The Arctic has lost 2.6 million reindeer over the past 20 years

The Arctic is changing — fast. That’s bad news for reindeer and caribou.

Archive Photos/Getty Images

Warning: This story may be upsetting to children who believe in Santa Claus.

Reindeer are perhaps best recognized by their magnificent antlers, the largest of any deer species in proportion to their bodies. They’re also notable for their epic thousand-mile journeys every year in search of food, in herds of 100,000 or more.

And they’re supremely important to the Arctic ecosystem as a source of food and livelihood for local people, and because of their power to reshape vegetation by grazing.

But the populations of reindeer, a.k.a. caribou, near the North Pole have been declining dramatically in recent years. Since the mid-1990s, the size of reindeer and caribou herds has declined by 56 percent.

That’s a drop from an estimated 4.7 million animals to 2.1 million, a loss of 2.6 million.

“Five herds,” out of 22 monitored “in the Alaska-Canada region, have declined more than 90 percent and show no sign of recovery,” according to the latest Arctic Report Card from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, out Tuesday. “Some herds have all-time record low populations since reliable record keeping began.”

Herds have lost hundreds of thousands of individuals, as measured by aerial photography of herds and counts in areas where caribou give birth. And their declines affect not just the landscape but the people who depend on it. The report explains that the declining number of animals are “a threat to the food security and culture of indigenous people who have depended on the herds.“

Arctic Report Card/NOAA

Big swings in population size aren’t a shock

Reindeer and caribou are the same animal. They are members of the species Rangifer tarandusThe Rangifer tarandus that live in North America are called caribou, and the ones in Europe and Siberia are called reindeer. Mostly they are wild creatures, but sometimes they are domesticated to pull sleds and carriages.

Ecologist Don Russell, the lead author of the report subsection on caribou, says it’s normal for herd sizes to fluctuate greatly. It’s part of a natural cycle: Herds can go from numbers in the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands in just a few decades, and then rebound.

“The fact that these herds are declining shouldn’t be a shock — they do it all the time,” Russell said by phone from the Yukon territory in Canada. “But they’re at such low levels, you start to be concerned. … If we return in 10 years and [their numbers] have gone down further, that would be unprecedented.”

The question now, he says, is “are their numbers so low they can’t recover?”

Climate change means the future of caribou, like that of so many other creatures, is uncertain

The herds have been declining in recent decades due to a complicated mix of factors including hunting, disease, diminished food availability, and climate change, the report explains.

On one hand, you’d think that with climate change, the Arctic would become a more favorable environment for these grazing animals. Longer, warmer summers mean more vegetation for them to nosh on. And according to the Arctic Report Card, the Arctic did grow greener between 1982 and 2017.

But it seems the warmer Arctic summers are also taking a toll on the reindeer. “Warmer summers also have adverse effects through increased drought, flies and parasites, and perhaps heat stress leading to increased susceptibility to pathogens and other stressors,” the report notes. Higher summer temperatures and wintertime freezing rain (as opposed to snow) seem to be correlated with adult caribou mortality.

Warmer summers have also meant that diseases, long locked in the Arctic permafrost, may thaw and spread among herds, though scientists aren’t completely sure how much of an impact this is having.

And warmer winters can hurt them too. When it rains in the Arctic, as opposed to snow, it can freeze over into ice. That makes it harder for the caribou to walk, and to eat. In 2013, 61,000 (61,000!) reindeer died of starvation in Russia due to excess ice. Currently, a lack of snow in Sweden is impeding reindeer migrations there.

As the climate warms, and as freezing rain replaces snow in the far north, this threat may increase.

Animal populations are shrinking worldwide

The change in caribou numbers also looks concerning when you factor in what’s happening to wildlife around the world.

In October, WWF, the international wildlife conservation nonprofit, released its biennial Living Planet Report, a global assessment of the health of animal populations all over the world. The topline finding: The average vertebrate (birds, fish, mammals, amphibians) population has declined 60 percent since 1970.

That eye-popping figure — a 60 percent decline in average populations — is not the same as saying the world has lost 60 percent of its animals. But most populations of animals, like particular herds, or schools of fish, have seen declining numbers.

