NEARLY 200 HORSES FOUND DEAD AMID SOUTHWEST DROUGHT IN ARIZONA

http://www.newson6.com/story/38123686/nearly-200-horses-found-dead-amid-southwest-drought-in-arizona

 May 06, 2018 11:57 AM PDT Updated: May 06, 2018 11:57 AM PDT

This Thursday, May 3, 2018 photo shows dozens of horse carcasses lying in a dry watering near Cameron, Ariz.
CAMERON, Arizona –Off a northern Arizona highway surrounded by pastel-colored desert is one of the starkest examples of drought’s grip on the American Southwest:  Nearly 200 dead horses surrounded by cracked earth, swirling dust, and a ribbon of water that couldn’t quench their thirst.  Flesh exposed and in various stages of decomposition, the carcasses form a circle around a dry watering hole sunken in the landscape, CBS affiliate KPHO reports.

It’s clear this isn’t the first time the animals have struggled.  Skeletal remains are scattered on the fringes and in an adjacent ravine.

It’s a symptom of a burgeoning wild horse population and the scarcity of water on the western edge of the Navajo Nation following a dry winter and dismal spring runoff.

According to the Navajo Nation, 191 horses died of natural causes.

“These animals were searching for water to stay alive.  In the process, they unfortunately burrowed themselves into the mud and couldn’t escape because they were so weak,” Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez said in a statement on Thursday.

A grim photo posted by the Navajo Nation shows the horses, many of them in mud up to their thighs and even their necks.

Conditions aren’t forecast to improve anytime soon, and tribal officials suspect other animals have died with not enough to eat or drink.

“One of the things we do is we picture the worst-case scenario when we got out there,” said Harlan Cleveland of the tribe’s Department of Emergency Management.  “I did smell the decomposition and the bodies starting to smell, the carcasses.  But I didn’t realize until I looked down from the berm and saw all those horses down there.”

Here, drought doesn’t manifest in having to shut down swimming pools or let lawns go dry.

This rural community does not have its own potable water source.  Those who have running water in their homes get it from a well, piped from over 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) away.  Most haul water, carrying large plastic tanks in the beds of their pickup trucks.  The groundwater is brackish and recommended for livestock only, but the two storage tanks closest to the watering hole no longer function.

Animals were accustomed to finding relief at the stock pond where the horses died, but locals say the pool of water beneath the decades-old earthen dam has dried up more quickly each year. Families have been downsizing their herds because they can’t rely on the vegetation or watering holes.  Some have hauled water and left it in troughs for animals.

Charlie Smith Jr. climbed the small berm overlooking the watering hole three weeks ago in search of his cattle.  At the time, he counted 29 dead horses and a cow that wasn’t his stranded at the edge looking up at him.

“It’s very emotional,” he said, standing beside his truck loaded with hay.  “I kept calling my sister saying, ‘this is bad.’  It just hits you.  You tear up.  You know you don’t have the capability to save them.”

Tribal officials counted 118 dead horses and two cows this week, but that tally doesn’t account for any carcasses that might have been pushed deeper into the mud by the other struggling animals, or for skeletal remains.

Tribal officials estimate tens of thousands of feral horses on the Navajo Nation, the country’s largest reservation spanning 27,000 square miles (69,929.679 square kilometers) in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.  Some communities have called for roundups, but often they’re halted with public outcry tied to Navajo spiritual beliefs about the animals and the role they play in prayers and ceremonies.

When Emmett Kerley was a teenager in the late 1970s in Gray Mountain, the community controlled horse populations by castrating the smaller ones, he said.  Navajo culture taught that young men should train horses and tame them, part of building endurance, a strong work ethic and managing livestock, he said.

“There were no feral horses back then, but then the society changed in greater America but on Navajo, on the reservation as well,” he said.

Staff with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs put up a barbed wire fence around the watering hole where horses laid overlapping one another.

Federal and tribal workers this week used heavy equipment to bring horses found on the outskirts closer to the others.  Hydrated lime was spread over the site to aid decomposition and to ward off scavengers.  Friday’s work focused on collapsing the berm and burying the animals on site.

Eventually, the tribe will redirect any water that flowed into that watering hole into a safer area.

“Knock on wood, God forbid, that we have that situation anywhere else within the reservation,” Cleveland said.  “This will lay the foundation for how we respond to this.”

