Poaching rings charged in Washington and Alaska

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/sep/07/in-brief-poaching-rings-charged-in-washington-and-/

POACHING – Three men are accused of trying to poison wolves and leading illegal sheep and bear hunts at the hunting lodge built by Fairbanks hunting guide and aviator Urban Rahoi.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage announced a 15-count federal indictment on Tuesday against three employees of Rahoi’s Ptarmigan Lake Lodge, which is an inholding on the north side of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

The indictment alleges that Casey Richardson of Huson, Montana, Dale Lackner of Haines, Alaska, and Jeffrey Harris of Poulsbo, Washington, conspired to violate the Lacey Act, a 1900 law that governs interstate traffic of animal parts.

Harris and Richardson are charged with “conspiracy to use substance to incapacitate game” in the indictment for allegedly making plans to buy the sweetener xylitol in fall 2015 to poison wolves in the area they guide.

Poison is not a legal way to kill wolves under Alaska or federal law.

Harris, Richardson and Lackner also face false statement and false record claims. Harris faces an additional charge of “unlawful baiting of game” for allegedly establishing bear baiting stations in the national preserve that were not permitted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game or the National Park Service.

In the Lacey Act charges, the three defendants are accused of guiding out-of-state clients on sheep and bear hunts in 2014 and 2015 and transporting animal parts across state lines while not being registered guides.

The crimes alleged in the indictment could be punished by a jail term of as much as five years or a $250,000 fine, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Harris was arrested Tuesday in Washington and has an initial court date on Friday in Anchorage.

Longview hunters related to 100 illegal kills

POACHING – Seven suspects involved in a massive poaching ring in southwestern Washington and north central Oregon were officially charged this week for combined violations involved in killing roughly 100 animals illegally, including bear, elk, deer, bobcat, and squirrel.

KING 5 TV reports that multiple videos seized showed the suspects encouraging their dogs to tear bears apart after shooting them from tree tops.

Officers were alerted to the poaching ring after receiving tips about dead wildlife found without their heads or other trophy body parts.

The seven individuals being charged are from Longview and Morton, Washington, and include two juveniles.

“This was really shocking, especially that it was going on in broad daylight right in front of us,” said Washington Fish and Wildlife Police Cpt. Jeff Wickerhsam. “The correspondence among these individuals showed a wanton disregard for our wildlife resources and the rules meant to protect them.”

For Wickersham and others, the graphic videos and other evidence was disturbing. Officers served search warrants in March, April, and May. It was like peeling back an onion, Wickersham said.

The father and son pair, Eddy “Alvin” Dills and Joe Dills, are well-known in hunting circles, KING 5 reports:

“Joe Dills was investigated in 2007 and charged in 2008 for his participation in the prolific poaching group, the self-avowed ‘Kill ’Em All Boyz.’ According to his case file, Dills hunted beside Micky Gordon, a man who bragged about illegally killing bears among other wildlife and even lethally punished one his hound dogs by wrapping an electrical collar to his testicles, shocking him so severely the dog later died of his injuries.

“Eddy Dills, Joe Dills’ dad, hunted on nearly two-dozen state issued permits in 2011 to kill bears on timber farms, as part of the state’s Bear Timber Depredation Management program, which depends on hunter ethics, entrusted behind locked gates on private land to follow the rules.”

Advertisements

Interior Department, key House Republicans maneuver to open National Park Service lands to killing grizzly bears, wolves

https://blog.humanesociety.org/wayne/2017/08/interior-department-key-house-republicans-maneuver-open-national-park-service-lands-aerial-gunning-grizzly-bears.html

In April, President Trump signed a resolution, enabled by the Congressional Review Act and passed by Congress on a near party-line vote, that repealed a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) rule restricting particularly cruel and unsporting methods of killing grizzly bears, wolves, and other predators on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. There are now multiple indications that the Trump administration and some allies in Congress are gearing up to unwind a nearly identical rule, approved nearly two years ago, that restricts these appalling predator-killing practices on 20 million acres of National Park Service (NPS) lands in Alaska. Our humane community nationwide must ready itself to stop this second assault on a class of federal lands (national preserves) set aside specifically to benefit wildlife.

