Playing Russian Roulette with Grizzly Matron 399 and the Bears of Yellowstone

MAY 24, 2021

BY LOUISA WILLCOXFacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Photo by Tom Mangelsen.

This is the first of a two-part essay on the famous bear matron of Jackson Hole, Grizzly 399, and the mounting threats she and other grizzlies face. Part 2 will focus on a path forward. You might also want to listen to a fascinating Grizzly Times podcast (2 episodes) with renowned photographer Tom Mangelsen, who waxes eloquent about his 15-year relationship with this special bear and his advocacy for the wild.

Few if any animals have been more celebrated than 399, the matron grizzly bear of Grand Teton National Park. Each year, families flock to Jackson Hole hoping to catch a glimpse of her shepherding her latest brood – now four irrepressible yearlings. Her grown-up daughter, Grizzly 610, accompanied by two pre-adolescent cubs now as large as she is, generates almost as much excitement. Today, about 10 grizzlies of 399’s lineage make their living along Jackson Hole’s roads in the company of people.

With a global fan club, Grizzly 399 is an ambassador for grizzlies everywhere. Her tolerance for people is legendary. To cross a road, she is known to look both ways before threading through parked cars and mobs of delighted onlookers, as doors slam and kids shriek – placidly returning to fetch a cub still wrestling with a road cone. Who could still cling to the myth that grizzlies are vicious man-eaters after beholding the ways of 399?

But as the fame of these roadside grizzlies had grown, so have the crowds. Current systems to keep visitors and grizzlies safe are breaking down. As summer tourist season begins with a vengeance, officials are often either nowhere to be seen — or they are firing projectiles at bears in a cruel, disorganized, and futile effort to haze grizzlies rather than manage people.

Not long ago 399 and her four youngsters were swarmed by 300 people – with no Park Ranger in sight. And 610, known as an especially protective mom, bluffed charged two tourists out of a mob of 150 who got too close. East of the park, 863 (aka “Felicia”) and her adorable new cubs face a tsunami of people, cracker shells fired by state managers, as well as semis barreling down the adjacent highway at 70 miles an hour.

Anywhere grizzlies are visible we are seeing scenes of bedlam and terrifying close calls – and tourist season has just begun. Last year, record numbers of people — throngs numbering as many as 1000 — gathered any time 399 or other roadside grizzlies appeared. The spectacle lasted from Memorial Day to New Year’s Day, when 399 broke trail for her youngsters through chest-deep snow to reach her den.

Caring citizens, most of them veteran photographers and wildlife watchers, are doing what they can to keep tourists from crowding Jackson Hole’s grizzlies. Last year these citizen volunteers saved the lives of 399, 610 and other grizzlies many times. So did Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Mike Boyce, who spent long days and nights trying to keep 399 safe as she ventured south of the town of Jackson onto private lands.

But these efforts are a drop in the bucket of a sea of need. This summer we can expect another valence shift in tourism as pent-up families seek beauty, solace and adventure in our National Parks. With ever more airlines servicing the Yellowstone and Grand Teton region, another record-breaking year of visitation is virtually guaranteed – and with it, more pressure on the region’s world-class wildlife.

When I asked veteran Jackson News and Guide reporter Mike Kosmrl what he thought this summer would bring for Grand Teton’s grizzlies, he offered one word: “chaos.”

This chaos surrounding 399 and her offspring highlights the threats posed by so many people, compounded by long-neglected deficiencies in grizzly bear management. Courageous government action is urgently needed – on behalf of not just grizzlies, but also on behalf of the multitudes who care about these wild animals.

Grizzly 399’s Unique Strategy: Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

Grizzly 399 makes her living near people, teaching generations of cubs how to live amicably along roads and around recreation areas. Her main reason for settling into these human-impacted environments is to keep her cubs safe from aggressive male grizzlies—known as boars—that often prefer to hang out in more remote areas.

For her and other female grizzlies who frequent roadsides, staying near people is a better bet than mixing it up with boars who can and will kill cubs. Every day, these females and their offspring literally depend on the kindness of strangers, to borrow from Blanche Dubois’ famous line in A Streetcar Named Desire.

To these grizzlies, people are allies – even, at times, babysitters. This should not surprise us given the stories told for millennia by Native Peoples throughout the Northern Hemisphere about humans living among bears, saved by bears, even marrying bears.

We know more about 399 than most grizzly bears because she has lived her long life so close to us. Tom Mangelsen, a world-famous photographer, has photo-documented his 15-year relationship with this special bear, co-writing a lovely book about her.

A successful and attentive mom, 399 is the quintessential mother with muffins in the oven. She birthed and successfully raised three sets of triplets. And last year, she performed a miracle when she emerged with quadruplets at the age of twenty-four – ancient for a mother bear. Her feat is especially noteworthy given that only eight litters of quadruplets have been documented in the Yellowstone ecosystem since 1983.

We cannot forget the difference that one good mom can make. All existing Yellowstone grizzly bears are the decedents of perhaps only 50 females alive during the early 1980’s. Every mom matters. And a female such as 399 is an Olympian.

But despite her competence as a mother, so far 399 has raised only two females who have also had cubs, Grizzlies 610 and 962, the latter just appearing with a new cub. The reasons are straight-forward. Grizzly bear birth rates are inherently low and many of 399’s offspring have been killed by humans.

But humans can be benevolent. There is no doubt that 399 would not still be with us were it not for the dedication of the Park Service. Indeed, a past superintendent of Grand Teton Park, Mary Scott, spared 399’s life when, as a young mom with cubs, she mauled a jogger who came too close as she fed upon a dead elk. Since then, with the help of volunteers who comprise its Bear Brigade, Grand Teton Park has tried to ensure that everybody — bears and humans — stays safe.

But the crush of park visitors is overwhelming agency capacity. Despite clear warning signs that this year would see record tourism, government agencies are again on their back heel. They have also failed to adapt to the tangible impacts of a warming climate, which is prompting bears to be up long before the Brigade is typically assembled and long after it disbands for the season.

Moreover, when 399 steps outside the borders of the National Parks, she enters a more dangerous world.

The Perils of an Olympian Mom

Much of 399’s home range lies outside the protected landscapes of Grand Teton Park. She dens and forages on Bridger Teton National Forest lands that abut the park. The Forest is a deadlier environment because it is managed for “multiple use,” meaning mostly for the benefit of hunters, ranchers, off-road vehicle users and increasingly, mountain bikers. Not surprisingly, one of 399’s cubs, Grizzly 587, was killed by managers after depredating cows on a Forest Service grazing allotment, where notoriously anti-grizzly ranchers dominate management of public lands that are ostensibly owned by all citizens.

