Wolves need federal protection


by Collette Adkins

The tragic killing of a gray wolf mistaken for a coyote in North Dakota’s Walsh County recently is a painful reminder of why wolves still need federal endangered species protections.

This poor creature was the first known wolf in North Dakota since one was confirmed in Bowman County in December 2014. Before that, hunters in McKenzie County killed one in 2012.

These wolf deaths are bad for North Dakota’s ecosystems, which are out of balance without large carnivores.

Because wolves target the weak, diseased, old and injured, they help keep prey populations of deer and elk more vigorous. Wolves also promote biodiversity by preventing prey from overgrazing vegetation, degrading habitat and harming other native wildlife.

The death of this wolf is a blow to wolf recovery in the state.

Although wolves elsewhere in the country have made significant progress under the protections of the Endangered Species Act, they are nowhere near fully recovered.

Wolves have returned to only about 10 percent of their historic range in the United States and could return to areas of North Dakota with abundant prey, such as the Badlands — if people would stop killing them.

Indeed, with Endangered Species Act protections, the wolf population in Minnesota grew and wolves dispersed to begin repopulating Wisconsin and then Michigan. Recovery to additional Midwest and Great Lakes states depends on the protections afforded by the act.

But if elected officials from those areas have their way, wolves will be stripped of federal protections. Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are pushing for removing those protections to appease livestock producers and trophy hunters. They have introduced legislation in Congress, HR424 and S164, that would remove federal protections without any review by the courts and turn wolf management over to states.

As an attorney working for more than a decade to protect wolves and stop cruel wildlife exploitation, I know these bills would be devastating.

We’ve already seen how states treat wolves when they are allowed management. As soon as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolf protections — prematurely — in 2012, Minnesota and Wisconsin worked to open trophy hunting and trapping seasons, contributing to a 25 percent decline in Minnesota.

When the court restored protections, wolf populations in Minnesota began to rebound. That shows that the Endangered Species Act works.

Wolves are an important part of our natural heritage but were driven to the brink of extinction across much of the country more than a century ago. They deserve a real chance at recovery. And, for starters, that means continued federal protections in Minnesota and across the Midwest and more tolerance for them on the ground.

One day, hopefully, we’ll see them breeding again in North Dakota.

Collette Adkins is a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity.


EPIC in Court to Defend Wolves

Organizations Seek Intervention on Industry Challenge to Endangered Status

EPIC and our allies filed a motion today to intervene in a lawsuit seeking to remove California Endangered Species Act protections from wolves. The lawsuit, against the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, was brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation and wrongly alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection.

The intervenors — the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Cascadia Wildlands and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center — are represented by Earthjustice.

“Pacific Legal Foundation’s lawsuit is baseless,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf organizer. “Gray wolves were senselessly wiped out in California and deserve a chance to come back and survive here. We’re intervening to defend the interests of the vast majority of Californians who value wolves and want them to recover.”

Brought on behalf of the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation, the lawsuit alleges that wolves are ineligible for state protection because wolves returning to the state are supposedly the wrong subspecies, which only occurred intermittently in California at the time of the decision and are doing fine in other states.

Each of these arguments has major flaws. UCLA biologist Bob Wayne found that all three currently recognized subspecies of wolves occurred in California. Also — importantly — there is no requirement that recovery efforts focus on the same subspecies, rather than just the species. The fact that wolves were only intermittently present actually highlights the need for their protection, and the California Endangered Species Act is rightly focused on the status of species within California, not other states.

“The gray wolf is an icon of wildness in the American West, and its return to California after almost 100 years is a success story we should celebrate,” said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie. “Stripping wolves of protection under the California Endangered Species Act at this early stage in their recovery risks losing them again, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

Led by the Center, the four intervening groups petitioned for endangered species protections for wolves in February 2012. After receiving two California Department of Fish and Wildlife reports, scientific peer review assessment of those reports, thousands of written comments submitted by the public and live testimony at multiple public meetings, the California Fish and Game Commission voted to protect gray wolves in June 2014.

