Montana won’t recommend Yellowstone grizzly hunting this year

Grizzly bear (copy)

Grizzly bears were protected from hunting for mover 40 years while listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Public Domain/Neal Herbert via NPS

Not this year.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced Thursday that it won’t ask the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission to approve a hunting season for the recently delisted Yellowstone grizzly bears this year.

The bears were protected from hunting for more than 40 years while they were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Those protections were lifted in 2017, which opened the door for a potential hunting season. 

In a news release, FWP director Martha Williams said the decision is meant to reinforce the state’s commitment to the grizzly bear’s long-term survival.

“Holding off on hunting for now, I believe, will help demonstrate our commitment to long-term recovery and at the same time allow us the science-based management flexibility we need,” Williams said.

FWP will make the recommendation to its governing board at its next meeting Feb. 15.

The announcement comes weeks after Wyoming Game and Fish gained permission from its governing board to draw up grizzly bear hunting regulations, the first time since the 1970s that either state has had the legal authority to do so.

Removing Endangered Species Act protections for the bears gave more management responsibility to the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Prior to the delisting, each state had to create a framework for a potential hunting season, which was included in the final conservation strategy.

Part of the strategy is meant to limit the number of bears that are killed by humans. It created a level of “discretionary mortality” based on a population estimate. An agreement lined out before delisting split the allowable bear deaths between the three states.

The official government estimate puts the Yellowstone grizzly population at about 700 bears. Greg Lemon, a spokesman for FWP, said the allowable deaths for the three states was calculated to be 17.

Wyoming gets most of the allowable deaths, with the numbers this year being 10 males and 1 female. Idaho’s allowance is one female. Montana’s allowable mortality is 0.9 females and 5.8 males.

Montana will still retain its portion of allowable deaths, meaning the numbers for the other two states would remain the same whether the state decides to hunt bears or not.

FWP cited the ongoing legal challenge to the delisting as another reason it didn’t want to propose a hunting season.

At least five separate lawsuits over the delisting were filed by environmental groups and Native American tribes. They argue the bears shouldn’t have been removed from the list because the animals still face threats from climate change and shifts in their diets that result in more human-bear conflict.

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In Tamil Nadu, 47 of 53 waterbird species are hunted to feed a growing illegal demand for wild meat

https://scroll.in/article/848003/in-tamil-nadu-47-of-53-waterbird-species-are-hunted-to-feed-a-growing-illegal-demand-for-wild-meat

Large-scale hunting is leading to a decline in the diversity of waterbirds in the state, say researchers.

Spotting a bar-headed goose, a Eurasian spoonbill or a painted stork in the wetlands of Tamil Nadu is becoming increasingly difficult because of the rampant illegal hunting of waterbirds. The hunting, at scales not mapped before, is triggered by demand from the market for wild meat and not subsistence hunting by a few, a new study by researchers at the Nature Conservation Foundation in Mysuru has found.

The researchers studied 27 wetlands in Tamil Nadu’s Kancheepuram district and interviewed 272 hunters over six months. Recording around 53 waterbird species across the wetlands during eight months of fieldwork in 2013 and 2014, they found that 47 species were being hunted, especially large and medium-sized birds. They also held that the hunting had contributed to a decline in the diversity of species found in the region, especially medium-sized insectivorous birds.

The study, based on a survey of hunters, concluded that the illegal hunting of waterbirds was market-driven and had grown in scale in the last 10 years. This contradicts previous findings by researchers that hunting is usually taken up by certain communities on a small scale purely for subsistence. Around 73.5% of the respondents reported monetary gain as the primary motive for hunting, sport and subsistence being the other reasons.

“The conclusions were in contrast to what we expected,” said Ramesh Ramachandran, an MSc student in wildlife biology and conservation at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru, who undertook this study as part of his dissertation. “We thought this was a traditional practice that had been there for hundreds of years. But it is a total commercialised mafia.”