For all the devastation, there was a bright spot.  As Cleveland surveyed ground earlier this week determining how best to respond to the deaths, he saw a foal – no more than four weeks old – moving next to what was assumed to be its mother.

Tribal officials carried it to a truck and used a long-sleeved, white T-shirt to keep it warm for the trip to a veterinary clinic 45 minutes away.  They named her Grace.

Erin Hisrich, who owns the clinic, said Grace was severely dehydrated and will need to have her blood-sugar stabilized and kidneys functioning before she could be adopted.  On Thursday, the brown foal with a long patch of white hair on its face splashed in a tub of water and cozied up to visitors.

“In the end, that made my day responding to this emergency and this chaotic scene,” Cleveland said.  “At least this baby foal made it out.”

Flagstaff man accused of illegally hunting mule deer, search warrant reveals trophies

 

Investigators recovered fhttp://www.12news.com/article/news/crime/flagstaff-man-accused-of-illegally-hunting-mule-deer-search-warrant-reveals-trophies/472775299

mule deer trophies at his home, including antlers believed to be from a well-known deer who lived in the Grand Canyon.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Several state and federal agencies served a search warrant on a man at his Flagstaff home and found mule deer trophies suspected to be illegally hunted.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department have been investigating the hunting activities of Loren McReynolds for several years now.

Investigators recovered five mule deer trophies at McReynolds’ home, including nontypical antlers believed to be from a well-known deer that lived within the Grand Canyon National Park boundaries, AZGFD said.

“The department has received many complaints about McReynolds’ hunting activities over the years,” said Gene Elms, Law Enforcement Branch chief for the Arizona Game and Fish Department in a press release. “Thanks to those individuals who came forward and the diligence of our investigators, we have the evidence to pursue criminal charges for McReynolds’ actions.”

McReynolds has a previous history of alleged wildlife violations, and was arrested in January 2017 for weapons violations and for killing federally protected burros north of Williams, Ariz., according to AZGFD.

McReynolds faces possible jail time and court fines if convicted. In addition, the AZGFD has authority to seek civil restitution for the loss of wildlife to the state and suspend or revoke McReynolds’ hunting privileges.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department encourages anyone with information about the illegal take of wildlife to call the Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-352-0700 or visit www.azgfd.com/ogt.

Don’t turn Grand Canyon into a bison hunting ‘horror show’

To his credit, President Donald Trump recently drew attention to the “horror show” that is elephant trophy hunting, adding in a tweet that he would be “very hard pressed” to see it otherwise. Never has that tawdry business been called out so bluntly, at such a high level, and we could use some similar candor in a matter closer to home – a trophy-hunting horror show soon to be staged in, of all places, Grand Canyon National Park.

It is the project of Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, who has long sought to rid the park of bison. Their iconic appeal is lost on the congressman. And so, he is pleased to report, sport hunters will be “empowered” to go in and systematically slaughter the creatures.

The bison live near the North Rim, where, complains Gosar, they are “wreaking havoc.” They threaten, no less, “the wonder that is the Grand Canyon” and even its “longevity.” With his prodding, the National Park Service has decreed that a population it calculates at between 400 and 600 bison must be reduced to “200 or fewer,” meaning that as many as 400 could be culled.

The fact that the low end of the official population estimate approximates the number that might be killed, or that these expert wildlife managers can’t even survey the current total to within a third, is just one sign of a capricious plan crying out for public scrutiny.

Oddly enough, the Park Service itself has inadvertently given the bison their most convincing defense. Its “Initial Bison Herd Reduction Environmental Assessment”purports to show how intolerable their presence has become, but on close reading only reveals Gosar’s claim of “devastation” – “a bison problem that has reached borderline epidemic proportions” – as the nonsensical, trumped-up case that it is.

In the euphemistic parlance of the scheme, we learn that “reduction actions” are called for because of “soil disturbance” by the bison.

Apparently, that’s an inexcusable offense in the park these days, even though it is elsewhere considered a vital ecological function of this keystone species, and nobody was complaining at the Grand Canyon until sport hunters started lobbying for the cull.

MORE: Bison in Arizona? The story behind how they got here

The herd also stands accused of threatening “erosion potential.” The bison graze, drink water, and pass through streams, inviting further charges of causing “the potential for increasing impacts on vegetation” and “potential concerns about changes to local hydrology.”

“Potential damage” to archaeological sites is cited as yet another transgression, even as the report concedes there is no evidence that any buffalo has so much as stumbled into one of them, causing any actual damage.

