California Ranchers and Activists Face Off Over a Federal Plan to Cull a Beloved Tule Elk Herd

The elk are a main attraction in Point Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco. But ranchers who share the park say the elks’ numbers create problems.

BY KATELYN WEISBROD

Oct 18, 2020

Tule Elk. Credit: Julia Kane/InsideClimate News

Known for its seaside bluffs and dense summer fog, Point Reyes National Seashore is a landscape of rolling coastal prairie blending into forests and marshlands, a sanctuary for hundreds of plants and animals and a destination for migrating birds and marine life. 

Just a one-hour drive from San Francisco, the 71,000-acre peninsula serves as a haven for native California species like snowy plovers, red-legged frogs, coho salmon and tule elk.

The tule elk are one of the primary attractions of the park, which sees over 2 million visitors annually, and they can be easy to spot in the zones where they’re preserved. 

The elks’ beauty and majesty is hard to miss; one frequent visitor to the park described their strange, high-pitched bugle as “otherworldly.” Once on the brink of extinction, tule elk were reintroduced into Point Reyes in 1978. Now, hundreds of elk live in three herds throughout the park. 

But Point Reyes is also home to about 20 ranches that have operated in the park since the mid-1800s. And the tule elk are at the center of a major battle between ranchers, who say the elk are overpopulated and disruptive to their operations, and animal and environmental activists, who think that ranching has degraded the land, leaving it to resemble a “lunar landscape,” as one activist said. The park, the activists argue, should prohibit ranching and preserve the land entirely as wilderness to protect the elk and other species. 

Tule elk were reintroduced into Point Reyes National Seashore in 1978, and now exist in three distinct herds in the park. Credit: Julia Kane/InsideClimate News
Tule elk were reintroduced into Point Reyes National Seashore in 1978, and now exist in three distinct herds in the park. Credit: Julia Kane/InsideClimate News

Conflict between ranchers and environmentalists is not uncommon in the West, where wildlife and agriculture often collide. Wild horses in Utah compete with cattle for resources; black-tailed prairie dogs in Wyoming are shot and poisoned by ranchers who consider them “pests”; and wolves, reintroduced in western states in the 1980s, are often blamed by ranchers for killing livestock.

The tule elk in Point Reyes have virtually no natural predators, so management of their population is left up to the National Park Service, which is in the process of implementing a wildlife management plan that includes killing elk in one of the three herds to control their numbers, a process known as culling. 

One of the prime considerations for how to manage the tule elk is how their numbers affect the ranchers, who sold their land to the government when the park was established in 1962. Many stayed on the land and continued ranching under renewable five-year permits. 

Environmental groups sued the National Park Service in 2016 for planning to extend leases for the ranchers from five to 20 years without analyzing the environmental impact, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The groups reached a settlement agreement in 2017 that required the park service to solicit public input and amend its 1980 general management plan with an Environmental Impact Statement before issuing any 20-year leases.

The park service considered six alternatives for its amended plan, ranging from eliminating ranching in the park altogether—an option favored in over 90 percent of the 7,600 public comments submitted to the agency—to the plan the park service says it prefers, which includes extending ranchers’ leases and limiting the population of the Drakes Beach herd of elk to 120 animals to prevent them from eating cattle feed, bothering cows and causing other disturbances. If the population were to exceed 120, the park service would begin culling. At the end of 2019, there were 138 tule elk in the Drakes Beach population.

On Sept. 18, 2020, the park service released its final Environmental Impact Statement, officially announcing its decision to go with its preferred option. That initiated a 30-day waiting period for the park service to conduct its final consultations with other agencies. That period ends on Sunday, after which a “Record of Decision” can be issued, finalizing the amended management plan and allowing leases to be extended and culling to begin.

A Serengeti of Wildlife

Wildlife biologist and California Director at Western Watersheds Project Laura Cunningham likes to picture what the Point Reyes peninsula might have been like 500 years ago: filled with huge herds of tule elk grazing on lush green coastal prairies while coho salmon swam in the creeks and pods of whales passed by off the coast. 

“I imagine it as a place of just riches of biodiversity,” she said. “It must have been just a Serengeti of wildlife.”

Tule elk are a native species in California found nowhere else in the world. Credit: Julie Kane/InsideClimate News
Tule elk are a native species in California found nowhere else in the world. Credit: Julie Kane/InsideClimate News

In the late 1800s, tule elk were thought to no longer exist, hunted into extinction by settlers. But in 1874, a rancher discovered a herd of fewer than 30 tule elk on his land near Bakersfield, California. The herd was preserved, and now 5,700 tule elk live in about 22 herds around the state. 

In 1978, 10 tule elk were introduced into Point Reyes National Seashore, fenced in at Tomales Point on the northernmost end of the peninsula to keep them off ranches. Twenty years later, 28 elk from the Tomales Point herd were relocated to Limantour Beach, about 20 miles south of Tomales Point on the east side of Drakes Estero, a large estuary in the center of the peninsula, establishing a second, free-ranging herd. From there, several of the elk migrated to Drakes Beach, on the west side of Drakes Estero, where a third herd of tule elk in Point Reyes now live. 