The hunting of wild animals driven by a demand for wild meat, which is seen as exotic by some in the richer strata of society, is documented in some other parts of the country, particularly the tribal belts of Central India and the North East, but this research shows the same trend prevailing in Tamil Nadu as well.

Policeman to conservationist

Before taking up wildlife conservation studies, Ramachandran was a policeman in Karnataka and a member of a special cell tracking wildlife crime. “Because of his background, he brings an interesting viewpoint to conservation,” said KS Gopi Sundar, his mentor and scientist at the Cranes and Wetlands Programme of the Nature Conservation Foundation.

Ramachandran narrowed down his area of study to Kancheepuram, which has a large number of lakes and waterbodies, including two protected bird sanctuaries – Vedanthangal and Karikili.

Hunters in Kancheepuram make four to five hunting trips in a month, which earns them around Rs 13,000.
Hunters in Kancheepuram make four to five hunting trips in a month, which earns them around Rs 13,000.

His police training helped him track down communities that hunted wild birds and traded in their meat. He said he worked at winning their trust before presenting them with the questionnaire for the study. With a team of wildlife enthusiasts and informants, he visited them several times to get them to participate in the study.

At the end of their research, the team found that 92% of the hunting was done using locally crafted single-barrel muzzle-loading guns. A hunter on average went out four or five times a month and each trip yielded around 21 birds, which earned him an average monthly income of around Rs 13,000. The most commonly traded meat was that of the pond heron.

The market

Around 71% of the respondents reported an increase in the demand for waterbird meat for consumption over the past decade. And the study found two distinct markets existing for the wild meat. It was sold at a fixed time slot, between 6 pm and 8 pm, to buyers who specifically sought it out. The remaining meat then made its way to restaurants and roadside food stalls near liquor shops where it was sold at much lower rates.

Around 75% of the hunters interviewed reported that they supplied birds to 426 eateries in the area. However, out of the 681 eateries surveyed, only eight acknowledged serving wild waterbird meat.

“It is significant that there is a market at work which sustains this trade and it stays under the radar,” said Ravinder Singh Bhalla of the Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning in Tamil Nadu. He added that hunting as a paid hobby was more prevalent than documentation suggested, since it was usually kept under wraps.

“What is remarkable is how this practice has stayed undocumented for what appears to be decades,” said Bhalla. “It would be too simplistic to attribute this to collusion by authorities alone. Social exclusion and lack of economic opportunities combined with cultural practices clearly have a role to play in this choice of livelihood by the hunters.”

Among the waterbirds that are being hunted are many migratory species, which India is bound to protect under the international Convention on Migratory Species. “Yet these are being sold on national highways,” said Ajith Kumar of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “A suitable method should be devised for controlling this, not just by forest officials harassing these communities and putting a few of them behind bars.”

The illegally hunted waterbirds are sold in the market at a fixed time slot – between 6 pm and 8 pm – and served at roadside restaurants and food stalls.
The illegally hunted waterbirds are sold in the market at a fixed time slot – between 6 pm and 8 pm – and served at roadside restaurants and food stalls.

Neglected field of study

The study has also brought to light the lack of research on wetland ecology, which Gopi Sundar claims is an extremely nascent science.

“Serious work that asks important questions has been largely missing,” the Nature Conservation Foundation scientist said. He pointed out that the majority of large waterbirds are found outside protected areas whereas much of ecological research is focused on protected forest areas.

So far, studies in the area of wetland ecology have dealt with ecological parameters such as the size of water bodies and vegetation, and their relationship with the populations and diversity of birds. This study is the first to have gathered information on hunting practices and factored these into trends of community structures and counts of bird species in each wetland, the researchers said. “This kind of analysis has never been done anywhere in the world,” said Gopi Sundar.

The study found that hunters preferred large and medium-sized waterbirds.
The study found that hunters preferred large and medium-sized waterbirds.