399 must also dodge poachers who often are undeterred by the hefty penalties that can be levied under the Endangered Species Act — but too often are not. Indeed, one of her daughters, Grizzly 615, aka Persistence, was gunned down illegally as she ate a moose carcass on National Forest land close to the Park border.

She and other bears such as Grizzly 863 must also avoid being splattered on the roads as trucks and tourists speed to their next destination. And even inside Grand Teton Park, roads are dangerous. Two of 399’s cubs have been killed by vehicle collisions.

399 must, moreover, navigate private lands, dogs, compost piles, beehives, garbage and more. Even in Jackson, where wildlife is abundant, too many people still unthinkingly contribute to destroying bears by poorly managing food and garbage. One woman has continued to feed grizzlies and other wildlife despite government efforts to dissuade her. The results are predictable. One of 399’s cubs, Grizzly 964, developed such a bad garbage habit that she was relocated last summer to the north end of the ecosystem.

And now 399 and other roadside bears must dodge projectiles fired from shotguns, part of an ill-conceived, haphazard and doomed effort by the Park Service to haze her and other grizzlies away from the roadside environment they depend on.

Of Riot Control and Half Measures

With the Park Service understaffed and its Bear Brigade not fully assembled, the agency is floundering to deal with crowds gathering long before Memorial Day, the traditional kickoff date for summer tourist season. But instead of expanding its program and more aggressively managing the people, government officials are taking out their anxiety on innocent bears by shooting them with rubber bullets and rock salt or dosing them with bear spray when they near roads. The effort is erratic and disorganized, with contradictory messages to the public about what the agency is doing and why. (The Park Service did not respond to an interview request by deadline).

Such riot control tactics will fail, even as they harm the bears. Roadside females are more terrified of male bears in the backcountry that might eat their cubs than they are of the poorly implemented and ill-thought-out hazing efforts. Grizzlies such as 399 and 610 have long relied on limited roadside habitats and cannot—more importantly will not—just pick up and relocate.

Many roadside bears would rather suffer the punishment of rubber bullets, no matter how severe, than mix it up with aggressive bears that can be a mortal threat. Proving this point, years ago one black bear was actually bludgeoned to death by rubber bullets while cowering along a narrow strip of habitat along a road in Yellowstone Park. And hazing is deeply stressful and confusing to the animals. As anyone who has trained or rescued a dog knows well, stress and fear can make animals more unpredictable and aggressive towards people.

Furthermore, an effective hazing program is extraordinarily difficult to implement. Negative experiences need to be unrelenting and consistent if bears are to learn to avoid specific environs such as roadsides. Execution of such a program requires resources, discipline, and skill on the part of managers—something that has never been achieved before. Without this mix of ingredients, hazing programs devolve into little more than the gratuitous infliction of pain on targeted bears. And bears are intelligent, which makes the job even harder. In Yellowstone, grizzlies targeted for hazing quickly learned to disappear when the green Park Service trucks arrived and return to the roadsides when they left.

The Park Service is hardly the only agency failing these bears and the broader public who care about their well-being. Others with authority over grizzlies include the state of Wyoming, Bridger Teton National Forest, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wyoming Department of Transportation, and Teton County.

Importantly, the state of Wyoming dictates wildlife management on nonpark lands. State managers have long been hostile towards large predators such as grizzlies, seen as competitors for elk and moose. In the zero-sum calculous of state managers, any elk or moose killed by a predator translates into lost hunting-license revenues. As problematic, those predators that managers do allow to live are seen as little more than grist for the mill of trophy hunting. It is no surprise that state managers resent celebrity roadside grizzlies because, beloved by nonhunters, these bears represent an alien and even existential threat.

The fundamentally antagonistic view of Wyoming Game and Fish towards these bears and their fans has been on full display on Togwotee Pass in recent days, where officials are exploding cracker shells at Felicia and her newborns and imposing erratic constraints on viewers. (Wyoming Game and Fish did not respond to an interview request by deadline). Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson, who is in charge of these efforts, made his view clear several years ago, saying: “Habituation towards people and the roadside bear situation, it’s not something that we’re supportive of.”

Gutted by budget cuts, the Bridger Teton Forest is also ill-equipped to manage mounting numbers of recreational users on forest lands near Grand Teton Park, even as the agency continues to shirk its legal duty to conserve wildlife. Similarly, Teton County has struggled to ensure meaningful sanitation on private lands. And Wyoming Department of Transportation has done precious little to improve safe passage for wildlife, in contrast to successful systems of overpasses and underpasses built in Montana’s Flathead Valley and in Canada’s National Parks.

But the agency with the clearest legal authority to help these bears is the one that is most conspicuously absent: the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The Endangered Species Act charges FWS with recovering threatened species, using the best available science in decision-making, and ensuring that federal and state agencies take a precautionary approach in decisions affecting protected species. Despite this duty, the FWS has done little lately other than sanction the killing and relocating of grizzlies that are increasingly deemed to be “surplus” by FWS managers.

Thankfully, citizen volunteers have been stepping into the breach.

Into the Breach

In recent years, concerned citizens, most of them photographers, have been helping manage tourists at often understaffed wildlife jams – and they are up to their eyeballs this spring. Too numerous to count, citizens routinely step in to slow traffic and keep tourists from getting too close, literally saving not only people who are careless, but also the lives of roadside bears. Any time a person gets injured, the involved bear almost invariably pays the ultimate price.

Recognizing the scale of the need, last winter, photographers Jack and Gina Bayles created Team 399 to raise money through donations and the sale of merchandise to help support Grand Teton Park’s Wildlife Brigade, through the Park’s nonprofit arm, Grand Teton Park Foundation. They are hoping that contributions from these bears’ enormous social media following can be channeled into work to help keep them safe.

This summer Team 399 is also partnering with Friends of the Bridger Teton National Forest, the nonprofit private adjunct of the Forest, to sponsor additional seasonal staff to help educate and manage roadside throngs of bear-watchers in Felicia’s haunts along Highway 287 on Togwotee Pass. After a successful foray last year, Friends of the Bridger Teton has again hired two roadside bear ambassadors to help manage viewers along this hazardous stretch of highway.

Meanwhile, other local organizations are engaged in complementary work. The Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation is working with Wyoming Department of Transportation to improve signage along area roads. Greater Yellowstone Coalition has been working with the Bridger Teton Forest to increase the number of bear-resistant storage boxes at campsites. Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, Wyoming Untrapped and Cougar Fund work to raise awareness of the value of large carnivores, especially grizzlies, wolves and mountain lions. And Friends of 760, named for a grandson of 399 who was killed as a result of government bungling, is working to make sure similar mistakes do not happen again.