A Conflict in Point Reyes: Ranchers and Tule Elk

The 2020 Environmental Impact Statement addresses how to manage the Limantour Beach and Drakes Beach herds, including the Drakes Beach culling plan.

The National Park Service looked into moving the elk somewhere else before settling on a lethal solution for reducing the population, said Melanie Gunn, park service outreach coordinator for Point Reyes National Seashore. The park service considered relocating individuals from the Drakes Beach herd to somewhere outside of Point Reyes, but tule elk within the park are known to have Johne’s Disease—a highly contagious and fatal bacterial infection that occurs among ruminant animals. The symptoms of the disease often do not appear until several months after an animal is infected. The elk could not be relocated without risking the spread of the disease to herds outside the park. Tule elk may have caught the disease from cattle in Point Reyes, and they can only be effectively tested for it after death. 

When culling does begin—and it will, unless the Record of Decision does not come through—it will be conducted by the National Park Service and other conservation officials to ensure that genetic diversity and sex ratio are taken into account when selecting which indivudal elk to kill, especially considering the entire population descended from fewer than 30 individuals.

“It will be specific, not random,” Gunn said.

Elk Trouble

Driving through the ranching district—22,000 acres designated as a national historic district on the National Register of Historic Places—the smell of cow feces is distinctive. In some parts of the park during mid-October, scrub grass coats the landscape in a golden brown color; in other parts, hundreds of cattle stand on muddy land devoid of much vegetation. 

Ranchers operate in the park under one of two types of leasing agreements: a special permit that limits their tenancy to five years, or a so-called reservation of use and occupancy, which gives ranchers use of the land for up to 25 years or, in some cases, for as long as the rancher is alive. 

Bill Niman, who operates a beef ranch with about 300 cattle at the southern end of Point Reyes, has a lease that extends for the rest of his life. The deal is similar to ownership, in that he pays property taxes and maintains his facilities, but has some restrictions; for example, he can’t sell the property. 

Bill Niman operates a regenerative beef ranch of about 300 cattle in the south end of Point Reyes. Credit: Julie Kane/InsideClimate News
Bill Niman operates a regenerative beef ranch of about 300 cattle in the south end of Point Reyes. Credit: Julie Kane/InsideClimate News

Niman and his wife Nicolette Hahn Niman, a former environmental lawyer and the author of a book defending small-scale, grass-fed beef farms, practice rotational grazing on their land. The couple move their cattle from one patch of land to another to allow time for the land to rest between grazing periods. This keeps the landscape full of diverse plants and helps the soil sequester carbon, they said.

“What we’re trying to do is mirror nature and manage the land in the way that nature would if humans were not interfering,” Niman said.

Located just north of Bolinas on the south end of the park, far from any tule elk herd, Hahn Niman said they don’t have an issue with elk on their ranch, thanks to park management.

But on some ranches, elk consume grass and supplemental cattle feed, like hay and alfalfa. Some ranchers have reported elk eating this supplemental food, but “it has not yet been identified as a significant or widespread problem,” the final Environmental Impact Statement said.

And Hahn Niman said she has heard about cases of elk creating more serious disturbance, with dozens of the animals entering barns and eating cattle feed, or acting aggressively toward cows. She spoke publicly on behalf of ranchers during the 2016 lawsuit.  

“[Ranchers] have had a number of their heifers that have been injured or even had to be put down because they were mounted by large male tule elk,” Hahn Niman said. “It’s weird stuff like this that I didn’t understand until I talked directly with ranchers involved.”

She emphasized that ranchers love seeing tule elk and other wildlife in the park. Ranchers, she said, wanted the park to be established, and without the ranchers, the land, so near the Bay Area, would have instead been developed into prime real estate. But without wolves and bears and hardly any mountain lions, she said, the elk have to be managed and their population needs to be controlled.  

“You don’t have the robust population of natural predators that once existed here; they’re almost entirely gone,” she said. “The only remaining predator really is the human.”

A Banned Volunteer

Diana Oppenheim volunteered for three years in Point Reyes National Seashore—a place she calls “literal magic.” She guided a monthly group that would start the day removing invasive species from the park’s sandy coastal dunes, and then led the group in a yoga class on the beach. 

Oppenheim said she was shocked when she started to hear rumors that the National Park Service was planning to cull the Drakes Beach herd.

“I was a very heavily involved volunteer; I was there all the time and I didn’t know this was happening,” Oppenheim said. “There was a big lack of public awareness around this issue, and I felt like if people knew, we could change the course of what was going to happen.”

Diana Oppenheim (left) leads demonstrators in Point Reyes National Seashore. The group of nearly 300 protested the National Park Service's plan to cull animals in the Drakes Beach tule elk herd. Courtesy of Diana Oppenheim
Diana Oppenheim (left) leads demonstrators in Point Reyes National Seashore. The group of nearly 300 protested the National Park Service’s plan to cull animals in the Drakes Beach tule elk herd. Courtesy of Diana Oppenheim

She started ForElk.org to increase awareness of the park service’s management plan, putting up tables at grocery stores and farmers’ markets and approaching visitors at the park. Soon, Oppenheim was organizing protests. In August 2019, the park service opened its 45-day public comment period.