Animal Rights Activists and Billionaire John Catsimatidis Clash Over His Plan to Import Pandas

https://theirturn.net/2017/12/26/John-Catsimatidis-Panda-Protest/

Dec. 27 2017 BY 

John Catsimatidis, one of the two billionaires helping U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney raise $50 million to rent a pair of pandas from China and put them on display in NYC, defended his plan during a dramatic confrontation with animal rights activists:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ftheirturn%2Fvideos%2F2001020526815001%2F&show_text=0&width=560

During the confrontation, Mr. Catsimatidis defended the importation of pandas on the grounds that New Yorkers want them: “We’ve taken polls. Ninety percent of New Yorkers say, ‘We love pandas, and we want them in New York.’”

The day after the clash, Mr. Catsimatidis invited protest organizer Donny Moss onto his radio show to debate the issue:

“I think that Mr. Catsimatidis genuinely cares about animals,” said protest organizer Donny Moss. “If he took the time to learn why holding wild animals captive for our entertainment is outdated and inhumane, then he might change his mind about renting pandas from China, and he might understand why the animal advocacy community in NYC must continue protesting his plan.”

Animal rights activists in NYC are protesting a plan to rent pandas from China and put them on display in NYC.

In February 2017,  Mr. Catsimatidis, Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney and billionaire Maurice (Hank) Greenberg held a fundraiser called the “Black & White Panda Ball” at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel to raise money for the project, which is estimated to cost $50 million.  The gala raised approximately $500,000. Their charity, The Pandas are Coming to NYC, continues to raise money.

Your Turn

Please sign the Care2 petition asking Carolyn Maloney to call off her plan to import pandas into NYC for display.

Follow No Panda Prison NYC on Facebook.

Trump halts effort to bring back Washington grizzlies

The Trump administration is suspending efforts to bolster the grizzly bear population in Washington’s North Cascades. That would leave this part of the mountain range with fewer than ten of the imperiled bears.

Recovery efforts have been underway for years, with a goal of reintroducing up to 200 grizzly bears. The North Cascades National Park Superintendent told a meeting in Montana last week that the Interior Department is halting the program, according to the Missoulian newspaper.

Conservation Northwest spokesman Chase Gunnell said the order to stop work is disappointing.

“We’re concerned if that is put on indefinite hold because these bears cannot wait indefinitely,” Gunnell said.

The Interior Department’s press office did not return requests for comment about the order to stop work on the plan.

The federal government has been reviewing the nearly 127,000 comments submitted on its proposal to bring back the bears to the region. One option suggested to do nothing — which biologists have said could lead to the bear’s extinction in the North Cascades. Three other options looked at different ways to bring grizzly bears in from British Columbia and Montana. Those options could take up to a century to reach 200 grizzlies in the region.

Conservationists have been pushing to bring the bears back to the rugged terrain. But some people who live on the forest edges adamantly opposed reintroduction efforts, including ranchers who worried about adding another large predator to the landscape.

At one time, grizzly bears roamed throughout the West. Just in Washington’s North Cascades there were thousands of them. But since the 1800s, their population has plummeted, due to excessive hunting and the fragmentation of habitat.

Biologists say the isolated parts of the North Cascades remain great bear habitat.

“These bears have been waiting for more than 20 years, and the population can’t wait that much longer,” Gunnell said.

NRA, hunting group say grizzly bear hunts needed for safety

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/nra-hunting-group-grizzly-bear-hunts-needed-safety-51380004

PHOTO: This undated file photo provided by the National Park Service shows a grizzly bear walking along a ridge in Montana. National Park Service via AP, FILE
This undated file photo provided by the National Park Service shows a grizzly bear walking along a ridge in Montana.

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The National Rifle Association and a sport hunting group want to ensure their members can hunt grizzly bears in the three-state region around Yellowstone National Park after the animals lost U.S. protections.

Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are considering limited trophy hunts for grizzlies outside the park in future years after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revoked the species’ threatened status in July.

Conservation groups have sued to restore protections, and now the NRA and Safari Club International have asked U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen to let them intervene in the case.

