About Exposing the Big Game

Jim Robertson

The Cormorant Death Toll So Far, 109…




Cormorant culling underway to save salmon

Plans to reduce the population of double crested cormorants from about 14,000 breeding pairs to 5,600 by 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The coast is clear for the United States Army Corps of Engineers to kill nearly 10,000 cormorants that feed on salmon, and bird lovers have exhausted their legal appeals.

Culling of thousands of cormorants began this past weekend in an effort to reduce their breeding population from about 14,000 breeding pairs to 5,600 by 2018.

According to the Corps, the concentration of cormorants on East Sand Island in the mouth of the Columbia River could be the largest in the world. As cormorant numbers continue to grow, so does their need for salmon.

“As they are nesting they need to feed their young and it’s a perfect food source as the smolts migrate out toward the ocean,” Robert Winters with the Corps told KOIN 6 News.

Winters said simply scaring the birds away would not eliminate the problem, and killing them would save nearly 11 million juvenile salmon from being eaten every year.

“If you put that into context, there’s 3.8 million people living in Oregon, so that’s 2.5 times the population of Oregon,” Winters said. “It’s a significant impact.”

An environmental impact statement calls for the Corps to shoot adult birds, spray eggs with oil so they won’t hatch, and destroy nests.

The Corps hopes to keep cormorants out of the lower Columbia River. The further up the Columbia the birds go, the more dangerous they can be to salmon populations.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Diana Fredlund told KOIN 6 News the culling began a few days ago. However, the times when culling or egg oiling is done will not be disclosed, she said.

Conservation groups lost their latest appeal last week when a judge refused to stop the bird kill plan. Some conservationists say dams are to blame for killing the fish, not the cormorants. A lawsuit challenging the plan is scheduled for a court hearing this summer.


Two Bald Eagles Killed by Poisoned Meat Apparently Meant for Coyotes


May. 28, 2015 8:41pm           

Image source:

The two bald eagles — along with four coyotes, one opossum and three black vultures — were found dead in a field in Plaquemine, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A pile of baited meat and bones with black granule spread across the top was also found in the field near the dead animals on April 9. Officials believe the poison was meant for coyotes, a press release about the incident said.

“Poison is an indiscriminate killer,” Sidney Charbonnet, Special Agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. “It is extremely poor practice for nuisance animal reduction, as it doesn’t just kill the target species, it can take out whole segments of the food chain with secondary poisonings, as well as potentially killing pet dogs or cats who may consume the bait or the poisoned wildlife.”

While the bald eagle is no longer considered an endangered species, it’s still federally protected.

Spread of Avian Flu Raises Concerns About Human Pandemic


Avian flu spread raises some concerns about human infection

At least for now, chickens, turkeys and other fowl are the only direct targets of the avian flu outbreak that has spread across the U.S. Yet scientists say there is a subtype of the virus that may have the potential to become a human pandemic.

The outbreak, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture says has affected 20 states, has resulted in the destruction of at least 6 million chickens and turkeys and has put upward pressure on poultry prices. It has also triggered fears that much worse could be in store.

Daniel Janies, professor of bioinformatics and genomics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who co-authored a paper this year on the spread of an avian influenza, admits it’s “hard to say” whether the flu could make the jump from contained to catastrophe. Still, according to his research, bird flu has the potential to be “highly pathogenic and periodically infect humans.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that human infection, though rare, has been known to happen when people come into contact with an infected bird. Most recently, the H7N9 variant of bird flu infected some people in China, according to the CDC.

“Our work and that of others suggest that H7N9 has pandemic potential,” saids Janies, who is also a research associate in the invertebrate zoology department at the American Museum of Natural History, “but we have not seen human to human transmission yet.”

Read MoreAvian flu in Midwest hits egg prices, may hit harder

Bill Gates gets worried

Flu pandemics, which are based on how a disease spreads rather than its death toll, have only occurred four times since the beginning of the 20th century, kicked off by the Spanish flu of 1918 that killed about 50 million people. The most recent was swine flu, which “quickly spread across the United States and around the world” in the spring of 2009, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

This new avian flu subtype, first reported in China in the spring of 2013, hits the human body hard. Federal officials say that many patients experience “severe respiratory illness, with about one-third resulting in a death.” The strain still seems to be outside of the United States, but in January it reached Canada from two people who had been in China.

