief of the US Forest Service, Mary Wagner

Please Sign Petition Here:

If You Eat Meat


If you eat chicken or pork, you’re supporting extreme animal abuse on factory farms;

If you eat beef, you’re supporting the livestock industry that kills bison, elk and wolves;

If you eat fish, you’re supporting the demise of our living oceans;

If you hunt, your selfish food choice robs a life and cheats a natural predator;

If you eat meat, you’re part of the problem instead of the solution;


The Time to be Bold is Now

copyrighted wolf in river

By Brett Haverstick On February 8, 2014

Over the years, I have come to realize that the current wildlife management model in America, at the federal level, and particularly, the state level, is broken. The system is such, in which, politics trumps the best-available science, the special interest-minority overwhelms the democratic-majority and the almighty dollar is more powerful than ethics, heritage and legacy. Can this be found throughout the American political landscape? Of course, the answer is yes. But when applied to the current wolf slaughter taking place in the West, and in the Great Lakes, it fits perfectly. In fact, it embodies it.

During my brief time working in the conservation community, I have sadly concluded that both grassroots and national conservation groups, and every-day citizens, are limited to the degree, in which, they can enforce public lands laws, ensure that the best-available science is used and entrust that public sentiment is reflected in wildlife policy and management decisions. Recent examples of this include–with all, unfortunately, taking place in Idaho–are the Wolf-Coyote Derby in Salmon, the killing of two wolf packs in the Frank-Church River of No Return Wilderness by a 21st Century bounty hunter and the efforts of Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter to launch a predominantly tax-payer funded, $2-million dollar independent wolf control board to wipe out another 500-grey wolves. If this were to occur, wolves would be reduced to the bare-minimum of 150-wolves in Idaho (federally mandated), would not be able to fulfill their ecological niche, and most importantly, could be on the precipice of yet, another extinction.

The conservation community, and the American people at-large, is now approaching the crossroads. Do we continue to take the band-aid approach (attending public meetings, issuing action alerts, circulating petitions, and filing appeals/lawsuits) or do we step out-of-the-box and confront the root causes of the problem? While some may respectfully disagree with me, or question the feasibility of such a challenge, I advocate for the latter.

So what solutions do I offer? The 5 Keys to Reforming Wildlife Management in America, are as follows:
1.Restructuring the way state Fish & Game departments operate. Politics: western governors appoint agency commissioners, which essentially, tell the state departments what to do. This is cronyism at its worst. Economics: state departments are mostly funded by the sale of hunting/fishing tags or permits. These agencies are bound into serving the interest of “sportsmen” because it’s the hand that feeds them. Modern funding mechanisms, the application of best-available science and genuine public involvement are sorely lacking in these institutions and it must be addressed. Another option would be to empower the federal government to manage wildlife on federal public lands.
2.Removing grazing from all federal public lands. The “management” or “control” of native wildlife to benefit the livestock industry is ground zero. It is also well documented the damage that grazing causes when livestock infests wildlands. Livestock are non-native and largely responsible for soil compaction, a decrease in water retention and aquifer recharge, erosion, destruction of wetlands and riparian areas, flooding and a net-loss of biodiversity. Grazing enables invasive plant species to proliferate, which greatly affects the West’s historic fire regime.
3.Abolishing Wildlife Services. Hidden within the US Department of Agriculture, is a rogue agency that is essentially the wildlife killing-arm of the federal government. For over 100-years, this federal tax-payer supported agency has largely worked on behalf of the livestock industry and is responsible for the death of tens-of millions of native wildlife. Methods of killing include trapping, poisoning and aerial gunning. Conservation efforts are currently culminating into a potential Congressional investigation of this corrupt agency.
4.Banning trapping/snaring on all federal public lands. We must evolve as a society and move away from this barbaric, unethical, cruel and tortuous method(s) of killing native wildlife. Leg-hold traps, conibear traps and other devices are indiscriminate killers. Over the past couple years, there has been an increase in the number of dogs caught/killed by traps when recreating with their owners on public lands. When is an adult or child going to step into a leg-hold or body-gripping trap? Some states currently require individuals to check their traps every 72-hours, while other states only recommend that trappers check them, at all.
5.No killing of predators, except for extreme circumstances. For example, an aggressive and/or habituated bear may need to be killed after non-lethal measures have failed. Otherwise, non-lethal measures should be implemented in rare instances where there are actual human/predator conflicts. The best available science suggests that predators, including wolves, are a self-regulating species. In other words, predators don’t overpopulate. Instead, their populations naturally fluctuate, as do prey or ungulate populations. We need to better understand and embrace the trophic cascade effect predators have within ecosystems.

