‘Extreme Conservation’ in the Most Hostile Places on Earth

Joel Berger dresses up in a bear suit to see how muskoxen in the Arctic will react, just one of the ways he’s an “extreme conservationist.”

Conserving wildlife at the extreme edges of the natural world, whether in the Arctic, Tibet, or Mongolia, presents huge challenges, from potholed roads (or no roads) to hypothermia, bear attacks, and even arrest. In Extreme Conservation, Joel Berger, professor of conservation biology at Colorado State University and scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, takes us on a journey to some of the most remote places on the planet, and introduces us to some of its rarest animals.

When National Geographic caught up with him at his home in Fort Collins, Colorado, he described how he was arrested in Russia, how climate change is bringing more and more species together in new and unpredictable ways, and why man’s best friend is increasingly a menace to wildlife.

Your work focuses on animals living in some of the most inhospitable places on earth. Introduce us to some of these creatures and tell us what draws you to these places. Are you a masochist, or what?

[Laughs] Good question, Simon! I do work in places that are a little bit off the radar. A lot of people know about elephants, say, in East Africa but people don’t know much about a species that lived with woolly mammoth called muskoxen. They’re an Arctic-only species, though they are not an ox and they don’t make musk. They’re more of a goat-antelope. They live in the cold, wind-swept tundra, from Greenland across Northern Canada into Arctic Alaska, and now a little bit into the Siberian Arctic.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS

 

As we know, the world is warming. Most people believe that, even if the U.S. administration at the highest levels does not. This creates a lot of issues for cold-adapted species because they’re not used to warm weather. What happens when it rains rather than snows in the middle of winter and then everything freezes? The work I’m doing with my colleagues is both at the top of the world and at high elevations, in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau. It is dealing with animals that are having problems with heat because as things warm it changes precipitation, ice, and snowfall. And these are very recent changes for these little-known, cold-adapted animals.

One of the odder things your work in the Arctic involved was dressing up as a bear and a caribou. What was that all about?

[Laughs] Most of my work has been in Arctic Alaska and over in eastern Arctic Russia. As the ice recedes, polar bears are ending up on islands and we’re trying to figure out how muskoxen are going to do with this potential predator on land. The best way as a scientist to get information is through experiments. In my case, my lab is the tundra. So I dress up as a bear and approach these groups of muskoxen to try and understand whether they’re recognizing bears. Can they tell a white bear is a polar bear versus a grizzly bear?

Occasionally, it gets dangerous. Male muskoxen are 800 pounds or so, with hooked horns, a bit like a Cape buffalo. I’m usually down on all fours with my fake cape and fake bear head. One time I was charged and I had to get rid of them fast. The fake head went flying up in the air, and the cape flew off in the other direction. Fortunately, the charging muskox got very confused as this biped stood up. All of a sudden, I was no longer a bear, but a screaming human!

Do you travel with your bear suit?

Oh, yeah, I do travel with the bear suit. [chortles] I get on an airplane and put down the fake head right next to me on the seat. The people sitting next door are either horrified or laughing. They’re not quite sure what to think! I’m as straight as can be but sometimes I break up on it, too. [laughs]

One of the surprising developments in the Arctic is the convergence of brown and polar bears. Tell us about so-called “pizzlies” and what they reveal about the changing climate.

Scientists have discovered that at least 10 different hybrid bears have been confirmed for DNA, which means we’re getting mating between brown and polar bears. Because of a warming Arctic, we’re bringing these species together. We now have grizzlies on islands in the Canadian Arctic where they had not appeared before, and we’ve got more polar bears on land scavenging whales and grizzlies scavenging those same whales. We don’t know what the outcomes are going to be. But we do know that we’ve got changing systems because of changing ice in the Arctic. And this has implications not only for the wildlife but also for the humans who subsist on the wildlife.

According to the proverb, dogs are man’s best friends. But they’re not wildlife’s best friends, are they? Talk us through some of the issues in Bhutan and elsewhere.

Of maybe 700 million dogs in the world, close to 50 percent of them are free-roaming in one sense or another. That doesn’t mean they’re totally feral but in places like Bhutan, Chile, and parts of Patagonia we’ve got dogs that are not under much control. Free-roaming dogs have been detected causing havoc in wide parts of the Himalayas and Mongolia, where they’re attacking different endangered species, from snow leopards to chiru, an antelope in Tibet that was the mascot for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There are also attacks on takin, the national mammal of Bhutan, and other species in Central Asia. We don’t see this in the West so much, where dogs are usually under control. But in many other parts of the world dogs are causing havoc to wildlife.

Like many readers, I suspect, the takin is new to me. Introduce us to this strange animal, and its equally unusual home in the valley of Tsharijathang, in Bhutan.

Takin have been described as part wildebeest, part moose, and part pig. It’s a very unusual species that is rumoured to have been the source for the legend of the Golden Fleece. It’s a large animal, up to about 800 pounds, with beautiful fur, and is part of the goat-antelope group. They occur on cliffs and steep slopes in mountainous areas in China, Bhutan, and Burma. They are secretive, living in forests down low, where they’re a prey of tigers, or up high the young can be the prey of snow leopards. We know very little about them because of the deep forest habitat they occur in. Only in summer, when they migrate very high, do they emerge from the forests, and that’s when we get the best glimpse of them.