As of March, more than 640 human cases and 224 deaths from H7N9 flu have been reported globally.

Epidemiologists have been worrying about a global pandemic for years. Just this week, philanthropist and billionaire Bill Gates—whose foundation is involved in disease prevention in developing economies—told Vox he was worried about the potential for a global disease outbreak, although he acknowledged that the probability is “very low.”

In a normal season, human influenza can kill at least 10,000 and result in the hospitalization of more than 200,000 others in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC. That translates into an economic cost of $14.9 billion in direct medical costs and lost productivity each year. Some estimate this is just a fraction of the damage a severe flu pandemic could create. One study by the CDC puts the economic impact as high as $166.5 billion.

Read MoreThe cost of halting a pandemic? $344 billion: Study

A recent study in mBio looked at the H5N1 avian flu’s spread in Egypt, and whether it has the potential to become airborne. It found that the virus there “could rapidly adapt to growth in the human airway microenvironment,” but emphasized that such a mutation was not one that “enhanced viral airborne transmission between humans.”

In other words, explained Janies, the H5N1 in Egypt is not adapting to become transmitted between humans. Rather, the bug is doing “a better job of deepening the infection” in humans.

However, the question remains whether scientific inquiry and technology can keep pace with mutating viruses. That area at least offers modest comfort, according to Janies.

“We are much better equipped to see, via genetic sequencers, and communicate, via data sharing over the Internet, on viral spread than in the past,” he said.


Eating animals to help animals? We can do better.

Originally posted on Animal Action of Greater Reading, PA:

Thoughts on the Animal Rescue League of Berks County‘s Ham Dinner fundraiser by one of our members.

happy_campers_206891It strikes a painful nerve when local animal-helping organizations raise money through activities that involve animal suffering, like a ham dinner or a burger festival.

When I see ham on a plate, I see the trail of suffering that began with the birth of the piglet. It follows his short life of confinement, and ends in his fear and slaughter at about 6 months old. It’s taken me a long time to face what I knew was going on and make lifestyle changes to avoid this sanctioned violence.

Not everyone is there yet. But people who work with dogs and cats understand the love of animals and that they can suffer. They just don’t always connect it to animals considered livestock — or maybe they feel the fight against such as massive…

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Reward Offered in Astoria, Oregon Sea Lion and Harbor Seal Shootings

Photo @ Jim Robertson

Photo @ Jim Robertson

May 28, 2015

The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the deaths of approximately ten California sea lions and one harbor seal found floating in the waters near Astoria, Oregon, over the past two months. The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

According to NOAA, multiple expended shell casings of various calibers were found during the months of April and May on the causeway at the East End Mooring Basin and at the water’s edge at the foot of 9th Street in Astoria. The deceased sea lions and harbor seal were found floating in the vicinity. The locations of the shell casings are known haul-out areas for marine mammals. The cause of death for the animals was determined to be gunshot wounds.

A recent rash of sea lion killings is coinciding with a die-off of sea lions in Southern California that has seen stranding response centers in California scrambling to rescue over 2,000 starving young animals.

Scott Beckstead, Oregon state director for The HSUS, said: “It is ironic that, on one hand we see humans reaching out to help suffering animals at the same time that others are breaking the law and killing them. Shooting sea lions and harbor seals is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and is punishable by criminal penalties up to $100,000 and one year of imprisonment. Civil penalties up to $11,000 per violation may also be assessed. The HSUS is grateful for NOAA’s work to investigate this crime and hope someone comes forward with information.”

Anyone with information concerning the shootings is asked to call NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement in Astoria, Oregon, at 503-325-5934 or the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 1-800-853-1964. Callers may remain anonymous.

Media Contact: Naseem Amini: 301-548-7793; namini@humanesociety.org

2 Scientists Drown Measuring Artic Sea Ice–Mother Jones


These Scientists Just Lost Their Lives in the Arctic. They Were Heroes.

| Thu May 7, 2015
Philip de Roo (left) and Marc Cornelissen.