Today, the Sacramento Bee’s Stuart Leavenworth broke the story that Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) had obtained a leaked memo that appears to show that senior political appointees at the Department of the Interior have barred top officials at NPS from speaking out against a widely circulated draft bill in Congress – the SHARE Act – that includes a provision to repeal the parks rule. The bill, which will be assigned to the House Committee on Natural Resources, contains a host of anti-wildlife provisions. Top officials at NPS reviewed the bill and objected to many provisions, and memorialized those objections in an internal memo. A senior Interior Department official sent back the memo to the NPS officials with cross-out markings on nearly all of the objections raised by the NPS. That helps explain why lawmakers on Capitol Hill have not heard a negative word from the NPS about this legislative package and its provisions that amount to an assault on the wildlife inhabiting Alaska’s national preserves.

Several weeks prior, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had signaled his desire to reopen the NPS predator control rule, with an eye toward changing and even gutting it. The rule passed with almost no dissent when NPS adopted it in October 2015.

In short, there is a double-barreled attack on the rule, and the administration seems to be locked and loaded on both strategies – one legislative and the other executive.

In March, the House voted 225 to 193 in favor of H.J. Resolution 69, authored by Alaska’s Rep. Don Young, to repeal the USFWS rule on predator killing. Those 225 members voted to overturn a federal rule – years in the works, and crafted by professional wildlife managers at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – to stop some of the most appalling practices ever imagined in the contemporary era of wildlife management. Denning of wolf pups, killing hibernating bears, baiting grizzly bears, and trapping grizzly and black bears with steel-jawed leghold traps and snares. It’s the stuff of wildlife snuff films.

Just weeks later, the Senate followed suit, passing S.J.R. 18 by a vote of 52 to 47. I was so proud of New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, himself an ardent sportsman, and Sens. Dick Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., for deconstructing the phony arguments advanced by the backers of the measure. If they had been arguing the case in front of a jury, they would have carried every fair-minded juror considering the evidence and honoring a standard of decency. They eviscerated the phony states’ rights arguments advanced by their colleagues. Their false subsistence hunting arguments. Their inaccurate representations of the views of Alaskans.

President Trump then signed H.R. Res. 69/S.J.R. 18 and repealed the USFWS rule.

The USFWS rule was at particular risk because it had been adopted in 2016, and the Congressional Review Act allows Congress and the president to nullify recently adopted rules with simple majority votes in both chambers and no committee review of the measures. The nearly identical NPS rule came out a year earlier and the CRA doesn’t apply to such long-standing rules. In short, the Department of the Interior could weaken the rule by opening a new rulemaking process, or Congress could repeal it (albeit without the expedited review and also perhaps without a simple majority vote in the Senate).

Today’s reporting by the Sacramento Bee, and the work of PEER, have sent up a flare, warning the world that there is maneuvering to launch an unacceptable assault on wildlife on National Park Service lands. Hunting grizzly bears over bait, killing wolves in their dens, and other similarly unsporting practices have no place anywhere on North American lands, and least of all on refuges and preserves. We’ll need you to raise your voice and write to your lawmakers, urging them to block any serious consideration of the SHARE Act in its current form. And tell Secretary Zinke that’s there’s no honor and no sportsmanship in allowing these practices on national preserves.

Despite extinction crisis, hunters push to kill wolves and sandhill cranes

 by Patricia Randolph

As humanity hurtles toward catastrophe, our legislators turn a blind eye to reality and continue to pander to forces of destruction and death. Instead of caring for the fragile life of this earth, legislators like state Sen. Tom Tiffany and U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson continue to ignore the science of the Endangered Species Act, pushing to kill our endangered wolves.