There’s a bigger global story here that we must reckon with: Humans are a small part of the living world, yet we have an outsize impact on it. The WWF report stresses that wildlife faces multiple threats — climate change, habitat loss, pollution, hunting, and invasive species — which all trace back to us and our insatiable consumption patterns.

What we lose if we lose the caribou

Caribou don’t have the ability to fly. (Sorry, kids. Though, if you’re reading a science news article, you probably know this by now.) But they’re hugely important to the Arctic ecosystem as a source of food for predators like wolves and biting flies. “A lot of the ecosystem components are riding on their backs,” Russell says.

Moreover, they’re central to the traditions of indigenous people in the Arctic, like the Sami, as a source of food and clothing. “If you look at the [top] Northern resources, that shape the culture of northern communities and aboriginal people, what they have in common is caribou and or wild reindeer, no matter where they are in the circumpolar North,” he says.

The takeaway is that the Arctic landscape is changing — and it’s changing more dramatically than anywhere on the Earth. The temperature increase in the Arctic just since 2014, the report card also finds, “is unlike any other period on record.” And it’s not yet clear if the caribou can change and adapt with it.

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/12/11/18134411/christmas-reindeer-north-pole-populations-decline-agu-arctic-report-card?fbclid=IwAR1RQAyv0xMTNIF6HkJHTIXKzyXTjP-fRjN1o9UlYTDS_BYR28pdLjAsZNM

Trump administration appeals ruling that blocked grizzly bear hunts around Yellowstone

When the ruling came down in October, Wyoming and Idaho were on the cusp of hosting the first, public grizzly bear hunts in the Lower 48 U.S. states since 1991.
Image: Grizzly bear

A grizzly bear cub searches for fallen fruit beneath an apple tree a few miles from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Montana on Sept. 25, 2013.Alan Rogers / The Casper Star-Tribune via AP

By Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — U.S. government attorneys filed notice Friday that they are appealing a court ruling that blocked the first public hunts of grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies in decades.

The appeal challenges a judge’s ruling that restored threatened species protections for more than 700 bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.

Protections for the animals had been removed in 2017. When the ruling from U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen came down in October, Wyoming and Idaho were on the cusp of hosting their first public hunts for grizzly bears in the Lower 48 U.S. states since 1991.

Federal biologists contend Yellowstone-area grizzlies have made a full recovery after a decades-long restoration effort. They want to turn over management of the animals to state wildlife agencies that say hunting is one way to better address rising numbers of bear attacks on livestock.

But wildlife advocates and the Crow Indian Tribe successfully sued to stop the hunts. Their attorneys persuaded Christensen that despite the recovery of bears in Yellowstone, the species remains in peril elsewhere because of continued threats from climate change and habitat loss.

The Yellowstone population has rebounded from just 136 animals when they were granted federal protections in 1975.

Grizzlies in recent years have returned to many areas where they were absent for decades. That has meant more dangerous run-ins with people, such as a Wyoming hunting guide who was killed this fall in a grizzly attack.

Christensen’s ruling marked the second time the government has sought to lift protections for Yellowstone bears only to be reversed in court.

The agency initially declared a successful recovery for the Yellowstone population in 2007. But a federal judge ordered protections to remain while wildlife officials studied whether the decline of a major food source — whitebark pine seeds — could threaten the bears’ survival.

The Fish and Wildlife Service concluded last year it had addressed that and all other threats.

There was speculation the agency would not appeal the latest ruling and instead draft a new proposal to get the animal off the threatened list.

That possibility was raised by the agency’s grizzly bear recovery coordinator during a meeting last month with Wyoming state lawmakers, according to the Powell Tribune.

Friday’s appeal signals that at least for now the court battle over grizzlies will grind on.

But Andrea Santarsiere with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs in the case before Christensen, said the government still has the option in coming months to dismiss the case.

“I think Fish and Wildlife should go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan to actually recover grizzly bears across the West, rather than a piecemeal approach,” she said.

Also pending before the 9th Circuit are appeals from parties that intervened on behalf of the Fish and Wildlife Service. They include the states of Idaho and Wyoming and groups representing hunting interests, gun rights and agriculture.

