Animal rights activists camp out to stop culling of wolf in Germany

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/02/animal-rights-activists-camp-stop-culling-wolf-germany/

Animal rights activists have flocked to eastern Germany in a bid to prevent the culling of a wolf that has been preying on local farmers’ sheep.

Activists from across Germany are camping out in the forests of Upper Lausitz, a sparsely populated area near the border with Poland, in an attempt to stop hunters tracking down the wolf.

“I’ve been here since Monday. We’re protecting the wolves and facing down the hunters,” Bettina Jung, the head of Germany’s Animal Protection Party, told Bild newspaper.

But local farmers are furious at what they see as the activists’ interference. “These radical eco-warriors hang around in the dark with their cars and night vision equipment, scaring my livestock,” one said.

The head of the local hunting association has called on landowners to press criminal charges against the activists.

French breeders hold a banner with a quote by French poet Victor Hugo reading "He who saves the wolf kills the sheep" as they demonstrate in Lyon to draw attention to rising wolf attacks on sheep
French breeders hold a banner with a quote by French poet Victor Hugo reading “He who saves the wolf kills the sheep” as they demonstrate in Lyon to draw attention to rising wolf attacks on sheepCREDIT: AFP

Wolves are generally protected by strict laws in Germany as an endangered species, and killing them is prohibited.

But local authorities have lifted the ban for a specific pack that has repeatedly attacked farms and mauled sheep in the area.

The stand-off between activists and farmers is a sign of the growing tensions as the rapidly rising wolf population begins to encroach on human habitations.

Just twenty years ago, there were no wolves left in Germany after the species was hunted to extinction in the early 20th century.

But wolves have made a remarkable comeback since the end of the Cold War. When the Iron Curtain fell and border defences were removed, they began to wander back into Germany from neighbouring Poland.

Today, there are believed to be more than 30 packs roaming Germany, and wolves have been photographed just 30 miles from Hamburg, the country’s second largest city.

The lifting on the hunting ban on what authorities have named the “Rosenthal Pack” only applies to a specific wolf which has been identified attacking sheep, and not to the pack in general.

A single licensed hunter has been appointed by the authorities to track and kill the culprit.

But the activists are determined to stop that happening. “We try to disturb the hunters, and keep watch over the sheep pastures,” said Stefan Voss, who patrols the forest every night.

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Grizzly roadmap: Studies show grizzlies finding their way around people

http://missoulian.com/news/local/grizzly-roadmap-studies-show-grizzlies-finding-their-way-around-people/article_265135ca-15b5-5e28-bc2a-bde1e15935c4.html#tracking-source=home-top-story-1

Grizzly bear management has evolved from growing populations to moving them around. And a couple of new reports give mixed signals about how the keystone predators travel.

In the United States, evidence has grown that grizzlies have almost bridged the gap between the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem north of Missoula and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem south of Bozeman. But a British Columbia study released this month raises doubts about the condition of its much larger bear population.

Grizzly movement matters because the rare and federally protected animals must avoid inbreeding for their populations to remain healthy.

Critics of taking Greater Yellowstone grizzlies off the endangered species list say that the recovery area lacks connectivity to other bears, and so risks genetic decay.

The U.S. Interior Department proposed turning Greater Yellowstone grizzlies over to state management in July, and is developing rules for similar delisting of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem population within a year.

Montana researchers Cecily Costello of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Frank van Manen of the U.S. Geological Survey published a report on possible grizzly pathways out of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in the journal Ecosphere. Their work lends hope that the genetically isolated population around Yellowstone National Park may soon get a breeding boost as northern bears shake their family tree.

“There were routes that were not obvious before we started, and a lot more alternatives than we thought initially,” van Manen said.

Some bears leave the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex via the short but precarious path around Helena through the Big Belt Mountains toward Bozeman and relative security north of Yellowstone. Others loop around Butte to approach Yellowstone from the west.

One counter-intuitive result van Manen observed was that the heavily used routes weren’t necessarily the best ones.

“The concentration isn’t because that’s the great habitat,” van Manen said. “It’s because there’s not a lot of great places to go. Those are pinch-points.”

Knowing that allows land managers and bear advocates to do two things. One is to make sure those pinch-points don’t become too hazardous for grizzlies, such as providing wildlife crossings at freeways.

The other is to protect the qualities of the more dispersed routes.

“Those (dispersed routes) have really good, secure habitat like the Beaverhead and Bitterroot mountains that are already well-protected with little human influence,” van Manen said. “That might make those routes more effective in the long run. We shouldn’t just focus on the ones with highest concentration.”

At least 21 grizzly bears have been tracked moving between the two recovery areas. Almost all have been males. Female bears are much less likely to cross highways or human settlements, the authors noted.