“Potential benefits” likewise show the Park Service straining for a rationale to do an obviously cruel thing. You know they’re reaching when we’re informed that wiping out the herd will decrease “the potential for visitors slowing and/or stopping . . . to view bison resulting in potential vehicle-vehicle collisions.”

Have collisions become an actual hazard? Again, no.

And never mind that this particular example of a “benefit” merely reminds us that visitors love to see the buffalo that the Park Service wants to kill.

The sound of gunfire? Yeah, ignore that

On such vague and conjectural grounds, we are supposed to accept as unavoidable the miserable death of these beautiful creatures – whose presence at the Canyon, it becomes clear, is utterly benign, causing no harm to anyone who leaves them in peace.

Unmentioned, too, is that as hunting becomes the norm, surviving bison will increase their rate of reproduction, exactly the opposite of the intended result, although in passing we do learn that the “initial” culling will require three “reduction actions” a week.

This will involve helicopters, ATVs and snow machines for the chase, along with other alterations in “visitor experience” and the “acoustic environment” of what had been a wildlife sanctuary. Translation: Try to ignore the sound of gunfire as the North Rim of the park becomes a game farm for trophy hunters.

Gosar actually submitted a bill, the Grand Canyon Bison Management Act, just to make sure the volunteer hunters may haul off the “full bison” for display in trophy rooms. Hard to believe an act of Congress could be wasted to serve such a silly and squalid purpose, but the “stakeholders” insisted, so he obliged.

And who are they?

His office provides a list consisting exclusively of sport-hunting groups, as if no one else might have an interest in the matter.

The Park Service airily dwells on “values such as visitor experience and wilderness character” (which, of course, the bison are faulted for “potentially” ruining), but we would be wiser to think of our own values and our own character.

There are other ways to manage bison

A humble herd of 500 or so buffalo, in a country where some 50 million were annihilated, carries no burden of justifying its existence.

These creatures deserve better and we should expect better of ourselves, by managing them in ways that don’t leave blood trails, with a view to fertility control instead of lethal culling.

Consider a program carried out on Catalina Island, off the coast of California, once the unlikely habitat of 600 free-roaming buffalo. Its population stands today at 150, and is held there by an immunocontraceptive vaccine (porcine zona pellucinda, or PZP) administered by marksmen directing darts at the females. The vaccine indisputably works, and there is no reason it could not be employed at the Grand Canyon.

If relocation is in order for some of the herd, there are resourceful ways to accomplish that as well, as happened when the park’s wild burros were captured and transported to sanctuaries.

YOUR TURN: Birth control is an easy fix for wild horses. Why ignore it?

Among other groups, the Humane Society of the U.S. is prepared to take on the assignment, working with Arizona authorities and the Park Service. Their methods challenge the old “game-management” mindset of domination, violence as the answer to every problem, and rank exploitation dressed up as high science.

They offer a benevolent approach, inspired by respect and empathy, and who doubts that they better represent public opinion than the trophy hunters do?

Alas for the noble buffalo, all of their imagined offenses now bring imminent punishment. To spare the bison will take swift action by the media, others in Congress, our governor, and most importantly the public demanding to know why wildlife sanctuaries in law are not sanctuaries in practice.

Enough with the bogus studies, scandalous insider deals and volunteer butchers. Now let the real stakeholders speak up, extend our compassion to these grand and worthy creatures, and stop a bad idea dead in its tracks.

Matthew Scully, a Phoenix-area resident, is a former senior speechwriter to President George W. Bush and the author of Dominion: the Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.

READ MORE:

Arizona park officials suggest hunting to combat bison problem

Grand Canyon overwhelmed by those interested in shooting bison

Animal-rights group wants Arizona voters to ban hunting of mountain lions, bobcats

http://tucson.com/news/local/animal-rights-group-wants-arizona-voters-to-ban-hunting-of/article_cc140fd3-be4a-5a03-a7c9-c53fc51ff297.html

  • By Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services
  • Updated 
Mountain lions
The hunting of mountain lions and other big cats is largely considered trophy hunting.

George Andrejko / Game And Fish Department

PHOENIX — Saying there’s no reason for “trophy hunting” of mountain lions, the Humane Society of the United States is moving to get Arizona voters to outlaw the practice.

The group’s proposal for the 2018 ballot would make it illegal to pursue, shoot, snare, net or capture any “wild cat.” That specifically means bobcats and mountain lions.