Cody Wisniewski with the Mountain States Legal Foundation said that if allowed to stand, Christensen’s ruling could make it harder for other species to be taken off the threatened and endangered species list.

“Opinions like this move the goalposts,” he said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jennifer Strickland referred questions about the case to the Department of Justice, which did not provide an on-the-record comment.

Groups threaten to sue unless feds reassess how salmon fishing harms orcas

 

FILE – In this Aug. 7, 2018, file photo, Southern Resident killer whale J50 and her mother, J16, swim off the west coast of Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew, B.C. The younger whale later died. (Brian Gisborne/Fisheries and Oceans Canada via AP, file)

AA

SEATTLE (AP) — Two conservation groups say the federal government is violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to consider how salmon fishing off the West Coast is affecting endangered killer whales.

The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity and the Washington state-based Wild Fish Conservancy on Tuesday notified President Donald Trump’s administration that they intend to file a lawsuit within 60 days unless officials reevaluate whether the fishing further jeopardizes orcas that frequent the inland waters of the Pacific Northwest.

The population “southern resident” orcas is down to 74 — the lowest number in decades. No calf born in the last three years has survived as the orcas struggle with a dearth of their favored prey, chinook salmon, as well as pollution and vessel noise.

The conservation groups note that commercial and recreational fishing claimed more than 200,000 chinook off the Pacific Coast last year.

Mediator works to find common ground on Washington wolves

By Jason Nark, Special To The Washington Post.

Published: December 7, 2018, 10:28 PM

One summer, over a decade ago, biologists discovered that gray wolves — once driven to near-extinction in the continental United States — were breeding again in Washington. The sound of howling wolf pups was welcome news for conservationists, but not for the state’s $700 million cattle industry.

When some wolves began to prey on livestock, age-old tensions were resurrected. Some members of that first pack were poached, despite federal protections. Ranchers whose forefathers believed a good wolf was a dead one now had to contend with government officials and conservationists who had other opinions.

Fortunately, there was someone to call for help: Francine Madden and her Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, the Center for Conservation Peacebuilding. In a city full of fascinating but oddly narrow areas of intellectual expertise, Madden’s is particularly niche: Her job is to make peace between humans who are fighting over wildlife.

On a warm October morning, I meet Madden at the National Zoo. The 48-year-old — today wearing cowboy boots a shade lighter than her brown hair — grows animated when she talks about her job, slapping my arm often to drive home a point. A curse or two slips out, though not when a pack of fourth-graders bounds down a path toward a hillside enclosure beside us.

“Is that a fox?” one boy asks.

“No, it’s a wolf,” another shouts.

The kids all howl at the wolf, then sprint off. Madden cracks a smile. “Honestly, I’m surprised when someone doesn’t have an opinion on wolves,” she says, hands waving excitedly. “When I see a wolf, my mental image of them is an animal that’s wearing this social, cultural and historical baggage, like a baggage cart at the airport we’ve loaded up. Think about it: ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ the Bible, the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The wolf’s had a lot of human emotion poured into it.”

Indeed, wolves have been trapped, shot and poisoned en masse for centuries, “pursued with more passion and determination,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes, “than any other animal in U.S. history.” By the mid-1970s, gray wolves were among the first animals to make the endangered species list.

Then, in the 1990s, the U.S. government embarked on a controversial plan to boost the American wolf population with Canadian wolves. And as the wolf population of Eastern Washington state grew, ranchers and environmentalists began baring fangs. By 2015, things had gotten so bad that Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife hired Madden as a “third-party neutral,” charged with deflating hostilities among factions within the state’s Wolf Advisory Group. “When I took this case, I wanted it,” Madden says, “because wolves are the Middle East of wildlife conflict.”

What qualified Madden for this job? In addition to graduate degrees in science and policy from Indiana University, she had spent time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda. There, conservation efforts had helped increase the population of mountain gorillas — who occasionally terrorized villagers, who, in turn, resorted to poaching. Madden helped conservationists and villagers agree on a solution: create teams that could respond quickly to gorilla attacks. In the years since, she has gone on to mediate invasive-species conflicts in the Galapagos and around the globe.