How do we take that ever-so-important first step, you may ask? We embark on this journey, together, on June 28 – 29, 2014 at Arch Park in Gardiner, Montana.

Speak for Wolves: Yellowstone 2014 is an opportunity for the American people to unite and demand wildlife management reform. It’s about taking a critical step towards stopping the grey wolf slaughter. It’s about hope, our collective-future and restoring our national heritage and legacy. The weekend-long event is family friendly and will feature prominent speakers, live music, education and outreach booths, children’s activities, food and drink vendors, video production crews and the screening of wildlife documentaries.

On June 28-29, 2014, Americans from all walks-of-life will converge at Arch Park in Gardiner, Montana to tell the government we need to reform wildlife management, at both the state and federal level. With your support and participation, this will be the event of the year in the northern Rockies. Together, we can make history and embark on restoring our wild national heritage. The time to be bold is now.

Cougars on the prowl, not increase, officials say

[This is from my old stomping grounds, the Methow Valley, where I lived for over 20 years and saw 4 out of the 5 cougars I've seen so far in my relatively short life (geologically speaking).]

By Ann McCreary

The recent series of cougar attacks on domestic animals may have people wondering if there are more cougars than usual in the Methow Valley. Not so, says a wildlife researcher who has studied cougars here for more than a decade.

While there may be an unusual concentration of cougar incidents in recent weeks, the big cats are simply doing what comes naturally and taking advantage of opportunities for an easy meal courtesy of humans, according to Rich Beausoleil, cougar and bear specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

Wildlife officials killed another cougar last Friday (Jan. 10) — the fourth in five weeks — after the cat killed a sheep at a home off East Chewuch Road near Winthrop.

“The numbers of sightings has been really high this year,” said Cal Treser, wildlife officer for the WDFW. “Last week I had nine cougar calls.”

“Every now and then we’ll see a cycle like this where [incidents] are all clumped together,” said Beausoleil. “We’re never going to put it all together and explain why these things happen. We know January is the month where all this increases. I don’t want people to jump to this notion that the cougar population is up.”

Beausoleil has 11 years of research to back his statement about cougar populations.  Last year he published a scientific paper that found the cougar population controls itself naturally, because they are extremely territorial animals.

Researchers found that adult cougars, especially males, have a natural drive to establish and defend territory, and will kill any other cougar that enters it. This creates a stable density in cougar populations that researchers found applies to cougars everywhere.

The recent problems associated with cougars killing sheep, goats, chickens and dogs are predictable, and will continue unless people take steps to protect their animals, Beausoleil said.

“The chickens running around the enclosure — that’s just bon bons on the landscape. You might as well have an ‘Eat at Joe’s’ sign,” Beausoleil said.

“It’s all about prevention,” he said. “The word I like to get out is you need to look around your property and say, how do I prevent a problem from happening before it happens? Don’t go and blame those ‘nuisance animals.’ Stop and say, ‘Why did this happen?’”


‘Game of calories’

For large carnivores, survival “is a game of calories,” Beausoleil said. Taking down a deer is hard and dangerous work and cougars are often injured in the process. “It’s a tough life out there and when you see something like a goat that just sits there and looks at you … you take it while you’ve got it,” he said.

Putting animals inside a barn or in a secure enclosure at night is a key step in preventing problems, Beausoleil said. “Goats are the No. 1 at-risk animal, sheep are second, third are chickens,” he said.

“This is the Methow Valley,” said Beausoleil. “Your backyard turns into wilderness. You need to be a part of that landscape and take the steps to live harmoniously with the critters that are around.”

Skip Smith lost two goats in recent weeks to a cougar that entered a livestock enclosure at his ranch on Highway 20 outside Winthrop. The 74-pound female cougar that killed the goats was tracked and shot last week.

