Wildlife Management: When Forest Wails and Mourns

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

“Just as ships’ bottoms pick up layers of barnacles over time, so, through their lives, human societies and individuals become encrusted with layers of cultural and ideological sediment. … The cemented coating clings as though chemically bonded to me and screams bloody bloody murder at my slightest advance…”~John Livingston

Awar on wildlife in British Columbia never ends; cruelty goes on, unabated. We cannot unshackle ourselves from the self-centered belief system — the thickened layer of barnacles — that destines us to view nature as a resource subordinate to our needs. When, in 1981, John Livingston wrote “Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation”, he cautioned against the fallacy of turning the Earth’s fabric into a “natural resource”. It was echoed by Neil Evernden who recognized that, once deemed a resource, nature inevitably becomes a casualty of reckless exploitation. And this is what has happened. Under the guise of fostering “conservation”, we have concocted a management approach that gives us a license to discard a delicate assembly of life as if it were a lump of coal.

The decades-long tragedy of the caribou habitat is a proof, as good any, of cruelty and travesty inherent to current wildlife management strategies. What strikes the most is how long it has lasted. In the 1970s, a biologist, Michael Bloomfield, showed that the widespread destruction of the habitat by logging and other resource development activities threatened caribou survival. These warnings were never listened to. The B.C. government has allowed for the destruction of the habitat to continue, and the caribou population dwindled from 40,000 in the early 1900s to approximately 15,000 today, all scattered among 54 herds. Thirty of those herds are at risk of extinction and 14 have fewer than 25 individuals.

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

This is the current reality. With impunity grounded in political support — regardless of a party in power — the industrial encroachment fragments the caribou habitat and decimates their food source. Consequently, chances for the survival of the caribou diminish as their habitat shrinks in size. The resilience of nature is no match for greed and political expediency. A cycle of life gets broken. What is worse, the officially sanctioned ecological devastation not only ensures the eventual disappearance of the caribou but sentences to death wolves, cougars, and many other species that depend on the same habitat.

Death comes in many forms, and, for some animals, anguish and agony mark the path. The fate that wolves suffer shows most glaringly the tragedy that befalls nature when the government gives in to demands of the resource-extraction industry. In 2014, the B.C. government, with its Management Plan for the Grey Wolf, authorized the war on wolves. Since 2015, under the guise of caribou conservation, over 700 wolves have been killed. They were trapped, hunted, poisoned to death, gunned down from helicopters. Even more abhorrently, extermination tactics have used “Judas wolves” to find their packs and wipe out all of their members. But this not where the war against the wolf ends. The stated number does not include “wolf whacking” contests that take place in the interior of B.C. — an officially sanctioned bestiality that not only dooms wild animals but debases us, as human beings.

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

And, yet, even this is not enough. Now, the NDP government argues that “landscape scale habitat management is needed to support self-sustaining caribou populations”. It thus proposes a predator hunt legislation that would — in the name of reversing caribou population declines — erase more than 80 percent of the wolf population in parts of the central B.C. In other words, it would get rid of the “surplus” of wolves. To call this wildlife management approach fallacious and unethical is to be greatly euphemistic. The innocuously sounding phrase — “landscape scale habitat management” — camouflages an outright slaughter.

And it is the slaughter compounded by ecological ignorance. Any discussion about maintaining stable wolf populations — an underlying premise behind the predator hunt legislation — defeats its purpose if the exact number of wolves in a habitat remains unknown. As so is the case here. The Management Plan for the Grey Wolf states that the wolf population might be approximately 8,500. In reality, this number can be anywhere between 5,300 and 11,600, since, as the plan admits, estimating the population size is challenging due to the secretive nature of wolves, their extensive range, and the density of forested habitats they inhabit. Moreover, hunting data in B.C. lack reliability. The plan states that there is “considerable uncertainty in the current take of wolves by resident hunters and trappers as B.C. does not have a mandatory reporting system…[and] without more reliable estimates of the harvest, it is difficult to assess the sustainability of BC’s wolf harvest.” This ignorance does not, however, prevent the government, Max Foran states, from accepting “generous hunting quotas, no limit on killing females or pups, no bag-limit zones, long and sometimes open year-round hunting seasons, no license requirement for residents.” This is not management but a “wolf killing plan”, he writes.

Killing that will never stop. The ministry’s scientists claim that “a very extensive effort will be required every year to continue to keep the wolf population low” because of the wolf’s natural resilience and quick recovery. Like stubborn weeds, wolves must be eradicated repeatedly. This malignancy cannot be allowed to grow.

Unfortunately, the cruelty and the bureaucratic cold-heartedness underpinning this statement account for merely a part of its tragic perversity. However inhumane, the perpetual killing of wolves is based on the premise that, following a bout of slaughter, the species is able to recover. Only an unfounded human hubris would allow for such a premise to sustain itself. The so-called “surplus” of wolves is very fragile in the face of climate change, and wolves are vulnerable to the unpredictable ecosystem dynamics. Precariousness and unpredictability are the words that define a broad range of interdependences in the critical caribou habitat. The social-ecological system operates on various scales– some of them observable and some not — and there are tipping points, the crossing of which takes us into a place of no return. After all, we live in the times of a rapid environmental change where the only certain expectation is uncertainty. That is why the “managed” killing of predators is a callous misnomer that is bound to unleash not only savagery but also unknown ecological ramifications.

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

Still, numerical variations in the wolf population, as well as both known and unknown ecological consequences of their repeated slaughter, do not tell the whole story. What remains hidden from all of us, living far away from the land of the wolf, is individual suffering to which, through our political indifference, we implicitly consent. What we do not see is paralyzing anguish, pain, and psychological trauma that comes in the aftermath of the shattered family structure. Death destroys even those who survive. After a killing spree is temporarily over, surviving wolves return to mourn a loss. They also face a world unknown to them. As Marc Bekoff and Sadie Parr write, “those individuals that survive to make new wolf families must do so without access to the knowledge and culture held by their slain family members, something that takes generations to build. They become refugees on their own land.”