When I started my field work with some Bhutanese colleagues they told me it’s a five-day hike to get into the area, with three 17,000-foot passes. I was in my early 60s but I was like, “OK, I’m game, let’s do it!” It was a challenging way to enter some of these pristine landscapes where herders still raise domestic yaks and some horses. Snow leopards also occur in the system, so it’s a fascinating area few people ever see. And, yes, there are takin.

It’ll soon be time to get out our cashmere sweaters again. But according to you we may also be contributing to the extinction of many animals in Central Asia, including the iconic snow leopard. Unravel the threads for us.

Ninety percent of the world’s cashmere comes from two countries: Mongolia and China. The people on the land, the herders, rightfully want to do what the rest of us want, and have a sustainable economy and support their families. But as they increase the number of goats that produce the world’s high-quality cashmere, the goats nibble everything. As a result, a half-dozen endangered species are not having access to the food they need, species like saiga, which is a very odd antelope with a dangling proboscis. Other species that are impacted include Przewalski horseskhulan, an endangered desert ass in the Gobi, and blue sheep, which are not endangered but are major prey of snow leopards. And as the herders are incentivized to produce more and more goats, the situation becomes increasingly more dire for species on the land. Nobody wants people to get impacted, so the difficulty is finding the right type of solutions that can help people on the land but still benefit the species that occur there.

Wrangel Island, in the Russian Arctic, has to be one of the least-visited places on Earth. Put us on the map and explain why you call it a post-apocalyptic landscape.

It can be accessed only by boat or helicopter. But I could not get from my sites in Alaska to Wrangel. I had to fly to Moscow, go nine times zones east, land at a port 240 miles from Wrangel, and wait for a Russian helicopter to drop me in.

I call it post-apocalyptic because not only are there polar bears, but wolves have gotten there on their own, though the nearest point on land is 80 miles away. Caribou have been brought in and reindeer, which have gone feral. Wolverines have also made it from the Siberian coastline, traversing ice and frozen seas to get there. Now you’ve got a mixture going on between hybrid dogs that now look like wolves, or wolves that look like hybrid dogs. Muskoxen were also brought over at the request of the Russian Government, when we had a good relationship with them.

We still participate with Russian scientists, despite some of the acrimony at political levels. Conservation is the province of everybody. And it’s a marvellous place to work! It’s got a lot of wildlife and may be the forerunner of what the world is going to look like as different assemblages of species come together.

You’ve done 33 expeditions, including 19 to the Arctic, seven in Mongolia and seven in Tibet and the Himalayas. Talk us through some of the highs and lows of those journeys.

[Laughs] A major high would be coming across muskoxen and polar bear tracks on one of those bluebird days when it might be 20 degrees Fahrenheit below zero, but no wind, and sparkling ice. One of the lows was flying from Moscow and landing in a Siberian town called Pevek. Russian Security Border Patrol folks came on, I’m the only Americanski on the plane, and I am escorted off, my passport confiscated, and taken to the police station. Everything is being done in Russian, a language I am unfamiliar with, and the only words that I understand are C-I-A. [laughs]

In Mongolia, I ended up in the emergency room because my legs were going into spasms and for three days I wasn’t able to hold any food. But one kind of sucks it up. There are many other scientists and explorers who go out there and do similar things. But we do realize that there are some trade-offs.

At the end of the book, you write, “In the absence of commitment on both global and local scales, the iconic wildlife of the world’s highest mountains and greatest steppes will cease to persist.” Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future?

There are a lot of reasons to be pessimistic but if that’s the view we choose to take there are going to be no chances. On a personal level, I’m optimistic! There are a lot of countries investing in conservation. Russia has stepped up with 191 islands in the Arctic that are protected as of 2016. Places in Western China the size of California have been linked together for conservation. Chile is planning to link 10 of their national parks. In the U.S., the number of people per year that go to national parks and zoos eclipses all professional baseball, football, and basketball combined. People care about nature and wildlife, and that’s why I am optimistic.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Seven new rules every Washington hunter should know this fall

 

Thhttp://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/sep/20/seven-new-rules-every-washington-hunter-should-kno/u., Sept. 20, 2018, 5 a.m.

Paul Degel, 39, fires his 54-caliber Leman Trade Rifle, a common flintlock from the early 1800s, in early Oct., 2005, near his home west of Sheridan, Montana. Degel killed his first deer with a muzzleloader at age 14 and was hooked. Twenty-five years, nearly a dozen elk and more than two dozen deer taken with a flintlock later, Degel said his passion for the only type of weapon he hunts big game with has only grown. (NICK GEVOCK / AP)
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New rules. New regulations. A new fall hunting season.

Each year the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife examines its hunting rules and regulations and makes changes. Making sense of those changes can be hard. We’re here to help. Below are seven important changes every hunter should know. Changes include increased deer opportunities in Northeast Washington, new black powder primer options, more fall turkey opportunities (and regulations) and new requirements for black bear hunters.