As the momentum of the movement accelerated, Oppenheim also made her views clear on her social media accounts. The National Park Service, she said, asked her to remove all references to her working as a volunteer in Point Reyes, in order to protect the agency’s neutrality on the issue. When she refused, Oppenheim—once named the park’s “volunteer of the year”—was banned from volunteering in Point Reyes National Seashore, she said. 

“That only fueled my fire,” Oppenheim added.

In late September, she and other activists in the Bay Area banded together to organize a demonstration. Nearly 300 people showed up to protest the culling plan and call for the ranches to be removed from the park. 

“They’re going to actually kill these elk that have been brought back from extinction in order to appease these ranchers,” Oppenheim said.

A Crucial Role

The purpose of Point Reyes National Seashore—stated at the top of the legislation that created it—is to “save and preserve, for purposes of public recreation, benefit and inspiration” the undeveloped seashore.

Nowhere, activists say, does it mention the preservation of ranching. In fact, said Jack Gescheidt, an activist with the TreeSpirit Project, ranching is contradictory to the park’s purpose. 

“You can either have large scale dairy and cattle operations in an area, or a national park,” he said, “you can’t have both.”

Gunn, however, disagreed. She said the park and the ranches have coexisted since the park’s establishment in 1962, and they will continue to do so.

In 2019, a congressional statement said multi-generational ranching is important economically and ecologically in Point Reyes and is “fully consistent with Congress’s intent for the management of Point Reyes National Seashore.” 

Ranching, Gunn said, has been recognized by Congress as being “part of the fabric of Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s part of our responsibility to maintain.”

Hahn Niman said ranching can and should coexist with all wildlife in Point Reyes through regenerative practices.

“Ranching should be minimizing the use of chemicals and should be always attentive to mirroring natural systems,” she said, adding that ranchers should be “creating a vibrant space here for countless wild animals that are in fact living here.”

Tule elk nearly went extinct after they were hunted to just about 30 in the late 1800s. Now, thousands of elk live in about 22 herds throughout California. Credit: Julie Kane/InsideClimate News
Tule elk nearly went extinct after they were hunted to just about 30 in the late 1800s. Now, thousands of elk live in about 22 herds throughout California. Credit: Julie Kane/InsideClimate News

Elk biologist Julie Phillips said that tule elk are a vital part of the Point Reyes ecosystem, and can be considered a keystone species, because plants in the ecosystem rely on them to disperse seeds and maintain the native environment. 

Phillips—who is opposed to ranching in Point Reyes—said she has observed native grasses return and landscapes restored after tule elk have been reintroduced in other areas around California. 

If cattle are removed from Point Reyes, Phillips said, tule elk “will help restore that degraded land, and the elk will play a critical role in bringing back native habitat.”

Unlike so many species that went extinct after European settlement, tule elk got a second chance at survival. In an era where climate change is threatening to demolish Earth’s ecosystems, Oppenheim said, a biological hotspot like Point Reyes should be easy to protect. 

“We’re facing a severe loss of biodiversity on the planet,” Oppenheim said, and preservation “should be a no brainer in some of the most protected lands of the world.”

She added: “Point Reyes is a gem and should absolutely be protected and restored.”

Top Photo Credit: Julie Kane/InsideClimate News

Elk And German Shepherd Play ‘Tag’ On Different Sides Of The Fence

Strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet – and nobody embodies this philosophy better than a dog. Our pets are incredibly amiable, and they mix well with others. You can put a dog into any situation, and they will come out with a new BFF. 

The staff working for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife are often subject to nature scenes playing out all around them. But there was one in particular that really touched their hearts as it has been going on for several years. Every year, there is a herd of elk that passes through. One of the park’s officer’s dog, Trygge, has become friends with one of the elk.

It has turned into a friendship that results in a friendly game of tag every year that they see one another. The staff have been quite taken by the way that the German Shepherd and the giant bull elk interact with one another. They’ve never shown aggression towards one another, just a mutual respect and a joy at seeing one another. 

Watch them below:https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=cesarmillan&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1204464563942412288&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cesarsway.com%2Felk-and-german-shepherd-play-tag-on-different-sides-of-the-fence%2F&siteScreenName=cesarmillan&theme=light&widgetsVersion=223fc1c4%3A1596143124634&width=550px

The Future of Wolves in Washington: Will they ever be just another critter in the woods?

[Article by contributing writer Melissa Grant,wildlife/outdoor enthusiast and pet trainer/owner of Miss Lola’s Academy for Wayward Dogs]

Out here in the Snoqualmie Valley we fancy ourselves as outdoor wildlife savvy people. We chuckle when we hear of hikers being afraid of animals on the trail. We’ve even been known to openly scoff at those who come unprepared for close encounters of the wild kind. We know how to handle ourselves when it comes to bears, coyotes or even cougars!