Several of the groups’ members said in affidavits submitted by their attorneys that hunting would help the region’s economy, allow states to better manage the animals and improve public safety.

“Having the ability to hunt grizzlies would be great for business. I would also personally hunt a grizzly if given an opportunity to do so,” said Edwin Johnson, a 70-year-old hunting outfitter who lives in Gardiner, Montana. “They need to be hunted so that they fear the scent of humans, rather than following it as they do now.”

An estimated 700 bears live in and around Yellowstone National Park. Attacks on humans have increased since the animals rebounded from widespread extermination in the last century.

At least six lawsuits to restore protections for grizzlies are pending in Montana and Illinois, although most are expected to be consolidated into a single case in coming months.

An attorney for environmentalists in one of the Montana cases said no decision has been made on whether to fight the attempt by the NRA and Safari Club to intervene.

“We are committed to doing everything we can to stop trophy hunting of grizzly bears leaving Yellowstone National Park,” said Matthew Bishop with the Western Environmental Law Center, who is representing WildEarth Guardians.

———

Good News: Trump puts elephant trophy imports on hold

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42035832

  • 18 November 2017
Elephants at Mana Pools, ZimbabweImage copyrightSPL
Image captionThe US Fish and Wildlife Service argues hunting “will enhance the survival of the African elephant”

President Donald Trump has suspended the import of elephant hunting trophies, only a day after a ban was relaxed by his administration.

Imports of trophies from elephants legally hunted in Zambia and Zimbabwe had been set to resume, reversing a 2014 Obama-era ban.

But late on Friday, President Trump tweeted the change was on hold until he could “review all conservation facts”.

The move to relax the ban had sparked immediate anger from animal activists.

“Your shameful actions confirm the rumours that you are unfit for office,” said French actress and animal-rights activist Brigitte Bardot in a letter to President Trump.

Protests spread on social media with many sharing images of President Trump’s sons posing with dead animals during their hunting trips in Africa.

One photo of Donald Trump Jr shows him holding the amputated tail of a dead elephant.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) had argued that hunting fees could aid conservation of the endangered animals.

Experts say that populations of African elephants are plummeting.

Their numbers dropped by about 30% from 2007-14, according to the 2016 Great Elephant Census.

The non-profit group’s report found a population drop of 6% in Zimbabwe alone.

Despite their listing under the Endangered Species Act, there is a provision in US law that allows permits to import animal parts if there is sufficient evidence that the fees generated will actually benefit species conservation.

In 2015 a US dentist from Minnesota killed a famous lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.

Cecil’s death triggered an outrage in the US and Zimbabwe, and briefly forced the hunter into hiding.

Outrage as trophy hunter shoots rare snow leopard and publishes ‘vile’ picture where he’s smiling ear-to-ear

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/outrage-trophy-hunter-shoots-rare-11470652
“Hossein ‘Soudy’ Golabchi stands smiling with the dead white and black
animal draped across his shoulders in what protesters have called a
‘disgusting example of outright murder'”

“A US trophy hunter is facing global criticism on social media after
he shot a rare snow leopard and published this grinning picture
online.
“In the image, Hossein Golabchi – also known by the nickname Soudy –
stands smiling from ear-to-ear with the stunning white and black
animal draped across his shoulders.”

Make animal traps illegal in Toronto: Toronto Wildlife Centre
http://torontosun.com/news/local-news/make-animal-traps-illegal-in-toronto-toronto-wildlife-centre
“The head of the Toronto Wildlife Centre is calling for bylaws that
would to make it illegal for people to use animal traps within city
limits.
“The push comes after a skunk and a raccoon — which each suffered
serious injuries when trapped — had to be euthanized after they were
brought into the wildlife centre last week.
“Both badly hurt in leg-hold traps, a distressed skunk transported
from Oakville backyard and a Toronto raccoon were captured in
residential neighbourhoods. And in the raccoon’s case, it was found in
the Pape-Danforth Aves. area.”