“Our analyses placed much greater emphasis on potential paths following the Rattlesnake, Garnet, John Long, Flint Creek, Anaconda, Pioneer and Highland Mountains,” the authors wrote. “The Tobacco Root Mountains may be a particularly pivotal stepping stone, as many different paths converged on this mountain range.”

***

Three smaller recovery areas in the Cabinet-Yaak, Selkirk and North Cascades mountains of Montana, Idaho and Washington also depend on the movement of grizzly bears. Pathways there cross the international border between the United States and Canada, where British Columbia has a much larger grizzly population.

Last week British Columbia Auditor General Carol Bellringer warned that supply of grizzlies may be at risk as well.

The southeast corner of the province bordering Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park holds B.C.’s greatest concentration of grizzlies. That zone is also the only portion of the B.C.-U.S. border open to grizzly hunting. But three of the four zones just to the west, bordering the small Cabinet-Yaak, Selkirk and North Cascade U.S. recovery zones, were considered threatened populations by the Canadians.

+2 

British Columbia grizzly bear population units
British Columbia Auditor General

British Columbia has slightly more than twice Montana’s area and more than four times its population, although about 2.6 million of the province’s 4.6 million people live in the greater Vancouver area north of Seattle.

It also has more than 10 times the grizzly bears: an estimated 15,000 compared to the 1,500 to 1,800 estimated in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which includes Idaho and Wyoming. Alberta had about 580 grizzlies, including about 140 in the region between Waterton Lakes National Park and Banff.

Grizzlies can be hunted in British Columbia, but Bellringer said that was less a threat to their management than loss of habitat.

“The expansion of development in oil and gas, forestry and human settlement makes it more difficult for grizzly bears to mate, and results in food source loss, as well as more human-bear conflict,” Bellringer wrote. “An increase in resource roads — 600,000 kilometers (100,000 miles) existing and more added every year — also leads to more human-bear conflict, and ultimately, grizzly bear deaths.”

British Columbia charges residents $80 for a license to hunt during its grizzly season, while nonresidents pay $1,030. Grizzly hunting brings about $6 million to $7.6 million to the provincial economy. Commercial bear viewing in just one part of the province, the Great Bear Rainforest, was worth $15 million in 2012, according to the auditor’s report.

While sales of resident hunting licenses have stayed steady at around 300 a year, nonresident sales have spiked. They grew from about 800 in 2000 to 1,700 in 2016. The audit did not separate Canadian and foreign purchases in the nonresident category.

The possibility of U.S. states offering grizzly hunting seasons has been a major controversy in the delisting debate. But van Manen noted that the Canadians were borrowing many of the same steps Americans have used in the Endangered Species Act recovery process to maintain their bear populations.

“We’ve certainly been fortunate we have a strong piece of legislation like the ESA,” van Manen said. “Roads are key. Keeping road density below certain thresholds is key to effective grizzly bear conservation.

“In the Yellowstone, that’s accomplished by setting standards for secure habitat that are at the same levels as 1998 or below. The same thing is happening with the NCDE (Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem) conservation strategy. That guarantees that in the core of the ecosystem, the road densities and motorized access will really not change.”

Perry artist focuses exhibit on trophy hunting of endangered animals

http://www.whig.com/20171014/perry-artist-focuses-exhibit-on-trophy-hunting-of-endangered-animals#

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Oct. 14, 2017 8:50 pm

PERRY, Mo. — As professional artist Craig Norton of Perry was doing research for an adult coloring book focusing on endangered animals, something kept gnawing at him.

Norton said he would frequently encounter disturbing photographs of big-game hunters posing with the carcasses of endangered animals they had just killed.

He said he saw one hunter standing victoriously atop a dead elephant while flexing his muscles and giving a thumbs-up sign.

He saw a hunter swaying with a dead cheetah in his arms as if dancing with the animal on prom night.

He saw a couple kissing and holding a “Just Married” sign while standing next to a dead grey zebra one of them had killed.

He saw hunters sitting on a dead giraffe while smoking cigars and toasting each other with champagne glasses.

He saw a photo of a boy — about 10 or 12 years old — relaxing alongside a lion he had shot.

“He was literally cozied up next to the dead lion, and he’s playing on his iPad,” Norton said.

All of these images — and many others — bothered Norton and stayed with him while he was producing the 45 pen-and-ink drawings that were eventually featured in his coloring book, “Endangered: Animals to Color,” which was published in 2016.

Since then, Norton decided to express his feelings about “the negative effects of trophy hunting” by producing a series of paintings that focus on the killing of endangered animals.

The result is “Trophies,” an art exhibit that opens Monday in the Hannibal-LaGrange University’s Arts Department gallery. The exhibit will remain on display through Nov. 10. A reception with the artist — open to the public — is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday.

Norton, a father of six who makes a living as a professional artist, said he felt compelled to create the series of artworks as a way to make a statement about his concern for the loss of endangered animals.