In Washington, Madden spent 350 hours interviewing 80 people about wolves before she led advisory group meetings. She found anomalies in the narrative: a hunter who described seeing a wolf as a “religious experience”; environmentalists who supported, or at least were neutral about, the idea of a wolf hunt. Wolves, she found, were a proxy for other fears, such as fading traditions and a loss of control to Seattle progressives. “Sometimes,” she says, “a dispute has surface-level issues, and that can be taxes or climate change or, in this case, wolves. But it’s all about identity.”

Madden asked combatants to steer their hybrids and pickup trucks to local bars. Grab a beer, she asked them, or a veggie burger. And don’t talk about wolves. At least not right away. “The first time I saw her, to be honest with you, I felt like this is a lot of kumbaya, no way a cowboy is going to sit through this,” rancher Molly Linville told me by phone from her 6,000-acre spread in Douglas County. “I still don’t know how it worked. It all still feels like magic to me.”

In the end, Madden spent 200 days in Washington and 7,000 hours on the phone. (For 3 1/2 years of work, the state paid her nonprofit, with a staff of two, more than $1.2 million.) Conservationists eventually agreed that wolves could be culled if they preyed on livestock. For their part, ranchers agreed to try nonlethal methods, too.

Message for the next World Wildlife Conference – CITES CoP18

Ivonne Higuero, CITES Secretary-General

The 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will take place at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 23 May to 3 June 2019. This will be the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in South Asia since CoP3 held in New Delhi, India way back in 1981.

All of us at the CITES Secretariat are very much looking forward to this important meeting of the Convention and it is our pleasure to work with the Government of Sri Lanka during this preparatory period. I wish to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Government of Sri Lanka for their generous support and commitment to hosting this meeting.

The agenda for the meeting will cover a great number of CITES issues for discussion by the Parties under the headings of strategic matters, implementation and interpretation matters, species specific matters and proposals for amending the CITES Appendices. These discussions will have a significant impact on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, especially when viewed in the context of the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the preparations for the post 2020 biodiversity framework.

Sri Lanka is privileged with great natural beauty, abundant wildlife and rich land and marine biodiversity in its extensive protected area system. This is the second time for a meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES to take place in an island country. It promises to be the perfect setting for the critical global discussions on the conservation and sustainable use of wild animals and plants under CITES for both people and the planet.  We sincerely hope to have the pleasure of welcoming you in Colombo next May and supporting all stakeholders to achieve progress in meeting global biodiversity commitments.

Ayubowan!

See you in Sri Lanka!

https://cites.org/eng/news/message_for_the_next_world_wildlife_conference_cites_cop18_05122018

PLANS FOR CARIBOU SOW CONFLICT IN NORTHWEST

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS PROPOSED TO DESIGNATE 600 SQUARE MILES IN IDAHO, WASHINGTON AS CRITICAL HABITAT

https://www.cdapress.com/archive/article-61e00162-7b30-5487-8c45-b48fb0108abe.html

Plans for caribou sow conflict in Northwest

FILE – In this November 2005 file photo provided by the British Columbia Forest Service are part of a Southern Selkirk caribou herd moving north through the Selkirk Mountains about three miles north of the Washington state border into Canada. Woodland caribou are struggling to survive in the United States, precariously occupying one remote area of the Northwest. The federal government has proposed designating about 600 square miles in Idaho and Washington as critical habitat in an effort to save this last U.S. herd. (AP Photo/British Columbia Forest Service, Garry Beaudry, File)

COOLIN – Woodland caribou, rarely-seen creatures that with their antlers stand as tall as a man, are struggling to survive in the United States, precariously occupying one remote area of the Northwest as a final toehold in the Lower 48.

The federal government has proposed designating about 600 square miles in Idaho and Washington – roughly half the size of Rhode Island – as critical habitat in an effort to save this last U.S. herd of fewer than 50 animals.

But the plan has touched a raw nerve in this deeply conservative region, where the federal government is already viewed as a job destroyer because of restrictions on logging and other activities.

A recent public meeting on the habitat proposal drew a crowd of 200 angry people, several of whom excoriated government officials for allegedly trying to destroy their local lifestyle.