Court Helps Cabinet Yaak Grizzlies, Again: Time for Fish and Wildlife Service to Do Better

https://www.grizzlytimes.org/single-post/2017/08/29/Court-Helps-Cabinet-Yaak-Grizzlies-Again-Time-for-Fish-and-Wildlife-Service-to-Do-Better

August 29, 2017

|

Louisa Willcox

Grizzlies in the remote Cabinet Yaak ecosystem in northwest Montana are literally on death’s doorstep, numbering less than 50 grizzlies – less than half of the FWS’ absurdly small recovery goal of 100 bears.  Making matters worse, since this population was listed as threatened in 1975 (along with other grizzlies in the lower-48 states), grizzlies have been functionally split between the northern Yaak region and the southern Cabinet Mountains; there has been no movement of grizzly bears between these isolated segments for many years. The reason? Excessive killing, particularly poaching, and the press of human activity.

The listed status of the population matters. If Cabinet Yaak grizzlies are given the more stringent “endangered” protections, the FWS will have to designate critical habitat for them. One major reason that the population is doing so poorly is habitat degradation. Excessive road networks on the Kootenai Forest, built to cut down the huge trees in this lush landscape, allow easy entry for poachers, who constitute the leading cause of death in this population. By contrast, poaching is not nearly as severe a problem in the two wilderness-based strongholds for grizzlies around Greater Yellowstone and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE), centered on Glacier Park.

 Christiansen’s Ruling: The Context

In 2014, FWS had downgraded the Cabinet Yaak population from a “warranted, but precluded” endangered status, meaning that the population deserved greater protections, but that FWS could not deal with the problem due to other priorities that it deemed more important. These greater protections had been granted by a judge in 1993 as a result of litigation by conservationists.

To justify its defiance of the judge’s earlier ruling, the FWS relied on a 2010 determination that it used to dodge listing the polar bear as endangered, despite the fact that global warming has been ferociously melting sea ice needed by polar bears to hunt seals. In this case a judge allowed the FWS to interpret “in danger of extinction” as meaning “on the brink of extinction,” with the proviso that this interpretation applied only to the special circumstances of polar bears.

Meanwhile, between 1993 and 2014 threats to Cabinet-Yaak grizzlies from roadbuilding, human settlement, and poaching mounted. The situation is so dire for these bears that the FWS regularly augments the population by bringing in grizzlies from the NCDE population. More on this later.

Nevertheless, the FWS wanted to downgrade the population’s status so that it would not have to make hard decisions that would challenge powerful status quo interests in the logging and mining industries. At the same time, the agency greenlighted a Forest Service plan that instituted weaker standards for managing roads in the Cabinet-Yaak compared to  those applied to grizzly habitat in Greater Yellowstone and the NCDE, both of which support 10-15 times more grizzlies. Stringent management of roads in these better-protected ecosystems is seen as key to the progress made toward population recovery.

Christensen determined that the FWS’ downgrading of protections for the Cabinet-Yaak’s grizzlies was “arbitrary and capricious.” He said: “There is no evidence… to suggest that the agency found that the change in policy was permissible under the Endangered Species Act, believed that the new policy was better than the agencies’ prior interpretations, or otherwise provided a good reason for the change.” (link)

Michael Garrity, Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, which brought the case to court, wryly observed that, instead of redoubling efforts to protect and restore habitat and reduce mortalities, the FWS has spent the better part of the last two decades dragging its feet.

Second Positive Court Ruling for Cabinet Yaak Grizzlies in a Year

Judge Christiansen’s ruling is the second in a year in aid of the Cabinet-Yaak’s beleaguered grizzlies. In May, 2016, Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch rocked the grizzly bear world by sentencing a man to six months in federal prison for poaching a threatened grizzly bear in the Cabinet Yaak ecosystem (link).

Although the additional fine of $5,000 was stiff but not unusual for violations of the ESA, jail time is unheard of as a penalty for any imperiled species, let alone grizzly bears. There has never been a louder message to would-be poachers that federal officials are taking their duty to protect endangered species seriously.