But while citizens and nonprofit groups can help immeasurably, they lack legal authority and anything close to adequate resources to tackle the crisis facing grizzlies around Jackson. The government must step in — immediately and in a much bigger way — on behalf of the public trust and threatened grizzlies that will always depend on the kindness of strangers.

Part 2 outlines a path forward to ensure that 399 and the other grizzlies of Greater Yellowstone flourish.

Louisa Willcox is a longtime grizzly bear activist and founder of Grizzly Times. She lives in Montana.

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Goat sacrifice to begin at Olympic National Park

Goat sacrifice to begin at Olympic National Park

(Beth Clifton collage)

284-page “management plan” garbles history,  all but ignores climate change,  & says nothing about goats as puma prey

            OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK,  Washington––An estimated 625 to 675 mountain goats whose ancestors have peaceably roamed the icy upper reaches of Olympic National Park,  Washington,  for 14 years longer than the 80-year-old park has existed are to become sacrificial scapegoats during the summer of 2018,  and over the next three to five years,  to ecological misconceptions written into the Wilderness Act of 1964,  enshrined as National Park Service policy.

One such misconception is that “introduced” species are inherently harmful to “native” species,  even if the “introduced” species thrive as “native” just 100 miles away,  among essentially  the same suite of other animals and plants.

(Beth Clifton collage)

“Untrammeled by man”?

Another misconception is that what is now Olympic National Park,  attracting 3.4 million visitors in 2017,  ever fit the Wilderness Act criteria of being “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man,  where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

The 3.4 million visitors have approximately the same cumulative ecological impact as a year-round community of 9,000 people.  And the mere existence of more than 200 sites in the park where archaeological artifacts have been found,  mentioned often in the newly published 284-page Mountain Goat Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement, points toward frequent,  if not necessarily continuous use of the habitat by Native Americans for thousands of years.

Native American activities,  as well as logging,  hunting,  and ranching by settlers,  helped to shape the habitat and balance of species into which mountain goats were released in 1925-1929 by forest rangers who hoped to attract trophy hunters.

(Beth Clifton collage)

“Move half & shoot the rest”

Co-produced by the National Park Service,  U.S. Forest Service,  USDA Wildlife Services,  and the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Mountain Goat Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement recommends “the relocation of the majority of mountain goats [now present in Olympic National Park] to U.S. Forest Service lands in the North Cascades forests,  and the lethal removal of the remaining mountain goats in the park.”

What that means,  specifically,  is that efforts are to be made during the next several summers to capture 325 to 375 mountain goats by luring them into “clover traps,”  meaning stockades baited with clover,  netting them through the use of net guns,  sedating them,  flying them in helicopter slings to waiting trucks,  and then trucking them overnight to release points in habitat which,  although technically “native” for the goats,  none have ever seen before.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Goats to be moved to “huntable” habitat

The habitat in the North Cascades differs little,  in matters of concern to mountain goats,  from the habitat in Olympic National Park.  But despite the ambitions of the rangers who released the first dozen mountain goats in what is now Olympic National Park,  hunting has not been allowed in the park since it was created by an act of Congress in 1938.

Only those few mountain goats who may have descended into the Olympic National Forest,  surrounding Olympic National Park,  during hunting season,  will have had any prior experience of being hunted other than by pumas,  their main natural predator.

In the North Cascades the mountain goats may be hunted.  Indeed,  the major argument for translocating them in the Mountain Goat Management Plan is that the native mountain goats in the North Cascades have been hunted to scarcity,  and have had difficulty recovering “huntable” abundance.

(Beth Clifton)


Meanwhile back in Olympic National Park,  mountain goats who become wary enough to evade capture during the early phases of the attempt to extirpate them are eventually to be shot.  Some may be gunned down from trails,  others from helicopters.

Says the Mountain Goat Management Plan about when and how the decision to stop capturing goats and start shooting them is to be made,  “The determination about whether it is no longer safe to capture more mountain goats,  from a human and mountain goat safety standpoint, would be made by a consensus of the project leaders,  consulting veterinarians,  and the capture contractor,  and would be based on the rate and type of capture-related mountain goat mortalities and environmental conditions.

“Ceasing operations would also be based on capture efficiency. When it takes approximately three times as long to safely capture a mountain goat, as compared to the hours during the initial capture operation phase during the first year, capture operations would cease.”

(Beth Clifton collage)

No remains to be left where visible

The Mountain Goat Management Planstipulates that the remains of mountain goats are not to be left within 325 feet of trails,  partly to avoid attracting dangerous scavenging wildlife into proximity to humans,  partly to avoid having Olympic National Park visitors see dead mountain goats and began objecting to the “mountain goat management plan.”

Along the way,  the Mountain Goat Management Plan argues that reducing Olympic National Park biodiversity by removing mountain goats is to be done to protect the native biodiversity of plants,  though the major ecological role of mountain goats––like that of other herbivores––is depositing plant seeds in new habitat, along with the fertilizer that the seeds need to grow.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Goats originally persecuted as campground nuisance

“The original need to manage this exotic species,”  the Mountain Goat Management Plan inaccurately claims,  “was an ecological concern related to the impacts that mountain goats impose on natural resources at the park,  particularly sensitive vegetation communities (NPS 1995; Houston, Schreiner, and Moorhead 1994).” demonstrates that this is fiction.  The first public complaints about the presence of mountain goats in Olympic National Park surfaced in 1969,  and concerned salt-seeking goats licking and chewing clothing that visitors hung out to dry in campgrounds.

Four goats were translocated from Olympic National Park to the nearby Gilbert Pinchot National Forest in 1972,  but the first mention that all of the goats should be removed as a “non-native” species came only after that,  as did the first suggestion that the goats might be harming native plants.

Ranger explains safe behavior around mountain goats in Olympic National Park.

407 goats moved,  1981-1989

More goat translocations followed,  but primarily to rebuild populations elsewhere that had been hunted out.  Acknowledges  the Mountain Goat Management Plan,  “The park implemented a series of live capture operations from 1981 to 1989,  translocating 407 mountain goats to other mountain ranges throughout several western states.  An additional 119 mountain goats were legally harvested during sport hunting seasons outside the park,”  the Mountain Goat Management Plan notes,  “and three known mountain goats were illegally harvested [poached] in the park between 1983 and 1997.”

Protecting the safety of Olympic National Park visitors continued to be the main argument made for mountain goat removal before the mid-1990s,  though the first and only serious injury attributed to mountain goats before 1999 came in August 1975.