Finally, this is not only about the caribou or the wolf, but also about us, humans. Perceiving nature through the prism of its cruel and ignorant management comes at a price that we will have to pay. Destroying wolves destroys us as a society. It diminishes us. Our appreciation of and compassion for the natural world have evolved throughout centuries and molded into moral and ethical principles. We break these principles at our peril.

It is time to start peeling layers of “cultural and ideological” sediment we wrapped ourselves in. The cemented coating that clings to us offers the comfort of familiarity, but it is a false comfort that chips away at our humanity. The main argument for killing wolves in the caribou habitat is ensuring that the caribou will still be there, in the future. So our children and their children can watch them roam the forest. Given the ongoing destruction of the habitat, it will not happen no matter how many wolves we decide to shoot. But even if the demise of the caribou were to be somehow temporarily postponed by the merciless “recovery” plan, what then? Should we tell our children how many generations of wolves we have killed to accomplish this? Should we tell them that they what they see is the legacy of killing fields?

PLEASE TAKE ACTION:

In British Columbia:

  1. Support Pacific Wild campaign “Save BC Wolves” at https://pacificwild.org/campaign/save-bc-wolves/
  2. Support Wolf Awareness campaign at https://www.wolfawareness.org
  3. Support Wildlife Defence League campaign at https://www.wildlifedefenceleague.org/mountain-caribou
  4. Write and Send letters to:

Premier John Horgan — Premier@gov.bc.ca
Minister Doug Donaldson — FLNR.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Darcy Peel — Director, BC Caribou Recovery Program caribou.recovery@gov.bc.ca

Please also help wolves In Ontario:

“The Ford government wants wolves and coyotes to pay the price for declining moose populations in Ontario. By re-opening a proposal abandoned by the previous government after it was outed as being unscientific and unethical, the PCs are trying to liberalize the hunting of both wolves and coyotes across northern Ontario.”

Comment by September 26th at http://earthroots.good.do/wolf/huntingcomment/?fbclid=IwAR08lwxns1Z0hw5tnc_uBZ5M9y6syqKQwWy5u48mkT0S2A1mOBZ6Zz2Pn_0

Protest Slaughter of Canada Geese in Denver, Colorado

Denver Parks and Recreation Manager Scott Gilmore calls it a “rodeo”

canada goose with goslings

As summarized by Julie Marshall in Boulder County’s Daily Camera, July 1: “Two weeks ago, our tax dollars paid a gaggle of federal employees to stalk Canada geese by land and by lake at Denver’s highly popular Washington Park, without witnesses, at the break of dawn. It was hardly a stealthy operation, because seasonally molting geese cannot fly. The goose hunt was triggered by Denver Parks and Recreation, whose manager, Scott Gilmore, explains that it’s mostly about poop. People complain a lot about goose poop, he says. And so up to 2,200 geese will be rounded up this year, poisoned or gassed, and churned into meat to feed to poor families, our government tells us.”

Read the article: Mindless cruelty for the sake of a tidy park

 

In The Healing Power of Geese and Other Animals, June 30, Marc Bekoff, PhD, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, describes the magnificence of these geese and criticizes the horrific terror attack being conducted in Denver on them and their goslings:

“Humans are usually the reason why geese go where they go, and when they become a nuisance, some humans favor culling them. Of course, ‘culling’ is a way to sanitize what they’re really doing, and that is killing them. Sometimes those responsible for these killing sprees or those who carry them out say they’re euthanizing whoever is on their hit list. This also is misleading because euthanasia refers to mercy killing because an individual is in interminable pain or incurably ill. It’s the last and most difficult choice that people have to make, and geese who are being killed in Denver are healthy bird beings.”

 

What Can I Do?

Please sign & share this Petition to Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock urging that Denver Parks and Recreation Manager Scott Gilmore be fired:

Fire Scott Gilmore

 

Thank you for taking action.
United Poultry Concerns

 

Zimbabwe Ready to Sell Elephants to ‘Anyone Who Wants Wildlife’

  • Planned sale of elephants to Angola will help reduce ‘excess’
  • Zimbabwe tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira says in interview

Zimbabwe plans to sell elephants to Angola and is prepared to ship wild animals to any other interested countries as the southern African nation seeks to reduce its elephant population due to growing conflict between people and wildlife.

“We have no predetermined market for elephant sales, we are open to everyone who wants our wildlife,” Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira said in an interview on the sidelines of a wildlife summit in Victoria Falls. “The main problem is landmines in Angola, so we are trying to assist them by having a fund to deal with those before we send the animals.” Millions of landmines were used in Angola’s 27-year civil war that ended in 2002 and many have yet to be cleared.

Leaders of the four southern African nations that are home to more than half of the world’s African elephants gathered in Zimbabwe on Tuesday to discuss a common management policy and reiterate calls on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to relax some of its rules, including a moratorium on ivory sales.

The four countries – Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana – joined forces earlier this year to lobby CITES ahead of a global conference scheduled for August. They say they should be free to decide how to deal with their wildlife, and income from sales of ivory stockpiles can be used for conservation. Botswana says it has too many elephants, while Mupfumira said Zimbabwe had an “excess” of 30,000 of the animals.

Namibian President Hage Geingob and Zambia’s Edgar Lungu told delegates at the summit that the rights of communities living among elephants are being overlooked and there should be a “new deal” with CITES that allows them to benefit from wildlife. President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, who oversaw the lifting of a hunting ban in May to enable villagers to shoot some elephants if they destroy crops, made similar comments.

Zimbabwe has already sold African elephants to China in recent years. The West African nation of Gambia, which doesn’t have any pachyderms, has also expressed interest, Mupfumira said.

“They said come and teach us and send us technical know-how,” she said. “We must allow free movement, and we must also decide – its our own resource.”

Did Washington State Fish and Wildlife internal directive lead to killing of Snoqualmie Valley cougar?