As written, the ban also technically would apply to jaguars, lynx and ocelot. But those already are protected as endangered species.

“People no longer really tolerate trophy hunting,” said Kellye Pinkleton, the Humane Society’s state director. “People are not shooting them, hounding them, trapping them for subsistence.”

But Kurt Davis, a member of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, said the number of mountain lions killed each year — about 360 in 2015, the most recent number available — simply keeps the population in check and ensures that prey species, including bighorn sheep and pronghorn antelope, are not decimated.

Davis said he sees the proposed initiative as part of an effort to ban hunting entirely.

Pinkleton responded: “We do not have any blanket opposition to hunting.”

Backers of the ban on hunting big cats have until next July to gather 150,642 valid signatures on petitions to get the issue on the ballot.

The Humane Society and its local affiliate have a track record with voters. In 1994 they succeeded in getting Arizona voters to approve a ban on the use of leg-hold traps on public lands by a margin of close to 3-2.

Pinkleton noted that initiative laws have since been tightened by the Republican-controlled Legislature, with a ban on paying circulators on a per-signature basis and a requirement that petition papers be in “strict compliance” with all election laws.

But she said her organization and other allies should be able to raise the $3 million to $5 million it will take to force a public vote.

If it gets that far, it could be difficult to defeat. Davis said Arizona has a higher percentage of urban residents than any other “inland” state, meaning people less likely to go hunting.

That means the Game and Fish Commission and hunters will need to make their case that the practice should not be outlawed.

Davis said it comes down to science.

He estimated there about about 2,500 mountain lions in Arizona.

Each year the state issues more than 10,000 tags to hunt mountain lions. Davis said the commission’s experience is that, given the difficulty to actually kill one, that keeps the population in the 2,000 to 3,000 range, which he said is ideal.

Pinkleton disagreed. “The science doesn’t back up their claims,” she said.

She said the initiative would still allow killing of mountain lions in cases where they were endangering humans or killing other animals, whether a rancher’s cattle or the bighorn sheep that have been reintroduced into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area near Tucson.

The difference, she said, is that only the actual lions causing the problem could be hunted, versus simply telling hunters they can go out and shoot them in the area to cut down on the population.

Davis said such an approach makes little sense.

He said a 1990 initiative banning the killing of mountain lions in California now results in more of the big cats being killed by state officials to protect other species than were taken by hunters.

Pinkleton said there’s a good reason why the Arizona initiative would outlaw only the killing of wild cats.

“These essentially are killed for trophies or for fur,” she said, and for “bragging rights” about killing a lion.

“This is not deer or elk where communities are using the whole animal, whether for the meat or whatever,” she continued. “This is not a subsistence animal.”

Davis takes exception to pushing the initiative as a ban on hunting “trophy” animals.

“The notion of ‘trophy’ is a political notion that they’ve tested and polled,” with no actual legal basis, he said.

If the test of “trophy hunting” is whether hunters actually eat what they kill, that would include the hunting of coyotes, Davis said.

Beyond that, he said the initiative ignores that hunting is “a tool used by our state’s biologists … to manage our state’s wildlife.”

“Thank god … that you have hunters, both men and women sportsmen, that are willing to go out and be part of the management tools to maintain healthy populations of all of our species,” he said.

Bobcats, which Davis said number “in the thousands” in Arizona, are a different situation. They are classified the same as coyotes, raccoons and skunks, which can be hunted at all times without a special permit.

According to the Game and Fish Department, 1,300 bobcats are killed each year, on average.

Part of the debate is likely to involve methods used by some hunters.

“If a pack of dogs chases a mountain lion into a tree, and they are shot, that is not a fair chase,” Pinkleton said.

Davis countered, “That’s one of those issues that you see and hear, and it creates an emotional response.” But he said that doesn’t necessarily make it wrong.

“The traditions of using hounds to pursue lions is something that existed in our country since its foundation,” he said. Anyway, Davis said, only a “small number” of people have the ability to use dogs. “I don’t,” he said.

The numbers from the Game and Fish Department suggest that the use of dogs does make a big difference, however: Out of 324 mountain lions killed in 2015 by hunters, 247 of those were with the use of dogs.

Mexican gray wolf population bounces back in Southwest

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/02/17/mexican-gray-wolf-population-bounces-back-southwest/98078884/

PHOENIX — Endangered Mexican gray wolves rebounded from a deadly 2015 to reach a population of 113 in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico last year, the most since the species returned to the wild almost 20 years ago, federal and state biologists announced Friday.