Goats kill one,  injure two,  in 80 years

Then,  according to the Port Angeles News,  “Daniel Hanify,  17,  was watching goats climbing on the rocks above him on Mt. Angeles when one goat apparently started rocks tumbling.  One large rock struck Hanify on the head.”

Hanify suffered a skull fracture,  but was able to walk to the nearest road,  with the help of two friends,  to be driven to meet a helicopter that flew him to Olympic Memorial Hospital.

A visitor suffered a non-fatal goring in 1999.  Then,  the Mountain Goat Management Plan mentions,  “Safety concerns were increased in 2010 when a visitor,”  63-year-old Robert H. Boardman,  “was fatally gored by a mountain goat while hiking on a park trail.”

Thus,  in 80 years,  fewer visitors have been killed or badly injured by mountain goats in Olympic National Park than typically die and are injured in the worst several vehicular accidents in the park and on park access roads each and every tourist season.

(Ashley Rawhouser/National Park Service photo)

Goats blamed,  not global warming

Discussion of the possible mountain goat impact on rare native plants began to be raised with increasing frequency after 1977.

Says the Mountain Goat Management Plan,  “Through herbivory and wallowing behaviors, mountain goats have directly and indirectly affected the vegetation in the Olympic Mountains.  Changes in the relative abundance of plant species have been observed as a result of mountain goat herbivory; this has altered competitive interactions among plant species.  As the mountain goat population on the Olympic Peninsula increased prior to live capture operations in the 1980s, changes in vegetation were substantial, and the status of rare plant populations became a concern.”

Not even mentioned,  however,  are the major climatic effects on park vegetation caused by global warming,  beginning to become visible during the same years,  and having an accelerating impact today,  as the year-round icepack retreats to higher elevations,  less precipitation falls,  stream temperatures warm,  and the risk of wildfires increases.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Population fluctuations

After nine years of more-or-less continuous translocations of mountain goats,  the Olympic National Park population had been reduced from a peak estimate of more than 1,000 to 389,  according to a July 1990 survey.

“Live capture operations were halted in 1990 for several reasons,  including employee safety,  animal safety,  and changing Department of the Interior rules concerning helicopter landing techniques,”  the Mountain Goat Management Plan says.  “Subsequent surveys were conducted in 1994, 1997, and 2004.  A survey conducted in 2011 revealed that the population started increasing between 2004 and 2011.  Most recently,  a 2016 survey revealed that the population has continued to increase to an estimated 625 mountain goats,  with an 8% average annual rate of increase from 2004 to 2016.  At this growth rate,  there could be approximately 725 mountain goats on the Olympic Peninsula by 2018.”

Puma at Big Cat Rescue.  (Beth Clifton photo)


Significantly,  though discussing the population of a prey species without mentioning the species’ major predators would appear to be nonsense,  the Mountain Goat Management Plan includes no statement of the relative abundance of pumas in Olympic National Park,  and there appears to be no recent puma population assessment for the park in any other context.

To what extent pumas might suffer from no longer having mountain goats to hunt is also not discussed.

(National Park Service photo)

Contraceptive use rejected

The Mountain Goat Management Planrejects any use of contraceptives to reduce and suppress Olympic National Park goat numbers.

“Although fertility control has been demonstrated to be effective in controlling individual animal fertility,”  the plan states,   chiefly because “Where fertility control has been successful, it has limited population growth,  but has not eliminated wild ungulate populations.”

Continues the Mountain Goat Management Plan,  “Chemical agents, such as immunocontraceptive vaccines (e.g., native PZP or GnRH vaccines),  require repeated doses to the same animal,  to be highly effective at suppressing fertility.  Due to the remote, rugged, and extreme terrain where the mountain goats reside,  helicopter darting during the summer months would be necessary to either capture or vaccinate the goats.  This would require several months of flying each year.  In the Olympic Mountains, such a program would be costly, impactful, and not effective for eliminating goats or their impacts because it would be impossible to treat a sufficient number to significantly impact population dynamics. In addition,  over time,  goats would learn to avoid helicopters.”

(Beth Clifton collage)

“Wilderness values”

Finally,  says the Mountain Goat Management Plan,  echoing the language used in lawsuits against U.S. government agencies by opponents of using immunocontraceptives to stabilize wild horse populations,  “The use of fertility control adversely affects wilderness values because it is not a natural process.  Fertility control as an authorized management action would have a negative effect on the untrammeled and natural qualities of wilderness character because it would be an intentional manipulation of the biophysical environment.”

Beth & Merritt Clifton
Animals 24-7

In particular,  “If all goats were to be indiscriminately darted from the air,  this would be an adverse effect on the undeveloped quality of wilderness character.  Noise from helicopters would disrupt the natural soundscape and area closures to visitors may need to be in effect during darting operations. Most concerning is that these actions would need to take place on a regular basis to be effective until all exotic goats are eliminated.”

All of which will also be true of helicoptering mountain goats to trucks and then using gunners aboard helicopters to shoot the 300-plus who are expected to evade capture.

Mountain goat eradication is a high-flying balancing act in Olympic National Park

In an effort to protect visitors and rare plants, the park is relocating the hoofed invaders.

Derrick Halsey, clutches a mountain goat kid as they land at the staging area for goat relocation. Halsey is one of the helicopter team members known as a “mugger” who is dropped off as close as possible to animals who are netted or sedated from the air, and prepares them for flight.

In early July, the loud whirring of a helicopter punctured the quiet of Washington’s Olympic National Park as wildlife specialists scoured meadows, forests, ridgelines and mountaintops for flashes of white fuzz: mountain goats. The cherry-red aircraft kicked up dirt and debris as it lowered two goats, dangling in slings, toward a waiting truck, their feet bound and their vision obscured by blue blindfolds. During a brief landing, one of the specialists — commonly known as “muggers” — stepped out, with a kid no more than 6 weeks old calmly cradled in his arms.

It sounds like a dramatic scene from a wilderness reality show, but it’s not: It was just another day in an extensive effort to eliminate mountain goats from the Olympics — where they are not native, damage endemic plants and even killed a person — and hand some over to Washington state to boost populations in the North Cascades Range, where mountain goats have declined after decades of overhunting. The project — which cost more than half a million dollars just this year — illustrates the lengths to which national and state agencies are willing to go to restore a single strand in the complex web of these human-altered ecosystems.

Outdoor recreationists are generally excited to see mountain goats in the Olympics. They’re more majestic than marmots and pikas and other alpine creatures, and less terrifying than bears. A few days before the start of this year’s relocation effort, a man posted on a Facebook group for hikers, saying he wanted to see the mountain goats before they got moved. When I asked why, he replied, “The goats represent the wild in Mother Nature.”