The facts of this case showed that the killing was not in self-defense, but rather as a malicious lark. Shaloko Katzer of Mead, Washington followed a grizzly, then shot and killed it in the Yaak Falls campground in July, 2015.

Judge Lynch was unusually clear about his intentions when he addressed Katzer during sentencing, saying: “You went out of your way to kill this bear. But the most important thing is this is going to stop. And, unfortunately, you may be the first example, but the unnecessary killing of these threatened species is going to stop. And you, sentencing you to this is necessary to deter all those individuals who might undertake or engage in the same conduct of I guess what they might consider a sport.” (link)

Lynch and Christensen are not the only judges to have ruled in favor of grizzly bears. In fact, during the last 25 years, Courts have determined on at least 20 occasions that more needs to be done to advance recovery of threatened grizzly bears, which for the last 50 years have remained at a mere 2-3% of their former numbers.

Yet, so often, the FWS would rather do nothing and lose again in court than work to get recovery right, especially in the case of Cabinet Yaak grizzlies. The agency seems to care more about minimizing political risks to its funding and prerogatives, which admittedly are considerable, rather than fulfilling its public trust responsibilities by aggressively recovering a charismatic endangered species for the benefit of all Americans.

And, time may not be on the side of the few surviving bears in the Cabinet Yaak.

Time is Running Out for Cabinet-Yaak, Selkirk Grizzlies

For decades, the FWS’ top priority has been stripping Yellowstone’s grizzlies of their endangered species protections, which happened for the second time in June of this year. Removing protections for grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem is the agency’s next goal; a delisting proposal is expected for the NCDE in 2018.

The FWS’ focus on eviscerating protections for these larger populations has come at the additional expense of grizzlies that are on the ropes — not only in the Cabinet Yaak, but its neighbor to the west in Idaho, the Selkirks.  The Selkirks, a similarly small ecosystem that also straddles the Canadian border, and supports perhaps 50 animals on the US side.

Given the small size of these populations, the slide to extinction could be relatively quick, as these bears are not far from zero now. Grizzlies have extremely low reproduction rates, which makes recovery much more difficult. There are only a handful of reproductive females in each ecosystem, and the loss of even one of these females could be devastating.

It is impossible to overstate the level of threat facing Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak grizzlies.  Sadly, there is no designated Wilderness in the Yaak area, and, the Cabinet Mountains are long and skinny, giving people easy access to even the farthest reaches of these scant wildlands. Only a small portion of the Selkirks is protected Wilderness.

There is no portion of either ecosystem protected by a National Park, which is why you may have never heard of them. That matters, because in Yellowstone, Glacier and, seasonally, Grand Teton Parks, grizzly bears are protected from people with guns. This alone has made a huge difference to recovering grizzly bears.

Both the Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk ecosystems are hammered by logging roads.  The Canada side of the ecosystem is pretty beat up too – making bears more or less isolated from larger populations on all sides.

Adding insult to injury, two hard rock mines are poised to hemi-sect the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem. If the Rock Creek Mine is built on the west side of the Cabinets and the Montanore mine on the east, the ability of grizzly bear to travel from the north to the southern third of the bear’s range would be seriously compromised. Even the FWS has admitted that these mines, if built at the same time (which is now proposed), would be the last nails in the coffin for this population. So far, litigation brought by conservation groups (does this sound like a theme?) has forestalled these mines.

As I mentioned earlier, prospects even under the current conditions are so bleak that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has resorted to dumping grizzly bears from the healthier Glacier population into the Cabinet-Yaak to prevent the population from winking out. Still, out of 17 grizzly bears that have been relocated during the last 15 years, only three have been known to contribute genes to the population.

All is not lost, however, for the habitat, with its Pacific maritime influence, is incredibly productive, with berries that Yellowstone grizzly bears could only dream of.  There is hope, if the thugs stop killing bears, as the ESA requires, and if enough habitat is protected.