“Please leave northern Idaho alone,” Pam Stout, a local tea party activist, told federal biologists.

“We belong here too, not just the animals,” added resident Scott Rockholm.

Other speakers were less polite, accusing government officials of a land grab, raising allegations of United Nations conspiracies or telling the federal government to get out of a region that is mostly federal land.

But it’s not that simple.

Federal endangered species law requires that critical habitat be set aside for the caribou, and environmental groups went to court to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to comply.

This is one of the few places left in the United States that still contains all of the species that were present when Lewis and Clark traveled through 200 years ago, including caribou, said Terry Harris of the Kootenai Environmental Alliance.

“I don’t think we want to lose that,” Harris said.

Under the proposal, 375,000 acres of high-elevation forest land in the Selkirk Mountains, including portions of Bonner and Boundary counties in Idaho and Pend Oreille County in Washington, would be designated as critical habitat. Nearly all of the land is already owned by the federal and state governments, with about 15,000 acres in private hands in Idaho.

Under a critical habitat designation, any activities that require federal approval or money would be scrutinized for their impact on the caribou.

This has alarmed residents who snowmobile, hunt and chop wood in the thick forests of northern Idaho’s lake country, or who have businesses that rely on forest access.

“Our economy revolves around that national forest,” said resident Lee Pinkerton. “Without it, we have to find a new way to make a living.”

Snowmobiling is a particularly popular activity here, drawing lots of tourists in winter. Operators worry that the region’s trail system will be reduced to help caribou.

Bob Davis, a resort owner and 30-year resident of the area, said previous restrictions on snowmobiling already cut that business by 70 percent.

“Snowmobilers don’t go where they are not wanted,” Davis said. “These people will ride someplace else.”

Federal biologists Ben Conard and Bryon Holt spoke at the public meeting, telling the crowd that the critical habitat designation would be mostly unnoticed.

“To the average person, you are not going to see a difference,” Conard told the audience, drawing guffaws from skeptics.

Federal approval has already been required for many activities ever since the mountain caribou were first listed as an endangered species in 1984. The Fish and Wildlife Service declined to designate critical habitat at that time, fearing that would help poachers locate the animals. Those concerns have now faded.

But while the designation won’t immediately lead to road closures or land restrictions, the federal officials acknowledged that some activities could ultimately be curtailed if they are found to hurt the caribou.

“We are trying to re-establish an animal that is native to the United States,” Holt said.

Coolin is located on the shores of Priest Lake, about 80 miles north of Spokane, Wash., in the thick, wet forests of the southern Selkirk Mountains. Such forests produce the lichen that are the animals’ only food source in winter.

Woodland caribou used to be found across the northern tier of the United States, but these days are found only here and in Canada.

The southern Selkirk herd moves across the border between the U.S. and Canada. But only one or two caribou are typically spotted each year on the U.S. side. Last year none were spotted.

“Why do we need 375,000 acres of critical habitat if we have no caribou?” wondered resident Pat Hunter.

Locals also complain that the caribou are being eaten by grizzly bears and wolves that are also protected species in the area.

Environmental groups say the designation is long overdue.

Harris said people who argue that there are too few caribou to warrant the designation are missing the point.

“The issue of too few caribou is precisely the reason for the critical habitat designation,” Harris said. “That’s the problem this is intended to solve.”

There is no evidence that reintroduced wolves are eating many of the animals, he said.

Instead, the Fish and Wildlife Service blames the caribou decline on the loss of contiguous old-growth forests due to logging and wildfires, plus the building of roads and recreational trails that fragment habitat and help predators move into caribou range.

But many local leaders are determined to prevent the critical habitat designation.

Bonner County Commissioner Cornel Rasor told the crowd that his goal in calling the meeting was to start the process of derailing the proposal.

“We’re trying to change the direction of the ship of state,” he said.

After a public comment period, the federal government will announce its decision on the critical habitat proposal this fall.