After the second attack, Smith said he created a more secure pen to hold his sheep and goats at night. He increased the height of the fence to 8 feet and added three strands of electric wire around the top.

“The electric fence might help. If they jump up and touch that, it’s pretty hot,” Smith said.

Suggestions on ways to live with wildlife are available on the WDFW website, the Mountain Lion Foundation website, and the Western Wildlife Outreach website, Beausoleil said.

“These precautions cost money, and I know it can be a burden on people. I guess it comes down to values and the value you put on the natural world,” he said. “Cougars are the personification of wilderness and an unbelievable carnivore.”

Killing cougars that attack domestic animals “is a temporary solution,” said Beausoleil. His research shows that when a cougar dies or is removed from his territory, other cougars will move in until one establishes it as its own.

“The gun is just a Band-aid. As soon as one territory opens there is another cougar right behind it,” Beausoleil said.


‘Needless kill’

Killing cougars that attack livestock that aren’t adequately protected “gets frustrating to me because … it’s a needless kill and such an easy thing to prevent,” Beausoleil said.

January and July — “the worst days of winter and worst days of summer” — are predictable periods of problems with carnivores, Beausoleil said. This winter of low snow may have an added dimension, because deer are more widely scattered, rather than confined to more traditional winter ranges, and cougars may be more widely dispersed as a result.

The cougar that attacked the sheep last week was a 130-pound male in good health. “He hadn’t missed a meal.” Treser said.

“The cougar was living on the edge of the Methow Wildlife Area with plenty of mule deer for food. There’s no reason he should have taken a sheep. Maybe [he did] because the kill was easy as the sheep were confined in a corral,” Treser said.

Trackers with dogs were brought in and followed the cougar for five hours, until he was treed near the Methow River and shot.

“He was a beautiful cat,” Treser said.

Once a cougar has attacked livestock or pets in winter, the policy is to kill it because the cougar is likely to repeat the attacks. In other seasons, Treser said, he will often capture a cougar following an attack on livestock and relocate it. But in winter, snow and weather make it too difficult to relocate cougars to remote areas, he said.

The relocating doesn’t always work, Treser said. Late last summer a cougar killed a goat near Buzzard Lake, on the Okanogan side of Loup Loup Pass. Treser captured the cat, placed an ear tag on it, and released it above Ross Lake on the east side of the North Cascades.

“Eighteen days later he came back and killed a goat in the same pasture,” Treser said.

Cougars that turn to livestock and pets as prey are often unhealthy or injured, Treser said. “As they’re taking down large animals they break teeth, injure their feet, break claws off. It gets more difficult to take down a deer,” so they look for easier prey, he said.

The four cougars killed this year because of predation on domestic animals have all been healthy, Treser said.

For more on cougars in the Methow this winter, see Another cougar attack adds to high number of incidents,  Cougar sightings, encounters continue to add up in the valley,  Coming to terms with cougars, and Human, pet encounters with cougars increase each winter.


Reducing Gas Emissions from Livestock Key to Curbing Climate Change: Study

By James A. Foley

Jan 03, 2014

A study published recently in the journal Nature Climate Change highlights both the need for policy changes and greater emphasis on livestock management in order to curb climate change.

Although it’s well known that significant quantities of methane are produced by the burps and excrement of the world’s livestock, the study authors contend that inadequate attention is being paid to to the greenhouse gasses associated with ruminant animals such as cows, sheep, goats and buffalo.

“Because the Earth’s climate may be near a tipping point to major climate change, multiple approaches are needed for mitigation,” study leader William Ripple, a professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. said in a statement. “We clearly need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels to cut CO2 emissions. But that addresses only part of the problem. We also need to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases to lessen the likelihood of us crossing this climatic threshold.”

Ripple and his colleagues suggest that an effective way to mitigate the effects these greenhouse gasses have on the environment is to reduce global populations of ruminant livestock.

At approximately 3.6 billion heads, the world population of ruminant livestock is about half the global human population. Moreover, about 25 percent of the Earth’s land area is dedicated to livestock grazing, and a third of all arable land is used to grow feed crops for livestock, the researchers write.

On the basis of pounds of food produced, cattle and sheep generate between 19 and 48 times more greenhouse gasses than protein-rich plant foods such as beans, grains, or soy products, the researchers found.