“These beautiful animals stand no chance when facing a hunter with a gun,” he said.

Norton is quick to point out that he is not opposed to legal hunting in general. He is specifically opposed to killing endangered animals.

“This exhibit has nothing to do with deer, turkey or duck hunters,” he said.

Norton is worried that the continued hunting of endangered animals will lead to the extinction of more species.

“For every species that is wiped out, it affects so much more than people realize because the extinction of one species affects other species,” he said.

Norton likens the extinction possibilities to a jigsaw puzzle.

“When one piece of that puzzle is suddenly missing, it affects the balance of things and is not complete,” he said.

“There’s not enough protection for these animals. Their numbers are dropping considerably. So I’m trying to get the debate going on whether this is the right thing or the wrong thing.”

Norton said all of the paintings he produced for the exhibit were based on real photographs he encountered while doing research over the last couple of years.

“These are not fictional,” he said. “They are based on real photographs, then I make it my own painting by adding things and subtracting things.”

Norton even added editorial text to some of the paintings to help illustrate his points about “the complete and utter disrespect and disregard for the animals’ life.”

Norton, 43, is known for making statements about social issues when producing his work.

Over the years he developed gallery shows in New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Baltimore featuring paintings, drawings and mixed-media work on such diverse subjects as the Holocaust, racial lynchings, gun violence and the travails that have faced Native Americans and the elderly.

He feels endangered animals deserve some attention as well.

“There are thousands of species at risk,” he said.

More information and examples about Norton’s artwork can be found on his website, craignortonart.com, and at craignortonart@facebook.com.

Endangered Mexican Wolf Killed Following Livestock Attacks

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-mexico/articles/2017-09-15/endangered-mexican-wolf-killed-following-livestock-attacks

An endangered Mexican gray wolf has been killed by federal employees after a Native American tribe requested the animal be removed from the wild in the wake of a string of cattle deaths near the Arizona-New Mexico border.

Sept. 15, 2017 

[ To be more accurate, this headline should have read: “Endangered Mexican Wolf (one of fewer than 50 in the wild)  Killed Following Livestock (introduced and bred by the thousands and slaughtered within a few years of birth, for human consumption) Attacks (read: predation–sorry, but it’s what wolves do and have always done).”]

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An endangered Mexican gray wolf has been killed by federal employees after a Native American tribe requested the animal be removed from the wild in the wake of a string of cattle deaths near the ArizonaNew Mexico border.

The death of the female wolf marks the first time in a decade that efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to curb livestock attacks by wolves has had lethal consequences for one of the predators.

The decision to remove the member of the Diamond Pack was first made in June after three calves were killed over several days, sparking concern among wildlife managers about what they described as an unacceptable pattern of predation.

An investigation determined the female wolf was likely the culprit based on GPS and radio telemetry tracking, according to documents obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

Another calf was killed in July, prompting the White Mountain Apache Tribe to call for the removal. That was followed by one confirmed kill and another probable kill by members of the pack on national forest land adjacent to the reservation.

Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle issued another order in August calling for the wolf’s removal by the most expeditious means possible.

“I am concerned with the numerous depredations in this area over the past year and the toll these depredations have caused the area’s livestock producers,” Tuggle wrote.

Environmentalists decried the move, saying they are concerned about the possibility of managers reverting to a rigid three-strikes rule that called for wolves to be removed from the wild or killed if they preyed on livestock. Following years of legal wrangling, federal officials revised that policy in 2015 to allow for more options when dealing with nuisance wolves. 

Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity argued that killing wolves does nothing in the long run to reduce livestock losses.

“The recovery of endangered Mexican gray wolves has taken an unnecessary step backward,” he said.

Fish and Wildlife officials said current rules allow for the control of problem wolves and that the agency will continue to manage wolves in Arizona and New Mexico under those provisions. They also said they will continue to work with ranchers to limit conflicts.

The wolf recovery team earlier this year set up a diversionary cache of food for the Diamond Pack, which roams parts of tribal land and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. Two other pack members were also removed and placed in captivity at the beginning of the year due to predation concerns.

There are now more Mexican gray wolves roaming the American Southwest than at any time since the federal government began trying to reintroduce the animals nearly two decades ago. The most recent annual survey shows at least 113 wolves spread between southwestern New Mexico and southeast Arizona.

Efforts to return the predators to the region have been hampered over the years by everything from politics to illegal killings and genetics.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has been criticized for its management of the wolves by ranchers, who say the animals are a threat to their livelihoods, and environmentalists who want more captive-bred wolves to be released.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Congress: Michigan, Great Lakes wolves could lose federal protection

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/09/12/michigan-wolves-endangered-species-protection/657932001/

WASHINGTON — Legislation under committee consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives today would strip gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states of protections they enjoy under the Endangered Species Act.