Turkey hunters must wear orange

Turkey hunters must now wear hunter orange while hunting during a modern deer or elk firearm season.

In the past, turkey season did not overlap with the modern firearm season. An extended turkey season now means there is considerable overlap. With all other species, hunters must already wear orange when hunting during a modern firearm season.

Not including turkey hunters on that list was an oversight, said Kevin Robinette, WDFW regional wildlife manager in Spokane

Of the hunters who commented on this change, 37 supported it while 21 opposed. Those who opposed worried that the bright color would make it harder to successfully hunt the keen-sighted birds.

“When it comes to turkey hunting, if you sit still, if you’re doing what you’re supposed to do as a turkey hunter, it shouldn’t matter,” said Matt Mimnaugh, a board member of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council and the chairman of the big game committee. “And on the bright side of that very small inconvenience, we are now able to hunt turkeys all fall.”

Turkey season extended

Which brings us to the next change. The fall turkey season now runs Sept. 1 through Dec. 31, Robinette said. That’s significantly longer than in the past, when the season ran from Sept. 23 to Oct. 31.

The extended season is partially in response to continued conflicts between turkeys and farmers and an ever-increasing population, Robinette said.

“This will be an opportunity for sport hunters to actually help out with that problem,” he said.

Antlerless deer opportunities in NE Washington

Archers and black powder hunters now have early- and late-season opportunities to hunt antlerless deer in Game Management Units 101 through 121 (Northeast Washington), Robinette said.

Although it’s too late to apply this fall, modern rifle hunters are now able to apply for an antlerless deer tag.

“That’s something we haven’t had in a long time,” he said.

Montana, Mississippi added to list of CWD-positive states

In the ongoing effort to halt the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, the WDFW has banned the importation and retention of “specific parts of dead nonresident wildlife that could contain CWD” from Montana and Mississippi.

Specifically, hunters may only bring meat that has been deboned, skulls and antlers from which all soft tissue has been removed, and hides or capes without heads attached.

The rule change comes on the heels of Montana confirming the existence of the deadly neurological disease in 2017. WDFW received 20 comments supporting the change. Five hunters opposed the change.

“I think any restrictions they put on that (CWD) is a good thing,” Mimnaugh said. “We obviously don’t want to see that spreading into our state.”

Modern primers allowed on muzzle-loaders

More modern primers will be allowed during black-powder season. The WDFW Commission requested that the agency survey hunters on the proposal. The majority of hunters who responded favored the change.

Hunters will now be allowed to use primers for modern centerfire cartridges during muzzle-loader season. Those primers are more moisture-resistant, Mimnaugh said. Although some purists believe a more modern primer goes against the spirit of a primitive hunt, Mimnaugh doesn’t see it that way and believes it could help hunters make cleaner, more ethical kills.

He imagines a situation in which a hunter shoots, but does not kill, an animal. With a traditional black-powder primer, it may not be possible for the hunter to get another shot off and cleanly finish the kill if it’s raining or damp out.

“I don’t think it’s giving them an unfair advantage,” he said.

Of those hunters surveyed, 148 supported the proposal, 77 opposed it and five were neutral.

Grizzly bear ID test required

Starting in 2018, black bear hunters will need to take an online grizzly bear identification test if they want to hunt in Game Management Units known to have grizzly bears.

Idaho and Montana require black-bear hunters to take the short test, Robinette said.

After successfully taking the test, hunters must print out a card certifying their completion and carry the card during their hunts.

Although some might grumble at the increased regulation, Mimnaugh said the new rule is nothing but good.

“I fully support that,” he said. “Any time you’re given an opportunity to educate yourself, and someone is willing to give you that information and make you a better hunter, why not do that?”

Drones added to list of prohibited aircraft

WDFW added drones to the list of aircraft that hunters are not allowed to use during a hunt. Using aircraft, boats or other vehicles to assist in a hunt is already prohibited under Washington’s administrative code.

Drones are now added to that list. WDFW may still authorize certain individuals or organizations to use drones.

Eighty-two hunters supported the change in written comments, while 14 opposed it.

Hunter gets death threats after posting picture of grizzly bear he just killed

Rob WaughMonday 17 Sep 2018 11:48 am Share this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messenger A hunter has received death threats after posting images where he posed with a dead grizzly bear he had just killed. Former professional hockey player Tim Brent, 34, posted the images after killing the bear in Yukon, Canada. Brent said, ‘Alright folks, here is my Mountain Grizzly! We put an awesome stalk on him but he spotted us at about 75 yards. ‘Instead of taking off he turned and came right at us. It was very easy to tell this bear owned the valley we were hunting in and wasn’t scared of anything!’ 999 operator describes harrowing 40 minute call with mother she couldn’t save in Grenfell In another photo, Brent poses holding up the dead animal’s paw saying, ‘Did you know on average a single Grizzly eats around 40 Moose and Caribou calves during each calving season?’ The posts provoked a flood of anger and revulsion when he shared them on Instagram – with some commenters posting death threats. Some posters said they hoped he would be mauled to death by a bear – and one suggested they would call in a ‘Mexican cartel’ to kill him. In response, a defiant Brent posted images of his fridge filled with meat from animals he has killed. Share this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messenger

 

Read more: https://metro.co.uk/2018/09/17/hunter-gets-death-threats-after-posting-picture-of-grizzly-bear-he-just-killed-7952015/?ito=cbshare

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A former Canadian pro-hockey player has come under fire after tweeting about hunting and killing a grizzly bear earlier this week.