And the hunters want to kill cranes. They apparently are bored with killing other wildlife. Maybe they want a wolf with a crane in his mouth to hang on their walls.

It is not that difficult to connect the dots between the status quo and certain trajectory toward an unlivable and desolate home planet. The skies are emptying, as are woods and oceans — not through any natural force, but only by the violence of man. Chris Hedges writes in his recent “Reign of Idiots”: “Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting and polluting the earth in the name of human progress. … They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end, and they still believe it.”

Tiffany held yet another wolf hate conference, in early April, that was completely skewed to myth, lies, and fearmongering. He should be reminded that Richard Thiel, retired DNR wolf biologist, said on Wisconsin Public Radio, “I have worked with wolves in Wisconsin for 30 years. I have pushed them off of deer carcasses and had them walk right up to me. I never felt the need to carry a firearm and I never did.” Tiffany has been informed that only 2/10ths of 1 percent of livestock deaths can be attributed to wolves, whereas 90 percent of pre-slaughterhouse death is due to horrific farm conditions.

Yet Tiffany, Baldwin, Johnson and many other Republicans are bloodthirsty in pursuit of wolf-hater votes.

The Center for Biological Diversity describes the acceleration of extinction: “Because the rate of change in our biosphere is increasing, and because every species’ extinction potentially leads to the extinction of others bound to that species in a complex ecological web, numbers of extinctions are likely to snowball in the coming decades as ecosystems unravel.”

Yesterday, May 6, the DNR held a Wisconsin hunter education convention “on the future of hunter education with statewide experts in the field of hunter recruitment, retention, and reintroducing people of all ages to the outdoors and hunting.” For years, the DNR has offered $5 licenses to entice new hunters and trappers, especially targeting women and children, to bolster its power base of hunters and trappers.

The DNR has recruited and trained another 10,000 trappers over the past five years, deregulated lead shot and weapons and massively extended and liberalized seasons, shooting ranges, and access to public lands. It is paying for private land access. It is permitting the use of dogs to chase our wildlife without mercy or licenses, anytime, anywhere, with little or no oversight. It is paying $2,500, from the Endangered Species Fund, for each dog killed by wolves or bears defending themselves and their young.

In 2015-16 the DNR’s self-reported survey documented 284,395 wild animals crushed in traps throughout the state. Prices were down in that time period, with prices ranging from 71 cents for possums to $75 for bobcat skins. The total monetary value comes out to $1,258,651 or $4.42 per wild animal killed. Trappers are the only citizens who can destroy unlimited wild animals for profit, indiscriminately, and self-report.

Nonhunters have zero say.

If the 4.4 million voting-eligible citizens each put in 29 cents, we could buy back our 284,395 innocent wildlife and save them from such suffering and needless death. We are not given the option. Only death has a price tag and license.

The Center for Biological Diversity warns, “(C)onserving local populations is the only way to ensure genetic diversity critical for a species’ long-term survival.” That means wolves, bears, bobcats, beavers, coyotes, and all wild life.

As Chris Hedges writes in “Reign of Idiots”: “There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it.”

Despite Trump overturning refuge hunting rules, conflict remains

http://www.alaskajournal.com/2017-04-10/despite-trump-overturning-refuge-hunting-rules-conflict-remains#.WOvPEIjyvIU

Although Congress put an end to a set of federal restrictions on wildlife management on national wildlife refuges in Alaska, the underlying conflict is far from over.

President Donald Trump signed a House Joint Resolution on Tuesday overturning a set of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations enacted in 2016. The rule restricted certain hunting methods on national wildlife refuges in Alaska, with additional specific rules for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Under the rule, predator control activities were banned unless based on sound science and in response to a conservation concern or met refuge need. On the Kenai, additional public use restrictions went into place, including some plane and motorboat access, camping restrictions and requiring a permit for baiting black bears and prohibiting using a dog to hunt big game except black bears, among other rules.