[Article by contributing writer, North Bend resident and wildlife enthusiast, Melissa Grant]

On April 5th 2019, a Capital Press headline read, “WDFW Director: When in doubt, remove the cougar.” This memo came shortly after a March Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Commission meeting in Spokane. New director Kelly Susewind – WSU grad with a degree in geological engineering and longtime Department of Ecology employee – took over in January 2018 after the former director resigned. To many, the new director’s ‘remove the cougar’ stance sounded like a change that could result in the killing of more animals.

Less than a month later – in our own backyard – that directive claimed one of its first victims.

The audio transcript of that March Commission meeting made it clear that many were concerned about cougar populations. Most notably, one group claimed that cougars and wolves were responsible for the deaths of 25,000 deer annually in NE Washington. They also went on to claim these predators were responsible for DFW funding shortfalls. If you believe their numbers and follow their extrapolations, you can see how the cougars are costing the state a fair bit of money in lost hunting permits. Apparently, they and the other meeting attendees convinced Susewind the problem was statewide and the memo was distributed to wildlife & enforcement programs on April 24th.

The very next day, on social media, a story started unfolding. In the comments of a wildlife story, a local man was telling a tale of losing his goat to a cougar. “I had my 130lb goat plucked off by a cat 30yards from my back door.”  Some tried to help by sharing links and tips for protecting livestock. Others offered contact info for the local DFW bear and cougar specialist. It was clear from his response he didn’t think much of the Department or want their advice. “lol. WDFW has been here tracking this mother and 3 cubs for 8 years. Who is this ‘specialist’? Do they have experience hunting and hunting predators?” He said he also had a second goat taken in early February. Like the three men at the commission meeting, he seemed convinced the reason for the attacks was simple: loss of deer. Furthermore, the WDFW had been at his house that very day looking and he was disgusted by the “spiel” he had heard about responsibility.

It was clear this man wasn’t inclined to change his mind and a quick look at his Facebook page showed he had very poor husbandry, leaving his goats susceptible to attack. But what effect did the memo have on his two previous encounters with DFW officers? There were enough details to submit a public records request for both goat depredation incidents.

Soon after there was a Digital Open House with the WDFW director and other staff on May 13th. Armed with a copy of the memo and having studied department reports on cougars, four questions were put into the queue for consideration:

  • A recent incident in the Snoqualmie Valley involved a resident with poor husbandry losing two of his livestock in three months. One call involved multiple officers, according to some accounts. What is the cost per call? How much taxpayer money is spent on repeat offenders?
  • How are you solving repeat problem situations with large predators outside of killing animals? What if people don’t follow recommendations given by officers? Will you be following up with citations, fines and long-term solutions?
  • There are recommendations in WDFW 2018 Game Status and Trend Report to avoid/minimize conflict and interactions with large carnivores through outreach, education, better husbandry and an emphasis on personal responsibility.  However, the director’s memo regarding dangerous wildlife of April 24th excludes all references to these things. Is there a general trend towards de-emphasizing personal responsibility?
  • WDFW manages fish and wildlife. Why does it suddenly sound like it is just helping remove or eliminate wildlife and carnivores? Where does responsible management play a role?

Two and a half hours later, these questions were either not asked; asked but significantly changed; or answered with what can only be described as blather.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, the questions were resubmitted to the director. Game Division Manager Anis Aoude replied on May 17th. The answer to the third question stood out as somewhat reassuring: “The Director’s memo that you mention was not intended to de-emphasize personal responsibility.  It was intended to stress that human safety should be paramount when making decisions related to large carnivores.  Our employees will still be emphasizing that good animal husbandry is the best way to avoid livestock depredation.  They will also continue to provide technical assistance and suggestions along those lines.”

That answer coupled with point two on the memo – “When public safety is threatened or when livestock have been killed despite an owner’s efforts to protect the stock, staff will make every reasonable effort to removing the offending animal(s)” – seemed to suggest that the memo didn’t mark a statewide change in policy after all.

However, getting the reports from the local goat incident a few days later would again call into question what that memo actually meant for our state’s animal residents.

The first report was dated February 3rd and told a tale of a goat killed by a small or juvenile cat. The DFW officer searched the property, found the kill site and questioned the owner as to the whereabouts of the goats that previous night. He was told that the goats “roam free during the day and loiter around the barn at night”. They added they were not secured in the barn and had not done so for a “long time”. The officer continued his search, found a gap under the fence a cat could climb under and noted that the fence could have easily been jumped over as well. He informed the owner of his findings, gave advice to secure the goats at night and suggested adjustments be made to the fence.

The second report was dated April 26th – two days after the memo was issued. On the 25th, the owner contacted the DFW again to say his remaining goat had been killed by a cougar. The officer then contacted his supervisor who told him to give the owner permission to tie the carcass to a tree and shoot the cougar if it came back. Late that night the owner called, saying he’d shot at two cougars – killing one. In the morning after speaking with the officer from the prior incident who had noted the property’s inadequate fencing, several officers headed to the residence.

Once at the residence, the officers walked the property, took photos and found the deceased cougar and goat. Karelian Bear dogs arrived to look for a wounded cougar, but none was found.  The dead cougar was a 50-60lb sub-adult female. The officer’s supervisor recommended not issuing a written warning for negligent feeding, poor fencing and husbandry practices “due to the Directors memo” even though the report noted, “no effort was made to better his fences.” The reporting officer also noted he “would have told him not to kill cougar and put up an electric fence if not for the director’s memo”.

So, does Washington State have a cougar problem? In some areas perhaps, but experts say that hunting practices may partially be to blame for this problem. Many incidents involve juvenile cats that were either alone or with another similarly aged animal. Orphaned cubs – left alone without a mother – often resort to preying on humans and livestock out of desperation. Thus, hunters who kill a mother cougar may be inadvertently causing this issue.

Calling for increased hunting pressure on cougars is unwarranted. There is no evidence that decreasing a cougar population will decrease interactions, as research has shown in multiple states. There is no evidence that an increased cougar population leads to more problems.

According to the WDFW’s 2018 Longterm Funding Plan, department funding comes from six main sources: federal, user fees, state and local contracts, state bonds and license plates. User fees alone are approximately 23% of the DFW’s spending, with a major portion of that coming from hunting and fishing licenses.