State protection makes it illegal to kill a wolf, including in response to livestock depredations — a major issue for the livestock industry. But despite the industry’s concerns, a growing body of scientific evidence shows nonlethal deterrence measures are more effective and less expensive than killing wolves. In addition, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has been allocated federal funding that can be used for nonlethal conflict-deterrence measures and to compensate ranchers for livestock losses to wolves, which make up a very small fraction of livestock losses.

“The cattle industry has made clear that it views wolves as pests and that they filed suit to allow killing of wolves,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Wolves are a vital part of American’s wilderness and natural heritage, helping to restore balance to our ecosystems by regulating elk and deer populations. The path to restoring wolves is through protecting fragile recovering populations.”

Wolves once ranged across most of the United States, but were trapped, shot and poisoned to near extirpation largely on behalf of the livestock industry. Before wolves began to return to California in late 2011 — when a single wolf from Oregon known as wolf OR-7 ventured south — it had been almost 90 years since a wild wolf was seen in the state. Before OR-7 the last known wild wolf in California, killed by a trapper in Lassen County, was seen in 1924.

Since 2011 California’s first wolf family in nearly a century, the seven-member Shasta pack, was confirmed in Siskiyou County in 2015, and a pair of wolves was confirmed in Lassen County in 2016. An additional radio-collared wolf from Oregon has crossed in and out of California several times since late 2015.

The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) advocates for science-based protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests, using an integrated, science-based approach, combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Cascadia Wildlands educates, agitates, and inspires a movement to protect and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems. We envision vast old-growth forests, rivers full of wild salmon, wolves howling in the backcountry, and vibrant communities sustained by the unique landscapes of the Cascadia bioregion.

The Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center is an advocate for the forests, wildlife and waters of the Klamath and Rogue River Basins of southwest Oregon and northwest California. We use environmental law, science, collaboration, education and grassroots organizing to defend healthy ecosystems and help build sustainable communities.

Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.
EPIC advocates for the science-based protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests and wildlife.

Where’d the animals go? GOP targets landmark Endangered Species Act for big changes


Republicans say the act hinders drilling, logging and other activities



Where'd the animals go? GOP targets landmark Endangered Species Act for big changesFILE – In this July 25, 2005, file photo, tiny fish, including delta smelt, caught in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, are seen through a microscope at a California Department of Fish and Game laboratory in Stockton, Calif. In control of Congress and soon the White House, Republicans are readying plans to roll back the influence of the Endangered Species Act, one of the government’s most powerful conservation tools, after decades of complaints that it hinders drilling, logging and other activities. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)(Credit: AP)

BILLINGS, Mont. — In control of Congress and soon the White House, Republicans are readying plans to roll back the influence of the Endangered Species Act, one of the government’s most powerful conservation tools, after decades of complaints that it hinders drilling, logging and other activities.

Over the past eight years, GOP lawmakers sponsored dozens of measures aimed at curtailing the landmark law or putting species such as gray wolves and sage grouse out of its reach. Almost all were blocked by Democrats and the White House or lawsuits from environmentalists.

Now, with the ascension of President-elect Donald Trump, Republicans see an opportunity to advance broad changes to a law they contend has been exploited by wildlife advocates to block economic development.

“It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. It’s been used for control of the land,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop. “We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.”

Bishop said he “would love to invalidate” the law and would need other lawmakers’ cooperation.

The 1973 act was ushered though Congress nearly unanimously, in part to stave off extinction of the national symbol, the bald eagle. Eagle populations have since rebounded, and the birds were taken off the threatened and endangered list in 2007.

In the eagles’ place, another emblematic species — the wolf — has emerged as a prime example of what critics say is wrong with the current law: seemingly endless litigation that offers federal protection for species long after government biologists conclude that they have recovered.

Wolf attacks on livestock have provoked hostility against the law, which keeps the animals off-limits to hunting in most states. Other species have attracted similar ire — Canada lynx for halting logging projects, the lesser prairie chicken for impeding oil and gas development and salmon for blocking efforts to reallocate water in California.

Reforms proposed by Republicans include placing limits on lawsuits that have been used to maintain protections for some species and force decisions on others, as well as adopting a cap on how many species can be protected and giving states a greater say in the process.