Posting on Twitter a photo of himself posing with the bear, 34-year-old Tim Brent said they’d ‘put an awesome stalk on him’.

Explaining that the animal had spotted them at about 75 yards, he added: “Instead of taking off he turned and came right at us. It was very easy to tell this boar owned the valley we were hunting in and wasn’t scared of anything!”

Brent, who used to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs in Canada’s National Hockey League, has since also posted photos of ‘his’ Yukon moose, which he said ‘absolutely humbled’ him.

Brent has since received backlash for both his hunting habits and openly boasting about them. His tweet where he poses with the dead bear has racked up 20,000 comments.

It’s even caught the attention of several big names, including comedian Ricky Gervais, who regularly speaks out about animal rights. He tweeted: “I bet killing this beautiful bear put ‘an awesome stalk’ on Tim too.”

Sherlock actor Amanda Abbington also condemned Brent’s actions – and was clearly not holding back, writing: “You are a c***. A stupid, inbred, unfeeling piece of s*** c***.”

Others said the photo and caption were ‘disgusting’, ‘horrible’ and ‘nauseating’.

Brent later tweeted to say he’d even received death threats, writing: “These are the types of messages I am getting on twitter in response to my moose and bear hunts.

“I would love to know what constitutes a threat or abuse for Twitter? This is what we are up against as Hunters.”

Featured Image Credit: Twitter/Tim Brent

Why These Grizzly-Loving Women Entered a Lottery to Hunt Grizzlies

Inside the environmental protest sweeping Wyoming.

Grizzly bear 399 and three of her cubs.
Grizzly bear 399 and three of her cubs. COURTESY THOMAS D. MANGELSEN

ON THE MORNING OF THURSDAY, July 26, around 7,000 people logged in to the website of the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, their fingers crossed. All had entered a lottery that would allow them to hunt a grizzly bear in the continental United States for the first time in decades.

One of these people was Kelly Mayor—a 56-year-old resident of Jackson, Wyoming. She had entered the lottery at the very last minute, just hours before it closed, and didn’t think to check the results until she got a reminder email. When she clicked through, she was greeted by a screen that said “#2.” She’d won the second spot in the hunt. “I was dumbfounded,” she says.

Mayor doesn’t actually want to kill a grizzly. She, like thousands of others across the country, entered the bear tag lottery as an act of protest. All these people are part of “Shoot ‘Em With a Camera, Not a Gun,” a movement spearheaded by a group of Wyoming women who are hoping to change how their state thinks about wildlife management—and maybe save some grizzlies in the process.

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park.
A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK/PUBLIC DOMAIN

Huge and shaggy-coated, the grizzly bear is an icon of the American west. About 700 of them live in and around Yellowstone National Park, the beneficiaries of conservation efforts that have brought their numbers up fivefold since the mid-1970s, when they were first added to the endangered species list and began receiving federal protection. Last summer, Yellowstone-area grizzlies were removed from the list, and management of the bears was turned over to the states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.

Montana decided not to have a hunt this year, and Idaho is raffling off a single license. But this past spring, the Wyoming Game & Fish Commission—the policy arm of the Game & Fish Department—voted unanimously to allow up to 22 bears to be killed. Commissioners argue that hunting a limited number of bears will reduce human-wildlife conflict, and that provisions in place—including mandatory training for tag winners and a prohibition on killing female bears with dependent young—will prevent the hunt from affecting the species’s recovery.

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Others disagree with the decision. The American Society of Mammalogists has called the delisting “premature,” pointing out that although their population numbers have gone up, grizzlies are still not prevalent enough to guarantee a robust and genetically diverse population. Thanks to a campaign from the Center for Biological Diversity, several billboards in the West now depict a grizzly with the legend “I am not a trophy.”

Nonconsumptive advocates, photographing grizzlies outside Yellowstone.
Nonconsumptive advocates, photographing grizzlies outside Yellowstone. JAMES ST. JOHN/CC BY 2.0

One of the hunt’s opponents is Deidre Bainbridge, a lawyer who also lives in Jackson. Bainbridge is passionate about wildlife, and for years, she and others have been advocating for a category of nature enthusiast she calls “the non-consumptive advocate.” As opposed to a hunter, fisher, or trapper, Bainbridge explains, a non-consumptive advocate “cares about wildlife simply because it’s there”—although people may want to see it, or take a picture, they aren’t looking to kill it.