In 2015 a lone wolf was killed on I-90 and people thought its presence was a fluke. Well, another was seen on camera on the North Fork in 2018. So, valley residents, are you ready for wolves in the Snoqualmie Valley?

Last week the statewide wolf specialist, Benjamin Maletzke, with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was the guest speaker at the monthly Upper Valley Elk Management Groups meeting.  He was there to tell us about the Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2018 annual report.

Like the previous year the plan’s objective are to:

  • Restore self-sustaining wolf populations
  • Maintain healthy ungulate populations
  • Manage wolf-livestock conflicts
  • Develop public understanding and promote co-existence

But while the plan’s objectives remain the same, some of the wolf numbers have changed. Last year there were at least 122 wolves in the state, making up 22 packs with 16 breeding pairs. This year Washington was home to at least 126 wolves, 27 packs and 15 successful breeding pair. (This is a minimum count, so the number in Washington is likely higher).

This year four wolves were lethally removed for wolf-caused livestock deaths. In 2017 three were removed for the same offense. According to the report, the WDFW spent $1,217,326 on wolf management activities during the 2018 fiscal year, compared to $1,272,314 last year.

Six new packs formed – one very close to the Teanaway Pack, the closest one to the Snoqualmie Valley; one pack disbanded; and the first wolf pack of the modern era was confirmed in Western Washington. In 2017 a lone wolf was found and collared in Skagit county. In 2018 the same wolf was found to be traveling with another wolf (a pack is two individuals traveling together) and the Diobsub Creek pack was born, named for the area in which they spend their time.

Some of this new information got me asking Ben questions about the likelihood that someday we might have wolves in the Snoqualmie Valley. His reply was unsurprising to me, but might surprise others:

It is possible. Just outside of the residential development in the valley is a large expanse of managed forest, state and federal lands with deer and elk.  I don’t know exactly where we might see wolves settle in the future, but I think that wildland is a possible area”

The Valley is a large area. The school district counts the valley as being from Ames Lake to the Pass, 400 sq. miles. So, how many wolves would live here with us? 25? 50? I couldn’t ask him to definitively predict the future, but asked him to opine based on the space, average pack and territory size. Said Maletzke,

If wolves settled there, they would be in packs that occupy around 300 – 350 sq. miles.  The packs don’t overlap in their use of space and the average pack size in Washington is around 4 wolves/pack.”

 Oh, ok so using my rudimentary math skills, I can see the number would be much less than 50 and probably closer to 4.

During the meeting someone asked about an incident in June in which a Forest Service worker doing a research survey was treed by a pack of wolves and was rescued by a DNR helicopter.

At the time the coverage was sparse, but basically told a tale of a woman who happened upon a wolf rendezvous site (home or activity sites where weaned pups are brought from the den until they are old enough to join adult wolves in hunting activity), felt unsafe when she heard the wolves, tried to scare them off with bear spray and then climbed the tree to escape.

Maletzke said the woman heard the wolves barking at her when she first went into the area, but didn’t know that was their way of telling her to go away. When asked if it was fair to say that she went in with good intentions and good tools, but maybe not complete information on what to look for, how to behave etc.? He replied:

I think your interpretation is correct.  Similar to domestic dogs or horses, animals have warning signs that can tell you if you are in their space (pinning ears, baring teeth, barking, or growling.) In this instance the woman happened to be working near a rendezvous site where the pups were. The wolves wanted her to leave so they barked at her. Instead of leaving, she climbed a tree to feel safe and called for assistance. If a similar occurrence happened it would be best to just hike out of the area.”

Trust me, I am not one to throw stones. While I would hope I’d do the right thing given the same circumstances, I have yet to confront a pack of wolves, which led me to my next question. Is this the only human/wolf encounter of its kind you know of in the state in recent years? The answer to that was thankfully: “Yes, that I know of.”

He gave out some great pamphlets at the meeting about Washington’s Wolves (you can get yours at http://westernwildlife.org/gray-wolf-outreach-project/) and to me it looked like the advice for a wolf encounter is basically the same as for a bear encounter. He agreed. So if you are lucky enough to see one of these creatures – or just hike in an area where they might be – the advice is to:

  • Stay calm and do not run
  • Stand tall and make yourself look larger
  • Slowly back away and maintain eye contact
  • Keep dogs on leash
  • Carry bear spray
  • Hike in groups

An encounter would be extraordinarily rare as wolves generally fear and avoid people. The risk to human safety is low.

Wolf – part of the Naneum pack.

I do know another concern people have is the risk to our domesticated animals. What about dogs, cats and livestock? What can we do to keep them safe? For dogs he said to keep them on leash when hiking, always good advice. As far as livestock goes what doesn’t work is-

Leaving carcasses or bone piles in the back of the pasture, leaving garbage and food rewards out, not cleaning up afterbirth during a calving operation.  This stuff can lure carnivores in from a long way away. Sanitation can help avoid these interactions with carnivores.”

He suggested taking a look at their website here for more information on protecting livestock.