The population of wolves, first reintroduced from captive breeding into the two states in 1998, had grown by fits and starts to 110 two years ago before dropping back to 97 at the end of 2015. Unsolved illegal shootings contributed to the losses, and officials said that year also saw lower pup survival.

Last year was different, according to winter ground and aerial surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partner wildlife agencies in the two states. Fifty wild-born pups survived the year, compared with just 23 in 2015.

At least 63 wolves roamed the forests of eastern Arizona as of January, the agencies reported.

“We are encouraged by these numbers, but these 2016 results demonstrate we are still not out of the woods with this experimental population,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle said in a news release.

The year’s positive numbers didn’t sway wolf advocates, who say the population needs a major infusion of new blood with new releases of captive wolves.

Arizona has favored placing captive-born pups with wild packs in the state lately, instead of releasing pairs to form new packs. The tactic remains risky, Robinson said, as the annual census shows only three of six wolves fostered in this manner apparently survived last year.

New Mexico, meanwhile, has secured a court injunction barring new releases into that state for the time being.

Both states face pressure from ranchers and deer and elk hunters to limit potential wolf predations.

“New Mexico is paving a path that could lead to Mexican gray wolf extinction,” said Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “Releases are crucial to increase lobo numbers and improve their genetic diversity in the wild.

“We need more wolves and less politics.”

Arizona expects the survival of wild-born pups to help sustain last year’s growth rate, said Jim deVos, assistant director of wildlife management for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The Mexican wolf is the rarest of gray wolf subspecies and is somewhat smaller than its northern cousins. It was hunted into near extinction with U.S. government help in the past century before a captive breeding program began with the last seven survivors in the 1970s.

Mexico also has re-established a small population.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has long struggled to produce a recovery plan that would lay out a population goal and the means to get there, but it is due to release one this fall.

What if there were no Mexican gray wolves in Arizona?

http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/2015/07/04/mexican-gray-wolves-arizona/29643765/

What If: Paul Gosar, Defender of Wildlife debate the impact of the Mexican grey wolf in Arizona.

What would happen if there were no Mexican grey wolves in Arizona? We asked two experts to weigh in on federal programs to reintroduce the species

—————————–

IT WOULDN’T MAKE MUCH DIFFERENCE

Arizona would be identical to Texas in that respect and the Mexican wolf population would more closely resemble its historic range (90 percent of the Mexican wolf’s original habitat is in Mexico).

However, I am not advocating for Mexican gray wolf eradication. I simply want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to leave species conservation efforts to the states, to comply with federal law, and to stop implementing a flawed experimental program that poses a serious threat to Arizona ranchers, citizens and economies.

Mexican wolves have repeatedly stalked citizens, devastated big game herds and killed livestock. In Catron County, N.M., the wolf’s presence has resulted in a $5 million economic hit and “1,172 calves lost annually,” according to the Southwest Center for Resource Analysis.

In January, Fish and Wildlife implemented new regulations that dramatically expanded the area Mexican wolves can roam and designated the wolf as an endangered subspecies. The agency acknowledged its failure to secure appropriations prior to implementing the new regs, in violation of federal law.

The Mexican wolf has lingered on the Endangered Species list for nearly 40 years. During that time, Fish and Wildlife has failed to work with local stakeholders and has been using an illegal recovery program, as it is not based on the best available science and fails to establish a recovery goal. Arizona recently sued as a result.

The agency has acknowledged the recovery plan violates federal law and that the new regulations will not result in a de-listing. In the U.S., the Mexican wolf population now exceeds the primary goal of 100 wolves, and there are another 250 in captivity. The wolf is no longer in danger of extinction.

The bipartisan Mexican Wolf Transparency and Accountability Act rejects the new January mandates as Arizonans deserve a viable solution that adequately protects local communities.

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar is a Republican representing Arizona.

—————————–

IT WOULD BE A TRAGEDY

If there were no Mexican gray wolves in Arizona, this rarest gray wolf would be on a direct path to extinction. Essentially eradicated from the southwestern United States by the 1930s, the Mexican gray wolf It is one of the most endangered mammals in North America. There are fewer than 120 wild Mexican gray wolves in the entire world: 109 in Arizona and New Mexico and a handful in Mexico.