Wildlife advocates are bracing for changes that could make it harder to add species to the protected list and to usher them through to recovery. Dozens are due for decisions this year, including the Pacific walrus and the North American wolverine, two victims of potential habitat loss due to climate change.

“Any species that gets in the way of a congressional initiative or some kind of development will be clearly at risk,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife and a former Fish and Wildlife Service director under President Bill Clinton. “The political lineup is as unfavorable to the Endangered Species Act as I can remember.”

More than 1,600 plants and animals in the U.S. are now shielded by the law. Hundreds more are under consideration for protections. Republicans complain that fewer than 70 have recovered and had protections lifted.

Continued: http://www.salon.com/2017/01/17/gop-targets-landmark-endangered-species-act-for-big-changes/


Keep Grizzlies Protected: A New Film About Why Grizzlies Still Need Federal Protectio

December 19, 2016

|Louisa Willcox



Today marks the release of a film entitled Keep Grizzlies Protected (http://www.keepgrizzliesprotected.com/) by noted filmmakers Anthony Birkholz and Marni Walsh. The film features leading scientists who speak out about threats to the future of the grizzly bear, and raise concerns about the federal government’s stated intention to strip federal protections from grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem early next year.


Delisting would expose the threatened population to trophy hunting. World-renowned scientists, as well as leading scientific societies, have expressed deep concern about the risk that state-sponsored sport hunting and other harmful policies will pose to grizzly bears. The grizzly bear is especially vulnerable because of its low reproductive rates, and much-diminished numbers since European settlers arrived.  Even with federal protections, grizzly bears still number just 3% of what they once were in the lower 48 states. An unprecedented number of citizens share these concerns about the future of the grizzly in and around the Nation’s first park.


The film features a cast of the “who’s who” of experts on large carnivores, endangered species and climate change. Scientists include Dr. Jane Goodall, Dr. David Mattson, Dr. Rob Wielgus, Dr. Jesse Logan, Dr. Diana Six, Dr. Brad Bergstrom and Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter.  Yvon Chouinard, world-famous climber, founder of Patagonia, and conservationist, also spoke in an interview about one of his passions: climate change.


I felt compelled to take on producing this film after reading the inspired comments of these and other experts submitted last spring to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in response to a draft delisting proposal. I have read countless comment letters to the government in my 30 plus years as a conservationist in the Northern Rockies. But in its most recent delisting plan, the FWS so overstepped the bounds of commonsense and scientific integrity as to unleash a stunning backlash by experts. Rarely have I seen such a sweeping condemnation by independent scientists of a government grizzly bear management proposal.


What the Experts Say About Delisting and Trophy Hunting

In its draft delisting proposal, some of the FWS’s claims were “ludicrous”, according to retired Forest Service ecologist Dr. Jesse Logan. Logan was referring here to FWS’ bald-faced assertion that climate change has not had and would never have adverse impacts on grizzlies. In fact, “climate change is affecting everything that the grizzlies use for food and habitat,” said Dr. Diana Six, Forest Pathologist at the University of Montana.


Dr. Jane Goodall, primatologist and ethologist, observed: “Two of the bear’s major foods have been all but wiped out due to climate change, disease, and invasive species.”


In the interviews, a number of the scientists focused on the threat of renewing trophy hunting after 40 years of federal endangered species protections. Dr. Rob Wielgus, Director of Washington State University’s Large Carnivore Lab said: “The largest obstacles for recovery of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton bears is human-caused mortality and the greatest potential future obstacle is even greater human-caused mortality as per the proposed hunting seasons in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.”


Dr. Jane Goodall offered: “I was really shocked to hear about this. Actually, I found it hard to believe, because they face so many threats to their survival. If the grizzlies are delisted, and states open a hunting season, I think many hearts would break. I know mine would.”


Many scientists cited the problem of the grizzly bear’s long isolation from other populations. “Grizzly bear recovery really comes down to whether we can connect the Yellowstone population with populations of grizzly bears elsewhere,” said Dr. David Mattson, retired biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “If we can’t, the ecosystem continues to unravel, densities continue to decline, they’re going to be that much more vulnerable potentially to extirpation.”