I must admit I welcome the idea of wolves in the valley. So, I was pretty easy to convince they wouldn’t be a problem. I’ve done a fair bit of research and reading on wild carnivores in the past and am convinced they are not any more of a problem than our bears and cougars. In fact, I think they are an important part of a healthy ecosystem and would do our valley a world of good. If you are unconvinced or just curious you can read the wolf report with the link provided above or watch it on YouTube below.

Let us know if you agree with Ben that wolves are just another critter in the woods or believe they should never be allowed back in the area.

You can also contact Benjamin Maletzke, Statewide Wolf Specialist Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at benjamin.maletzke@dfw.wa.gov

There is an online reporting tool if you would like to report a wolf sighting or you can call 1-877-933-9847.

Location of WA State Wolf packs

Marineland Doesn’t Seem to Want to See Us; Here’s How They Can Keep Us Away

http://www.bornfreeusa.org/weblog_canada.php?p=6403&more=1

by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate

Born Free USA’s Canadian Representative

http://www.bornfreeusa.org/weblog_canada.php?p=6403&more=1

Published 08/17/18

Top: Small bucket is the only water source for numerous large animals in enclosure at Marineland.
Bottom: Animals at Marineland struggle to find shade from the blazing hot sun during heatwave.

My last two blogs were accompanied by photographs of animals I saw imprisoned at Marineland, Niagara Falls, Ontario, when I went there with Zoocheck’s Rob Laidlaw last July 5th, during a blistering heat wave. The harbor seals were not affected by record temperatures, being in a small pool in a cool interior, but at no time when we observed them did they open their eyes, an unnatural condition as verified by an expert on seal eyes, not to mention all memories I have of wild harbor seals with their soulfully bulbous eyes wide open. There have been concerns raised about the effects of chlorine on eyes and I thought I could smell chlorine, but whatever the reason, seeing the animals so confined, eyes tightly shut, certainly depressed me.

But, no more so than conditions out in open paddocks where there waslittle or no shade for numbers of large, hoofed herbivores, and water only appearing to be available in containers about the size of a bucket or pail.

On August 8, I received an email from Stephanie Littlejohn, Law Clerk, Hunt Partners LLP, a Toronto-based law firm calling itself “a unique blend of corporate and civil advocacy” consisting of “recognized litigation leaders and trusted advisors.” Ms. Littlejohn wrote: “Please find attached a Notice of Trespass for Marineland of Canada (Inc.), which is being served upon you.”

The notice prohibited me from entering Marineland’s property “At any time for any reason whatsoever” under the Trespass to Property Act. “I got one too,” laughed Rob, when I called to tell him.

Doubtless, Ms. Littlejohn and her colleagues are very professional corporate and civil advocates. Their opinions on animal welfare may differ from their client’s. Ms. Littlejohn might never even have been to Marineland or know much about animal husbandry. But, Rob’s and my expertise includes animal welfare and we both passionately care about animals. Whether any others care about animals with only pots of water and little or no shade in searing heat, or seals with eyes tightly shut, Rob and I do care how animals are treated.

Ironically, I actually don’t want to ever visit Marineland. I was so depressed by my first time there that I avoided the place for 37 years, only returning to see an exhibit that had been falsely advertised; it wasn’t there. Having paid admission, Rob and I looked at the other animals. I’m happy to wait another 37 years, by which time Ms. Littlejohn will probably be a retired lawyer and I’ll be long gone.

For now, I would gladly pay the maximum trespass fine of two thousand bucks if I thought it would eliminate my concerns, or better yet, that Marineland simply had no animals for me to worry about. If Ms. Littlejohn, Hunt Partners LLP, and Marineland want to keep me out, just eliminate the concerns I addressed &ndahs; or better yet, stop imprisoning animals – and I promise to never again cross Marineland’s doorstep. Honest.

Moab business owner could lose hunting privileges after poaching case, DWR says

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, File

https://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=46295381

By Carter Williams, KSL.com


MOAB — The owner of La Sal Mountain Outfitters who recently pleaded guilty to felony wanton destruction of protected wildlife in connection with a 2016 case may also lose his hunting privileges for his role in poaching a cow elk, wildlife officials said.

Mark Thayn, 57, of Moab, pleaded guilty to the third-degree felony on Feb. 20, after he was charged with two other third-degree felonies and six other misdemeanors and infractions in 2017. He was placed on a three-year probation and eight other counts against him were dropped as a part of the plea.

In addition, Thayn agreed to pay $750 in restitution for the loss of the cow elk poached in 2016 and a $950 fine. Thayn’s conviction could be moved to a Class A misdemeanor after paying the fines and his probation, according to the plea agreement.

Thayn was accused of asking two California men to pay $2,000 each for a partially-guided cow elk hunt on a private property in 2016. When the men arrived in Utah, Thayn fraudulently charged the men an additional $400 for the licenses and gave them elk permits acquired from unsuccessful hunters several weeks prior, according to Division of Natural Resources officer Adam Wallerstein in a statement.