Less than two months after an appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the protection afforded wolves in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin should continue unless there is a further study, the House Federal Lands Subcommittee today took up legislation that would reverse that decision.

 A second bill —- co-sponsored by several Republican Michigan members of Congress — would do much the same and is expected to get a vote in the subcommittee, as well, perhaps as early as this week.

The section regarding gray wolves’ protection considered by the Federal Lands Subcommittee is part of a larger bill that would take steps to ensure that public lands remain largely open to hunting and fishing.

During today’s hearing, Democrats voiced deep concerns about other portions of the legislation, including measures that would make it easier for people to buy firearm silencers and put more of a legal and financial burden on law enforcement when stopping a vehicle suspected of potentially transporting a firearm across state lines.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been attempting for years to de-list the 600 or so gray wolves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and larger populations from Minnesota and Wisconsin from protection under the Endangered Species Act but has been turned back each time.

Related:

In the most recent ruling, the court said Fish and Wildlife could not go through with such a de-listing without studying what such a move would mean to the population across the rest of the U.S. Proponents of hunting wolves argue that the numbers are significantly recovered to allow for de-listing and that wolves increasingly threaten livestock, reduce deer populations and even threaten humans.

In August, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, called such anecdotal evidence “fabricated” and “exaggerated,” noting that in cases where wolves are found to kill livestock, farmers can get permission to kill wolves.

“Congress should not subvert the rulings of two federal courts affirming the conclusion that de-listing of wolves in the Great Lakes region is premature,” Pacelle said today, adding that they help reduce auto collisions with deer by reducing the population. “The wolf population in the state is small and not increasing, and Michigan voters have rejected trophy hunting of the animals by voting down two statewide ballot measures to allow it.”

Michigan rejected wolf hunting in state referendums in 2014.

The legislation — like that co-sponsored by Republican U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland, John Moolenaar of Midland and Tim Walberg of Tipton — calls for issuing the order de-listing wolves within 60 days of it being signed into law and prohibits any judicial review of the order.

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“Basically, it’s been technicalities in the rules (that have kept wolves listed). There’s no question (they) belong off the endangered species list,” said Anna Seidman, government affairs director for Safari Club International, a hunters rights group. “We need to end this endless court battle and have Congress step in.”

While it’s possible the full committee would send both measures to the full House for consideration, it’s unlikely both would be scheduled for a vote. The more sweeping legislation could be seen as more of a priority then and could get top consideration.

But the legislation still faces difficulties: With so much before Congress between now and the end of the year, it could be caught in a logjam and Democratic members of the U.S. House, while outnumbered with Republicans in the majority, will likely try to do all they can to slow it, especially because of the firearm portions of the bill.

If it gets to the Senate, it would have to cross a 60-vote threshold. Republicans hold only a 52-seat majority in the Senate, though some Democrats from western and rural states potentially might be convinced to vote for it with changes.

Contact Todd Spangler: 703-854-8947 or tspangler@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler. Staff writer Keith Matheny contributed to this report.

Wildfires Are Big Trouble For The Northwest’s Lynx, Pygmy Rabbits And Other Creatures

http://www.opb.org/news/article/pacific-northwest-fires-threaten-wildlife/


The Eagle Creek Fire takes spreads through the Columbia River Gorge, September 4, 2017.

The Eagle Creek Fire takes spreads through the Columbia River Gorge, September 4, 2017.

Courtesy of InciWeb

As wildfires rage across the Pacific Northwest, more than just people are displaced from their homes. Animals in the wild are also feeling the effects of the flames.More and more, wildfires are changing conservation strategies for threatened and endangered animals in the region, especially as a warming climate lengthens fire season.

“We essentially assume that we’re going to have earlier fire seasons. They’re going to last longer. And they will typically be more severe,” said Jeff Krupka, field office manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Central Washington.

Northern spotted owl, Canada lynx, bull trout. Just a few in a long line of listed animals. Not to mention rare and endangered plants.

Canada lynx

Canada lynx

rfzappala/Flickr

It’s still to early to know what’s species are threatened by the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge, as firefighters are working to save people and homes.

But resilient ecosystems have a better ability to recover from natural disasters, said Rachel Pawlitz, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman.

“We believe we’ve taken good care of the underlying ecology of this area in the last 30 years since we were created,” she said. “That will be a factor to help the natural system regenerate itself.”

Pawlitz said, although many people want to help, it’s important that they don’t take a go-it-alone approach with restoration efforts. Volunteers should work with the Forest Service or other experts once the fire is out.

A fire earlier this summer near Quincy, Washington, swept through pygmy rabbit habitat. The rabbits are federally listed as endangered in the state — the hilly sagebrush landscape in Central Washington is their only home.

