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.

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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

Yukon looks to preserve and manage grizzly bear population 

‘There’s been many places where grizzly bears have gone extinct,’ says biologist Tom Jung

By Paul Tukker, CBC News Posted: May 25, 2017 7:22 PM CT Last Updated: May 25, 2017 7:22 PM CT

‘Even within the Yukon, there are areas where they may be doing better than in other areas. And part of the plan is trying to look at ways that we can monitor the situation,’ said government biologist Tom Jung. (Government of Yukon)

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Grizzly bears are generally doing “quite well” in Yukon, according to government biologist Tom Jung — and wildlife officials are aiming to keep it that way.

The territorial government is developing a conservation and management plan for the species, and it’s asking Yukoners to weigh in on what that plan might look like.

The goal, Jung says, is to ensure that Yukon’s grizzlies don’t go the way of their cousins down south.

“Their populations often decline, and there’s been many places where grizzly bears have gone extinct — a lot of the lower 48 [states] for example, some of the prairies provinces,” he said.

The goal, Jung says, is to ensure that Yukon’s grizzlies don’t go the way of their cousins down south. ‘Their populations often decline,’ he said. (Mike Rudyk)

“So, the writing’s on the wall that this is a species that if we’re not careful … we could be in that situation.”

The plan would apply only to grizzlies, not black bears which are also common in Yukon.

Grizzly bears once ranged as far east as the Mississippi River, and as far south as central Mexico. Today, it’s considered a threatened species in much of the U.S., and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) lists Western grizzlies as a species of special concern. The prairie population is considered extinct in Canada.

2013 status report by COSEWIC estimated there were about 26,000 grizzly bears in Western Canada, with the majority of them in B.C. (approximately 15,000). Yukon had an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 grizzlies.

The federal government says loss and fragmentation of habitat is one of the biggest threats to Canada’s grizzly population. A naturally low reproductive rate adds to the population’s vulnerability.

“Even within the Yukon, there are areas where they may be doing better than in other areas. And part of the plan is trying to look at ways that we can monitor the situation,” Jung said.

“So we’re trying to be proactive here.”

A 2013 status report by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) estimated there were about 26,000 grizzlies in Canada, about a quarter of them in Yukon. (Government of Yukon)

Online survey

Environment Yukon, along with the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, is asking Yukoners to fill out an online survey about grizzlies. It asks about people’s experiences hunting the bears, or seeing them in the wild. It also asks opinions about bear conservation and protection.

“Grizzly bears are kind of a species of national interest, and so if there’s going to be a national recovery plan — as it’s a species of special concern — then we want [Yukon’s] plan to be able to inform the national discussion,” said Tecla Van Bussel of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.

“We’re hoping to hear from folks across the territory … and make sure it’s representative of everyone’s perspectives.”

The survey asks about specific issues, such as roadside hunting and camping restrictions, but Jung said the resultant management plan “may not get down into the weeds”.

“It’s meant to really be a foundation, or framework, piece that we can use to manage bears from, so that when we do hit certain issues that we want to discuss … that we have this piece and we can [look] back and see whether our actions are consistent with our overall management direction.”

The deadline to fill out the online survey is Saturday.

TSUNAMIS COULD WIPE OUT THE REMAINING 62 JAVAN RHINOS

Javan rhinos used to roam widely throughout southeastern Asia, but poaching and habitat loss has reduced their numbers and range immensely. Today, they are only found in Ujung Kulon National Park, on the Indonesian island of Java. New research suggests they may be even more vulnerable to extinction than thought.

In the largest survey to date, researchers placed motion-activated cameras at nearly 200 locations throughout the park. After analyzing the large amount of video collected, they determined that only 62 Javan rhinos remain in the wild. These few live in low-lying areas that could be inundated by a tsunami, researchers write in a study describing their findings, published in the journal Conservation Letters .

By virtue of their location, such an event is likely in the not-too-distant future; The rhinos happen to live in a tectonically and volcanically active neighborhood. Just to the south of Java, the Australian plate slides beneath the southeastern corner of the Eurasian plate, creating a deep trough called the Javan (or Sunda) trench. This area is prone to earthquakes, like the one that created the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Researchers calculate that if the same size wave hit western Java, which could’ve happened if the tsunami occurred slightly to the southeast, it would “have put most, if not all, rhinos at risk from drowning,” write the authors.

And a tsunami of this size—reaching a maximum “run-up” of 48 meters (155 feet) above sea level—would not be necessary to cause serious damage. The researchers conclude that a tsunami that made it to 10 meters, or 33 feet, above sea level would threaten 80 percent of the rhinos’ territory. Such a tsunami will probably occur in the next 100 years, says corresponding author Brian Gerber, a postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University.

The park also happens to sit about 50 miles from one of the world’s most fearsome volcanoes: Anak Krakatoa. It is the “offspring” of the Krakatoa volcano which erupted in 1883, the most cataclysmic in modern history, the reverberations of which were felt around the world. Anak Kratoa, which means “childs of Krakatoa,” has been growing from the destroyed remnants of this volcanic island ever since. If it erupts before 2040 scientists estimate it could create tsunamis that reach up to nearly 70 feet above sea level. If it erupts after then, the waves could rise to heights of almost 100 feet.