Because the Game & Fish department is funded by hunting and fishing licenses, along with firearm, ammunition, and fishing tackle sales, “that kind of person doesn’t have a voice” in management decisions, she says. (Game and Fish spokesman Renny MacKay says that the department “takes in significant amounts of public comment” through meetings and online, and that there are “definitely some ways that we [accounted for] some perspectives from people who aren’t hunters,” including prohibiting hunting within a quarter mile of a road.)

But what if non-consumptive advocates started buying hunting licenses, too? Late this spring, after a Game & Fish meeting she found particularly frustrating, Bainbridge got together with Lisa Robertson—the founder of Wyoming Untrapped, a local trapping reform advocacy group—and started combing through regulations for the grizzly hunt. “I couldn’t see where [we would be] interfering with a lawful hunt by buying a tag,” Bainbridge says. After all, she points out, people with hunting tags often choose not to pull the trigger, for all kinds of reasons. “We decided to do it.”

The more of them who entered the lottery, they figured, the better their odds of actually winning. Bainbridge and Robertson put their heads together with a few other concerned local women, each of whom brought their own particular skills: one is a well-connected philanthropist, one is a film producer with a lot of high-profile contacts, and one is an animal rights activist with a long history in the community.

The five founders of Shoot 'Em With a Camera—from left, Judy Hofflund, Deidre Bainbridge, Heather Mycoskie, Lisa Robertson, and Ann Smith.
The five founders of Shoot ‘Em With a Camera—from left, Judy Hofflund, Deidre Bainbridge, Heather Mycoskie, Lisa Robertson, and Ann Smith. COURTESY DEIDRE BAINBRIDGE

Together, they began spreading the word, via a Facebook group and an ad in a local paper. They also started a GoFundMe campaign, so that if anyone actually did win a tag, the group could cover the associated costs, which begin at $600 for a Wyoming resident and $6,000 for an out-of-stater. “I would never have put in for a tag if I didn’t know that it could be reimbursed,” says Mayor, who found the campaign when a friend shared it on Facebook. She joined due to what she calls a “visceral” opposition to hunting animals just for sport. “I’m not opposed to hunting—my husband hunts, and we usually have game meat in the freezer,” he says. “But trophy hunting has always just hit me at my core.”

Many others felt similarly. “We had momentum within 48 hours,” Bainbridge says. “Women all over the country got involved.” It drew some big names: Jane Goodall applied for a grizzly tag, as did legendary elephant conservationist Cynthia Moss. As of press time, the GoFundMe has raised over $40,000, and Robertson told theAssociated Press that of the 7,000 or so people who entered the lottery, at least 1,000 were “Shoot ‘Em With a Camera” participants.

Some of these entrants, like Bainbridge, are playing the long game, intending that this will help Wyoming photographers and sightseers have a voice in wildlife management. “Others did it to simply stop the [gun-based] hunt for 10 days,” Bainbridge says—the length of time each tag-holder can spend in the field before they have to cede their ground to the next person. (The group focused their efforts on the lottery for Areas 1-6, where up to 10 grizzlies can be killed over the course of 60 days.)

Kelly Mayor looks out over Wyoming grizzly territory, where she may soon spend ten days.
Kelly Mayor looks out over Wyoming grizzly territory, where she may soon spend ten days. LISA ROBERTSON

In late July, the group learned that they had successfully won two tags, out of the 10 available. Mayor got #2, and the other, #8, went to Thomas Mangelsen—a wildlife photographer well-known for his images of Grizzly Bear 399, who is herself famous for mothering many cubs. “It’s almost uncanny,” says Bainbridge. “We couldn’t have planned it [this way].” If it takes the other winners more than a few days each to complete their hunts, it might be possible to run out the clock and save some bears.

In general, Shoot ‘Em With a Camera participants would prefer the hunt didn’t happen at all. On August 30, there will be a hearing in Missoula, Montana, during which opponents of the grizzly bear’s new status will try to get it returned to the endangered species list. “Our bigger quest is to prevent the trophy hunting in Wyoming [altogether], because we don’t believe that the delisting is appropriate at this time,” says Bainbridge.

But if it comes down to it, Mayor is ready to go. When she first learned she had won, she figured she would sit the actual “hunt” out. “I thought … I’d pay the tag money and walk away,” she says. But getting to know the Shoot ‘Em With a Camera crew has changed her mind. “The ladies have made it into such an amazing thing,” Mayor says. They’re going to send videographers and photographers with her, and take turns spending time out there themselves. If the hunt goes through, and her number gets called, she says, “I plan on being up there for 10 days.”

She’s looking forward to it. “I’m sort of an armchair activist,” she says. “I don’t really speak up about issues, but I definitely have feelings about things like this. This is really different for me, to have a voice.”

Amendment Defunding Grizzly Transportation To Washington Passes House

This undated file photo provided by the National Park Service shows a grizzly bear walking along a ridge in Montana.

This undated file photo provided by the National Park Service shows a grizzly bear walking along a ridge in Montana.

National Park Service

An amendment to prevent the relocation of grizzly bears to Washington’s North Cascades has passed the U.S. House. The move is opposed by conservation groups, which say more grizzly bears are needed in the state.The amendment, proposed by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., would deny funding for the U.S. Department of Interior to transport grizzly bears into Washington. Newhouse said this amendment was important to his constituents who are concerned about the possibility of another predator so close to home.