The state filed a lawsuit in January against the Department of the Interior over the Fish and Wildlife rules and another set of hunting restrictions set by the National Park Service in Alaska’s national preserves. The Safari Club International, a hunting organization, filed a similar lawsuit of its own about a week later. A few days after that, the Alaska Professional Hunting Association filed its own lawsuit over the same regulations.

“Passage of this resolution reaffirms our state sovereignty, and the state’s authority to manage fish and wildlife statewide, including on federal public lands,” said Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth in a news release issued Tuesday. “Alaskans depend on wildlife for food. Reversal of these regulations will allow residents to continue their hunting and gathering traditions.”

Despite the overturn, there’s still a sharp philosophical management disagreement between federal wildlife managers and state wildlife managers, and unless one side’s mandate changes, the disagreement will remain. Fish and Wildlife manages the national wildlife refuges for natural biological diversity, without promoting prey species over predators. Fish and Game, on the other hand, is mandated to manage for maximum sustained yield, which would provide enough harvestable animals to provide for hunters. The National Park Service protects the lands it manages and all the wildlife on them, prohibiting hunting entirely on national preserves.

Stacey said the group contests that by bypassing the state’s game management authority, the refuge and national park rules effectively amend the state’s constitution.

“(The state constitution) is where you get the maximum sustained yield management rules,” he said. “Within (Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act), it says nothing is supposed to modify or amend the state’s constitution. We argue that whrere the federal government steps in and imposes a foreign management philosophy, that actually effectively amends the state’s constitution.”

The three agencies cooperate on management issues, but there have been times over the years when the Board of Game or Fish and Game crossed a line and trigged a reaction from the feds. A recent example was when the Board of Game authorized the taking of brown bears over bait on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, said Board of Game chairman Ted Spraker.

“We allowed the taking of brown bears over bait in 2013, and the refuge immediately said, ‘Not on the refuge,’” he said. “That hasn’t changed.”

There are management tools built in, such as an overall quota for brown bears taken in the area before the season closes, he said. The refuge allows baiting for black bears in an area of Game Management Unit 15A but put brown bears off limits, which seemed inconsistent, he said.

The National Park Service regulations are still in place, so the lawsuits will go on with those challenges, and the regulations on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge are still in place, so the Safari Club’s lawsuit will still challenge those.

“It has more to do with not ceding authority to the federal systems compared to whether the department and the Board of Game will change things that we’re currently doing,” Spraker said. “I don’t see any major changes coming because of this, I think there will be a little more cooperation on some of the issues, but I don’t see the refuges embracing any sort of predator management because of this.”

The overturning of the rule must be frustrating for the agency, though, said Michelle Sinnott, an attorney with environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska, which represents a group of conservation organizations that petitioned to intervene in the three lawsuits and have been granted intervener status in the Safari Club and Alaska Professional Hunters Association lawsuits.

“It’s maddening to a sense and I’m sure it’s very frustrating for federal agencies, because the Congressional Review Act takes a sledgehammer to agencies’ years of work and communications with the public and public noticing comment and meetings with people in the region,” she said.

ANILCA has a role to play too. The act, passed in 1980, affected about 157 million acres of federal land in Alaska and changed management for others, including converting the Kenai National Moose Range into the current Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Its baseline principles include the provision of managing for natural diversity, and so even with the 2016 rules changed, with ANILCA still in place, the conflict still stands between federal management of wildlife on federal land and state sovereignty.

“That question is still alive and well and we’ll be part of it now,” Sinnott said. “It’s great that our intervention was granted, because now there’s a whole host of Alaskan voices that will be heard in these cases.”

Once the debate moved to the national level, the groups supporting Fish and Wildlife’s rule received support from members of Congress who saw problems with the rules themselves and with the state asserting its right to manage wildlife on federal lands, said Pat Lavin with the Alaska office of conservation group Defenders of Wildlife.

“To have any state kind of challenge that and claim that the state has the right to do whatever it wants … I think plenty of members of Congress saw that right away and that was all the noise,” he said. “Unfortunately, we lost the vote anyway. There’s plenty of folks in Congress who understand that and aren’t crazy about it but were willing to undo this regulation.”