But mountain goats are not native to Olympic National Park: Hunters from Alaska introduced about a dozen of them in the 1920s. At one point, the population ballooned to over 1,000, causing “ecological mayhem,” as they grazed on rare alpine plants and eroded the landscape, said Patti Happe, the wildlife branch chief for the park. Before the translocations began, there were about 725 goats on the Olympic Peninsula.

Not only have they destroyed native plants, but mountain goats have also become aggressive after growing too accustomed to humans: In 2010, a male goat mauled and killed a 63-year-old man hiking near Hurricane Ridge. The goats have become habituated to people and are drawn to them partly because humans provide something the animals need — salt. Olympic National Park lacks the natural salt deposits that would otherwise sustain the goats, leaving them dependent on the makeshift saltlicks that hikers produce when they pee on the trails.

To keep humans safe and restore balance in mountain goat populations, wildlife biologists decided to physically relocate the Olympic Peninsula goats, starting with 115 translocations last year. The animals were all radio-collared and ear-tagged so they can be identified and tracked in their new environs. Approximately 70% of adults and half the children survived the first year — which is within the natural range of survival, said Jace Taylor, a wildlife biologist not involved in the Olympic project who has overseen mountain goat translocations in Utah.

It’s still too early to say whether the project is achieving wildlife managers’ larger goals, in part because scientists don’t yet know if the relocated goats are breeding in their new home. Happe said the project will be a success if those moved to the North Cascades help boost populations there, and if goats in the Olympics are completely eradicated. Unfortunately, many mountain goats evade capture; one woman involved in the project described them as “escape artists.” That means the majority of the Olympic goats will be killed after the translocations are over. In addition, some animals have died during capture or in transit.

And some of the relocated goats may already be accustomed to humans, which could endanger hikers in the North Cascades. I recently saw a sign there warning people of the dangers of salt-craving mountain goats. It’s not easy to reverse habituated behaviors, says Richard Harris, a wildlife manager at Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife overseeing the translocations. Perhaps over time, if human visitors leave them alone and urinate in locations the goats can’t reach, their degree of habituation might decay, ultimately benefiting both species. Still, “all wild animals are potentially dangerous to people,” Harris said. “People need to use their heads.”

But despite the expense — and the trauma for the goats — “rectifying the balance is something we should be doing when we have an opportunity to improve upon mistakes made by our predecessors,” says Harris. “To the degree that we can capture an animal and move it to a place where it’s native, give it a home, and allow it to return to its natural state within the North Cascades — I think that is worth spending money on.”

Wudan Yan is an independent journalist based in Seattle. Email High Country News at or submit a letter to the editor.

The debate over organized kills and whether they actually impact population, via a new podcast

Coyote hunting competitions were banned in California at the end of 2014, and wildlife advocates hoped to get a similar ban passed in Nevada late last year, but failed to persuade the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commission. The commission voted 5-2 against the ban, a vote that seemed to have more to do with the department’s opinions on regulatory solutions in general than organized coyote hunts in particular.

“My opposition was really more in regards to I don’t believe we’re at a point where a regulatory approach is the right course,” commission head Jeremy Drew says. “We’ve tried to deal with controversial topics through a regulatory process in the past and it’s been very difficult to get both sides to come to the table and try to find a consensus-based approach.”

Two hunters display the ten coyotes they shot to win a coyote derby in North Dakota.
Courtesy Barnes County Wildlife

Despite the ban in California, the most popular hunt in the state just took place again. The organizers made just enough changes to stay within the limits of the law — sending an outcry through the animal rights community. But while wildlife advocates (led by nonprofit Project Coyote) and hunters made impassioned pleas for and against the ban in Nevada, coyote expert Fred Knowlton, who has studied coyotes for more than 40 years, says humans killing coyotes really has little bearing on the animals.

“I don’t believe any coyote hunting expeditions are effective at reducing coyote numbers,” Knowlton says. “If everything stays equal — if you’ve got hunting going on or not — you can remove up to 70% of coyotes without affecting the population.”

In this episode of the Range podcast, we hear from activists on both sides of the issue, and more from Knowlton, in an attempt to understand the real impact of coyote derbies on the animals.

Range podcast produces stories of the New American West and is co-hosted by reporters Amy Westervelt and Julia Ritchey.

Save Andy the Polar Bear

Jill Kjonso
Fort Lauderdale, FL


A polar bear named Andy is in trouble, and he needs our help. When he was not yet full-grown, Andy was fitted with a tracking collar by researchers. As he has grown, the collar has malfunctioned — it stopped transmitting a signal, and, last month, a photographer captured a photo of Andy with evident trauma around his neck from the extremely tight collar with a  release mechanism that has clearly failed. Andy’s life is at risk.

US and Canadian authorities were alerted to Andy’s situation, but so far no one is taking action or claiming responsibility for the collaring. Evidence suggests that it was likely the University of Alberta that placed the collar on Andy, yet all they have said in response to recent public pressure to help him is “options to find the bear are being examined.”

Time is running out, and we need to take real action. We are calling on the University of Alberta to immediately institute an active search for Andy, so they can remove the collar and provide all necessary treatment to ensure his well-being.

Locals in the area of Alaska where Andy was last seen have complained about polar bears with too-tight collars for years. Complications from collaring occur far too often, as the collaring process involves stressful chases, harmful sedation, and sometimes causes death. Collaring of polar bears is invasive and dangerous and there are simply far too few of this majestic species left to play with their lives.

It is true that Andy is just one polar bear, and scientists may see his plight as “collateral damage” in the interest of research for the good of all polar bears. But there is no justification for his strangulation, and research institutes that endeavor to capture and collar threatened species must be held responsible for their health and well-being.

In the meantime, the University of Alberta must use their resources to track Andy, remove the collar, and get him the medical attention he needs. Adding your voice to this petition will let them know that we are holding them accountable for Andy’s well-being, and that we will accept nothing short of immediate action.