“We saw that (Interior) was determined to move forward, regardless of what the opinions of the people who would be most impacted,” Newhouse said.

Newhouse said he felt it was necessary to “take positive action” to make sure that the Interior Department was not able to bring in grizzly bears.

“I’m hearing from an awful lot of people that are expressing grave concerns about having grizzly bears literally in their backyards,” Newhouse said.

To that end, he said he’s working with officials in the Interior to schedule more public comment opportunities in the Okanogan area. These would be in addition to earlier public comment periods around the state that focused on options the federal government could take to reintroduce grizzlies to the North Cascades.

There are fewer than 10 grizzly bears in Washington’s North Cascades. Biologists say if something isn’t done now, grizzlies will soon be gone from the area. They say grizzlies are important to the area’s ecosystem.

Records from the Hudson’s Bay Company indicate there were once thousands of grizzlies in the state. In the mid-1800s, records indicate trappers traded nearly 4,000 grizzly hides through forts in the area — although all of those pelts may not have come from the North Cascades. Biologists say there was a healthy population of grizzlies at one time. The bears were wiped out from fur trading, hunting and habitat fragmentation.

The federal government is in the middle of drafting options for restoring grizzly bears to the North Cascades. The controversial plans range from doing nothing to transporting varying numbers of bears from areas like Canada and Montana.

“(The North Cascades) is the only place outside the Northern Rockies that wildlife officials have said is wild enough for grizzly bear restoration in the Lower 48 — the only place,” said Chase Gunnell, spokesman for Conservation Northwest. “If we’re going to have grizzly bears into the future, we can’t just have them around Yellowstone or Glacier National Park. We need to diversify the population. And the Cascades are it.”

Gunnell said this amendment wouldn’t necessarily prevent the federal government from continuing to study the various options for grizzlies in the North Cascades — it would only prevent funding to the Interior Department for transporting grizzlies.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaking on March 23, 2018, about the restarted re-introduction process for grizzly bears in Washington’s North Cascades. Looking on is Karen Taylor Goodrich, the superintendent of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaking on March 23, 2018, about the restarted re-introduction process for grizzly bears in Washington’s North Cascades. Looking on is Karen Taylor Goodrich, the superintendent of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex.

Eilís O’Neill/KUOW/EarthFix

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said during a surprise visit to Washington that he was “in support of the great bear” and moving forward with a careful process to decide what to do with grizzlies here.About that process, Zinke said, “I’m not going to make a prejudgment, but I can tell you the winds are very favorable,” Zinke said.

Gunnell said Newhouse’s amendment is skirting an open, public process, which is expected to present a draft decision by the end of this year. Gunnell said he’s concerned about the precedent this would set, with Congress members “pulling on the purse strings” of wildlife officials.

“Our Fish and Wildlife Service, National Parks Service and other wildlife professionals are the ones best suited to address endangered species issues,” Gunnell said.

The bill includes funding for the U.S. Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency and Forest Service. It also includes measures to:

– Remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in the Lower 48 by 2019;
– Fund wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $3.9 billion, with an additional $500 million for Forest Service fire suppression operations. It also includes $655 million for hazardous fuels management;
– Urge the Forest Service to find funding for upgrades to facilities at the North Cascades Smokejumper Base in Winthrop;
– And encourage the Forest Service to better monitor grazing permits near riparian streams that could affect threatened or endangered species.

The Interior Department funding bill now heads to the U.S. Senate.

Fierce critic of Wyoming grizzly bear hunt scores license

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mindless Behavior, Sadistic Tactics Planned Against Alaska Wildlife

Here are C.A.S.H.’s Comments Re the proposed anti-animal tactics to be undertaken in Alaskan National Monuments:

As a wildlife photographer I’ve spent the better part of a decade in Alaska, photographing bears and wolves in addition to moose, Dall’s sheep and caribou in numerous locations throughout the region. Most of what I saw was in the State’s National Parks—Glacier Bay, Katmai and Denali. One thing that struck me right off was how comparatively little wildlife I came acrossin National Monuments such as Wrangle Saint Elias. Clearly, hunting and trapping had taken their toll in the unprotected lands and monuments that, unlike the parks, allowed wildlife “harvesting.”

But even if I wasn’t now president of the group C.A.S.H., the Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting, I’d be sickened, outraged and appalled by the new federal proposals to allow abusive treatment of some ofthe world’s most intelligent and charismatic animals who reside in our Alaskan national monuments. Among the shockingly sadistic tactics are such mindless behaviors as murdering bear cubs and wolf pups in their dens, targeting of animals like swimming caribou from boats and using bait to lure animals like bears in for the kill.

The Trump Administration, in their rush to undo any protections wildlife may have been afforded under the Obama Administration, must think they’ll score points with their friends in the NRA or the Safari Club. But their boss doesn’t need anything else to make him look bad at this point in his career—his sons are already doing a bang-up job at that.

Jim Robertson

President, Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting.