Why does that matter? Lobos hold profound cultural significance in our region, and are important apex predators that contribute to the environmental health of the areas they inhabit. Sadly, despite the work that has been done to recover them, the Mexican gray wolf is still noticeably rare on our beautiful landscape in Arizona. The truth is, Without lobos, Arizona would not be safer or more productive, but it would be lacking an iconic part of our heritage.

No one has ever been killed by a Mexican gray wolf, and in Arizona, wolves account for less than 1 percent of total cattle and calf losses. On the other hand, 87 percent of voters polled in Arizona agree that wolves are a “vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage,” and 83 percent of Arizonans agree that “the US Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help wolves recover and prevent extinction.”

To lose the lobo would be a tragedy of our lifetime.

Eva Sargent is Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife.

Arizona sues feds over regulations on Mexican gray wolves

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Madeleine Winer, The Republic

The Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Attorney General’s Office have filed a lawsuit against the federal government, alleging it has failed to update its Mexican-wolf recovery plan.

The state is asking the secretary of the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a modern plan that would improve Arizona’s involvement in recovery efforts and establish a target number of Mexican wolves for the area.

“If you think about wildlife management, part of what you want is for a target number of animals for there to be a balance in the rest of the biotic community,” said Jim deVos, Arizona Game and Fish Department assistant director for wildlife management. “You don’t want to have too many of the one thing. We want a healthy population of wolves in balance with social, economic and wildlife needs in the state of Arizona.”

The current Mexican-wolf recovery plan, established in 1982, allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain a captive breeding program and re-establish the population with 100 Mexican wolves released into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area in Arizona and New Mexico in 1998. Currently, deVos said, 109 wolves inhabit Arizona.

The Game and Fish Department claims the 1982 plan fails to identify how many animals would constitute recovery of the population and allow the wolves to be removed from the list of endangered species in the future. For decades, there have been conflicts between ranchers and the wolves.

More: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/arizona/2015/06/08/arizona-sues-feds-regulations-mexican-gray-wolves/28721223/

Gray wolf reported at Grand Canyon for first time in decades

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Thursday, October 30, 2014 LAURA ZUCKERMAN FOR REUTERS
(Reuters) – A gray wolf was recently photographed on the north rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona in what would be the first wolf sighting in the national park since the last one was killed there in the 1940s, conservation groups said on Thursday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was sending a team to try capturing the animal in order to verify its species and origin, although federal biologists are assuming it is a wolf unless otherwise determined, a spokeswoman said.
The agency later issued a statement saying a collared “wolf-like” animal had repeatedly been observed and photographed on U.S. forest land just north of Grand Canyon National Park, and that wildlife officials were “working to confirm whether the animal is a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid.”
It said the collar “is similar to those used in the northern Rocky Mountain wolf recovery effort,” and that feces would be collected for DNA analysis.
Several photos of the animal were taken over the weekend by a Grand Canyon park visitor who shared them with conservation activists and park staff, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which first made the findings public.
A note accompanying images viewed by Reuters said two wolf biologists and “an experienced wolf observer” who reviewed the photos concluded they “appear to depict a radio-collared northern Rocky mountain gray wolf.”
Any wolf roaming the Grand Canyon, in north-central Arizona, would be protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. If confirmed to be a western gray wolf, it would presumably have ventured hundreds of miles (km) south from the Northern Rockies, where the animals were reintroduced in the 1990s and are now estimated to number nearly 1,700.
A separate smaller population, from a subspecies called the Mexican gray wolf, inhabits southeastern Arizona and western New Mexico, hundreds of miles (km) in the opposite direction. But the animal in question appeared larger than a typical Mexican wolf, experts said.
The sighting comes as the Obama administration is weighing a proposal to lift Endangered Species Act protections for all wolves but the Mexican gray subspecies, even in states where wolves are not known to have established a presence.
Center for Biological Diversity executive Noah Greenwald said the new wolf sightings helped show such a move would be premature.
“It highlights … that wolves are still recovering and occupy just a fraction of their historic range,” he said.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Steve Gorman, Peter Cooney and Sandra Maler)

Arizona bill allowing ranchers to kill wolves also vetoed

copyrighted wolf in river

http://azdailysun.com/news/local/state-and-regional/ariz-bill-allowing-ranchers-to-kill-wolves-also-vetoed/article_05bcadf8-cab5-11e3-ab97-001a4bcf887a.html

by 

PHOENIX — Gov. Jan Brewer will not give ranchers and their employees permission to kill endangered Mexican gray wolves on federal lands.