The men killed a cow elk and were attempting to harvest another when they were contacted by wildlife officers.

Wallerstein said Thayn will also pay restitution to the California hunters defrauded. Wallerstein added Utah Division of Wildlife Resources will pursue suspending Thayn’s hunting privileges in Utah and 46 other states for as much as seven years.

Wildlife officials said Thayn’s outfitting business was a legitimate licensing agent for the agency at the time the licenses were fraudulently sold in 2016.

Animal overpasses on I-90 will grant safe passage to Washington wildlife

http://www.kiro7.com/news/local/animal-overpasses-on-i-90-will-grant-safe-passage-to-washington-wildlife/703210866

By: Ashli Blow, KIRO 7 News Dig

 

From snow-covered mountains to northwest ocean waters, it’s no secret that Washington is passionate about protecting all the wildlife in between.

In an effort to keep animals out of harm’s way, the state has invested millions of dollars into creating animal overpasses that stretch over busy roadways. A bridge under construction, east of Snoqualmie Pass, will be the the first of its kind in Washington, but it’s just not for conservation.

>> Related: State breaks ground on new I-90 wildlife overpass

It’s about balancing human transportation needs with wildlife habitats, according to Washington State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meagan Lott.

https://giphy.com/embed/NsEJG01gxYKg2x7Ust

“You’re improving safety, you’re relieving congestion and you’re also looking at the environmental aspects,” she told The Spokesman-Review.

Conservation Northwest has led efforts to get an overpass to connect two important habitats in the Price Creek area near mile marker 62 in eastern Washington.

>> Related: DNA tests confirm gray wolf is roaming NW Washington

As explained in a series of interviews in a Conservation Northwest documentary, animal crossings over I-90 — where 27,000 cars drive daily —  is a serious safety problem for wildlife and drivers.

https://giphy.com/embed/vN1UvWzFU7BmFZqkI3

Animal monitoring shows that it’s wildlife’s natural migration pattern to cross I-90 because of how they come down from the mountain. And their best solution is the 150-feet-wide, vegetated overpass because it gives animals the most natural path forward.

>> Related: New eastside residents could be attracting bears, biologist says

They decided to steer away from creating an underpass — much like a successful construction project near the Summit of Snoqualmie — because elk out don’t like traveling underground.

https://giphy.com/embed/4MXV2oNgsP7xdFpUDv

“If we’re blocking them from moving, we’re preventing them to find food, we’re blocking their ability to find places to live,”  Jen Watkins, Conservation Northwest’s I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition coordinator, said in a YouTube video.

>> Related: King County calls wildlife crossing ‘very successful’

“An overpass is a bridge over the highway … with native trees and shrubs from the surrounding forest, so they walk over the interstate and never realize they’ve left the forest on either side.”

While the overpass — totaling $6.2 million — near Spokane is now visible to drivers, it won’t be completed until 2019. It’s one of the 20 animal crossings planned in a billion-dollar upgrade project between Hyak and Easton.

https://giphy.com/embed/4QFAV1rvvQ5eDy0Tht

As some taxpayers find that price tag steep, transportation leaders and conservation activists say that reducing the hazards of collisions is worth it.

>> PHOTOS: Animals at wildlife crossing in Redmond

On a smaller scale, King County already has functioning animal crossing bridge over a roadway in Redmond.

KIRO 7 News spoke with Rick Brater, county road engineer for the King County Road Services Division, just a year after it opened  at Northeast Novelty Hill Road in 2015

“I think right now we can say it’s very successful,” Brater said. “We saw deer cross almost immediately as we opened it up.”

It usually takes about three to five years for animals to start using crossings. The area saw significantly fewer incidents with wildlife crossings just months into the city’s new bridge.

Poachers beware: Informant campaign had banner year

http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20180216/poachers-beware-informant-campaign-had-banner-year?utm_source=Coast+Region&utm_campaign=adb43322aa-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_01_26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e5e9c44ad5-adb43322aa-234572957

By Jack HeffernanThe Daily Astorian

Published on February 16, 2018 8:24AM

Last changed on February 16, 2018 10:05AM

Authorities are cracking down on poaching in Oregon.

OREGON STATE POLICE

Authorities are cracking down on poaching in Oregon.

A program to reward people who report poaching had a successful year in 2017.

OREGON STATE POLICE

A program to reward people who report poaching had a successful year in 2017.

The program known as Turn in Poachers saw an uptick in rewards last year.

OREGON STATE POLICE

The program known as Turn in Poachers saw an uptick in rewards last year.

Authorities credit advertising on social media and local publications with getting the word out about the incentive program to report poaching.

OREGON STATE POLICE

Authorities credit advertising on social media and local publications with getting the word out about the incentive program to report poaching.

A statewide campaign that encourages people to inform on poachers just had the most robust year in its 32-year history.

The Turn in Poachers fund — a collaboration between the Oregon Hunters Association, Oregon State Police and state Department of Fish and Wildlife — rewarded $24,200 in 50 cases last year. That’s more than double the average amount, according to the hunter’s association. The number of cases typically ranges from 20 to 35 in a given year.