Experts challenged the recovery targets as being too low to ensure the long-term health of the population. Dr. Jesse Logan noted that: “Fish and Wildlife contends that we have a viable population with 700 bears. Analysis by the American Society of Mammalogists says no, the effective breeding population is going to require over twice that many bears, so we have to allow enough habitat for bears to expand into –– and it exists here, it’s just that they’re not allowed to do it.”


Dr. Brad Bergstrom, Conservation Biologist and Professor at Valdosta State University, put the grizzly delisting decision in the context of a deeper problem inherent in FWS’ approach to endangered species recovery: “The whole idea of recovery planning and recovery goals, they (FWS) seem to be stuck in this outmoded philosophy of picking a magic number. We’re going to set a target and 20 or 30 years later we’re going to come back to that target that we set… and we’re going to just be faithful to that target number… without regarding any of the scientific advances made within those last 20 to 30 years. Now that, to me, does not honor the letter of the Endangered Species Act, which says that their decision should be based on the best currently available science. The science changes. But their quotas, their goals, their magic numbers, they don’t change.”


Unprecedented Public Outcry Over Delisting, Sport Hunting

The film comes at a time when people across the country have expressed unprecedented and passionate opposition to the proposed removal of Endangered Species Act protections, along with clear support for vigorous recovery measures. Over 800,000 people recently signed petitions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior, asking for continued protection of Yellowstone grizzlies, rather than devolution of management to the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, which are notoriously hostile to carnivores (link).


Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter, a social scientist with The Ohio State University said: “We have really good public data that suggests that while people are generally supportive of hunting, they are not supportive of trophy hunting. I don’t want to say no one, but let’s just say very few people are going out to hunt grizzly bears that are going to hunt them for food. Right? They’re hunting them for the purpose of trophy for self-gratification, and that from a public standpoint is very, very controversial. It’s something that the data show that clearly the public just does not support.”


Over 50 Indian Tribes have also formally opposed sport hunting the Great Bear, an animal they have long viewed as sacred (http://www.goaltribal.org/).


The Solution: Connect Populations, Improve Coexistence Practices, Keep Grizzlies Protected

In the film, scientists’ offer simple and clear recommendations: keep bears protected, redouble recovery efforts to connect the long-isolated Yellowstone grizzlies to neighboring sub-populations, allow bears to expand into suitable habitat, and improve practices that allow humans to coexist with bears. These measures will also improve the ability of bears to adapt to a changing climate.


Such steps are also consistent with widely shared public attitudes. Dr. Jeremy Bruskotter noted that: “Public opinion polling suggests that people generally want bears to be listed. They want to see further recovery efforts. We can glean some information from the public comments that were filed on behalf or in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services proposal to delist bears that suggest that people would like to see more grizzly bears in more places, and would like to see those populations protected.”


The Endangered Species Act matters for another important reason. According to Dr. David Mattson, “the ESA is one of the few laws that unambiguously gives all the American public a voice in management of wildlife. Otherwise, management of virtually all wildlife is in the hands of state wildlife management agencies, which is a problem. The American public should have a voice under other circumstances than just jeopardy. For example, with Yellowstone’s grizzly bears, regardless of whether you think they are endangered or not, here we have a population of a species that is of national interest. And the national public deserves a voice in their management, not only now but in perpetuity.”


The film concludes by asking viewers to request that President Obama respond to public opinion and withdraw the proposed rule to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bears, and employ the best available science to promote the long overdue recovery of this iconic species.

Death Toll: 3.2 Million Animals Killed by Wildlife Services in 2015

3.2 Million Animals Killed by Wildlife Services in 2015

FoxThe newest tallies from America’s secretive wildlife-killing program are in, and they’re grim. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services says it killed more than 3.2 million animals during fiscal year 2015. That’s about a half-million more animals than the program killed the previous year.

Despite increasing calls for reform, Wildlife Services’ reckless slaughter continues, last year wiping out 385 gray wolves, 68,905 coyotes, 480 black bears, 284 mountain lions, 731 bobcats, 492 river otters, 3,437 foxes and 21,559 beavers.