Comment on the new rules here: https://www.regulations.gov/searchResults?rpp=25&po=0&s=1024-AE38&fp=true&ns=true

Grizzly committee to vote on delisting strategy for northwest Montana bears

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National Elk Refuge grizzly bears
A grizzly bear sow and cubs roam the National Elk Refuge south of Grand Teton National Park. Grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have been removed from federal Endangered Species Act protection and handed over to state wildlife agency management in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee meets in Polson, Montana this week to consider last steps toward removing Montana’s largest population of grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List.

IGBC members meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to possibly adopt the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem conservation strategy, the blueprint directing how state wildlife agencies would manage grizzlies if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delists them.

FWS has already removed about 700 grizzly bears in the three-state area known as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the endangered list. Wyoming Game and Fish Department has proposed selling hunting licenses for at least 22 grizzlies this fall. Idaho has a quota of one male grizzly for hunting. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks commissioners opted to skip a grizzly hunt in 2018 over concerns that pending lawsuits against the delisting might block a fall hunt.

On Friday Idaho Fish and Game Dept. announced its system for a grizzly hunting lottery, with applications accepted between June 15 and July 15. The drawing is limited to Idaho residents with a valid state hunting license who must pay a nonrefundable $16.75 application fee and prepay the tag fee of at least $166.75. Unsuccessful applicants will get their tag fees refunded.

About 1,000 grizzlies live in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which spreads along the Rocky Mountains from the Canadian border with Glacier National Park south almost to Missoula. They are considered geographically and genetically distinct from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem bears.

If the IGBC members approve the conservation strategy on this week, it may form the basis of the federal delisting rule set to be published later in 2018.

“It essentially commits the agencies to follow the spirit of the conservation strategy,” said IGBC spokesman Dillon Tabish. “This isn’t the end of the public opportunity to comment. Any actions they (the participating agencies) would have to take must follow public process.”

FWS Grizzly Recovery Coordinator Hillary Cooley said the final delisting rule remained a ways off.

“We’ve got an initial draft, but it has a lot of review to go through,” Cooley said on Friday. “We don’t have a specific date right now, other than by the end of 2018.”

Cooley explained that while the IGBC executive committee’s endorsement is important to the federal rule-making process, the individual agencies, such as the National Park Service, state wildlife managers and Blackfeet and Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal governments, sign separately.

The federal delisting rule sets mortality limits for how many bears may die before Endangered Species Act protections might be re-imposed. The conservation strategy guides local wildlife managers in how to avoid that situation.

“If a state or tribe decides to hunt at some time, that’s their business,” Cooley said. “What matters to us is they stay within the mortality limits, no matter what the cause.”

The strategy has received extensive criticism of its methods for measuring bear population trends, habitat quality and allowance of hunting opportunities. Mike Bader, an advocate for keeping grizzlies under ESA protection, said the new strategy appeared legally vulnerable.

“They’re just rushing this through as fast as they can,” Bader said on Friday. “I don’t think they’ve dotted the i’s or crossed the t’s on what the grizzly bear needs.”

Bader noted that seven NCDE grizzlies have died in the past few weeks, including four that were hit by vehicles on roadways. He said the strategy made overly optimistic assumptions about how fast grizzly numbers are growing, which could prove disastrous if conditions change unexpectedly.

A federal judge in Missoula has scheduled an August 31 hearing on challenges to the Greater Yellowstone grizzly delisting. Wyoming’s proposed grizzly hunting season starts right after that, and could be derailed if the judge rules to keep the bear federally protected or requires more time for review.

One issue the lawsuit raises is whether FWS can remove protection from some distinct population segments of bears (such as the Greater Yellowstone) without dooming recovery in smaller areas such as the Cabinet-Yaak or North Cascades ecosystems. A similar lawsuit involving delisting gray wolves around the Western Great Lakes ordered FWS to take a much harder look at how removing protections from one population segment might affect the others.

Tabish said the final 144-page strategy has an appendix with about 60 pages of responses to past public comments. Tuesday’s meeting will further discuss how the NCDE and Yellowstone ecosystem bear populations might link in the future.

The executive committee plans to tour the National Bison Range and some other parts of the Mission Valley affected by grizzly activity on Wednesday.

Three Hunting Guides Arraigned in Nome

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Eric Gorski.

HUNTING GUIDE BRIAN LEE SIMPSON, 56, was arraigned in the Nome courthouse on Monday. Simpson was charged with five misdemeanor violations of Alaska hunting laws, including illegal guiding on private land.

Last Friday, two of Simpson’s employees were also arraigned. Tyler Weyiouanna, 25,  was charged with aiding in the violation of hunting regulations and using a motor vehicle to harass game. Matthew Iyatunguk, 23, was charged with one count of harassing game.

The charges were initially filed in Alaska District Court on August 17th. Simpson has hired his own attorney, while Weyiouanna and Iyatunguk will be represented by public defenders appointed by the court. All three men are set to appear at the courthouse in Nome on November 9th.

Image at top: Brown bear. Photo via Flickr / Creative Commons, courtesy of Eric Gorski.