WDFW’s mission statement is: “To preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities”. Sounds a bit like they must try and serve two masters simultaneously. Perhaps that meeting back in March tipped the scales towards the consumptive users’ needs – aka hunters and fishers. How else do you explain how an issue in the northeast corner of Washington affected policy in the Snoqualmie Valley?

Residents in Eastern Washington have been making themselves heard on the subject of cougars. If you want your opinion to be considered, you must also make your point of view known. You can contact the Director at:

Kelly Susewind: Director’s Office PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200 | 360-902-2200 | director@dfw.wa.gov

Botswana’s Plan To Cull Elephants And Sell Them As PET FOOD Wins Ministerial Approval

https://greenworldwarriors.com/2019/02/27/botswanas-plan-to-cull-elephants-and-sell-them-as-pet-food-wins-ministerial-approval/?fbclid=IwAR1YqU4kzDgJh29vjP280IwQ2ihCtfSLXrJgXWY7NNHHN8W1lUXK52jSg_w

Botswana is moving towards culling elephants by lifting its wildlife hunting ban after a group of the country’s ministers endorsed the idea, but the proposal has drawn heavy criticism. Botswana’ is planning to cull elephants and sell them as pet food wins ministerial approval.

The southern African country’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi had previously tasked a government subcommittee with reviewing the hunting ban – which had been put in place by his predecessor Ian Khama in 2014.

A Botswana Defence Force colonel near the marked remains of an elephant killed in the Chobe national park area

The committee decided to recommend lifting the ban last Thursday, and the country’s minister of local government and rural development Frans Solomon van der Westhuizen advocated ‘regular but limited elephant culling’, NPR reports.

Elephant meat canning – including for pet food production purposes – was also recommended by some.

Konstantinos Markus, a Member of Parliament who spearheaded efforts to eliminate the ban, argued that the ‘expansion of the elephant population in Botswana has impoverished communities.’

According to reports Markus said rural citizens of Botswana have grown hostile toward elephants, especially in the north where he said the animals have cut maize yields by nearly three-quarters.

Botswana is reportedly home to 130,000 elephants, according to the Great Elephant Census, but concern has been rising regarding the ‘growing conflict between humans and wildlife’.

The country’s Government has also said pinpoiting the precise elephant population is difficult partly because herds can roam across borders into other countries.

Botswana’s consideration of lifting the ban has drawn heavy criticism.

The Telegraph reported that an elephant conservationist who works with the country’s government called the proposed cull ‘short sighted’.

One Twitter user said she was ‘devastated’ to hear that the country was considering lifting the ban

The conservationist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the paper: ‘Botswana does have too many elephants, and there is huge elephant human conflict.

‘But this is not economically viable and it doesn’t take into account the reputational damage to the country. Better exploitation of sustainable tourism is a far better model.’

Online campaign group Elephants DC, which advances anti-poaching and anti-smuggling policies and has 35,000 Facebook folloewers, said: Botswana in the news for all the wrong reasons.

America should help NOW defend future impending poaching slaughters of the elephants. This nation is largest last haven of African elephants, many now whom are refugees after fleeing conflict elsewhere, in the world.’

One Twitter user said: ‘DEVASTATED to hear that @OfficialMasisi is considering lifting the ban on hunting elephants. It has even been proposed that the slaughtered elephants be made into ‘pet food’.

‘Please let Masisi know that if this is authorised, tourism to Botswana will dramatically decrease.’

African bush elephants in Botswana may lose their protection from the 2014 law

Regarding the idea that the African democracy could be set to cull the animals, one Twitter user said: ‘Conservationists around the world must join forces to ensure that this ludicrous idea never happens.

Elephants are the most majestic of creatures. Thousands have been slaughtered for their ivory, now this shocking development. Elephants will become extinct.’

Another said: ‘Guys gonna pls stop the savagery against the elephants… everybody likes elephants – they connect us into the history of life itself. The Queen and Prince Philip like to feed them bananas too. Cheers.’

But one social media user took a different approach, saying: ‘Do you know the struggle of someone in Shakawe who’s has to face this animals every other day? Have you ever had you crops completely erased by elephants. What really is your mandate?’

The country’s Government published a press release clarifying that ‘no decision has been taken’ regarding the hunting ban 

Last year, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Bill Oddie, Peter Egan, and a cross-party group of MPs rallied against proposals to lift the ban, claiming that allowing hunting could force the species to the point of extinction.

When the 2014 ban was imposed, the government had said it was moved to act after indications of ‘several species in the country’ showing declines.

The ban permitted hunting in registered and private game ranches. Some have argued that the rules may have been a detriment to the animals and people alike.

NPR reports that a spokesperson for conservationist non-profit organisation Elephants Without Borders said: ‘Some people are worried that elephants have recovered in greater numbers than the environment can sustain, and there is significant concern over increasing human-elephant conflict.

‘During the past 20 years the elephant range in Botswana has expanded by 53%, causing increasing concern about the impact of elephants on biodiversity, the viability of other species and the livelihoods and safety of people living within the elephant range.’

Botswana’s Government published a statement on Twitter outlining how it had not taken a decision regarding the committee’s recommendations.

It read: ‘The Government of Botswana wishes to inform members of the public that no decision has been taken with respect to the recommendations contained in the Sub Committee of Cabinet Report on the hunting ban that was presented to His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi E. K Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana recently by the chairperson of the said sub-committee.

Conservationists set Botswana’s elephant population at 130,000, but lawmakers claim the actual figure is much higher than this

‘As members of the public may recall, the moratorium on hunting was introduced in 2014 by Government and it was not meant to be a permanent decision. It is against this background that in June 2018, Government decided to consult with key stakeholders on the hunting ban in view of the increased human/wildlife conflict.

‘In this regard, a Cabinet Sub Committee on the Hunting Ban was established to conduct a nationwide consultative process that covered, holding kgotla meetings, consulting with individuals, local authorities, researchers and other key stakeholders.