Biologists are now trying to breed pygmy rabbits in the wild. So far biologists have found around 90 burrows this winter. Penny Becker says the DNA samples have shown more than 40 individual rabbits.

Biologists are now trying to breed pygmy rabbits in the wild. So far biologists have found around 90 burrows this winter. Penny Becker says the DNA samples have shown more than 40 individual rabbits.

Flickr Creative Commons: USFWS Pacific

Biologists have worked since 2011 to breed and release hundreds of the palm-sized rabbits into the wild. They say the program has been a success.

But this June, the wind-driven Sutherland Canyon Fire killed about 70 rabbits in one breeding area. Biologists and firefighters were able to rescue 32 others that had escaped into burrows.

Matt Monda, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional wildlife manager, said many of the surviving rabbits were found the next day, huddled in a small patch of sagebrush surrounded by charred landscape.

Lead biologist Jon Gallie had retrofitted the irrigation system to keep that patch alive.

“The fire was a setback for our restoration program, but we can start making up for those losses next year,” Monda said. “Wildfires are a fact of life here in sagebrush country, which is a major reason why we don’t keep all of the rabbits in one place.”

Right now, the Jolly Mountain Fire is threatening spotted owl, bull trout, and steelhead habitat. It’s also burning near whitebark pine, which the U.S. Forest Service says needs protection but is not yet listed on the Endangered Species List.

Whitebark pines thrive in rugged mountain in environments.

Whitebark pines thrive in rugged mountain in environments.

Devan Schwartz

Farther north in Washington, there’s concern for what’s left of Canada lynxhabitat. The Diamond Creek Fire, which is still burning in Okanogan County, may have destroyed what’s left of the federally threatened wildcats’ habitat.

“That’s particularly disheartening because in the state of Washington, we have essentially one reproductive population of lynx, and that’s where they live,” Krupka said.

Lynx resemble bobcats with very furry paws and short tails. One resident population is known to live in Washington. The federal and state government designated critical habitat in Okanogan County.

“The Okanogan Lynx Management Zone taken a beating in the last decade (because of fires),” Krupka said.

Habitat fragmentation from wildfires, along with climate change, are considered the biggest threats to lynx in the state.

Conservation groups threatened to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because they were concerned there wasn’t enough lynx habitat set aside in the state.

Managers will be better able to assess damage once the fires are put out — and it’s safe for people to survey habitat areas.

But it’s not all bad — wildfires are a natural part of the landscape. Some animals may even thrive after a fire, said Michelle Dennehy, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman.

“Some animals will perish in the fire, some will evade it, but for the most part, populations will not be impacted long-term.  In fact, some populations may flourish and exceed pre-fire numbers with the positive ecological functions following a fire,” Dennehy said in an email.

She said most habitats require disturbance, like fires and floods, and without these periodic events the land really isn’t as good as it could be.

“Animals rely on a mosaic of habitats to complete their needs…. and the disturbance related habitat created by the fire, once recovered, will add to habitat complexity and provide a new type of habitat,” Dennehy said.

In Oregon, the Eagle Creek Fire forced ODFW to prematurely release 606,000 fall chinook salmon from fish hatcheries in the Columbia River Gorge.

Hatchery managers had marked and tagged the early releases, so they will be able to track and compare their survival rates.

Those fish are expected to do OK.

Looking ahead, there could be more concerns for other fish, including threatened and endangered salmon and bull trout.

If riparian areas on stream edges have been damaged, water temperatures could get warmer near spawning areas.

Fires often disturb the ground as well. There’s no vegetation left to hold in the soil — and so heavy rains could cause mudslides or excessive sediment in streams.

A silver lining: fallen trees could become good fish habitat later, Dennehy said.

Many animals that are able to move quickly will do so, said Ross Huffman, southcentral regional lands operations manager for WDFW.

“It depends on the species. Things like wolves are pretty highly mobile, as long as the fire’s not going super fast or has a really strong wind. They more than likely have the ability to escape, as long as there’s habitat nearby that they can move to. Spotted owls are highly mobile. The longer term (problem) would be the loss of habitat,” Huffman said.

Looking forward, once more is know about what has really been lost, land managers are thinking about restoration efforts: stabilizing loose sediment, repairing roads, restoring trees and aquatic habitats.

And they begin to ask what else can be done. Should land managers do more?

Take the Canada lynx, Krupka said. Should they put in pre-suppression fire lines in the subalpine habitat? It’s not something that’s normally thought about.

“When you have a limited resource is that something that you should do?” Krupka said. “We ask these questions of ourselves, unfortunately sometimes after a tragedy of sorts. What can we learn from this? What can we do better?”