Lavin agreed that ANILCA would help reinforce current management practices. Refuges around the country don’t always follow the strict state regulations, he said.

“It is true, and not only in Alaska but around the whole country, that as a general proposition in managing refuge lands, the Fish and Wildlife Service defer at least initially to the place they’re in, in a given refuge,” he said. “That’s kind of the default position, but on top of that, the refuge does things all the time that are specific to the refuge and may or may not be consistent with state regulations.”

Spraker said he was optimistic that with the new federal administration, a new Department of the Interior director and a new Alaska regional supervisor of the Fish and Wildlife Service, state and federal managers could collaborate on management more.

“I don’t think this is going to make a major change in how we do business, but I do think it’s going to increase the level of collaboration between the state and federal agencies,” he said. “And with new leadership, I think that will lend itself toward cooperation with the state.”

Animal rights in the Trump Era: protecting Alaskan wildlife

With so much news coming from Washington DC these days, it’s hard to keep up with everything. One story that caught my eye and disgusts me to no end is a bill Trump recently signed into law.

What happens now? Predators, mostly bears and wolves, living on federal lands in Alaska will be slaughtered.

The law this bill repealed is an Obama-era regulation that prevented the hunting of bears and wolves on Alaskan federal lands unless it was deemed necessary to preserve the land’s refuge status. With the passage of this new law, bears and wolves can be shot from planes. They can be baited and shot. Cubs and pups can be killed in their dens, and mothers and their kids can be targeted and killed any time, any place.

As the former director of US Fish & Wildlife Services wrote in August of 2016, laws like this one are “purportedly aimed at increasing populations of caribou and moose but defies modern science of predator-prey relationships.” He was in favor of the Obama-era regulations that sought to protect predators on federal refuge lands. He stated that we should “ensure that predator and prey alike can thrive on our refuges.”

Why are bills like this, that so unfairly target predators–– going so far as to allow cubs and pups to be shot in their dens–– so popular among Republicans? The answer is the NRA, which backed this resolution. On the opposing side of the battle was the Humane Society, which urged Congress not to adopt the resolution.

One line in the NRA’s article about the law struck me as not only odd, but as an outright lie. They state that the ads the Humane Society aired in regards to the law are “falsely claiming that its repeal would allow for inhumane forms of taking bears and wolves.”

Is shooting hibernating bears in their dens not inhumane? Is chasing down bears from planes not inhumane? Is pulling the trigger on wolf puppies point-blank not inhumane?

The answer is obvious.

Now not only are the unethical and brutal murders of countless Alaskan bears and wolves legal, but the passage of this law suggests that we as a nation are okay with such inhumane actions. It also messes with the already fragile ecosystem, and will lead to the deaths of animals on refuge lands.

It is wrong, and I am deeply ashamed that it is now the law.

http://blog.timesunion.com/animalrights/animal-rights-in-the-trump-era-protecting-alaskan-wildlife/6512/

Trump Just Lifted A Ban On Shooting Bears And Wolves From Airplanes In Alaska

https://www.buzzfeed.com/salvadorhernandez/trump-just-lifted-a-ban-on-shooting-bears-and-wolves-from?utm_term=.dtVExXm7AZ#.hjE5KB39XE

An Obama-era rule prohibited the hunting of predator animals like bears and wolves in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges.

Posted on April 3, 2017, at 7:57 p.m.

Senate votes to lift limits on hunting Alaska grizzlies and wolves on federal land

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/03/21/senate-votes-to-lift-limits-on-hunting-alaska-grizzlies-and-wolves-on-federal-land/?utm_term=.6baf206d0e36
March 22

The Senate voted Tuesday to abolish a rule restricting specific hunting practices on national wildlife refuges in Alaska — including trapping, baiting and aerial shooting — on the grounds that state officials should be able to set the terms for wildlife conservation on public land within their own borders.

