Fewer than 40 red wolves cling to survival
in the wild. Help us fight for them!
The federal government seems bent on destroying what began as one of our nation’s greatest wildlife comeback stories.
As a result, red wolves are all but certain to go extinct in the wild – again.
You and I can’t let what began as such a success story end on such a heartbreaking and tragic note. This is a 100% preventable extinction.
Last month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to cripple the red wolf recovery program by:
30 years ago when the red wolf recovery effort launched it was destined to become a model for recovery of wolves across the U.S. The once nearly extinct population took root and grew to 150 wolves. But ever since anti-wolf extremists mounted an anti-wolf campaign, numbers have fallen.
Red wolves, native to Eastern North Carolina, are a key part of our natural heritage. In our not so distant past, these animals ranged from Florida to Pennsylvania and as far west as Texas. There are no words for how tragic it would be to see them disappear forever.
Your donation will help fuel our all-out effort to rescue the red wolf from oblivion. You’ll help fund public outreach efforts in North Carolina, build community support for wolf conservation, and help us hold Fish and Wildlife Service’s feet to the fire, including legal action if necessary.
The story isn’t over. With your help, we’ll get the happy ending we have sought for three decades. It’s the happy ending these wolves deserve
He said it. He really did. To everyone’s surprise, on March 23, at the North Cascades National Park headquarters in Sedro-Woolley, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke — the same Ryan Zinke who had recommended shrinking Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and who had announced last June that Yellowstone’s grizzlies would be dropped from the endangered species list — declared that he was all for restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades.
“We are moving forward with plans to restore the bear to the North Cascades,” Zinke said, stating unequivocally that the stalled process of preparing an environmental impact statement for grizzly restoration there would be completed by the end of this year.
If that really happens, then — 43 years after grizzlies were first listed under the Endangered Species Act — federal agencies can start bringing them back to the Cascades.
Once upon a time, hundreds of grizzlies roamed the North Cascades, as they roamed virtually all the rest of the Western United States. But for more than a century, people shot and trapped them, and the big bears were virtually all gone by the time North Cascades National Park was created in 1968. A year before that, at least one grizzly had still roamed the mountains; somebody shot it within what soon became the park.
Eight years later, grizzly bears in the Lower 48 states were listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. A federal recovery plan subsequently designated six grizzly bear recovery zones. One recovery zone covered 6 million acres, nearly all of it national park and national forest land in the North Cascades. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came out with a North Cascades chapter to the national grizzly bear restoration plan 21 years ago, but it was never funded until late in the Obama administration. The environmental impact statement (EIS) process then began, but the Interior Department halted it last year.
Now, if the EIS gets finished as Interior Secretary Zinke promises, the feds can move ahead with restoration.
In the years after that lone grizzly was shot in 1967, people have occasionally reported seeing something that sure looked like a grizzly bear, and biologists have assumed a handful of bears at least dropped by. But for years, no one has found hard evidence. The draft EIS explains that in the previous 10 years, there were only four confirmed sightings in the North Cascades — all north of the border with Canada.
Despite extensive research, says Jack Oelfke, head of cultural and natural resources for North Cascades National Park, “we have not had a verified sighting of a grizzly bear on the U.S. side of the border in this ecosystem since the mid-1990s.” In other words, “the population is functionally extirpated. So, it is safe to say that any bears that might be seen on the U.S. side of the border are ‘tourists,’ and are not residents … but that we haven’t even verified a ‘tourist’ bear since the mid-1990s.”
No one expects that grizzlies, left to their own devices, will form a self-sustaining population in the North Cascades ever again. Washington’s current wolf packs were started by individual animals that just walked into the state. Why don’t grizzlies do the same? There are bears north of the border in British Columbia; the closest populations are endangered themselves. Besides, to get here from the north, a bear faces a number of barriers near the border: They would have to swim the Fraser River — not a big challenge for a bear — and cross railroad lines, roads, the Trans-Canada Highway. All together, the barriers are formidable.
If we, as a society, want a grizzly population in the North Cascades, we’ll have to start by hauling in bears from someplace else. Some people don’t like the idea. In 1995, just two years after the recovery plan came out, the state Legislature declared unequivocally, “Grizzly bears shall not be transplanted or introduced into the state.” That law, however, has no legal bearing on national park or national forest lands in the North Cascades. If bears are transported here from Canada or Montana, though, the law would keep state agencies from taking part in restoration efforts.
Joe Scott, international programs director for Conservation Northwest, sees a contradiction: Virtually no one objects to letting nature take its course. If grizzlies show up on their own and take up residence in the North Cascades, that’s OK. But if they get chauffeured in, it’s not so universally accepted. Still, you would have bears there either way.
Before federal agencies would move grizzlies into the North Cascades, Scott says, “They’ve got to find the right bears.” When the restoration planning process started, the national park’s Oelfke says, “we laid out criteria.” First, they’d only take bears from a population that seemed healthy enough to part with some. And they would avoid bears that had any history of conflict with human beings. A bear that already had a taste for garbage would not be a good fit. Problem bears get shot, no matter where they wind up. “Any bear that associates human beings with food is a goner,” Scott says.