‘Members of the public are reminded that consultation/therisanyo is the bedrock of out democratic dispensation as a nation. The long-standing peace, democracy and good governance experience that Botswana is often cited for, promotes social cohesion, unity in various communities, freedom of expression and equality before the law.

‘Therefore Government wishes to assure members of the public that it will uphold this principle and continue to engage with other important stakeholders before a decision regarding the recommendations is made.’

The statement was attributed to Carter N. Morupisi, Permanent Secretary to the President and Secretary to the Cabinet.

Botswana, which is roughly the size of France, has a population of around 2.3 million people and contains vast tracts of remote wilderness that make it a magnet for foreign tourists who want to view wildlife.

International tourism could generate £160m for Botswana this year, rising to £280m by 2021 – more than trophy hunters spend across the whole of southern Africa.

Source: Dailymail

Study: killing cormorants tripled losses of salmon & steelhead

https://www.animals24-7.org/2019/02/12/study-killing-cormorants-tripled-losses-of-salmon-steelhead/

(Beth Clifton collage)

“This goes down as one of the really significant failures in wildlife management in recent decades.”

PORTLAND, Oregon––Cormorant massacres at East Sand Island,  near the mouth of the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington,  not only did not save any salmon and steelhead from predation in 2015 through 2017,  but may have tripled predation losses,  according to new research by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife avian predation biologist James Lawonn.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers killed 5,576 cormorants and destroyed 6,181 nests in an effort to prevent the birds from eating an estimated 12 million young salmon each year,”  summarized Karina Brown for Courthouse News Service and Willamette Week on February 5,  2019.

Double-crested cormorant.
(Sally Fekety photo)

“Little to no gain”

Lawonn,  however,  told Brown that he expects “expects little to no gain” in salmon and steelhead survival as result of the killing,   ordered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and executed by USDA Wildlife Services

Explained Brown,  “That’s because cormorants are now living farther upriver—still in huge numbers.  And where they live makes a difference.  Cormorants who live closer to the ocean choose from an extensive menu of ocean fish that form huge schools in the Columbia estuary,  such as anchovies,  herring and smelt.  Upriver, they eat a far higher proportion of salmon and other freshwater fish.

“None of the estimated 16,000 birds who fled East Sand Island in 2017,  amid the USDA Wildlife Service gunfire,  “were tagged or radio-collared,  so there is no data to show exactly where they went.  But last year,  a sudden surge in cormorants nested on the Astoria-Megler Bridge,  seven miles upriver from the island,  and at other upriver spots.”

Bridge cormorant colony “will likely double”

Some cormorants had nested at the Astoria-Megler Bridge,  spanning the Columbia River,  since 2004,  “but only in very small numbers,”  Brown specified,  paraphrasing Lawonn.

“Now there are 1,750 breeding pairs on the bridge,”  Brown wrote,  “and based on available habitat,  the colony will likely double.”

Altogether,  the Columbia River estuary cormorant population has recovered to about 10,000 nesting pairs,  “a number comparable to the original average of 12,000 pairs on East Sand Island before the Corps of Engineers project,”  Brown assessed.  “Other spots upstream have become new homes for 750 breeding pairs.”

Bob Sallinger.  (Facebook photo)

Feds knew killing cormorants would not help

That the cormorant massacres would do little or nothing to conserve salmon and steelhead was no surprise to Audubon Society of Portland conservation director Bob Sallinger.

The outcome should also have been no surprise to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies involved in the killing,  Sallinger contended in an unsuccessful 2015 lawsuit,  based on a suppressed and ignored study by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Steve Haeseker.

(See Feds hid data showing that killing cormorants will not help salmon & steelhead.)

Cormorant catching a fish.
(Beth Clifton photo)

“One of the worst things I’ve seen”

“We think this goes down as one of the really significant failures in wildlife management in recent decades,”  Sallinger told Brown.  “It’s without question one of the worst things I’ve seen in my 25 years of wildlife advocacy.”

“This was never about protecting salmon,” emphasized Sallinger.  “This was always about scapegoating birds to avoid the real challenges that the Corps of Engineers needs to face up to. And the result has been a stunning failure,  whether you care about birds or fish.”

Sallinger and many other conservationists have long blamed salmon and steelhead declines in the Columbia River estuary on the many upstream dams blocking the Columbia,  the Willamette,  and other spawning rivers.

(Beth Clifton photo)

Dams & hot water

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has refused to do what’s necessary to modify those dams to protect salmon,”  Sallinger has often said,  “and that is why salmon are continuing to decline. Killing wildlife is not going to change that situation.”

Several reports indicate that global warming is also a major and growing factor.  Effects of elevated water temperature have been found by at least one recent study to be contributing to the premature deaths as many as half of the adult sockeye salmon returning to the Columbia River and tributaries to spawn.

(Beth Clifton photo)

Feds blame eagles

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,  meanwhile,  denied to Brown that shooting thousands of cormorants and smashing their nests had anything to do with their 2017 exodus from East Sand Island.

Instead,  wrote Brown,  “The Corps blames eagles for the birds’ mass abandonment of the island.”

“The management plan has been very successful in reducing the amount of salmon eaten by birds on East Sand Island,”  contended U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist Kris Lightner.  “We just don’t know about the estuary as a whole.”

(Beth Clifton collage)

“Pure scapegoating”

Responded Oregon State University wildlife ecology professor Dan Roby,  who was hired by the Corps of Engineers to study the potential effects of rousting cormorants from East Sand Island,  but whose advice was ignored,  “If there is a place in the Columbia River estuary where it would be best for cormorants to nest – and by best,  I mean their effect on salmon and steelhead survival – it would be East Sand Island.”

Brown published her exposés of the failure of the cormorant killing to help salmon and steelhead on the same day that ANIMALS 24-7published Why killing predators won’t bring back the salmon,  examining and exposing schemes pursued by a variety of state and federal agencies to try to recover salmon and steelhead by killing gulls and California sea lions.

Beth & Merritt Clifton

All of this,  said Sallinger,  “is a continuation of a very unfortunate pattern of killing wildlife to protect other wildlife––pure scapegoating.”