Clatsop County had one reward case in 2017. An informant received $500 for information about an elk shot in an area where hunting is not allowed. Poaching issues in the county mainly center on Roosevelt Elk and blacktail deer, since those animals are the most popular big game for hunters, said Sgt. Joe Warwick of the state police’s fish and wildlife division.

The Albany area had the highest number of rewards at 11.

Pinpointing why hunters report more or fewer poaching cases can be difficult. Not all poaching convictions are a result of tips, and not all informants accept rewards.

“We don’t know much about the informants,” Dungannon said. “They give the tip, we write the check and we send it to them.”

Dungannon suggests recent raises in reward money may be a factor in last year’s spike. Standard amounts range from $100 for game fish, shellfish, upland birds, waterfowl and fur-bearers to $1,000 for bighorn sheep, mountain goats and moose.

Dungannon also pointed to the state police’s efforts to advertise the program on social media and in local publications.

“There are things that officers can do to take the game to the next level and get the word out to the community,” Dungannon said.

Nearly all of the fund’s financial support comes from courts ordering those convicted of violations to pay restitution. The hunter’s association and other conservation groups also pitch in when unusually large award amounts are requested.

A bill pending in the state Legislature may help on that front. While judges already impose fines for misdemeanor offenses, the bill would lay out a precedent to impose such fines in addition to any jail or prison sentence. It also would give the state the ability to deny licenses, tags and permits if fines are not repaid.

“This removes any doubt from the court that they’re able to assess the restitution to the state and to the TIP fund,” Dungannon said.

To continue its growth, police and others who run the fund can think of ways to incentivize hunters to turn in suspected poachers.

“It’s a big deal to take home an elk,” Warwick said. “We need to tell them, ‘That bull elk that guy poached, that’s a bull you could have caught legally.’”

4 elk illegally shot and killed on private property without permission

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/4-elk-illegally-shot-and-killed-on-private-property-without-permission-1.4432517

The bodies of the animals were abandoned, while a fifth elk was wounded and left alive

By Andrew Kurjata, CBC News Posted: Dec 04, 2017 7:17 PM PT Last Updated: Dec 05, 2017 9:47 AM PT

Conservation officers near Hudson's Hope, in northeast B.C., are investigating after four elk were illegally killed by men shooting from a public road onto private property without permission.

Conservation officers near Hudson’s Hope, in northeast B.C., are investigating after four elk were illegally killed by men shooting from a public road onto private property without permission. (Conservation Officer Service of British Columbia)

Four elk have been illegally shot and killed on private property without permission.

The bodies of the animals were abandoned, while a fifth elk was wounded and left alive.

The incident occurred Sunday evening north of Hudson’s Hope, in northeast British Columbia, said acting Sgt. Brad Lacey of the Peace Region Conservation Officer Service.

A property owner in the area heard “a number of shots being discharged” at around 5:30 p.m. MST and went out to investigate, Lacey said.

The owner found a group of men shooting at the animals from the road and confronted them, at which point they got into their vehicles and left.

A limited-entry hunt for elk is currently occurring in the region, but Lacey said it’s not known if the men were licensed.

Investigation underway

Even if they were, he said, their methodology was illegal.

“Evidence at the scene would indicated that the hunt occurred on a maintained roadway, which isn’t allowed,” Lacey explained.

Additionally, the elk were on privately-owned land, and the owner did not give permission for the men to hunt there.

Elk in the region, which belong to the subspecies Rocky Mountain elk, are not considered at risk, but Lacey said it is still problematic for them to be killed without permission.

“There’s a public safety concern for any firearms being discharged on a maintained roadway,” he said.

Lacey said the dead elk will be maintained for evidence and then, “if the carcasses remain suitable for human consumption, they’ll be utilized by a local food bank.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the service at 1-877-952-7277.

Two elk shot dead near Cottonwood Pass; authorities looking for information

http://fox21news.com/2017/11/09/two-elk-shot-dead-near-cottonwood-pass-authorities-looking-for-information/

BUENA VISTA, Colo. — Colorado Parks and Wildlife is asking the public for information about two bull elk that were found shot dead near Cottonwood Pass on Sunday.

Wildlife officials said a hunter found the abandoned carcasses off County Road 306 about a half mile from the summit of Cottonwood Pass, which is west of Buena Vista. They estimate both elk were shot dead early Sunday morning. The carcasses, which were abandoned about 50 yards from the road, were fully intact.

Anyone with information about the deaths is asked to call Colorado Parks and Wildlife at 719-539-8413 or 719-530-5520.

Wildlife officials said they recognize accidents can happen while hunting, and they urge the responsible person to step forward.

“Prompt self-reporting will be taken into account when charges are being considered,” they said in a statement.

According to CPW, willfully destroying and abandoning big game can lead to felony charges. If convicted, violators can be fined more than $10,000 and face up to a year in jail, along with a lifetime suspension of hunting and fishing privileges in 44 states, including Colorado.