The 52-to-47 vote, which was almost entirely along party lines, represented the latest instance of Republicans using a powerful legislative tool — the Congressional Review Act — to eliminate regulations that President Barack Obama’s administration finalized before he left office in January. Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine) joined Republicans in backing the measure, and the measure needs only President Trump’s signature to become law.

With Trump’s support, congressional Republicans are working systematically to undo several environmental, labor and financial safeguards the previous administration put in place toward the end of Obama’s term. Under the 1996 law, any rule wiped off the books cannot be reinstated in a “substantially similar” form.

Although a disproportionate number of the regulations that have come under fire address energy and the environment, the larger debate has focused on whether the federal government has the right to establish sweeping rules Americans must live by or whether power should be devolved to the states.

During a sometimes-emotional debate Tuesday, Republicans and Democrats sparred over how best to define sportsmanship as well as state sovereignty.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) noted that the issue of managing wildlife “is something in Alaska that we take very, very seriously.” Recalling how she watched her grandparents and parents lobby for Alaska to become a state, she added, “It was all about fish, it was all about salmon. That’s one of the reasons we fought for statehood.”

But Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who spoke just before Murkowski, said the idea of allowing the killing of mother bears and cubs as well as denning wolves and pups would be putting “the federal stamp of approval on methods of take that the public views as unethical.”

“I don’t think that’s standing up for hunters,” he said. “I fear that it is endangering something that is critical to our culture and a way of life.”

Heinrich added that he had recently taken his 13-year-old son, Carter, on his first elk hunt, where “he soon learned that the hard work comes after you pull the trigger.” As his son painstakingly stripped the meat of the elk they had shot, the senator said, “Anything less would be unethical, and disrespectful to that magnificent wild animal.”

The National Rifle Association backed overturning the rule, as did the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Alaska chapter of Safari Club International. In mid-January the state of Alaska challenged the regulation, along with an earlier hunting rule issued by the National Park Service, in federal court.

Environmental and animal welfare groups, by contrast, lobbied against the measure.

For years the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had negotiated on an annual basis how to establish hunting and fishing regulations for national wildlife refuges in the state, which encompass tens of millions of acres. But in 2013 the Alaska Board of Game, which is made up of political appointees, rejected the Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposed rules and instructed the state fish and game agency to write the regulations on their own.

In a statement after Tuesday’s vote, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said that in his state, “many hunt for survival, both personal and cultural. Alaskans have been able to maintain these strong and life-sustaining traditions through a rigorous scientific process that allows for public participation and ensures we manage our fish and game for sustainability, as required by the Alaska Constitution.”

 But Ashe and other defenders of the rule said some of the changes envisioned by state officials, such as allowing people to fly into a place where grizzlies or caribou had gathered and begin hunting that day, could disrupt the natural predator-prey balance in the wild. Ashe warned that while some hunters may want to decrease the number of bears and wolves so that the numbers of other popular game species, such as moose and caribou, rise, there will be unintended ripple effects.

“There’s a natural tension between what the state wants to do, and what the federal law compels the Fish and Wildlife Service to do,” he said.

Outrageous Anti-Animal Acts Planned for Alaska

From: HSUS.org

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate chose to turn nightmare into reality for animals living in our nation’s wildlife refuges — federal land in Alaska specifically set aside for them to thrive, not to become targets of inhumane and unsporting killing methods.

By a 52 to 47 party-line vote, Senators voted to repeal a 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule forbidding the most outrageous acts:

Black bears being caught in painful snare traps while foraging for food …

Wolf pups being shot point-blank in their dens …

Grizzly bears being chased by plane or helicopter before being shot down by trophy hunters …

All this cruelty and suffering for trophies.

With this heartbreaking vote, Congress enabled 76 million acres of our national wildlife refuges to become killing fields for trappers, baiters and spring trophy hunters.