If you would like to voice your concern for Andy, please contact the Executive Director of the Research and Ethics Office, Susan Babcock and Professor Andrew Derocher:                                            


Letter to
University of Alberta
Andrew Derocher
Read more 

</a></div></div>” data-tolerance=”20″ data-_block=”A polar bear named Andy is in trouble, and he needs our help. When he was not yet full-grown, Andy was fitted with a tracking collar by researchers. As he has grown, the collar has malfunctioned — it stopped transmitting a signal, and, last month, a photographer captured a photo of Andy with evident trauma around his neck from the extremely tight collar with a release mechanism that has clearly failed. Andy’s life is at risk.<br />US and Canadian authorities were alerted to Andy’s situation, but so far no one is taking action or claiming responsibility for the collaring. Evidence suggests that it was likely the University of Alberta that placed the collar on Andy, yet all they have said in response to recent public pressure to help him is “options to find the bear are being examined.” <br />Time is running out, and we need to take real action. We are calling on the University of Alberta to immediately institute an active search for Andy, so they can remove the collar and provide all necessary treatment to ensure his well-being.<br />Locals in the area of Alaska where Andy was last seen have complained about polar bears with too-tight collars for years. Complications from collaring occur far too often, as the collaring process involves stressful chases, harmful sedation, and sometimes causes death. Collaring of polar bears should only be done when absolutely necessary, as it is invasive and dangerous, and there are simply far too few of this majestic species left to play with their lives. <br />It is true that Andy is just one polar bear, and scientists may see his plight as “collateral damage” in the interest of research for the good of all polar bears. But there is no justification for his strangulation, and research institutes that endeavor to capture and collar threatened species must be held responsible for their health and well-being.<br />In the meantime, the University of Alberta must use their resources to track Andy, remove the collar, and get him the medical attention he needs. Adding your voice to this petition will let them know that we are holding them accountable for Andy’s well-being, and that we will accept nothing short of immediate action.”>A polar bear named Andy is in trouble, and he needs our help. When he was not yet full-grown, Andy was fitted with a tracking collar by researchers. As he has grown, the collar has malfunctioned — it stopped transmitting a signal, and, last month, a photographer captured a photo of Andy with evident

Read more

Inspector General Report Confirms Mass Slaughter of Wild Horses

  President and CEO, The Humane Society of the United States

Inspector General Report Confirms Mass Slaughter of Wild Horses During Reign of Then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar  

 10/26/2015 4:49 pm

On Friday, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior issued a damning report about the Bureau of Land Management’s mismanagement of wild horses. The report concluded that agency officials did nothing to prevent a notorious livestock hauler from acquiring nearly 1,800 wild horses and burros over a four-year period and handing them over to kill buyers who sent them to Mexico to slaughter for human consumption. The OIG report exposed the behavior of a Colorado hauler between 2008 and 2012 – overlapping closely with the tenure of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, long criticized for his poor oversight of the nation’s wild horse program. According to the OIG report, the hauler, Tom Davis, allegedly “had farming and trucking connections” with Salazar. The OIG report notes that Davis began gathering horses from the BLM after Salazar took office as Interior Secretary (the BLM program is part of the Department of the Interior and therefore was under Salazar’s control).

Years ago, The Fund for Animals sniffed out the problem of the BLM rounding up horses and then selling them at bargain-basement rates to transporters and kill buyers who shipped them to slaughter plants throughout North America. In response, the BLM reformed its practices, stipulating that no individual could “adopt” more than four horses and burros through the agency’s adoption program. In recent years, as a further safety net, the HSUS worked hard to secure language in the Interior spending bills, further stipulating that no wild horses could be sent to slaughter. That language was included in the 2009 Interior spending bill – the same period during which Davis engaged in his illegal conduct.

The BLM wild horse program has been wracked by mismanagement for decades and in recent years the BLM has gathered more horses from the range than can be absorbed into the adoption system. This has resulted in nearly 50,000 wild horses and burros being held in short-term and long-term holding facilities, with costs associated with this program consuming 60 percent of the agency’s entire budget. It’s become as much a captive wild horse management program as a wild horse program.

We at The HSUS have long advocated for more extensive use of the fertility control vaccine PZP as a way to keep horses on the range and to check the growth of the population as a means of obviating the need for the costly and often inhumane round-ups. The National Academy of Sciences has also took a critical view of BLM’s management and urged the agency to make more common use of the PZP contraceptive vaccine as a means of limiting fertility on the range.

Now, the OIG’s report makes yet another compelling case for why round-ups pose extraordinary risks to wild horses – simply put, the agency has not conducted proper oversight of buyers. In 2012, at a campaign event for President Obama where Salazar was present, a Colorado Springs Gazette reporter asked the secretary about his association with the hauler. Salazar threatened to punch out the reporter, and later apologized for his threat. Putting aside any favoritism that may have been at work, it’s astonishing how one livestock hauler with his background was able to acquire such an extraordinary number of horses. The wrongful sale also cost taxpayers $140,000 to deliver truckloads of horses to Davis, according to the report. He paid $10 apiece for the horses, or less than $18,000 total, and made as much as $154,000 in profits by selling them for slaughter – a different kind of haul for Davis.

Salazar is long gone from the Interior Department, and that’s a good thing for horses and for animal protection concerns in general. It’s now up to Secretary Sally Jewell to get this program on the right track, scale back the round-ups, and aggressively implement fertility control programs throughout the West. These fertility programs work, and the inertia to keep doing things the same old way must end. How many more scandals and reports can this agency endure before it brings fundamental change to this program?

This article first appeared on Wayne Pacelle’s blog, A Humane Nation.

Humans: Uniquely Unique or Chronic Rationalizers?


As far as the rights and welfare of all other species of animals are concerned, human arrogance—narcissistic notions of human supremacy over nonhumans—is the root of all evil.

Ever since my youngest days, I’ve always instinctively known that the “us and them” cultural given was wrong-headed, and that having two sets of laws, one for our species and one for all others, is absurd at best.

This has been backed up by much that I have read over the years. In an effort to counter centuries of long-accepted dogma intended to instill anthropocentric attitudes, philosophers like Peter Singer, with his Animal Liberation, and scientists like Jared Diamond and Richard Leaky, in The Third Chimpanzee and The Sixth Extinction respectively, have devoted sections of their books to debunk outdated beliefs of human preeminence and superiority.

To further put humans in their rightful place, the following is something I happened on last night in the late John A. Livingston’s 1994 book, Rogue Primate:

“Few exercises in rationalization have involved quite so much intellectual pretzel-bending as the task of demonstrating absolute human uniqueness. Our obsession with this is revealing. It’s not enough that every individual, and every species, is a unique, one-time-only, event. Fanatical humanism demands more. All species are unique, we may acknowledge, but one species is uniquely unique. Which reveals a good deal more than bizarre English usage.

“Thanks to studies in ethology and behavioral ecology, the religion of human uniqueness has sustained a series of notable setbacks in our lifetime. We have had to abandon a substantial list of ‘unique attributes’: tool using, tool making, language, tradition and culture, abstraction, teaching and learning, cooperating and strategizing, and others, less inflammatory, such as caring and compassion. There’s not a lot left. But the ultimate fallback position, the central jewel in the human imperial crown, hadWashoe_chimpanzee always been self-awareness. Then along came little Washoe.