Uplisting the Cabinet Yaak and Selkirk populations to endangered status and designating critical habitat for these bears could prompt needed restoration and make habitat more secure for grizzlies.  Stiffer penalties and more aggressive prosecution of poaching cases could also reduce malicious killing. Better coexistence practice could reduce conflicts. Proven methods include running electric fence around beehives and chicken coops, and installing bear resistant garbage bins around home sites.

Not doing stupid, harmful stuff would also help enormously.

Now for the Dumbest Idea Ever: New, High-Use Hiking Trail Through the Heart of the Yaak

Just as you think things cannot get worse for Cabinet Yaak grizzlies, the Forest Service has proposed a new high use hiking trail through the heart of the wildest part of the Yaak. The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail would run 1,200 miles from Glacier National Park to Port Townsend, Washington, tying into the popular Pacific Crest Trail.

As many as 4,000 hikers are expected to blast through the bear-iest habitat in the Yaak – many undoubtedly oblivious to bears as they listen to tunes on headsets, as is the custom on the Pacific Crest Trail. The likelihood of negative consequences is high as hikers displace bears and increase the chance of conflicts with bears.

Local conservationists, including the prolific writer Rick Bass, have suggested an alternative route that avoids this refugium, a measure also supported by preeminent grizzly bear scientist Chuck Jonkel, who passed away last year (link). But, a crazy rider to a 2009 spending bill sponsored by Norm Dix, former Congressman from Washington, authorized the trail.

While the Forest Service can still say “no” to the current route, the agency is reluctant to change course. Meanwhile a trail advocacy group, Pacific Northwest Trail Association (PNTA), has been bullying the government to push the process through. “The trail is coming whether you like it or not,” said Jeff Kish of PTNA to Jessie Grossman of the local conservation group Yaak Valley Forest Council in a recent conversation.

Cabinet-Yaak grizzlies need more, not less habitat. This issue is a no brainer: the Forest Service and FWS should simply re-route the trail so as to minimize impacts on grizzlies. But, then, both agencies love to say “yes” to every development proposal that crosses their desk.

It is true, too, that avoiding stupid stuff like the Yaak trail won’t achieve recovery, which entails doubling the size of the population. For that, we need a bigger picture approach.

Yellowstone and Cabinet Yaak, Selkirks Grizzly Bears Need Each Other

We tend to talk about the Greater Yellowstone, Cabinet-Yaak, Selkirks and Glacier, as if they are separate grizzly bear planets. They aren’t. They simply represent bears in the last bits of land where grizzly bears survived when the FWS got around to listing them in 1975. These ecosystems represented the small remnants of what had been one more or less contiguous grizzly bear population that stretched from the Great Plains to the Pacific coast and south to Mexico.

Despite all the work since 1975 to recover grizzlies, they still constitute only 3% of their former numbers. While scientists say that continued isolation is a serious problem for all these populations, FWS still treats them as separate postage stamps.

Geneticists tell us that Yellowstone bears will be forever at risk genetically if they stay isolated in their current ecological island. Cabinet-Yaak and Selkirk grizzly bears cannot stay isolated either if their future is to be ensured. All must be connected to each other and to larger populations in Canada. The government knows this, but it is too darn difficult to talk about such a big vision in such a mean-spirited, anti-science, political climate.

Many experts say that for Yellowstone’s grizzly bears to connect with bears elsewhere, the best route is through the Selway Bitterroot ecosystem north through, yes you guessed it, the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem.  This means that grizzly bears must be recovered in Idaho’s vast Selway Bitterroot ecosystem, which scientists say could support 600 or so grizzlies.

But the lynchpin for recovery is the largest grizzly bear population, centered on Glacier Park, with perhaps 900 or so bears.  Although only four grizzly bears are known to have moved on their own from this ecosystem to the Cabinet-Yaak and stay there, more could do so in the future if habitat is protected and bears are not killed. Grizzlies are also moving south towards Yellowstone, and into the north end of the Selway Bitterroot recovery area. Meanwhile, they are moving east, recolonizing prairie habitat.