The politicians in Washington who voted to allow these cruel practices do not represent the views of regular Americans on animal welfare or wildlife conservation. They sided with the special interests who want to kill wolf pups and hibernating grizzly bears for pleasure.

And this is only one of the recent attacks on animals:

  • Congress is trying to cherry-pick wolves from the federal list of endangered species, exposing them to trophy hunting, commercial trapping and hounding.
  • The Department of the Interior will allow millions of birds and other animals to suffer from lead poisoning by reversing an order restricting the use of toxic lead ammunition on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands.
  • Tennessee walking horses are still at risk of having chemicals burned into their skin until the anti-soring rule is unfrozen under the new administration.
  • And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has purged its website of government inspection reports on thousands of puppy mills, roadside zoos and other facilities.

Wildlife Services says it’s working to avoid future wolf harm

http://www.capitalpress.com/Oregon/20170315/wildlife-services-says-its-working-to-avoid-future-wolf-harm

Activists are harshly critical of the M-44 cyanide devices, which they say are extremely dangerous and kill indiscriminately.
by Eric MortensonCapital Press

Published on March 15, 2017 11:07AM

The state director for USDA Wildlife Services in Oregon said the agency has removed M-44 cyanide poison traps from “areas of immediate concern” following the unintended poisoning of a wolf in Wallowa County in February.

Director Dave Williams said Wildlife Services has reviewed what happened and shared that information with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which manages wolves in the state. The two agencies are in ongoing discussions about how to prevent another wolf death, Williams said.

“We don’t feel good about that,” he said.

Williams said Wildlife Services has removed M-44s from areas identified by ODFW as places wolves are present. ODFW officials confirmed that took place.

“We appreciate that Wildlife Services has voluntarily removed M-44s,” ODFW Wildlife Division Administrator Doug Cottam said in a prepared statement.

“We also recognize we want to increase our communication between our agencies,” he said. “We want to develop a more effective system to ensure that Wildlife Services’ staff working in areas with wolves know what ODFW knows about wolf activity.”

OR-48, a 100-pound male from the Shamrock Pack, died Feb. 26 after it bit an M-44 device, which fires cyanide powder into a predator’s mouth when it tugs on a baited or scented capsule holder. Wildlife Services set the trap on private land in an attempt to kill coyotes.

The federal agency kills predators or other wildlife that damage or pose a threat to property, livestock or humans. The agency describes M-44s as an “effective and environmentally sound wildlife damage management tool,” but the wildlife activist group Predator Defense calls them notoriously dangerous.

The devices are designed to kill canids such as coyotes and foxes. The cyanide powder reacts with saliva in an animal’s mouth, forming a poisonous gas that kills the animal within one to five minutes. Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, said M-44s indiscriminately kill dogs attracted by the scent and are a hazard to children or others who might come across them in rural areas.

The Wallowa County incident is complicated by Oregon’s management and protection of gray wolves over the past decade as they entered the state from Idaho, formed packs, quickly grew in population and spread geographically.

Previously, Wildlife Services did not use M-44s in what the state designated as Areas of Known Wolf Activity. After wolves were taken off the state endangered species list in 2015, it was ODFW’s understanding that Wildlife Services would continue to avoid using M-44s in such areas.

“We discussed our concerns specifically regarding M-44s,” ODFW spokesman Rick Hargrave said last week. “We didn’t want those devices in those areas.

“We believed it was clear what our concerns were,” Hargrave said.

Williams, the Wildlife Services state director, said he wants to focus on preventing another wolf death rather than “who messed up here.”

He said the Wallowa County case was the first time the agency has killed a wolf in Oregon. Overall, the agency has recorded “lethal take” of “non-targeted” animals — ones it didn’t intend to kill — in 1.3 percent of cases, he said. He said the agency twice unintentionally caught Oregon wolves in foothold traps, which nonetheless allowed ODFW to put tracking collars on them before releasing them unharmed.

“Some of our tools are more forgiving than others,” Williams said.