Plans for caribou sow conflict in Northwest

FILE – In this November 2005 file photo provided by the British Columbia Forest Service are part of a Southern Selkirk caribou herd moving north through the Selkirk Mountains about three miles north of the Washington state border into Canada. Woodland caribou are struggling to survive in the United States, precariously occupying one remote area of the Northwest. The federal government has proposed designating about 600 square miles in Idaho and Washington as critical habitat in an effort to save this last U.S. herd. (AP Photo/British Columbia Forest Service, Garry Beaudry, File)

Wolves on the rebound across B.C. — here’s how to live with them

Once widely hated and killed, the wolf is making a comeback across the province. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

It took a close encounter to twig Paula Wild to the charm — and danger — of the once-threatened wolf.

After crossing paths with the carnivore while driving her car near a remote Quadra Island hiking trail, Wild wondered about her initial “tingling up the spine” reaction, she told On the Coast guest host Margaret Gallagher.

“There was this huge wolf in the middle of the road,” she said. “And I thought, how would I have felt if I had been walking back on the trail all by myself? What would I have done?”

That feeling spawned the author’s upcoming book, Return of the Wolf: Conflict and Co-existence, a guide to living with a wolf population that has been steadily increasing across the province for the last 50 years.

The grey wolf has disappeared from broad swathes of the world, including most of western Europe. But the B.C. population began to return to healthy levels during the 1970s, according to a 2015 provincial report.

There are an estimated 8,500 in B.C. today.

Wild’s encounter with a wolf led to a book about how humans can learn to live with the storied carnivores. (Rick James)

Once ‘demonized’, now photography fodder

Wolves are now returning to areas they haven’t inhabited for decades, Wild said, making encounters with them more likely. Despite a “misconception” that healthy wolves won’t attack humans, it does happen, she added — and it’s usually due to human interference.

“People aren’t used to wolves. They’re not sure what to do,” Wild said. “Wolves are proving capable of adapting to living near human settlements.”

But Wild warns that humans don’t always share the same skill. Feeding wolves, or even getting close enough for a photograph, can habituate a wolf to humans and make bold behaviour more likely.

Keeping wolves wild

She thinks more education could teach nearby residents to keep their distance, make noise to scare away the more curious pack members and keep dogs on-leash when walking through wolf territory.

Poisoning wolf packs was widespread practice during the first half of the 20th century, and culling programs remain in place today.

But the centuries-long relationship between humans and wolves, Wild said, has been defined by shifting perceptions.

The wolf pops up in myths, fairy tales and common expressions, Wild said, pointing out their importance to language and culture.

“We’ve demonized wolves, but now people tend to either fear them or idolize them,” she said. “And we’re maybe not giving them the respect they need as wild animals that do have potential for danger.”

“I hope people will learn to see wolves for what they are, not for what we want or perceive them to be,” she said.

“Wolves will survive on our landscape today if we allow them to, if we learn how to live with them.”

De-listing of Gray wolf passes House


Congressman Dan Newhouse,

Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI) and Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA) released the following statements after bipartisan legislation they introduced to return management of gray wolves to state control advanced in the House of Representatives. The House Natural Resources Committee approved the legislation in a committee markup today.

“Wisconsin farmers are now one step closer to having the legal means to defend their livestock from gray wolves,” said Congressman Duffy. “I’d like to extend a big thank you to the members of the Natural Resources Committee who also agree that states should be the ones to responsibly manage their own gray wolf populations – not Washington bureaucrats.”

“I thank Chairman Bishop and my colleagues on the House Natural Resources Committee for advancing this important legislation to delist the gray wolf,” said Congressman Newhouse. “The best-available science used by the U.S. Department of Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that the gray wolf has recovered and is no longer endangered. I continue to hear from and work with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which has been asking for the federal delisting of the gray wolf since 2013. We must return management of the species to states to allow for more effective and accountable management that responds to the needs of the ecosystem, other species, and local communities.”

Background: Management of these gray wolves was transferred from the state to the federal level following two 2014 U.S. District Court decisions that reinstated gray wolves under the protections of the Endangered Species Act. These designations leave farmers and ranchers in those states without a legal avenue to protect their livestock from wolves.