Ranchers and politics are killing Oregon’s endangered wolves

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/energy-environment/348943-ranchers-and-politics-are-killing-oregons-endangered

BY ERIK MOLVAR, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR –  

Ranchers and politics are killing Oregon’s endangered wolves
© Getty Images

As wolves are recolonizing the wide-open spaces of the West, they are running into a buzzsaw of political meddling at the hands of a ranching industry that yearns for the glory days of its forebears, who killed wolves to the brink of extinction generations ago.

In eastern Oregon, public controversy has erupted over the kill order issued this month by state wildlife officials for two members of the Harl Butte wolf pack in northeastern Oregon, the latest in a long and bloody history of political deals, deception and feuding over the ranching industry’s perceived “right” to kill native wildlife to ease its mind and further its profits.

Unlike many western states, the Oregon has its own Endangered Species Act, adopted in 1984 to protect wildlife rare or imperiled in the state. Wolves immediately became an endangered species when the law was adopted, and it wasn’t very controversial because the species was completely extinct in the state at that time. 

As the gray wolf began its comeback in the inland Northwest, however, the situation quickly got out of hand. In 2005, Oregon adopted a state wolf plan. As usual in collaborative processes, commercial interests got their wish list — including the ability to have wolves killed if they could be linked to predation on domestic livestock. And so the state adopted a plan allowing an endangered species to be killed, in violation of Oregon state law.

And so, when the first wolves made it into Oregon through natural dispersal, the first pack — the Imnaha Pack — was subjected to multiple killings at the request of ranchers. In 2011, the dwindling pack was targeted with a kill order for two of the four remaining pack members, including one of the alpha pair.

Cascadia Wildlands, and Oregon environmental group, immediately filed for a court injunction to block the kill order. Nick Cady, an attorney with Cascadia Wildlands, succeed in having a judge block the Imnaha pack’s kill order the same day.

Thanks to these protections, one of the Imnaha Pack’s offspring, OR-7, established the first-ever breeding pack of wolves in southwestern Oregon, and later became grandsire to California’s new Lassen Pack. Wolves are listed under that state’s Endangered Species Act, and enjoy strong protections because California state law forbids the killing of wolves for the benefit of agricultural operations (or any other reason).

Of course, this scientifically questionable wolf de-listing was immediately challenged in court; the lawsuit is currently pending.

When outgoing Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber left under a cloud of ethics allegations in 2015, Secretary of State Kate Brown became governor. She inherited Kitzhaber’s staff on natural resource issues, who happened to be quite cozy with the eastern Oregon livestock industry. In the midst of the chaos, the cattlemens’ associations pushed through a bill — House Bill 4040 — declaring an “emergency” and blocking the courts from ruling on state endangered species decisions involving wolves.

Brown, newly anointed and perhaps swayed by pro-ranching staff members, signed the bill into law in a move that drew heavy criticism.

Stymied in their efforts to kill endangered wolves, the Oregon ultimately decided in 2015 to remove the legal protections by de-listing wolves under the state Endangered Species Act. The statewide wolf population at the time was only 81 animals, with only four breeding pairs, statewide numbers were tenuous. So the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife concocted a model criticized by scientists for unrealistically assuming the rapid population growth of early wolf expansion would be sustained over time, instead of factoring in known population density limits that halt wolf population growth when all available wolf territories become occupied. In science, this is called “cooking the books.”

Meanwhile, the political circus has careened onward. Earlier this year, a study funded by the Oregon Beef Association found that wolves were giving their cattle post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). (Conveniently for the ranchers and their concern for livestock mental health, no stress testing was conducted at slaughterhouses.) The industry then tried court filings asserting Oregon wolves aren’t native wildlife.

This summer, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued new kill order at a rancher’s request, this time for two members of the Harl Butte Pack, an offshoot of the original Imnaha Pack. This was soon followed by an additional kill order targeting the Meacham Pack at the request of a Umatilla County rancher.

Wolves are rare, highly valued by the public and of incalculable ecological value as a key part of natural systems. Cattle, by contrast, are a dime a dozen— not to mention an invasive species non-native to North America — bred specifically to be killed for their meat. Oregon alone has more than a million of them. If wolves kill a cow or calf before we get a chance to do the same, they deserve a tip of the cap as a professional courtesy to a fellow predator, not a death sentence.

But there is a bigger lesson to be drawn from the dirty politics of Oregon’s state-sponsored wildlife killings. Killing native wildlife shows everyone involved in an unflattering light: Bureaucrats look incompetent (or worse, corrupt), state biologists look like they don’t understand basic science, apologists for predator killing look like sellouts and ranchers look like bloodthirsty killers.

In politics, perception is reality. It is long past time for Oregon to take a look in the mirror, check its reality, and come up with better solutions that afford wildlife — and specifically wolves — their place in the natural order of the state. Where is Brown on solving the state’s problematic approach to wolves? Endangered species recovery based on science and coexistence rather than politics makes everyone look better, and more importantly, it actually works.