He said Wildlife Services puts on workshops to help ranchers protect livestock with non-lethal methods. In one case two summers ago, agency personnel spent 260 hours over four weeks helping protect a sheep flock from Umatilla Pack wolves, he said. The work allowed ODFW to avoid having to kill wolves due to depredations, he said.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association views the Wallowa County incident as a matter of agency to agency interaction and is “staying on the sidelines” in the investigation, said Todd Nash, a Wallowa County rancher who is the group’s wolf policy chair. Livestock producers, of course, have a keen interest in the state’s wolf management policies and outcomes.

“It’s never a good time politically to have a dead wolf,” Nash said.

Midwest, Wyoming lawmakers target wolf protections again

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/energy-environment/midwest-wyoming-lawmakers-target-wolf-protections-again/2017/02/26/5e4ce15c-fc50-11e6-9b78-824ccab94435_story.html?utm_term=.73e2d4001ac9
February 26
MINNEAPOLIS — Pressure is building in Congress to take gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region and Wyoming off the endangered list, which would allow farmers to kill the animals if they threaten livestock.

Representatives from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming have asked House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin for a fast floor vote before the season during which most cows and sheep will give birth begins in earnest. That followed testimony before a Senate committee a week earlier from the president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, who said producers need to be able to defend their livestock and livelihoods.

Meanwhile, both sides in the debate are waiting for a federal appeals court to decide whether to uphold lower court rulings that put wolves in the four states back on the list or to let the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service return management of the species to the states, which it has wanted to do for years.

Here’s a look at some of the issues:

THE LETTER

 U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, sent a letter co-signed by seven of his colleagues from the four states to House leaders urging a quick floor vote on a bill to return their wolves to state management. A key component of both is language that would prevent the courts from intervening.

The representatives said it’s urgent because calving season is when cows and calves are most vulnerable.

“As you know, cows and their calves can easily be worth several thousand dollars, so each instance of a wolf attack has devastating economic impacts on ranchers and their families. Currently, ranchers and farmers have no legal actions available to deal with gray wolf attacks because these predators are federally protected,” they wrote.

Peterson said in an interview that they very nearly passed a similar provision in the last Congress and that he thinks they have a decent shot at persuading Ryan to grant an early floor vote. Otherwise they’ll try to attach the language to a bigger appropriations bill later. The legislation is similar to what Congress used to delist wolves in Montana and Idaho in 2011 after courts blocked the federal government’s attempts to lift protections in those states.

“Wolves are not endangered,” Peterson said.

THE HEARING

The Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works held an informational hearing Feb. 15 billed as “Modernization of the Endangered Species Act.” Jim Holte, president of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, complained that it’s been illegal for farmers in the region to kill wolves that prey on their livestock since wolves went back on the list.

“As wolf populations continue to increase, interactions between farmers, their livestock, rural residents and wolves continue to escalate without a remedy in sight,” Holte testified.

THE COURTS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has long contended that wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming have recovered to the point where they’re no longer threatened, so hunting and trapping can be allowed under state control.

Gray wolves were once hunted to the brink of extinction in the lower 48 states, but they recovered under Endangered Species Act protections and reintroduction programs to the point where they now number around 5,500, according to the service. The combined gray wolf population of the three western Great Lakes states is now about 4,000, while Wyoming has roughly 400. The agency describes wolf numbers in those states as “robust, stable and self-sustaining.”

But federal courts have blocked multiple attempts to take them off the endangered list, most recently in 2014. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last fall heard oral arguments in challenges to those rulings but hasn’t ruled on them yet.

THE OPPOSITION

Groups that support the federal protections say it’s premature to lift them because wolves are still missing from most of their historical range. They’ve been able to persuade the courts that the terms of the Endangered Species Act requires recovery in more than just a few states, even though the Fish and Wildlife Service disagreed.

Brett Hartl, government affairs director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said he’s skeptical that the latest congressional efforts will get much traction. He said Peterson and the other representatives who sent the letter are just sending a message to their constituents that they’re still trying.