The measure vetoed Tuesday was crafted by Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford. She has been a vocal foe of the program by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce the wolves into sections of Arizona and New Mexico, saying they are endangering not only cattle but also pets and children.

SB1211 would have spelled out that ranchers could “take” a wolf — legalese for killing — that was killing, wounding or biting livestock. It also would have legalized a guard dog that is protecting livestock killing a wolf.

And the law would also have permitted killing a wolf in self-defense or defense of others. In that case, though, the act would have to be reported within 24 hours to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Brewer, in her veto message, said she is a “strong supporter” of states’ rights. But she said SB1211 is both unnecessary and conflicts with federal law.

She said the state Game and Fish Department already is working with federal agencies to deal with how wolf reintroduction will affect the state. By contrast, Brewer said SB1211 would have given that duty to the state Department of Agriculture, the agency responsible for dealing with ranchers and grazing.

Beyond that, Brewer said the legislation sought to put the Mexican wolf in the same legal category as mountain lions and bears. But she said that is in conflict with federal law which does allow killing those two species in certain circumstances but not the wolves.

“A state simply does not have the power to allow a ‘take’ on federal lands,” the governor wrote.

Brewer took no action Tuesday on HB2699, a related measure on her desk. It would allow a livestock operator or agent to kill a wolf on public lands if it in self defense or the defense of others, with the only requirement that it be reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But that measure also contains language that Brewer could find in conflict with federal law.

It directs the Attorney General’s Office to seek funds from the federal government to pay ranchers for their losses. But it also says that if the federal government doesn’t come up with the cash, the Legislature will consider a measure to require that Mexican wolves be restricted to federally controlled lands and removed from state and private lands.

Arizona House OK’s bill targeting wolf recovery program

copyrighted wolf in river
April 17, 2014 6:00 am  • 

PHOENIX — State lawmakers voted Wednesday to let ranchers shoot the Mexican gray wolves being reintroduced to the Southwest despite their listing under federal law as endangered.

On a 16-12 vote the Senate approved legislation that allows a livestock operator or agent to kill a wolf on public lands if it in self defense or the defense of others. The only requirement under HB2699 is that the act must be reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In separate action, the House gave final approval to SB1211. Its permission to kill wolves on public lands is broader, extending to any animal engaged in killing, wounding or biting livestock. And it also allows dogs that guard livestock to kill wolves.

The 37-22 vote came over the objections of Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson.

“We nearly destroyed the buffalo years ago,” she told colleagues, evoking the image of herds of animals shot and left to rot on the plains.

“We’re about to do this to the Mexican wolves,” Steele continued. “We don’t have to keep repeating the tragic mistakes of history.”

And Rep. Jonathan Larkin, D-Phoenix, said there are “more humane” alternatives to having ranchers kill the wolves. He said that New Mexico, for example, has set up a fund to reimburse ranchers for lost livestock.

That actually is part of HB2699, though there are no actual funds to do that. Instead, the legislation tells the attorney general to seek funds from the federal government to pay the ranchers for their losses. But it also says that if the federal government doesn’t come up with the cash, the Legislature will consider a measure to require that Mexican wolves be restricted to federally controlled lands and removed from state and private lands.

Much of the debate concerns whether wolves, which everyone admits were here until at least 1930, should be reintroduced to Arizona.

Sen. Gail Griffin, R-Hereford, who has been at the forefront of fighting the federal program, said the prey for the animals in her corner of the state are “cattle, a few whitetail, pets and our children.” And Griffin, sponsor of SB1211, told colleagues during committee debate earlier in the session about individuals in Arizona and New Mexico who have been stalked by the animals.

And HB2699 actually contains language that says the federal recovery program “introduces a brand new population of dangerous alpha-level predators and varmints into vast areas of land that have not seen wolves since the 1930s.”

That is based on the argument that the wolves have been bred and raised by humans and therefore, unlike wild wolves, “have displayed little or no fear of humans, have congregated near human dwellings and have mated with domestic dogs.” And tha,t the legislation says, makes these wolves “more unpredictable and dangerous.”

But Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr said this kind of legislation “creates this big bad wolf idea we need to get past.”

Steele, in an effort to block SB1211, drew on her Seneca heritage and beliefs.

“We are related to the trees and the dogs and the cats and the wolves,” she said.

“This may not be your religious view,” Steele continued. “But it is indeed mine.”

SB1211 now goes to the governor. HB2699 needs final House approval of the Senate changes.