FoA sues FWS to protect Utah prairie dogs from eradication

For Immediate Release

August 22, 2018

Mike Harris, director, FoA’s Wildlife Law Program; 720 841-0400 michaelharris@friendsofanimals.org<mailto:michaelharris@friendsofanimals.org>

Jennifer Best, assistant director, FoA’s Wildlife Law Program; 720.949.7791/ jennifer@friendsofanimals.org<mailto:jennifer@friendsofanimals.org>
[cid:image002.jpg@01D43A18.8EB798D0]

A change in federal policy that would allow the removal and killing of thousands of threatened Utah prairie dogs imperils the species to appease a relentless local drive for development, Friends of Animals asserts in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Utah.

FoA’s lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service challenges the agency’s April 2018 decision to rollback previous habitat conservation plans and mitigation methods established to protect the prairie dogs, which were declared an endangered species in 1973 after their population dropped to a few thousand.

More than 7,000 prairie dogs could be removed or killed over a 10-year period under the new FWS plan, plus an additional 15,000 independent of development, totaling more than a quarter of the entire population. Between 350-1,750 acres of their habitat would be lost as well.

“Most every move federal wildlife managers in the Trump administration take derails protections for threatened wildlife such as prairie dogs,” said Friends of Animals President Priscilla Feral. “They neglect to see the moral and scientific value of seeing these social, intelligent animals as a benefit to western grassland ecosystems, or worthy of our affection and protection. We’re not about to give anyone a green light to drive these animals to extinction.”

The new FWS plan fails to consider the impact that the killing or relocating will have on the connectivity of the prairie dog habitat and there is no indication there is even sufficient and suitable land to translocate the prairie dogs, FoA said in the complaint. Even if moved, 90 percent of prairie dogs will not survive past their first year in the new location and two-thirds of new sites fail completely.

FWS’s new plan comes despite a federal appeals court victory in 2017 by Friends of Animals. In that decision, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a state district court decision that gave Utah the right to override ESA protections with its own management plan that threatened the survival of prairie dogs.

Now, catering to the interests of developers, FWS has devised a new plan that authorizes unlimited removal and killing of prairie dogs across the entire range of their habitat and allows developers to translocate the dogs only when deemed feasible.

Prairie dogs, which are found only in North America and are social animals, play a significant role in the biological diversity of ecosystems. They fertilize and aerate soil, reducing noxious weeds and help create more nutrient-rich grass for other animals. More than 100 species benefit directly from prairie dog habitats including bison, antelope, mice, burrowing owls and predators such as golden eagles, rattlesnakes, bobcats, badgers, coyotes, foxes and ferrets. But humans have continually pushed into their ecosystem, targeting their population for extinction through poison, shooting and habitat destruction. And despite ESA protections, local officials and property developers have continued to try to push for less restrictions from the federal government to get rid of the species.

FWS’s new plan violates the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the agency to carefully consider a wide range of alternatives and to vigorously examine the environmental impacts of alternatives, FoA alleges in the lawsuit.

“Any progress that has been made to save Utah prairie dogs after decades of poisoning and other indiscriminate killing is lost with this plan, which contains no real measures to protect these intelligent and valuable animals,” said Jennifer Best, assistant legal director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program. “With this lawsuit, Friends of Animals will continue to fight to have science and the inherent value of animals considered by the federal government before it authorizes the plundering and killing of threatened and endangered species.”

Fierce critic of Wyoming grizzly bear hunt scores license

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/fierce-critic-of-wyoming-grizzly-bear-hunt-scores-license/

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — A fierce critic of grizzly bear hunting who has made a career photographing the animals has drawn a tag for Wyoming’s first such hunt in 44 years.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported Thursday that Tom Mangelsen drew No. 8 on an issuance list that will allow up to 10 grizzly hunters into the field starting Sept. 15. He was up against 3,500 Wyoming residents and 2,327 nonresidents vying for a shot at the tags.

Mangelsen, who credited being chosen to “dumb luck,” was among scores of people from around the country who applied for the tags as a means of civil disobedience intended to slow the hunt. Wildlife managers say the tactic is legal.

The hunt for which Mangelsen’s tag is valid will end after the first female bear is killed. Up to 10 male grizzlies can be killed.

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Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com