Wildlife officials defend mountain lion management practices

This photo of a mountain lion provided by Colorado Parks and Wildlife is not one of the animals involved in last month’s West Glenwood sightings.

In the weeks since local wildlife officials began to receive reports of mountain lions near homes in West Glenwood, threatening dogs and stalking humans, criticism of the way Colorado Parks and Wildlife handled the situation persists.

After numerous reports of mountain lions in and around Glenwood Springs, caught on infrared video and at least one personal encounter, officials trapped and killed five of the big cats in January. That decision has prompted strong reactions from Glenwood Springs Post Independent readers, wildlife advocates and people across the state who felt another solution should have been be exercised.

CPW spokesman Mike Porras maintained that wildlife officials did not make the decision arbitrarily and used their years of knowledge and experience working with wildlife to determine that lethal removal of these animals was the correct solution.

One comment Porras said he’d been hearing from those concerned with the actions is that “the wildlife officials took the easy way out.” He said he felt that was both untrue and hurtful to the wildlife officers who have dedicated their lives to protecting the state’s animals, environment and people.

He said killing an animal is “the hardest decision” a wildlife officer has to make, and argued the easier move would have been to trap the animal, take it somewhere else and simply let it be — perhaps to its ultimate demise, regardless.

CPW has received several comments in reaction to previous stories in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and picked up by other media outlets statewide demanding the mountain lions be relocated instead of being euthanized.

 

Relocating these particular lions, which had shown “no fear to humans,” was not a viable option for wildlife officials, according to Porras.

Porras said that doing so could result in the lions returning to West Glenwood or moving into other human population centers. He added that the displaced lions could disrupt the ecosystem wherever they were moved, especially if there are other established lions nearby.

Last week’s story reporting that five animals had been euthanized received responses from residents in Colorado, California and Washington state, some suggesting that it is the lion’s territory where humans are living. Others offered different solutions for officials.

One example was from Washington, where the state’s department of fish and wildlife adopted a Karelian Bear Dog Program, essentially a hazing technique to try to get the animals to move elsewhere. The primary purpose of the program is to limit the many bear-human conflicts that occur in Washington and reduce the number of bears that have to be lethally removed, according to the state website.

Porras said these types of hazing techniques are used by wildlife officials throughout Colorado, but added that with these particular lions it was not considered an option because there was no guarantee the hazing would result in new learned behavior for the full-sized predators.

He said there was “no guarantee based on one encounter” that the lions would leave for good if hazed, and officials simply were “not willing to take that risk.”

Among the reports wildlife officials received about West Glenwood mountain lion activity last month included multiple attacks on pets, sightings of mountain lions stalking people in the middle of the day and carcasses of recent elk killings left in people’s backyards.

Oregon May Be Over-Hunting Cougars — Which Could Cause More Conflicts

https://www.opb.org/news/article/cougar-overhunting-conflict-oregon/


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Problem encounters with cougars have increased in Oregon's Willamette Valley.

Problem encounters with cougars have increased in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

National Park Service

A fatal cougar attack has reignited debates over hound hunting and cougar management in Oregon. Groups of Oregonians, particularly hound hunters, say that Oregon’s cougar population is growing out of control. Cougar advocates, on the other hand, say that Oregon is over-hunting cougars, which research suggests can lead to an increase in problem encounters.

But before you can figure out if Oregon’s cougars are being over-hunted or under-hunted, you need to know how many cougars there are in the state.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates there about 6,600 cougars here, and possibly as many as 7,600. That’s three times higher than the numbers reported Washington or Idaho. It’s even slightly higher than the estimate for California: 4,000 to 6,000 cougars are thought to roam the massive state.

But hunting groups, ranchers and Oregonians who live in cougar country say the Oregon’s cougar count severely underestimates the state’s actual population. Conservationists argue it’s too high. Biologists and wildlife officials from other states say it’s a lot more complicated, and more than just a question of numbers.

One of the big reasons Oregon’s number is so much higher than its neighbors’: Oregon’s estimate includes kittens, which rarely survive to adulthood. Oregon does not count the juveniles of any other game species, like elk or bighorn sheep.

Two juvenile cougars hide on a fence to avoid territorial coyotes in Wyoming. Cougar kittens rarely survive to adulthood.

Two juvenile cougars hide on a fence to avoid territorial coyotes in Wyoming. Cougar kittens rarely survive to adulthood.

Lori Iverson / US Fish and Wildlife Service

“The fact that they don’t clarify themselves every time says that they want people to assume there are 6,600 big cats running around the state,” said John Laundré, a predator ecologist at Western Oregon University. “They don’t include babies for other ephemeral species, like ducks or deer.” And only adult animals can be hunted.

Derek Broman, ODFW’s state carnivore biologist, said whenever he gives a presentation he makes it clear that all ages are included in official population estimates. But there’s no mention of that on the department’s cougar webpage, and you have to look deep into the cougar management plan find adult cat estimates. A brochure specifies that the population includes all age classes, but never offers adult numbers.

Even if you exclude kittens and juvenile cougars from population estimates, Oregon still reports some of the highest densities of adult cougars in the country.

Washington’s research into cougar densities dates back nearly two decades and includes seven study areas. Across those areas, the state has documented consistent findings: Roughly two cougars for every 100 square kilometers, said Rich Beausoleil, the bear and cougar specialist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He said Washington’s cougar-density numbers are consistent with what other studies  — except Oregon’s — report.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s surveys found adult densities twice that, depending on the ecosystem.

“I’ve not seen such high densities anywhere in the world,” said Rob Wielgus, former director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, commenting on a controversial density survey conducted by Oregon.

Beausoleil has spoken to ODFW about the state’s population estimates before, and has criticized the design of Oregon’s studies, which he says will naturally overestimate regional populations. Derek Broman says ODFW controlled for overestimation and stands by their data.

It’s not unusual for cougar surveys to arrive at different conclusions, said David Stoner, a cougar biologist at Utah State University. Cougars are extremely hard to study because they’re so hard to find.