Early last month, veteran polar explorers and scientists Marc Cornelissen and Philip de Roo set out on skis from Resolute Bay, a remote outpost in the patchwork of islands between Canada and Greenland. Their destination was Bathurst Island, a treacherous 70-mile trek to the northwest across the frozen sea, where they planned to document thinning Arctic sea ice just a few months after NASA reported that the winter ice cover was the lowest on record.

It wasn’t hard to find what they were looking for, according to a dispatch Cornelissen uploaded to Soundcloud on April 28.

“We’re nearing into the coast of Bathurst,” he said. “We think we see thin ice in front of us…Within 15 minutes of skiing it became really warm. In the end it was me skiing in my underwear…I don’t think it looked very nice, and it didn’t feel sexy either, but it was the only way to deal with the heat.”

His next message, a day later, was an emergency distress signal picked up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. According to the Guardian, a pilot flying over the spot reported seeing open water, scattered equipment, and a lone sled dog sitting on the broken ice. By last Friday, rescuers had called off the search. The pair are presumed to have drowned, victims of the same thin ice they had come to study. Cornelissen was 46; de Roo had just turned 30.

Yesterday, Cold Facts, the nonprofit with whom the pair was working at the time, dispatched a snowmobile expedition to attempt to recover their belongings. You can follow their progress on Twitter here. The dog, Kimnik, was found a few days ago and is doing fine, the group said.

In a blog post on the website of the European Space Agency, Cornelissen was remembered by former colleagues as “an inspirational character, an explorer and a romantic. He had fallen in love with the spellbinding beauty of the poles and had made it a personal mission to highlight the magnitude of the human fingerprint on this last wilderness.”

It’s not clear whether the ice conditions the pair encountered were directly attributable to climate change, according to E&E News:

That the region had thin ice is evident. Perhaps the ice had been thinned by ocean currents that deliver warm water from below, or by the wind, which could generate open water areas. It is difficult to know. Climate change may have played a role, or it may not have…the impacts of the warming on ice thickness regionally can be unpredictable, [ESA scientist Mark] Drinkwater said.

Still, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as anywhere else on Earth. We rely on the work of scientists like these to know exactly what is happening there and how it will affect those of us who choose to stay safe in warmer, drier places. Their deaths are a testament to the dedication and fearlessness required to stand on the front lines of climate change.

Rest in peace, guys.

REWARD! Feds seek clues in sea lion shootings

By Edward StrattonThe Daily Astorian

May 29, 2015 9:54AM

Photo courtesy of Veronica Montoya
Sea Lion Defense Brigade volunteer Veronica Montoya reported finding 11 shell casings from a .44-caliber weapon May 18 at the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin, along with a sea lion with a serious eye wound.


Photo courtesy of Veronica Montoya
Sea Lion Defense Brigade volunteer Veronica Montoya reported finding 11 shell casings from a .44-caliber weapon May 18 at the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin, along with a sea lion with a serious eye wound.

Photo courtesy of Veronica Montoya
The Sea Lion Defense Brigade reported finding 11 shell casings from a .44-caliber weapon May 18 at the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin. The group reported finding 19 shell casings in early April, as well.



NOAA has confirmed the shooting of sea lions and a seal in and around Astoria, and the Humane Society is offering a $5,000 reward for information.

At least 10 California sea lions and one harbor seal have died from gunshot wounds and trauma in and around Astoria over the past two months, federal investigators have confirmed.

“It’s all been along the waterfront in Astoria,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement Special Agent Karl Hellberg said, adding the death tally is a conservative estimate.

Hellberg reached out in the last few days to The Humane Society of the United States to offer a reward for information about the shootings. Thursday, The Humane Society offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the shootings.

Shell casings

On April 6, members of the Sea Lion Defense Brigade reported finding 19 bullet casings on the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin causeway. On May 18, they reported finding 11 more shell casings at the basin. Hellberg said more were found near Buoy Beer Co. on Ninth Street.

He said the local wildlife stranding networks have been doing necropsies on the animals.

“We’ve been watching this and trying to investigate this as we can,” he said, adding it is a difficult case because of the number of reports and the longstanding conflict between recreational and commercial fishermen and sea lions.

“I’m trying to develop additional leads right now,” Hellberg said. “I’ve exhausted many leads already.”

Since 1972, sea lions and harbor seals have been covered by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Shooting them is punishable by criminal penalties up to $100,000 and one year in prison. Civil penalties of up to $11,000 can also be assessed for each violation of the act.