The Center for Biological Diversity has been leading the charge to reform this rogue program, which often does its killing at the behest of the agricultural industry and other powerful interests.

“There’s simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle millions of animals every year — a cruel practice that not only fails to effectively manage targeted wildlife but poses an ongoing threat to other animals, including pets,” said the Center’s Michael Robinson.

Read more in our press release and consider donating to our Stop Wildlife Services Fund.

The Endangered Species Act: Making Birds Great Again

Making Birds Great AgainA groundbreaking Center analysis has uncovered excellent news: 85 percent of continental U.S. birds protected under the Endangered Species Act have increased or stabilized their population size since being protected. The average population increase was 624 percent.

The study, the first of its kind, examined year-by-year population sizes of all 120 bird species ever protected by the Endangered Species Act. Recovering species include California condors in California and Arizona (up 391 percent since 1968), whooping cranes in the central United States (up 923 percent since 1967), wood storks in the Southeast (up 61 percent since 1984), Kirtland’s warblers in the Great Lakes (up 1,077 percent since 1971), California least terns (up 1,835 percent since 1970) and Puerto Rican parrots (up 354 percent since 1967).

“The Endangered Species Act has been spectacularly successful for America’s most imperiled birds,” said Loyal Mehrhoff, the Center’s endangered species recovery director. “From plovers on the East Coast to warblers in the Great Lakes, terns in the Midwest, falcons in Texas, bald eagles in the Rocky Mountains and towhees in California, the Act has rapidly and dramatically increased bird population sizes and put these birds on the road to full recovery.”

Check out our press release and interactive website.

Help Sought for Pacific Bluefin Tuna as Population Plummets

Bluefin tunaPacific bluefin tuna — majestic, warm-blooded ocean predators being dangerously overfished for the high-end sushi market — have sunk to frighteningly low population levels, so on Monday the Center and allies petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect the fish under the Endangered Species Act. Pacific bluefin have declined more than 97 percent since commercial fishing began.

Intensifying the concern surrounding the tuna’s drastic population drop, almost all Pacific bluefin tuna harvested today are caught before they can reproduce. In 2014 their population produced the second-lowest number of young fish seen since 1952. Without young fish to mature into spawning stock and replace the aging adults, the future is dark for Pacific bluefin.

“If these fish don’t get help soon, we may see the last Pacific bluefin tuna sold off and the species lost for good,” said the Center’s Catherine Kilduff. “Fisheries management has failed to keep them off the path to extinction.”

Read more in our press release.

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Rare California Salamander Wins Recovery Plan

California tiger salamanderThanks to a suit by the Center, rare, beautiful California tiger salamanders in Sonoma County won a final recovery plan Monday to aid their survival — and eventual recovery and removal from the endangered species list. The plan includes a call to purchase and permanently protect about 15,000 acres of the salamander’s breeding ponds and adjacent uplands.

Although Sonoma County’s tiger salamanders have been protected as “endangered” for more than a decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hadn’t developed a recovery plan to guide management of the species — so in 2012 the Center sued, and the lawsuit’s settlement resulted in this week’s victory. The plan focuses on fighting major threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation by protecting breeding ponds and adjacent uplands; it also calls for reducing risks from non-native predators, roads, contaminants and disease.

“This plan gives us hope for one of our most imperiled salamanders,” said the Center’s Jenny Loda.

Read more in The Press Democrat.

$10,000 Reward Offered Over Wolf Pups Killed in Idaho

Gray wolf pupThe Center is pledging a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for illegally killing wolf pups after removing them from their den in north Idaho’s Kootenai County, about 15 miles outside the city of Coeur d’Alene.

The pledge, along with an undisclosed reward offered by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, comes as Idaho officials are seeking leads in their criminal investigation of the poaching, which likely occurred the week of May 16, officials said.

“Pulling young wolf pups from their den and killing them is repulsive,” said Center attorney Andrea Santarsiere. “Coming on the heels of a protected grizzly bear being killed last month, it’s a stark reminder that Idaho’s still-recovering populations of big carnivores are under constant threat from poachers.”

Fish and Game officers are asking anyone with information about the incident to call the Citizens Against Poaching Hotline, (800) 632-5999. Callers may remain anonymous.