“Washoe, a chimpanzee, was raised by humans, Allen and Beatrice Gardner. She became famous as the first non-human being to learn the hand-sign language of the deaf and mute, a mode of communication seen by the Gardners as more useful to a chimpanzee (because of its anatomy) than human sounds. While still very young she became extraordinarily adept at signing, which of itself generated concern in some quarters. An ape was not only ‘speaking,’ but also, apparently carrying on conversations with her human mentors. But Washoe’s historic bombshell was kept in abeyance for a time. She had been supplied with various toys and other miscellaneous items, and had also become used to all manner of human household hardware, such as mirrors. One day, while she was looking into a mirror, she was asked ‘Who is that?’ ‘Me, Washoe,’ she signed back.

“Washoe was ‘self-aware.’ This was flabbergasting. And for many people it was deeply unsettling. We seem to be witnessing the collapse of the last bastion of human uniqueness. Something had to done about Washoe. Human brows furrowed in thought. Then came the answer. Of course! How blindingly obvious! Washoe was not aware that she was self-aware. One can almost feel the collective sigh of relief. We could not know this, of course, but it was fundamental to the shoring-up of the collective self-esteem that we asserted. Now if it were somehow demonstrated that a non-human animal was, in fact, aware of its self-awareness, then no doubt, the claim would be made that it was not, like us, aware of its awareness of its self-awareness. This could go on forever, and probably will.

“The problem of self-awareness (or rather, the problem of our unrepentant claim, in spite of Washoe and others, that beings who are not human do not have it) confuses a number of issues pertaining to the human treatment of other animals. It appears consistently in defense of vivisection, for example. ‘Sentience’ is much used as a synonym for self-awareness, or, sometimes, consciousness. Non-human animals are not sentient (consciously self-aware); therefore, it is ethically permissible to do as we please with them. Such reasoning is mystifying. Even if the living, captive individual beings (both wild and domesticated) upon whom the vivisectors visit their incomprehensible acts were not self-aware, how would that justify cruelty? No one denies that they have central nervous systems (that is one of the important reasons they are used) that they feel pain (another reason), that they entertain fear (still another). Fear without self-awareness is gibberish.

“Vivisection has its own strange ethical code, but it is not the only such structure to depend ultimately on the concept of self. Ethics rests on moral philosophy. Moral philosophy rests primarily on the individual. Presumably the concept of the individual rests ultimately on the concept of self. It used to be generally assumed that non-human beings were incapable of thinking or behaving ethically because, among other limitations, they lack the concept of self. That was pre-Washoe.

Many humanists attempt to handle the problem of self-identity in a chimpanzee by asserting that the animal lacks the capacity for reason, and therefore could never conceive of moral or ethical rights and obligations. That the animal lacks reason could be debated (there is ample evidence in many species of problem solving, which could only be conceptual). What animals very probably do lack is the power of rationalization, which would appear to be a uniquely human attribute.”


It seems, while our technological advancements and mechanical understandings may be growing rapidly, if not hastily, our acceptance of non-human awareness, and in fact, our own moral evolution, is still crawling at a snail’s pace. As it is for global warming, denialism about animal awareness is an agenda-driven form of rationalization.

KOKO-C-02AUG00-MN-HO--Koko the gorilla and her kitten. PHOTO CREDIT: RON COHN/GORILLA FOUNDATION Ran on: 02-18-2005 Koko the Gorilla seems to smile as she looks at a kitten. Koko has had many pets during her years at the Gorilla Foundation. Ran on: 02-18-2005 Koko and friend Ran on: 02-26-2005 Koko is shown in 2000 holding a kitten, one of many pets the gorilla has had in her years at the Gorilla Foundation. Ran on: 12-02-2005 Koko the gorilla is claimed to have a nipple fetish.


Big Cat Advocates Oppose Plan To Kill Cougars

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Oregon’s 2016 big-game hunting regulations will be on the agenda when the Fish and Wildlife Commission meets in Florence Oct. 8 and 9.

Specifically the commission will discuss opening up target areas where “cougar numbers will be proactively reduced in response to established criteria” for cougar conflicts with humans, livestock or other game animals such as mule deer.

There were no target areas in 2014 and 2015, but the commission is proposing to open up four areas in 2016. One of them is to reduce livestock and safety conflicts, two are for improving mule deer populations and the fourth is for mule deer and bighorn sheep.

Cougar advocates want the state to know that “the people of Oregon want cougars well managed and not killed en masse because of ill-conceived schemes that have no scientific validity,” as Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon director for the Humane Society of the United States, puts it.

In a call to Facebook followers to come and testify on Oct. 9, the group Predator Defense compares cougars to Cecil, the African lion killed by an American hunter, saying, “America’s mountain lions are experiencing the same fate as Cecil, Zimbabwe’s most famous and beloved lion, illegally killed in July by a Minnesota dentist on a trophy hunt.” The group continues, “But what’s happening here is even worse — the slaughter is legal and being carried out by government agents on behalf of deer hunters.”

Beckstead of HSUS tells EW, “The policy of treating wild ungulates like free-roaming livestock to be ‘harvested’ and wild carnivores as vermin to be exterminated is an archaic approach to wildlife management that ignores the evolving humane values of most Oregonians.” He points out that voters have opposed twice allowing recreational hunters to use hounds to hunt cougars in 1994 and 1996.

According to the commission’s agenda information, depending on the area, the cougar killing would be carried out by volunteer agents, federal Wildlife Services and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at an annual cost of almost $70,000 to remove 95 cougars. Sally Mackler, native carnivore advocate for Predator Defense, says “federal agents from the USDA’s Wildlife Services and local houndsmen deputized by ODFW are immune from state law banning use of hounds by trophy hunters.”

Beckstead says that “using packs of radio-collared trailing hounds and neck snares to indiscriminately kill Oregon cougars” in the target zones “under the guise of protecting mule deer and reducing conflicts with humans and livestock is just poor wildlife management, not scientifically valid.”

Mackler adds, “Science shows that cougar predation is a minor influence on mule deer population, and the main reasons for decline are habitat, nutritional quality of and access to forage.”

The groups are calling for a stop to “indiscriminate killing” and for the use of up-to-date science on the big cats, especially in light of the fact that Oregon’s management plan for cougars is due to be revised and updated next year. “Cougars should be conserved for all, not just managed for a few trophy hunters,” Predator Defense, HSUS and 10 other groups say in their comments to the ODFW commission.

Those who wish to testify about the plan can go to the 8 am meeting at the Driftwood Shores Resort, Pacific Room, 2nd floor, 88416 1st Ave. in Florence.