The Humane Society and Hellberg are directing anyone with information concerning the shootings to call NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement in Astoria at 503-325-5934 or the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964. Callers may remain anonymous.

Why sea lions are here

The NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center recently reported on the increase of sea lions in the Columbia River and starvation in California.

Male sea lions, NOAA said, seek out high-energy, oily fish such as herring and sardines. In recent years, they’ve come in increasing numbers to the mouth of the Columbia River to feed on strong runs of smelt, taking up residence on docks and jetties near Astoria.

Their numbers locally can range from a few hundred to more than 2,000, depending on the fish runs. As the smelt run dissipates and male sea lions migrate to rookeries in Southern California, there are fewer in the river.

A die-off of sardines, a traditional food source of sea lions in California, coincides with large recent die-offs and strandings of sea lions along the California coastline, NOAA reported.

Rhinos In Mozambique Likely Extinct, Expert Says; Elephants May Be Next


JOHANNESBURG — Mozambique’s rhinoceros population was wiped out more than a century ago by big game hunters. Reconstituted several years ago, the beasts again are on the brink of vanishing from the country by poachers seeking their horns for sale in Asia.

A leading expert told The Associated Press that the last rhino in the southern African nation has been killed. The warden of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park – the only place where the horned behemoths lived in Mozambique – also says poachers have wiped out the rhinos. Mozambique’s conservation director believes a few may remain.

Elephants also could vanish in Mozambique soon, the warden of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, Antonio Abacar, told AP. He said game rangers have been aiding poachers, and 30 of the park’s 100 rangers will appear in court soon.

“We caught some of them red-handed while directing poachers to a rhino area,” Abacar said.

A game ranger arrested for helping poachers in Mozambique’s northern Niassa Game Reserve said on Mozambican Television TVM last week that he was paid 2,500 meticais (about $80) to direct poachers to areas with elephants and rhinos. Game rangers are paid between 2,000 and 3,000 meticais ($64 to $96) a month.

While guilty rangers will lose their jobs, the courts serve as little deterrent to the poachers: killing wildlife and trading in illegal rhino horn and elephant tusks are only misdemeanors in Mozambique.

“Their legal system is far from adequate and an individual found guilty is given a slap on the wrist and then they say `OK. Give me my horn back,'” said Michael H. Knight, chairman of the African Rhino Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission.

A meeting of the group in February reported there might, possibly, be one white rhino left in Mozambique and no black rhinos at all, Knight said.

According to Abacar: “We have already announced the extinction of the rhino population in Limpopo National Park.”

But Bartolomeu Soto, director of Mozambique’s transfrontier conservation unit, told the AP, “We believe we still have rhinos, though we don’t know how many.”

Mozambican news reports have said the last 15 rhinos in the park were slaughtered in the past month, but park officials said those reports were wrong. Soto said the misunderstanding had arisen over Abacar’s statement to journalists that he had not seen a rhino in the three months since he was put in charge of the large park.

The only official figure available for rhino deaths is that 17 of their carcasses were found in the park in 2010, Soto said. He said officials believe poaching must be taking place because rhino horn and elephant tusks carried by Asian smugglers are regularly seized at Mozambique’s ports, although at least some of the contraband could be from animals killed by Mozambican poachers in neighboring South Africa. This week a person was arrested at the airport of the capital, Maputo, in possession of nine rhino horns, Soto said.

The price of rhino horn has overtaken the price of gold as demand has burgeoned in Asian countries, mainly China and Vietnam, where consumers wrongly believe that the horn – made of the same substance as fingernails – has powerful healing properties. Chinese traditional medicine prescribes it for everything from typhoid, infant convulsions and fever to an antidote for poison and to relieve arthritis and cure possessions by the devil. Syndicates from Vietnam, China, South Korea and Thailand have been identified as being involved in the trafficking.

Knight said rhinos first vanished from Mozambique around the turn of the last century, in the age of the big white hunters, when the animals also nearly disappeared in South Africa, now home to 90 percent of Africa’s estimated 20,000 white rhinos and 4,880 black rhinos.