Learn more from Oregon Public Broadcasting.

U.S. Pet Trade Annually Imports 6 Million Fish Exposed to Cyanide

Poisoned WatersA new analysis by the Center and For the Fishes finds that 6 million tropical marine fish imported into the United States each year for the pet trade have been exposed to cyanide poisoning. The findings coincide with the release of Disney/Pixar’s movie Finding Dory, which is likely to fuel a rapid increase in the sale of tropical reef fish in the United States, including royal blue tangs like Dory.

To catch fish with cyanide, crushed cyanide tablets are placed in squirt bottles filled with seawater. The dissolved cyanide is then sprayed directly onto the reefs near the targeted fish to stun the fish and make it easier to scoop them up. Sadly as much as 50 percent of all nearby fish are killed on contact, as well as nearby corals.

The Center and allies have called on the Obama administration to ban aquarium fish caught using cyanide.


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Living on Earth: The Future of Glyphosate — Listen Now

Monarch caterpillarThe future of glyphosate, more commonly known as the herbicide Roundup, is at a critical crossroad. Last year the World Health Organization’s cancer-research arm found that the chemical is probably a human carcinogen; soon afterward California’s Environmental Protection Agency announced it would list glyphosate as being known to cause cancer.

There’s also a growing grassroots movement to rein in Roundup use across the United States. Not only does it threaten human health — it puts wildlife at risk too. Studies have pointed to glyphosate as one of the leading causes of decline in monarch butterflies because it destroys milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s sole food source.

The radio program Living on Earth tackled this issue last week, interviewing the Center’s Dr. Nate Donley. Listen to the story now.

Charity Navigator Awards Four-star Rating to Center

Charity NavigatorThe Center just got a new four-star rating (the highest score possible, in case you didn’t know) from renowned nonprofit evaluator Charity Navigator. That means we’re deemed one of the most financially efficient organizations out there — probably because we funnel as much of our funding as possible, more than 83 percent, straight into saving species and lands, instead of using it up for administration, advertising and marketing gimmicks.

Yep, the precious money we receive (including from our supporters — thank you!) goes to protect polar bears, wolves and birds, not to mail out plush-toy versions of them.

We’re proud of our rating and hope you are too.

Wild & Weird: Puffballs Reproduce With Raindrops — Watch Video

PuffballsCommon store-bought mushrooms — the portobello, for instance — have open, umbrella-like caps with spore-bearing gills on the underside. Puffballs, however, produce all their spores within an enclosed, spheroidal fruiting body. For puffball spores to be released, the fruiting body must be ruptured. This is often accomplished by the impact of raindrops, which push out puffy brown clouds — millions of tiny spores — that disperse from the parent fungus into the wind and off into the wider world.

Check out our video with real-time and time-lapse imagery of puffballs fruiting and rupturing in the rain.

L.A. Times Op/Ed: Harambe the gorilla dies, meat-eaters grieve

Harambe the gorilla
Peter Singer and Karen Dawn

Last weekend at the Cincinnati Zoo, a child got curious and a gorilla got shot. The 4-year-old boy crawled past a barricade and fell into a moat surrounding the enclosure housing Harambe, whose 17th birthday had been celebrated the day before. In the 10 minutes the two spent together, Harambe showed no intention of harming the boy…

Zoo officials chose to shoot Harambe as the only way to guarantee the child’s safety.

Full Story: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-singer-dawn-harambe-death-zoo-20160605-snap-story.html


Death of wolf pack is a sobering turn for Oregon’s wolf plan

Age and injury may have fractured Oregon’s most influential wolf pack, and led to the downfall of its longtime alpha male.

By Eric Mortenson

Capital Press

Published on April 8, 2016 12:01AM

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists place a new GPS collar on OR-4, the Imnaha wolf pack’s alpha male, after darting him from a helicopter in March 2012.

Courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists place a new GPS collar on OR-4, the Imnaha wolf pack’s alpha male, after darting him from a helicopter in March 2012.

Eric Mortenson/Capital Press



They called him OR-4, and by some accounts he was Oregon’s biggest and baddest wolf, 97 pounds of cunning in his prime and the longtime alpha male of Wallowa County’s influential Imnaha Pack.