Grizzly bear trophy hunt in Yellowstone area could be approved today

May 23 at 7:00 AM

A grizzly bear roams near Beaver Lake in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The state’s Game and Fish Commission votes Wednesday on a grizzly bear hunt that would permit the killing of up to 22 bears. (Jim Urquhart/AP)

A Wyoming wildlife commission will vote Wednesday on whether to approve the state’s first grizzly bear hunt in more than four decades, a proposal that could lead to the killing of as many as 22 bears just one year after Yellowstone-area grizzlies were removed from the endangered species list.

Grizzly bears in the Lower 48 were federally protected in 1975, when only about 136 of the animals remained in and around Yellowstone National Park. Their numbers had rebounded to about 700 by last year, prompting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the Yellowstone population and leave its management to the states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Montana in February decided against opening a trophy hunt, and Idaho, home to the smallest number of grizzlies, this month approved a fall huntof a single male bear.

Under Wyoming’s proposal, a maximum of one female or 10 male grizzlies could be killed inside the state’s section of a federally designated “demographic monitoring area” — a zone of “suitable” bear habitat where biologists track the species’ population. Another 12, male or female, could be hunted outside that area. No hunting would be allowed inside Yellowstone, nearby Grand Teton National Park or the road that connects them. The Wyoming plan also includes a no-hunt buffer zone in a region east of Grand Teton where several bears adored by photographers and tourists are known to roam and den.


Wyoming’s proposal would allow for the hunting of a maximum of one female or 10 males within Zones 1-6. Up to 12 bears, female or male, could be hunted in Zone 7. (Wyoming Fish and Game Department)

Federal biologists say limited hunting is unlikely to harm the overall grizzly population in the Yellowstone area, and Wyoming officials have described their proposal as conservative. “The question is not whether you hunt grizzly bears or not,” Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, told C-SPAN earlier this month. “The question is whether grizzly bears have grown enough in terms of population and in habitat that they can be a sustainable species. And clearly they have.”

But the hunting plan has faced heavy opposition from conservation groups and others who say it would imperil the population. More than 200 tribal nations have condemned the idea of hunting an animal they consider sacred and proposed to instead relocate grizzlies to tribal lands. More than 100 wildlife photographers wrote a letter calling on Mead to prioritize the wishes — and dollars — of tourists who come to the region in hopes of spotting “one of the most storied, beloved and photographed bear populations in the world.”

In another recent letter to the governor, 73 scientists said the hunt would recklessly endanger a vulnerable population that has lost food sources, including white bark pine, due to climate change, and limit Yellowstone bears’ ability to connect with a larger population of grizzlies in northwest Montana. (Those bears, in and around Glacier National Park, remain protected under the Endangered Species Act, although Fish and Wildlife is considering delisting them as well.)

The letter, written by the former federal grizzly bear biologist David Mattson, said allowing a dozen deaths outside the demographic monitoring area, where approximately 80 to 100 grizzlies live, would be “tantamount to planned extirpation,” in that region. Hunting, it continued, “is ethically irresponsible, unwarranted and not in the public’s interest.”


Grizzly bear No. 399 crosses a road in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming with her three cubs in 2011. The Wyoming grizzly proposal includes a no-hunt buffer zone east of Teton in an area where 399 and other famous bears are known to den. (Tom Mangelsen/AP)

Conservation organizations say hunting would add unnecessary deaths to the dozens of grizzlies killed by humans each year as the bears expand farther into developed areas.

“Grizzly bears have only just begun to recover, and hunting could sabotage that crucial process,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “People love these bears and don’t want to see them killed just so somebody can put a trophy on the wall.”

At least 56 grizzlies died within the demographic monitoring area last year, many after being hit by cars, shot in self-defense by hunters or lethally “removed” by wildlife agencies for killing livestock or seeking out human food. Of seven deaths recorded this year, four have been in Wyoming. Three were killed by state bear managers — one for breaking into a building for food, and two for “frequenting a calving area” and “bold behavior toward humans.” The fourth, an elderly bear that could not lift its hind legs, was euthanized, according to federal records.

Like conservation groups, Wyoming officials cite those numbers as talking points, but they use them instead to justify a hunt. Hunters, they say, could help weed out problem bears.

“The agency is removing every year several female and male bears for conflict reasons, and if hunting reduces that, it’s a good thing,” Brian Nesvik, chief game warden for the state Game and Fish Department, told the Casper Star-Tribune.

Wyoming’s proposal has gotten support from the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International, a group that promotes hunting. Even if approved by the state game and fish commission on Wednesday, however, it could be stymied in court later this year.

Several lawsuits have challenged the delisting of Yellowstone grizzlies, and a U.S. District Court judge earlier this year ordered all parties to combine their arguments into a single set of briefs. A decision is expected this summer, before the September start of hunting seasons in Wyoming and  Idaho.

Read more:

Grizzly bears are spreading far beyond Yellowstone National Park. Can people and the bears coexist?

The true story of two fatal grizzly bear attacks that changed our relationship with wildlife

Could a bear break into that cooler? Watch these grizzlies try.

Watch a sleepy bear that just isn’t ready to stop hibernating