For this reason, a second population of Javan rhinos needs to be established to increase the likelihood of their survival, Gerber says. It also underscores the importance of protecting the animals from being poached for their horns, which are incorrectly thought to have medicinal value. The rhino horn trade is responsible for the depletion of rhinos around the world, including the mainland subspecies of the Javan rhino, the last of which was poached in Vietnam in 2009.

The “study provides good momentum for our efforts to save the Javan rhino, considering that we are racing against time,” says Arnold Sitompul, conservation director of World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia, who wasn’t involved in the paper, in a statement. “We need the social and political will to move things forward and establish additional populations.”

My Trip to the Ice: Visiting Baby Harp Seals with Sea Shepherd

http://www.animaljustice.ca/blog/my-trip-to-the-ice-visiting-baby-harp-seals-with-sea-shepherd/

By Camille Labchuk, Executive Director

The commercial seal slaughter has long been a bloody stain on Canada’s reputation. Every spring, the Canadian government lets sealers club, shoot, and skin baby seals in Atlantic Canada—most of them only a few weeks or months old—simply so their fur can be turned into luxury products for foreign markets.

I was pleased to team up this year with our friends at the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society as a crew member for Operation Ice Watch 2017. Sea Shepherd and its founder Paul Watson have been fighting to save seals for over 40 years. On this trip our mission was to visit seals on the ice with Hollywood actress Michelle Rodriguez, and remind the world to keep pressuring Canada to end the bloody slaughter of baby seals.

The seal slaughter has always been devastating to me. I grew up in Prince Edward Island—not far from where the killing takes place—and I can still remember the shock and sadness I felt as a child when I first saw footage of gentle baby seals seals being chased and clubbed by sealers.

Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to meet harp seals in their icy nursery. Spending time with these creatures is an incredible experience, but meeting them makes it even more heartbreaking to return to the ice a few short weeks later when sealing season opened. Working with Humane Society International/Canada, I’ve helped document the slaughter, expose its cruelty to people around the world, and push other countries to ban seal product imports. Fighting to save seals helped inspire me to become a lawyer and use the law as tool to protect animals.

© Bernard Sidler

Ten years after my first visit to the ice, I returned. On our first day the Sea Shepherd team took off from the Charlottetown airport and flew out to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, hoping to find the seal nursery. Searching for seals is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. The Gulf is around 155,000 square kilometres, and spotting a patch of seals that may be only a few kilometres wide can sometimes feel impossible.

But as I looked down from the helicopter, not only did I not see seals, I didn’t even see any ice. I saw large expanses of dark, open water instead of the solid, packed sea ice that should be there at that time of year. Harp seals are an ice-dependent species; they need thick sea ice to give birth to their babies on, nurse them, and let them learn to swim and fish on their own. If mother seals can’t find enough ice to give birth on, or if it melts from underneath them, seal pups will drown.

Camille Labchuk, Yana Watson, Brigitte Breau, Clementine Palanca. © Bernard Sidler

After hours of flying, we finally found a small patch of packed ice and a harp seal nursery with only a few thousand seals—a far cry from the tens of thousands we expected. We landed on the ice and stepped out into the icy wonderland in the midst of hundreds of baby whitecoat seals—newborn animals who were still nursing their mothers.

Whitecoat harp seal. © Camille Labchuk

No matter how many times I visit seals, it always feels magical. Baby seals are incredibly trusting; they have never seen humans before and don’t fear us. They look up with black, liquid eyes, make soft noises, and if you lay still on the ice they may even come up to have a closer look. It’s especially incredible to watch them doze in the sun, warm in their thick fur.

Beater seal. © Camille Labchuk

We also saw a few “beater” seals—still babies, but slightly older as they have shed their white fur in favour of a silvery, spotted coat. (They’re called beaters because they beat their flippers in the water while learning to swim.) Whitecoats are protected from being killed, but once they begin to moult at only a few weeks of age and become beaters, they will be clubbed and shot. Their silver, spotted fur is what sealers are after.

On our second day, we returned to the area where the nursery had been only to find the solid ice was broken up by warmer weather and strong storm winds. After hours of zigzagging back and forth in search of the nursery, we feared the worst—that the babies drowned when the ice smashed and melted beneath them.

On our third and final day, we cheered after finally spotted a small scattering of seals, but the ice was still broken and thin. The helicopters couldn’t land on the precarious ice pans, so they dropped us off and hovered nearby. Our worst fears were confirmed—the larger patch of seals we saw on the first day was still nowhere to be found, suggesting they likely perished in the melting and broken ice.

Sealing, 2009, © Camille Labchuk

Harp seals have endured centuries of being clubbed and shot to death for their fur, but now they’re also facing global warming, which is literally melting their habitat out from underneath them. Sea ice has declined drastically over the past few decades, yet even with so many drowned seal pups, the Canadian government opened the hunt up early. It’s heartbreaking to think of the peace and beauty of the harp seal nursery being shattered by industrial sealing boats, gunfire, and hakapiks, with the baby seals bloodied and dead.

The good news is that dozens of countries around the world, including the entire European Union, have closed their borders to products of the cruel commercial seal slaughter. With markets shrinking, pelt prices are lower and fewer seals are being killed.

The seal hunt is an outdated, dying industry that is being kept on artificial life support by massive cash subsidies from taxpayers—even though most Canadians oppose commercial sealing. Please ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to end the East Coast seal hunt, buy back sealing licenses, and support humane ecotourism instead of brutal seal killing.