But OR-4 was nearly 10, old for a wolf in the wild. And his mate limped with a bad back leg. Accompanied by two yearlings, they apparently separated from the rest of the Imnaha Pack or were forced out. In March, they attacked and devoured or injured calves and sheep five times in private pastures.

So on March 31, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff boarded a helicopter, rose up and shot all four.

The decisive action by the department may have marked a somber turning point in the state’s work to restore wolves to the landscape. It comes on the heels of the Wildlife Commission’s decision in November to take gray wolves off the state endangered species list, and just as the commission is beginning a review of the Oregon Wolf Plan, the document that governs wolf conservation and management.

Oregon Wild, the Portland-based conservation group with long involvement in the state’s wolf issue, said shooting wolves should be an “absolute last resort.”

“While the wolf plan is out of date and under review, we shouldn’t be taking the most drastic action we can take in wolf management,” Executive Director Sean Stevens said in an email.

The commission should not have taken wolves off the state endangered species list in the first place, but it isn’t likely to revisit that decision, Stevens said.

The commission should call upon the department to not shoot more wolves until the plan review is finished, he said.

“But, more importantly, they should recognize that delisting does not mean that we should suddenly swing open the doors to more aggressive management,” Stevens said.

The ongoing wolf plan review, which may take nine months, should include science that wasn’t considered in the delisting decision, and the public’s will, he said. It also should create more clarity on non-lethal measures to deter wolves, he said.
Both sides
Publicly, at least, no one is celebrating the shootings.

The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, long on the opposite side of the argument from Oregon Wild, said ODFW’s action was authorized by Phase II of the state’s wolf plan.

“The problem needed addressed and ODFW handled it correctly,” spokeswoman Kayli Hanley said in an email. “We acknowledge that while this decision was necessary for the sake of species coexistence, it was a difficult decision.”

Michael Finley, chairman of the commission, said the department handled the situation properly.

“I feel that the department acted in total good faith,” Finley said. “They followed the letter and the spirit of the wolf plan.”

Another conservation group, Defenders of Wildlife, called the shootings “a very sad day for us” but also said it appeared Fish and Wildlife followed the wolf plan.

“The final plan is a compromise, but it is among the best of all the state plans in that it emphasizes the value of wolves on the landscape, and requires landowners to try non-lethal methods of deterring wolves before killing them is ever considered,” the group said in a prepared statement.

Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the Imnaha Pack shootings may lead to more poaching, because killing wolves decreases tolerance of them and leads to a belief that “you have to kill wolves in order to preserve them.”

Weiss agreed that coming across a calf or sheep that’s been torn apart and consumed — the skull and hide was all that was left of one calf after the OR-4 group fed on it — must be gut-wrenching for producers. But she said those animals are raised to be killed and eaten. “They don’t die any more a humane death in a slaughterhouse than being killed by a wild animal,” she said. “It’s a hard discussion to find a common place of agreement.”

She said such losses are the reason Oregon established the compensation program: to pay for livestock losses and to help with the cost of defensive measures that scare wolves away.
Rush to Phase II
Weiss said Oregon rushed to move to Phase II of its wolf conservation and management plan in the eastern part of the state, which was prompted by reaching a population goal of four breeding pairs for three consecutive years. That also prompted the Fish and Wildlife Commission to take wolves off the state endangered species list in 2015, although they remain on the federal endangered list in the Western two-thirds of the state.

Like others, Weiss believes the state should have held off on such changes until it finished the mandated review of the wolf plan.

“Under Phase I, Oregon was the state we could all point to” for successfully managing wolves, Weiss said. “I would hope they look at what parts of the wolf plan are working, and look at the parts that are not working.”

Politics and policy aside, the shooting of OR-4 gave people pause. He was a bigger-than-life character; he’d evaded a previous state kill order and had to be re-collared a couple times as he somehow shook off the state’s effort to track him.
Pack history
OR-4’s Imnaha Pack was the state’s second oldest, designated in 2009, and it produced generations of successful dispersers. OR-4’s many progeny included Oregon’s best-known wanderer, OR-7, who left the Imnaha Pack in 2011 and zig-zagged his way southwest into California before settling in the Southern Oregon Cascades.