Erik Molvar is executive director of Western Watersheds Project, a nonprofit environmental conservation group dedicated to protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife. He is also a published wildlife biologist.

 

The HSUS goes to federal court on behalf of Yellowstone’s grizzly bears

Sixty days ago, The HSUS told Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that we’d see him in courtif his agency did not reconsider a wrong-headed decision to strip federal protections from grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. We made good on that promise today.

Joined by our affiliate The Fund for Animals, The HSUS filed a complaint in the federal court for the District of Montana in Missoula. The complaint alleges multiple violations of the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act – the latter a statute that provides a critical backstop to ensure that federal agency decisions are well-reasoned and that they properly evaluate scientific data.

Litigating this case in Missoula has special significance because it lies within the corridor connecting the two largest remaining grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states: the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE). Before they were nearly wiped out in the early 20th century, grizzly bears numbered in the tens of thousands and roamed across much of the North American continent. ESA protections beginning in 1975 rescued grizzlies from the precipice of extinction. But the fact is that much work remains. The GYE population still numbers fewer than 700 grizzlies, fragmented populations are disconnected, and staple foods like whitebark pine nuts and cutthroat trout remain in sharp decline. Each of the last two years saw record numbers of bears poached, run over on highways, and killed by state agents in so-called “management actions” as the bears have been forced to range further and further outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in search of food.

There is clear scientific evidence to necessitate maintaining protections and continued federal monitoring for the grizzly bear population. But instead, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ignored expert data and conducted a tortured statutory analysis to turn over management of bears to states eager to align with the narrow interests of trophy hunters, ranchers, and other consumptive users of our nation’s shared natural resources. Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana have already begun the process of planning trophy-hunting seasons on bears, just as they have done after federal protections for the gray wolf were removed. Now, with federal protections eliminated for the Great Bear and hunting seasons looming, serious-minded scientists honestly wonder whether Yellowstone’s bears will ever again connect with populations in northern Montana and Idaho and establish a viable population of grizzly bears in the United States.

While the decision to strip protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears is rickety as a matter of law and science, it’s also wrong on economics and the values of America’s great majority of citizens. As I’ve argued in this context and others, grizzlies are more valuable alive than dead. They are responsible for bringing in tens of millions of dollars into local economies in and around the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The GYE states, acting through unelected and unaccountable game commissions, are shooting themselves in the foot by ignoring the guides, photographers, hoteliers, and small business people whose livelihoods depend on live grizzlies. Recently, the newly elected government in British Columbia, relying largely on a concern for animal welfare and for the economic health of rural communities, pledged to bar the trophy hunting of grizzly bears in the province by the end of November.

Delisting and trophy hunting this iconic species is more than just an attack on principles of conservation, science-based decision-making, indigenous rights, government accountability, and animal welfare. It’s an assault on one of America’s most iconic species, situated in America’s most storied ecological region. The HSUS is proud to stand with an enormous range of stakeholders to defend the grizzly bear.

https://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2017/08/hsus-goes-federal-court-behalf-yellowstones-grizzly-bears.html?credit=blog_post_082417_idhome-page

Hunters and severe winters — not wolves — key to Wisconsin’s deer numbers

http://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/columnists/paul-smith/2017/08/23/smith-hunters-and-severe-winters-not-wolves-key-wisconsins-deer-numbers/591607001/

, Milwaukee Journal Sentine lPublished 5:57 p.m. CT Aug. 23, 2017

When it comes to gray wolves and white-tailed deer, there are enough deep-seated beliefs to fill the Dells of the Wisconsin River.

Some of them, like many of the acts in the nearby town, are based more on fiction than fact.—

Here’s one: The wolves are killing all the deer in northern Wisconsin.

It’s not a new refrain, but it’s one I continue to hear from some of my hunting colleagues each year.

Now in late summer 2017, as bucks begin to lose their velvet and wolf pups start to venture out more with adults, conditions are ripe to discuss trends in both species.

In a word, both are “up.”

There are 480,273 deer in the 18-county northern forest management zone, according to the 2017 pre-hunt population estimate from the Department of Natural Resources.

The 2017 number represents an 18% year-over-year increase.

The population of wolves, as you may know, is at an all-time high in Wisconsin. The DNR in June reported a record high of at least 925 wolves, most of which are in northern Wisconsin.

The latest wolf report represents a 6% increase from 2015-’16 and a 24% rise from 2014-’15.

So the two iconic wildlife species have been increasing in number across Wisconsin’s Northwoods.

Why? And how can it be? If wolves are at an all-time high – and if they “eat all the deer” – shouldn’t the deer herd at least be falling?

A look at the data and management related to each species can be illuminating.