Grizzly bears are showing the way to recovery with their paws. From Yellowstone, bears are moving further west along the Centennial Range towards the Selway Bitteroot. Individuals have moved south from the Cabinets as well. Grizzlies, probably from the NCDE, have shown up this summer in the Big Belt Mountains, about 100 miles north of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. They are connecting on their own, if we don’t kill them.

Instead of treating the five remaining grizzly bear populations as isolated islands, the FWS should look at opportunities to achieve durable recovery through expanding secure habitat by restoration and improved co-existence practices. The 1992 recovery plan, which ignored the pressing issue of climate change and gave short shrift to connectivity, is in sore need of revision. This is the place to reimagine recovery and the possibilities of creating a large contiguous population of grizzlies in our northern Rockies.

Instead of dragging their feet until they are sued again and spanked by judges, the FWS and Forest Service should show a little courage and exercise leadership – for the bears and all the rest of us.

Please do what you can to help Cabinet Yaak grizzlies: tell the Forest Service to re-route the Pacific Northwest Trail to avoid the heart of the Yaak. Send an email to mtmcgrath@fs.fed.us, and send a copy to info@yaakvalley.org. The Yaak Valley Forest Council (www.yaakvalley.org) is leading the fight against this idiotic trail. You can help stop the disastrous Rock Creek mine by supporting Rock Creek Alliance (www.rockcreekalliance.org). And the Alliance for the Wild Rockies (www.allianceforthewildrockies.org)  brought the latest uplisting case — stay tuned for more chapters on this drama.

Oregon wolf found dead; cause of death unknown

OR42, the breeding female of the Chesnimnus Pack, had her failed radio-collar replaced on Feb. 23, 2017 in the Chesnimnus WMU in northern Wallowa County. (ODFW/CC BY-SA 2.0)

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ENTERPRISE, Ore. – The breeding female from an Oregon wolf pack was found dead earlier this month, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

OR42 from the Chesnimnus Pack was found dead in Wallowa County in early May, ODFW said in a press release Tuesday.

“A preliminary forensic examination did not identify a cause of death and no foul play is suspected at this time,” the agency said in the statement. “However, it is still under investigation and additional laboratory tests are being conducted.”

OR42 had her radio collar replaced in February 2017.

Two other wolves in the pack have collars that allow biologists to track their movements.

Study: To Mitigate Problem Predators, Give Wolves More Space, Tolerance

http://klcc.org/post/study-mitigate-problem-predators-give-wolves-more-space-tolerance

MAY 23, 2017

Wolves mostly make the news when they are in conflict with livestock and that’s part of the reason they were once removed from the Western landscape. But a new study shows wolves play an important role, whether we like it or not.

It’s not just wolves that prey on livestock.

“Worldwide, smaller meso-predators like coyotes, jackals and such, actually themselves prey pretty heavily on livestock and can cause a lot of economic damage,” Aaron Wirsing of the University of Washington said.

Wirsing co-authored a new study in the journal Nature Communications. He said current land management policies don’t offer apex predators enough space, but that doesn’t mean he wants to see wolves roaming rampant across North America.

“We need to allow predators to occupy more landscapes than just remote, protected areas,” Wirsing said. “On the other hand, we also need to heavily manage them, recognizing that they do conflict with people.”

That conflict made headlines last summer, when members of the Profanity Peak wolf pack killed four calves in Northeastern Washington. In response, Washington’s Department of Fish decided to shoot members of that pack from a helicopter.

“Historically, our model has been almost a postage stamp model where we protect certain areas and try to maintain intact assemblages of animals,” Wirsing said. “But we have a problem of scale.”

So, for example, areas protected for wildlife and public use might seem large from a human perspective, but what humans ay not consider is wolves can range up to 1,000 miles.

And it’s not only in the forest. Wirsing said wolves also roam the sage brush landscape in the central Northwest.

The study made use of bounty hunting data to show ecosystems function similarly in both Europe and Australia as well.

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