Renowned wolf biologist casts doubt on hunter’s story of attack

http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20171106/renowned-wolf-biologist-casts-doubt-on-hunters-story-of-attack

Wolf expert Carter Niemeyer trapped, collared, tracked and sometimes shot wolves during a long career with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Eric MortensonCapital Press
Published on November 6, 2017 1:36PM
A retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist with 30 years experience said it is unlikely a wolf shot by an Oregon elk hunter was attacking the man.

Carter Niemeyer, who lives in Boise and oversaw or consulted on wolf recovery work throughout the West, also said descriptions of the bullet trajectory — in one shoulder and out the other – raise doubt about the hunter’s account that the wolf was running at him when he fired.

“That’s a broadside shot, not a running-at-you shot,” Niemeyer said. “If the bullet path is through one side and out the other, it indicates to me an animal could have been standing, not moving, and the shot was well placed.”

A bullet that hit the wolf as it was running forward most likely would have exited out the hips or rear end, Niemeyer said. He acknowledge the bullet or fragments could have deflected off bone, but said a forensic exam would have to explain that. Michelle Dennehy, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman, said the agency did not request a necropsy because the cause of death — gunshot — was known.

Niemeyer said the hunter’s account of taking a “snap shot into a ball of fur” is unlikely.

“I have to tell you I doubt the story,” he said.

Niemeyer, 70, said he’s hunted predators for 52 years as a government hunter and a taxidermist, and has dealt with fellow sportsmen and shooters for decades. “I’ve heard every story,” he said. “This story is very suspect to me.”

The elk hunter, Brian Scott, 38, of Clackamas, Ore., told Oregon State Police that the wolf ran straight at him. Scott told police he screamed, took quick aim and fired his 30.06 rifle once. Scott said he saw nothing but fur in the rifle’s scope as the wolf ran at him, according to published reports.

In an interview with outdoor writer Bill Monroe of The Oregonian/Oregon Live, Scott said he was terrified.

“People envision this jerk hunter out to kill anything, but that’s not me,” he told Monroe. “It frustrates me they don’t understand. I’m a meat hunter. I was looking for a spike elk. This wasn’t exciting. It ruined my hunt.”

Scott told Monroe he didn’t think he had time to fire a warning shot. He could not explain the bullet’s path, which entered the wolf’s right shoulder and exited the left, other than perhaps the wolf turned at the last instant or the bullet deflected.

Niemeyer, the retired wildlife biologist, said wolves will “turn around and take off” when they realize they’re near a human. Niemeyer said he had “many, many close encounters with wolves” while doing trapping, collaring and other field work for USFWS in Idaho, Oregon and elsewhere. He said wolves sometimes ran at him and approached within 6 to 8 feet before veering away.

Wolves are potentially dangerous, he said, “but all my experience tells me it would be fearful of a human.”

People in such situations should stand up if they are concealed, show themselves, and yell or throw things, Niemeyer said. Hunters could fire a shot into the ground or into a tree and “scare the hell out of them,” he said.

“That would have been the first logical thing to do,” he said. “The gunshot and a yell from a human would turn every wolf I’ve ever known inside out trying to get away.”

He also suggested people venturing into the woods should carry bear repellent spray, which certainly would also deter wolves, cougars or coyotes.

“If everyone shoots everything they’re afraid of, wow, that’s not a good thing,” he said.

Niemeyer acknowledged his reaction is based on years of experience with wolves.

“People say, ‘That’s easy for you to say, Carter, you worked with wolves for 30 years and you’re familiar with their behavior,’” he said.

The shooting happened Oct. 27 in ODFW’s Starkey Wildlife Management Unit west of La Grande, in Northeast Oregon.

Scott, the hunter, told police he was hunting and had intermittently seen what he thought might be coyotes. At one point, two of them circled off to the side while a third ran at him. Scott said he shot that one and the others ran away.

Scott went back to his hunting camp and told companions what had happened. They returned to the shooting scene and concluded the dead animal was a wolf. The hunter then notified state police and ODFW, which investigated. Police later found a shell casing 27 yards from the wolf carcass. The Union County district attorney’s office reviewed the case and chose not to file charges.

The Portland-based conservation group Oregon Wild raised questions about the incident. Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild’s field representative in Northeast Oregon, said he’s seen wolves in the wild several times and backed away without trouble or harm. Even the late OR-4, the fearsome breeding male of the infamous Imnaha Pack in Wallowa County, retreated and barked when it encountered Klavins and a hiking party.

“This (hunter) may have felt fear, but since wolves returned to Oregon, no one has so much as been licked by a wolf, and that’s still true today,” Klavins said.

“What has changed is we now have wolves on the landscape, 10 years ago we didn’t,” Klavins said. “Especially in the fall (hunting season), armed people are going to be out encountering wolves.”

Oregon Wild believes poachers have killed several Oregon wolves, and USFWS on Nov. 6 offered a $5,000 reward for information about a collared wolf designated OR-25 that was found dead Oct. 29 in South Central Oregon.

Klavins said wolf shooters might now use a “self-defense” claim as a “free pass to poaching.”