The wolf population has increased largely due to a December 2014 federal judge’s decision that placed the western Great Lakes population under protections of the Endangered Species Act. The ruling has prevented state officials from holding public hunting and trapping seasons or using other lethal means to manage the species.

Deer have been increasing partly due to protection, too. For the last several years, the number of antlerless deer permits has been significantly reduced in northern units. Some counties have allowed zero.

With more female deer allowed to live and reproduce, the population assumed an upward trajectory.

Mother Nature is the other primary factor allowing deer herd growth in the north. The last three years have been marked by “soft” winters, including the fourth (2015-’16) and sixth (2016-’17) mildest on record since 1960, according to the DNR’s Winter Severity Index.

In contrast, two very rough winters took a toll on the deer herd in 2011-’12 and 2012-’13. The 2011-’12 winter was the third most severe on record; the following year was especially tough on deer since winter conditions lasted into May.

The milder winters have been reflected in recent years in higher fawn-doe ratios and a higher proportion of yearling bucks with forked antlers, according to DNR big game ecologist Kevin Wallenfang.

Another factor – habitat – likely has improved marginally in northern Wisconsin in recent years due to some changes in forestry practices. But it’s harder to quantify and likely takes longer to show its effects on the deer herd.

I find the status of both species particularly interesting now, as wolf numbers have climbed to a record high.

Wolves obviously eat deer. According to most experts, an adult wolf will consume the equivalent of 20 adult-sized deer annually.

But when compared to other sources of deer mortality in Wisconsin, wolves rank down the list.

I ran the numbers and trends past David Mech, senior research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in St. Paul, Minn. Mech has studied wolves for 59 years and is considered an expert on the species and its effect on plant and animal communities.

“Under these current Wisconsin regulations and conditions, wolves are apparently not a competitor, or aren’t really having that much of an impact (on deer),” Mech said.

The leading causes of deer mortality in the state, as Wisconsin wildlife managers have long said, are human hunters and severe winters.

A 2009 DNR document ranked the deer kill in Wisconsin’s northern and central forest regions this way: 122,000 deer killed by hunters (bow and gun), about 50,000 due to winter stress (the range could vary widely), 33,000 to black bears, 16,000 to coyotes, 13,000 to motor vehicles, 13,000 to wolves and 6,000 to bobcats.

The trends over the last few years in northern Wisconsin are clear.

When I was in Bayfield and Sawyer counties in May for the Governors Fishing Opener, I counted 72 deer on an evening drive from Cable to Hayward.

The conditions reminded me of the plethora of deer I used to see in the area in the mid to late 1990s.

Wolves are up in number. Deer are too.

Humans and Mother Nature have far more control over deer populations than wolves ever will.

I’m hoping my hunting buddies read this. But as always, I’ll be happy to tell them in person.

Pass it along to your friends, too.

As we move forward with management plans on both species, it’s important to bring as many facts to the debate as possible.

Prairie Dogs Beneficial to Health of Soils, Ecosystems. Ignorance Destroys Them

Dear Sami:
Your article on SF “parks” covered many of the issues facing this city in terms of  how progressive (or not) it may be. Prairie Dogs are native animals which existed in the area long before humans. Many of us have worked with these animals, defended them against long-standing ignorance about them– for a couple of decades.
Nothing much changed since  people discovered that the city was systematically poisoning this species (along with birds, and other animals in the process), so parks (really man-made playgrounds) could be developed, along with the ubiquitous strip development, which continues today.
In the late 1990’s 300 people protested in front of city hall in outrage over the massive poisonings going on in the parks, to “get rid of” these native animals.
 It is unclear as to whether or not poisoning continues, but the city has always been at odds with this Keystone species, which is blamed for many of the problems facing these manufactured “park” areas, from destruction of trees, irrigation hose, disappearance of grass, etc.
 Much of this prejudice is long standing–and in light of what is happening in our country today with the roots of racism still with us, I believe what we do to wild animals is also a form of racism: hating beings, blaming our human-caused problems on “those others”  (whether human or non-human), when we know little or nothing about them. The sheer ignorance regarding Prairie Dogs is shameful, in a city which calls itself “progressive.”  What is progressive about destroying thousands of native trees & animals for real estate development?
Your article discussed Frenchy’s Field, which was never intended to be a man-made landscape, for every kind of human activity known to man. The city apparently has not educated its staff to understand the importance of Nature–even within the city limits. Children cannot learn to care about Nature if there is no Nature for them to be in.
At least 98% of Prairie Dog populations are gone, due to  poisoning, shooting, and rampant development. The small colonies of animals surviving in & around Santa Fe are the refugees from these mindless, destructive  human actions. Perhaps Santa Fe needs another protest down at the City Hall–in front of the Statue of St. Francis, looking down at–a Prairie Dog.
Sincerely,
Rosemary Lowe
Marc Bedner
Scott Smith
Santa Fe, NM