ODFW says these surveys confirm their statewide population estimates, which they calculate using a model. They estimate statewide density by mapping cougar deaths, and then add expected birth rates. They also tweak the numbers depending on food availability in the region.

Laundré said the growth estimate used in the study is an optimistic “best-case scenario” one: “A model is only as good as what you put into it. I could make their model show that there were only 3,000 total animals or 10,000 total animals.”

A tranquilized cougar is fit with a radio collar in California.

A tranquilized cougar is fit with a radio collar in California.

Harry Morse, California Department of Fish and Game

All of this might seem like an internal debate about the best way to count cougars. Everyone agrees that at one point in the 1960s there were only 200 or so cougars in the state, and today there are several thousand. The cats are in no danger of going extinct.

But a lot rides on accurate population estimates. Not only do these numbers tell management officials if populations are growing or shrinking, they’re used to help set hunting quotas for each region. Some scientists found that when cougars are over-hunted, problem encounters with humans and livestock increase.

Wielgus, who has left Washington for the Bend area, was one of the first to identify such a link.

“In the 20 years of research I did with WDFW, we conducted the largest study of cougars ever done anywhere. We found that heavy retaliatory killing or preventive killing actually causes increased problems,” he said.

It works like this: Female cougars have smallish overlapping territories that seem to fluctuate with prey abundance. Male cougars have larger, non-overlapping territories that encompass multiple female ones.

Only large, older males are capable of holding down these territories, “and you don’t get to be a 10-year-old male by attacking humans or livestock or pets.”

But Wielgus found that those 10-year-old males were far more likely to be killed by hunters. “And we found that when you remove an older male, you have two or three teenage males come in to take their place. And those are the ones that are responsible for most bad encounters between cougars and people, as well as the majority of livestock and pet depredations.”

This movement of younger animals also means it can be difficult to tell if a population is declining due to overhunting or staying the same.

Wielgus is a controversial figure in the predator management community, in part for research indicating that hunting wolves can increase attacks on livestock. He says he was silenced and forced out of his position at Washington State University because of his work.

A 10-month-old cougar is startled by a trail camera in the California mountains. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife includes juvenile cougars in their total population estimates.

A 10-month-old cougar is startled by a trail camera in the California mountains. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife includes juvenile cougars in their total population estimates.

National Park Service

A smattering of papers have attempted to debunk his cougar research, but even more have supported it. One of the most recent was a massive, 30-year look at hunting and problem cougars in British Columbia. For their part, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife stands by Wielgus’ research and their own: Today, they manage cougars specifically to avoid the consequences of over-hunting.

“Our management philosophy is to manage for the social stability of the animal. We want to promote territoriality,” Beausoleil said.

WDFW’s data shows that when more than 14 percent of a cougar population is harvested in a given region, the population starts to skew young, territories dissolve, and problem encounters increase. To avoid this, they split the state into 49 game management units, and each unit allows 12 percent to 16 percent of cougars to be taken. When one of those units reaches that quota, it closes, and hunters can go to an adjacent unit. It’s not a perfect system: Sometimes, it can take a while to close a unit, and more cougars are killed.

At first glance, Oregon seems to be following Washington’s no-conflict guidelines: On average, Oregon’s hunters take less than 14 percent of the state’s big cats each year. But unlike Washington and Montana, where there are dozens of game management units used to set cougar quotas, Oregon’s cats are divided into just six large regions, which makes it more difficult to track regional densities.

The statewide quota for 2018 is 970 human-caused deaths — a whopping 27 percent of the state’s estimated 3,500 adults. Per the cougar management plan, the quota serves as a mortality cap, and not a target. The statewide quota has never been filled, but some of the game management units regularly approach theirs.

Zone A, which includes the region where the hiker was attacked, covers the North Cascades and the coast. As of Nov. 6, its humans have killed 167 of the 180 allowed cougars. ODFW estimates there were 989 cougars of all ages in Zone A in 2015. If half of those were adults, then roughly one third of adult cougars in the region were killed: Research suggests that’s a number high enough to cause conflicts with humans.

Overhunting cougars can have impacts on cougars’ societies, too. Once thought of as loners, recent research has revealed cougars’ social lives to be much more complex than previously thought.

Mark Elbroch, the director of the puma program at wildcat conservation organization Panthera, studies cougar communities. He’s found that the mountain lions within one male’s territory function like a society: They interact non-aggressively and seem to frequently share food, a favor that’s apparently returned in the future.

“You can imagine that overhunting will have huge impacts on these social networks and organizations, on the glue that holds them together as functioning groups,” Elbroch said.

A radiocollared cougar shares a kill with another cat, thought to be her cub. Cougars have been found to share kills with related and non-related cats, though they rarely eat at the same time.

A radiocollared cougar shares a kill with another cat, thought to be her cub. Cougars have been found to share kills with related and non-related cats, though they rarely eat at the same time.

National Park Service

And anecdotally, he’s seen the impacts of removing one large male from that society. After one of his study males was killed by hunters, he noticed a nearby male start to encroach on the old territory, just enough so that it crossed paths with a female and her two cubs. The female charged the strange male, and died. Her cubs lasted a little while, but eventually both died.

“One could argue that one bullet killed four mountain lions,” Elbroch said.

ODFW’s Derek Broman is dismissive of the “social chaos” hypothesis. He says the department has conducted its own research, and “there’s no information to suggest chaos and turmoil. Death and mortality is a common occurrence, even outside of human influence.”

Oregon officials may dispute the idea that their management practices lead to more problem cougars. But the state does remove more such animals than neighboring states. In 2017 there were 462 such complaints, and 175 cougars were killed. Those numbers remain fairly stable from year to year, though they’ve risen dramatically in the Willamette Valley.

In comparison, about 100 cougars are killed in California each year for attacking livestock. In 2016, 46 nuisance cougars were killed in Washington.

Hunters say that the best way to combat these problem cats is to increase hunting. But unless a large number of cougars are removed over a large area, more will just move in to take their place. Which is why some are calling for a return to hound hunting.