NM “Game” Commission caters to hunters, ranchers

Letters to the editor

Published: Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 at 12:02am
Commission caters to hunters, ranchers
AT THE N.M. Game Commission hearing on Aug. 27, opponents of increased mountain lion and bear killing outnumbered the hunters, trappers and ranchers at least 4 to 1. Yet, while some of the environmental/animal groups were allowed to speak, many of us individual citizens were not.
It was obvious to many that the commission was changing the rules to fit its biased needs. Not only are numerous ranchers and hunters on this commission, but there are two Safari Club International members as well.
Anyone surprised that the “vote” was unanimous in favor of more killing?
We cannot help wildlife by changing these game (commission’s) names, or funding structure, or by continuing to accept their barbaric “game management policies” as something worthy of support.
Game agencies were started in the early 1900s. Aldo Leopold – a longtime wolf killer – literally wrote the textbook on game management. Yes, he was “sorry” for killing one wolf too many, but he was responsible for the atrocious model of today’s “modern game management,” which views wild animals as “commodities and resources.”
Terms such as “harvest” and “game quotas” are designed to artificially maintain wild species for trophy/trapping – keeping just enough of them for human exploitation/killing.
The N.M. Game (and Fish) Department comes up with pseudo-statistics to rationalize its use of wildlife. Some so-called wildlife groups are collaborating with the enemies of wildlife – the hunting, trapping and livestock industries – to establish a so-called sustainable level of wildlife killing. The wildlife of New Mexico has enough to contend with without wildlife organizations joining the killing machine.
The World Wildlife Living Planet Report states that populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles measured for the report have declined by 52 percent since 1970; and freshwater species have suffered a 76 percent decline – an average loss almost double that of land and marine species.
We are developing a campaign against trophy hunting, and the state game departments that support it, on our EARTH for Animals website.
Santa Fe
Protect our wildlife from trophy hunters
I FIND IT despicable that the N.M. Game Commission could be dominated by the lobbying of hunters. Bears, cougars and other native species are magnificent wildlife creatures that have no voice, no vote, no money and no guns with which to fight back.
Shame on the commission for considering any killing, let alone killing by traps. Anyone with a degree in biology knows that predator/prey populations enter population equilibrium if humans do not interfere by hunting. It is unnecessary to kill them.
I will work to defeat those on the commission with my time, effort and money if they refuse to protect our wildlife from trophy hunters.
Hunting is not motivated by a need for food but by a need for power and satisfaction of personal ego. Allowing these kills satisfies the self interest of the few over the common interest of the many, the greater public.
Listen to the people who support the common interest, people who want these creatures to live, not die.
Santa Fe
Game Commission OKs exterminations
SHAME ON THE New Mexico Game Commission for its continued assault on our wildlife. It is tragically pathetic that even though the taxpaying public has loudly voiced opposition to the commission’s plans to exterminate all forms of wildlife from our lands (commissioners) continue their quest to do so and get away with it.
How sad for the rest of us.
All commissioners ignored will of people
A PERVERSION OF democracy in order to kill cougars. Just one fact makes that statement sadly accurate.
Seventy-five percent of voters (polled) don’t want trapping of cougars, and furthermore, 75 percent of voters (polled) don’t want trapping of cougars, even considering it would bring in revenue. And yet, the N.M. Game Commission voted, unanimously, to allow trapping of cougars.
Let that sink in. Seventy-five percent of voters polled don’t want trapping of cougars in New Mexico, and yet, the N.M. Game Commission voted unanimously to allow it anyway. Unanimously.
All of the game commissioners ignored the will of the people.
And while maybe the Game Commission doesn’t have to adhere strictly to democratic principles, the fact that all commissioners ignored the will of the people shows that absolutely none of them give democracy any consideration.
It seems like that would be impossible. Impossible that none of the commissioners would vote according to the will of the people. This, folks, is a sad commentary on the arrogance of these officials. Ignoring democratic principles. Surely one would think that at least one commissioner would acquiesce to the will of the people, but no. Not one considered democracy when voting.
Add to that the petition results opposing trapping of cougars and the questionable handling of public comments, it is accurate and fair to say that the decision to allow trapping of cougars in N.M. is a perversion of democracy here in New Mexico. Just so a few people can torture and kill.
How sad.
Time to get some new commissioners
THE NEW MEXICO Game Commission is charged with managing wildlife for all of us. Recent decisions show there is no representation for those of us who think wildlife, including the top predators, should be protected from slaughter. We are the majority yet completely unrepresented on the commission.
The terms of three of the commissioners expire on Dec. 31. All New Mexicans who believe wildlife has a right to more than a brutal death should implore Gov. Susana Martinez to appoint at least one commissioner to represent the majority.

Cougar Advocates File Appeal to Reverse Undemocratic, Arbitrary Quota Increase by Wildlife Commission

In response to dramatic increases in cougar hunting quotas, eight organizations and a wildlife research scientist have submitted an administrative appeal to Gov. Jay Inslee to return cougar hunting quotas to scientifically justifiable levels. The petitioners include The Humane Society of the United States, Center for Biological Diversity, Mountain Lion Foundation, Wolf Haven International, The Cougar Fund, The Lands Council, Predator Defense, Kettle Range Conservation Group and Gary Koehler, Ph.D., a former research scientist with the WA Dept. of Fish and Game.

At their April meeting, in a two-minute exchange and without prior notice to the public, members of the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to raise the cougar quota by 50 to 100 percent in areas of Washington also inhabited by wolves.

On June 30, the parties filed a formal petition asking the Commission to reverse its controversial decision. On Aug. 21, the Commission voted 7 to 1 to keep its decision in place, ignoring public outcry and a 13 year Washington-based scientific study that cost taxpayers approximately $5 million dollars. The study shows such quotas will harm cougar populations and increase mortality of cougar mothers and their dependent cougar kittens.

Washington-based cougar studies also show that killing cougars may exacerbate conflicts with people and livestock and does nothing to prevent future cougar attacks or make people safer. Furthermore, a 2010 poll of Washingtonians found that more than 90 percent of residents appreciate and value cougars.

Dan Paul, Washington state director for The HSUS, said: “Washingtonians care deeply about cougars and the role that these iconic animals play in maintaining healthy wild lands in our state. We urge Governor Inslee to reverse this misguided and arbitrary decision that is biologically unsound, has wasted millions of tax dollars and left stakeholders out of the public rulemaking process.”

In 1996, Washington voters approved I-655 with 63 percent of the statewide vote, to protect cougars and other wildlife species from inhumane and unsporting methods of trophy hunting. This expansion of cougar killing is contrary to the wishes of Washington voters for cougar protections.

Gov. Inslee has 45 days to respond to the filing.