In 2002, leaders of Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe agreed to establish a transfrontier park straddling their borders and covering some 35,000 square kilometers (13,514 square miles) of the best established wildlife areas in southern Africa with South Africa’s famed Kruger National Park and Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park. It is funded by several international wildlife organizations and the European Union.

Soto said some 5,000 animals of various species were moved from South Africa to Mozambique, including the first 12 rhinos to roam in Mozambique in a century.

In 2006, South Africa removed some 50 kilometers (30 miles) of fence between Kruger and Limpopo National Park. Soto said the entire 200 kilometers (125 miles) of fence was not removed because Mozambique still is working to resettle some 6,000 people living in the park.

A second phase was to include two other Mozambican parks, allowing the transfrontier park to extend over 100,000 square kilometers (39,000 square miles) that would make it “the world’s largest animal kingdom,” according to the South African Peace Parks Foundation.

Those plans now are in danger, as is the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. Knight said South African officials are even discussing rebuilding their fence with Mozambique.

South African officials say their country has lost 273 rhinos to poachers so far this year. They say most have been killed by Mozambicans who cross into Kruger Park. Poachers killed 668 rhinos in South Africa last year.

The slaughter continues with the number of deaths increasing even though South Africa has declared war on rhino poachers and for two years has deployed soldiers and police in Kruger, a vast park which is the size of Israel.

Soto said Mozambique’s government has been working since 2009 on a comprehensive reform of environmental laws involving consultations with all stakeholders. He said he expects the draft legislation to be presented to parliament soon. It includes criminalizing the shooting of wildlife and would impose mandatory prison sentences on offenders.

But it will come too late to save the last of the rhinos in Mozambique.


Associated Press writer Emmanuel Camillo contributed to this report from Maputo, Mozambique.


Patricia Randolph’s Madravenspeak: Treated like an animal

Originally posted on Wisconsin Wildlife Ethic-Vote Our Wildlife:


For the animal kingdom, the Holocaust never ended.” — Philip Wollen, former vice president of Citibank, vegan activist

To emphasize how badly someone was treated, people often say, “He was treated like an animal.” To describe how badly someone behaved, others often say, “He acted like an animal.” This consistent demonizing of animals, demeaning them, is as much a part of our cultural framework as fried chicken. Most animals are considered irrelevant, our abuse of them out of sight, and therefore out of mind — where most people like to keep it safe from examination. Safe from personal responsibility to act.

We all share equal responsibility for abuse of the vulnerable.

This is a chance to take a closer look at two of the most despised, forgotten, and abused animals — starting with the rat. A new study out of Japan states that rats are different, and better, than one might have…

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World Bank approves grant to boost hunting in Mozambique

Bloomberg/Sunday Times
May 27, 2015

The World Bank’s International Development Association approved a $40 million grant to Mozambique to fund conservation efforts, including strengthening the country’s program of selling the rights to hunt wild animals.

The IDA approved the grant in November 2014 for a project known as MozBio, run by the Mozambican government, which aims to improve revenue collection from tourism in conservation areas. Of the funds, $700,000 is earmarked to help develop sport hunting in the southern African country.

“Hunting, when properly regulated and when revenues are distributed to communities in and around parks, is an important financing tool for governments working on the sustainable management of their parks and natural assets,” Madji Seck, a World Bank spokeswoman in Washington, said.

“Hunting blocks in Mozambique have played the role of protected areas, hosting important fauna and flora that are under very high threat in unprotected zones.”

A study released this week showing that Mozambique’s elephant population has dropped by almost half in five years because of rampant poaching, including in national parks, underscores the urgent need for the country to upgrade its conservation network.

Mozambique estimates its elephant population has dwindled to 10,300 from just over 20,000, the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement Tuesday.

Mozambique’s conservation areas consist of seven National Parks, 10 National Reserves, 17 controlled hunting areas and two Community Reserves, according to a World Bank document outlining the funding project. While revenue from tourism to the parks trebled to $3 million in 2013 from the previous year, that’s not enough to finance the areas, according to the bank.

Attempts to stimulate income from tourism by allocating part of the funding to developing hunting could backfire, according to critics of the practice.

“Nothing will turn away tourists faster than knowing that the beautiful and majestic animals they have come to watch might be met with a bullet,” Ashley Fruno, a spokeswoman for animal rights group PETA, said.