The theory is this: Hound hunters, unlike normal hunters, can be selective. If their dogs tree a cougar, the hunter can choose if it’s going to be a worthwhile trophy. If the animal is small or female, the hunter can pull their dogs off the tree, and the cougar can live.

This, say hound hunting advocates, creates a population of scared cougars, who will run away as soon as they hear a human in the forest.

Laundré and Elbroch are skeptical that hound hunting leads to scared cougars, but other biologists think it’s not impossible.

“Hound hunting doesn’t have to be a lethal pursuit,” Stoner noted. “You have the ability to pursue multiple animals over the course of a season, and can in theory select a nice tom.”

Unfortunately, that selectivity targets large toms: the exact animals many biologists say are necessary for maintaining cougar social stability. Indeed, when hound hunting was banned in Oregon, the average age of cats killed dropped.

In the end, biologists say it’s important to remember that the only way most people will ever interact with a cougar is through their livestock or pets. “Cougars aren’t fearsome,” said Laundré, who has tracked and collared more than 250 cougars. “I’ve never had a cat behave aggressively.”

As Teddy Roosevelt noted after chasing a cougar with hounds and stabbing it to death, “He was more afraid of us than the dogs.”

Washington State to Kill More Wolves in Ferry County

by Evan Bush / Seattle Times
Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind announced plans Wednesday for the agency (WDFW) to kill at least one of the wolves reportedly responsible for a recent rash of attacks on cattle in Ferry County, according to a department news release.
It’s the second time this year that WDFW has resorted to killing wolves as confrontations between the animals and cattle continue to bedevil the agency responsible for the canine species’ recovery in Washington state. A WDFW marksman earlier this month shot and killed a member of the Togo wolf pack, which was also preying on Ferry County cattle. Two conservation organizations filed a legal challenge over the agency’s decision about the Togo wolf. That lawsuit is ongoing.
WDFW will not be able to kill members of the new wolf pack until Thursday afternoon, and new legal challenges loom. Amaroq Weiss, a wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, said her organization will seek a temporary restraining order to prevent the killing.
The wolf pack WDFW plans to target has tried to prey on cattle six times this month on federal grazing lands, killing one calf and injuring five others, according to WDFW. The pack, which was first identified by the department in May, is so new it does not have an official name. The agency believes the pack is made up of three or four adult wolves and two pups. WDFW biologists were able to collar the new pack’s adult male earlier this summer.
The wolf pack is living in the Kettle River Range, the same area that the Profanity Peak Pack once occupied. WDFW killed the members of the Profanity Peak Pack in 2016. Last year, the agency also targeted the Sherman Pack nearby.
Because it’s the third year in a row the agency intends to kill wolves in the area, some conservation organizations, including those that have supported lethal removal in the past, wonder if it’s time to try something new.
“It’s a really highly desirable landscape for wolves to be in. They keep coming back,” said Paula Sweeden, policy director for Conservation Northwest. She said the area is thickly forested, steep and often roadless. Cattle there are widely dispersed, which makes it difficult for range riders to keep track of them.
Sweeden said it was clear that the nonlethal methods employed by ranchers to prevent wolves from preying on cattle were clearly not working, but killing wolves there was not working, either.
“Three times in the same place indicates that combination is not working,” she said. “We want to call for a step back.”

Why thousands of barred owls are being shot by U.S. conservationists? Is it fair to kill one species to save another? 

CBC Radio · June 22

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Barred owls are being culled in the Pacific Northwest to save the critically endangered spotted owl. (Toby Talbot, File/AP)

Humans shouldn’t be interfering with nature by killing one species to save another, according to a lawyer who is working to oppose a cull of barred owls.

The owls are being shot by conservationists in the Pacific Northwest in an effort to save their feathered cousin, the critically endangered spotted owl.

“We shouldn’t be choosing sides,” said Michael Harris, the director of the wildlife law program at Friends of Animals. His group opposes the cull and is preparing a second lawsuit to try to stop it.

“We really believe that they need to be given that opportunity to see if they can coexist in their new environment,” he told The Current’s guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

“We just don’t know what the ultimate outcome would be if these two species were given a chance to figure it out.”

Barred owls are relatively new to the west coast, having spread across the continent via the towns and cities that have grown in the last century. They’re bigger and more aggressive than the spotted owl, and have been pushing them out of their nesting grounds, which is what has prompted conservationists to cull their numbers.

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.1825483.1529696957!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_780/spotted-owl.jpg>

The spotted owl, seen here in California’s Tahoe National Forest, is one of the most endangered birds in Canada. (Debra Reid/AP)

About halfway through a six-year experimental cull, roughly 2,000 of the birds have been shot in Oregon, Washington and California.

Harris argued that the barred owl is just doing what it’s supposed to do: finding ways to survive and prosper.

By intervening, he told Chattopadhyay, we’re not giving the barred owl “a fair shake.”

Not ‘natural evolution’

Animal ethicist William Lynn said by destroying the owls’ habitats, humans contributed to the problem in the first place.

“This is not natural evolution,” he told Chattopadhyay.

“This is entirely the product of human actions. It’s a human-caused extinction in the making.”

Lynn was hired by the U.S. government to examine the ethics of killing the birds. While “we can’t kill our way back to biodiversity,” he ultimately came to support the cull. Government conservationists have explored non-lethal ways to manage barred owl numbers, but they just don’t work, he said.

Barred owls are doing great across North America. Spotted owls are critically endangered.- William Lynn. animal ethicist

He argued that when you weigh the value of a barred owl’s life against the chance that the endangered spotted owl species will become extinct, the barred owl loses.

“Barred owls are doing great across North America. Spotted owls are critically endangered,” he said.

The culling is an experiment, he added, and is not expected to continue indefinitely.

“This experiment is to remove some barred owls to see whether spotted owls can form a refugia, a sort of a defensible territory in which they can live and flourish in the wild.

“If they can’t — and this experiment ends — that doesn’t mean that killing barred owls is going to go on.”

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-june-22-2018-1.4716183/why-thousands-of-barred-owls-are-being-shot-by-u-s-conservationists-1.4716188