The feds, it’s envisioned, would pick bears from an ecosystem that contained foods also found in the North Cascades. Then, they would pick young bears, between 2 and 5 years old. Older bears would be much more likely to pack up and leave. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Wayne Kasworm notes, “Older bears have already invested a portion of their lives in learning their home territories.” Why wouldn’t they go back? (Everyone involved in the North Cascades planning process knows the story of Winston, a grizzly from British Columbia’s Coast Range mountains that was placed experimentally in the North Cascades years ago. He was collared, so scientists monitoring him knew that he hung out for a while near Ross Lake, then headed for home, crossing roads and walking through people’s yards without being seen. They don’t want more Winstons.)
The scientists would also choose more young females than young males to rebuild the population. Plus, females would be less likely to head back home. The bears might come from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem around Glacier National Park or maybe from Wells Gray Provincial Park, well north of Kamloops in eastern British Columbia.
Populations of predators have certainly been introduced into habitat they had historically roamed. The classic example is Yellowstone wolves. Closer to home, you can look at fishers in the Olympics and Cascades. But grizzlies have only been introduced once — — it is still being done — in the Cabinet Mountains of northwestern Montana, part of the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery zone.
The project there appears to be successful, offering a template for restoration in the North Cascades, according to Kasworm, who has led the Montana work from the beginning. “We have taken a population that ran in the single digits and brought it back to about 25,” he explains.
It is what he calls “a slow progression.” He and his colleagues started in 1990, introducing four bears as a test between that year and 1994. It took another 10 years, until 2004, to find the first DNA evidence that the bears had started reproducing. Now, he says, they’re going on the fourth generation.
The recovery plan Zinke backed for the North Cascades has a no-action alternative — just keep on keeping on and if grizzlies show up, that will be nice — and three action alternatives, all of which envision a population of up to 200 grizzly bears a century from now. Scott says that some people seem to have “a perception that the ultimate objectives are meant to be immediate. It’ll take a century to get to 200 bears — if all goes well.”
“The most [bears] I’ve heard of being moved in any one year is a handful,” he explains. Alternative C — which Conservation Northwest favors — would bring in up to 25 bears over the first 10 years. Not all of those bears would survive. Some would walk away. At best, the population would grow by a couple of bears each year.
The National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service received 127,000 public comments on their draft EIS. Not all were favorable. That was hardly a surprise. Ranchers who already feel beleaguered by wolf packs don’t welcome the prospect of more large predators. And, of course, the idea of a charging grizzly bear is beyond scary, even though, in reality, fewer people are killed by grizzlies than perish in avalanches, according to statistics compiled by Backpacker magazine some years ago.. The seven avalanche deaths in Washington this winter exceed the number of people killed by bears of any kind in all of North America during any year since the turn of the century.
Occasionally, (bear) shit does happen. A man I know was hiking some years ago in Glacier National Park, on a trail along which no bear activity had been reported, when he and a friend saw what they thought was a big dog out in a field. The dog ran toward them. It turned out to be a young male grizzly. It mauled the two people. There’s no way to sugar-coat that.
Oelfke with the North Cascades National Park doesn’t try. He does point out, though, that society has decided to save species, and that entails certain risks. As does spending time in designated wilderness areas.
Then there’s climate change to consider. Would climate change, the elephant in so many rooms, ultimately make the North Cascades a lousy place for grizzly bears, no matter how many are trucked in? Probably not. Officials will do more work on climate change “to pin down what the anticipated changes will be,” Oelfke says. But he says that grizzly bears are noted for their “incredible flexibility” about food. He notes “Their range before [European] settlement,” he notes, “was from the far north all the way to Mexico.” In the North Cascades, “a variety of habitats exist,” Oelfke says, “and thus a variety of food resources.” The bears are “such generalists that even with some changes in habitat, they may not become affected” by the higher temperatures, thinner snowpacks and more frequent downpours predicted for Washington, he says.
Their chances will, of course, be better if Zinke’s support represents a trend, rather than an anomaly. After Zinke’s Sedro-Woolley speech, Conservation Northwest’s executive director, Mitch Friedman,told The Seattle Times’ Lynda Mapes, “Let me catch my breath. Nixon went to China. Zinke is going to bring the grizzly bear back to the North Cascades.”
And why not? “Wildlife conservation used to be a bipartisan issue,” Scott says. “It would be nice to think that wildlife would once again become a bipartisan issue.”
WASHINGTON—In an attempt to ensure the federal benefit program is not taken advantage of, a new regulation announced Tuesday will require all organisms facing extinction to actively search for a new habitat in order to receive funding for their protection under the Endangered Species Act. “Effective immediately, America’s at-risk species must prove they are making an effort to find a different ecosystem to live in if they wish to obtain government assistance for their continued survival,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, adding that endangered creatures such as the black-footed ferret and Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep should not be allowed to just sit back and live on public lands at taxpayer expense unless they agree to take steps to better their own situations. “An ‘endangered’ status isn’t a free pass, and it’s important we put forth policies that encourage a culture of personal responsibility among our nation’s plants and animals. We’re not doing the star cactus or the salt marsh harvest mouse any favors when we allow them to live on the government’s dime, which can create a disincentive for them to secure a place in another habitat and become self-sufficient.” At press time, the Department of the Interior announced further regulations capping the amount of time a species can remain on the endangered list at six months.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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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.
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.
“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
“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
“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
“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.”