OR-25, which killed a calf in Klamath County and now is in Northern California, dispersed from the Imnaha Pack. The alpha female of the Shasta Pack, California’s first, is from the Imnaha Pack as well.

Rob Klavins, who lives in Wallowa County and is Oregon Wild’s field representative in the area, ran across OR-4’s tracks a couple times and saw him once.

Despite his fearsome reputation, the wolf tucked his tail between his legs, ran behind a nearby tree and barked at Klavins and his hiking group until they left.

“Killing animals four or five times your size is a tough way to make a living,” Klavins said. “Some people appreciate OR-4 as a symbol of the tenacity of wolves, even a lot of folks who dislike wolves have sort of a begrudging respect for him.”

Wolf population in Washington continues to grow

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Washington state’s wolf population continued to grow last year and added at least four new packs, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) annual survey. By the end of 2015, the state was home to at least 90 wolves, 18 packs, and eight breeding pairs.

The recently completed survey shows the minimum number of wolves grew by 32 percent last year, despite the deaths of at least seven wolves from various causes. Since 2008, when WDFW documented just one pack and five wolves, the population has increased by an average of 36 percent per year.

“Wolf populations in Washington are steadily increasing, just as we’ve seen in the upper Midwest and Rocky Mountain states,” said WDFW Director Jim Unsworth. “This increase – and the wolves’ concentration in northeast Washington – underscores the importance of collaboration between our department, livestock producers, and local residents to prevent conflict between wolves and domestic animals.”

Donny Martorello, WDFW wolf policy lead, said the new Beaver Creek, Loup Loup, Skookum, and Stranger packs were confirmed in Ferry, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, and Stevens counties, respectively.

However, researchers found no evidence of the previously documented Wenatchee Pack, and the Diamond Pack shifted its activity to Idaho and is no longer included in Washington state totals.

Martorello said the minimum number of breeding pairs in Washington increased from five to eight – the first increase since 2011.

WDFW conducted the research using aerial surveys, remote cameras, wolf tracks, and signals from 22 radio-collared wolves from 13 different packs. Twelve wolves were fitted with radio collars during the year, while one pup was marked and released without a collar due to its small size.

Despite their growing numbers, wolves were involved in fewer conflicts with livestock than in 2014. Martorello said the department determined wolves from four packs were responsible for killing a total of seven cattle and injuring one guard dog.

Three of the seven wolves that died in 2015 were killed legally by hunters on the reservation of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, which authorized the harvest up to six wolves per year by tribal members. The four other deaths included one wolf killed in a collision with a vehicle, one shot in self-defense by a property owner, and one that died during an attempt to capture it. One wolf’s cause of death is unknown.

Unsworth said WDFW took several steps in 2015 to expand public involvement in wolf conservation and management. He said the most important actions were doubling the size of the department’s Wolf Advisory Group to 18 members, and initiating a “conflict transformation” process to improve working relationships among the members and the groups they represent and the department.

Martorello said WDFW will continue to emphasize the importance of preventive actions to minimize wolf attacks on livestock and domestic animals. For example, WDFW wildlife conflict specialists are available to work with residents of communities where wolves are present.

WDFW has also adopted a “range rider” program to provide an increased human presence in grazing areas. WDFW continues to offer cost-sharing agreements for ranchers through a program designed to help them reduce their expenses for preventive measures.

Gray wolves, all but eliminated from western states in the last century, are protected under Washington law throughout the state and under federal law in the western two-thirds of the state.

Because of the difficulty of confirming the presence of every single wolf, survey results are expressed in terms of the minimum number of individuals, packs, and breeding pairs. The state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan defines a pack as two or more wolves traveling together in winter and a successful breeding pair as an adult male and female with at least two pups that survive to the end of the calendar year.

Under the state management plan, wolves can be removed from the state endangered species list once 15 successful breeding pairs are documented for three consecutive years among the three designated wolf-recovery regions.

WDFW’s complete wolf survey for 2015 will be available by the end of March on the department’s website: (http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/).