Archive for the ‘center for biological diversity’ Tag

Lawsuit Challenges Government’s Large-scale Wildlife Killing in Idaho   9 comments

From:  The Wildlife News

Killing Thousands of Animals Each Year Violates Environmental Laws

wolf

BOISE, Idaho— Five conservation groups filed a lawsuit today over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s failure to fully analyze and disclose the impact of its “Wildlife Services” program in Idaho, which kills thousands of wolves, coyotes, foxes, cougars, birds and other wild animals each year at taxpayer expense. The multimillion-dollar federal program, whose work primarily benefits the agriculture industry, relies on an array of lethal methods including aerial and ground shooting, poison, trapping and explosives.

Following a notice of intent to sue sent by the conservation groups in September 2014, the agency agreed to prepare a new environmental analysis for its wildlife-killing activities in Idaho — an incremental step that falls short of the more comprehensive analysis required by law. Today’s lawsuit seeks long-term changes in the agency’s operations to adopt nonlethal methods, as well as the development of an environmental impact statement to analyze the impacts of killing wildlife across the state year after year.

“Wildlife Services spends millions of dollars each year to indiscriminately shoot, poison and trap coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, foxes, badgers and many other wildlife species — yet it refuses to comply with our nation’s basic environmental laws,” said Laird J. Lucas, director of litigation at Advocates for the West. “This lawsuit will shine a bright line on this rogue agency and force it to reveal publicly exactly what wildlife killing programs it is engaged in and the adverse impacts of those activities.”

“A transparent and public analysis of Wildlife Services’ activities is long overdue,” said Greta Anderson, deputy director of Western Watersheds Project, adding that “Wildlife Services’ wanton killing of Idaho’s wildlife is morally wrong, environmentally counterproductive, and procedurally illegal.”

The agency has never comprehensively examined how its actions affect grizzly bears, Canada lynx and bull trout, all protected under the Endangered Species Act. The agency sets traps and snares across the state that accidentally capture and kill federally protected wildlife, as well as domestic pets. Bull trout are killed when the agency detonates explosives to remove beaver dams.

“Without a comprehensive analysis of Wildlife Service’s wildlife-killing activities across the state, it’s impossible to know whether it’s leading to widespread damage to other species like grizzly bears,” said Andrea Santarsiere, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The public deserves more, and so does Idaho’s wildlife.”

“Shrouded in secrecy, Wildlife Services operates as though it is above the law, further endangering already imperiled species and wasting our taxpayer dollars,” said Bethany Cotton, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “A full accounting and scientific analysis of Wildlife Services’ cruel practices is long overdue.”

The state of knowledge about the impacts of wildlife killing has changed significantly over the years. “Current science doesn’t support the arbitrary killing of animals as a ‘management’ tool,” added Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “For example, killing wolves and coyotes indiscriminately can exacerbate livestock conflicts and is simply a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“The long reach of this killing program kills key predators like wolves even in remote wildlands like the backcountry of the Clearwater Basin,” said Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater. “It is past time the agency is held accountable to we the people.”

In 2013 Wildlife Services killed more than 3,000 mammals in Idaho using methods such as aerial gunning, neck snares, foothold traps, and toxic devices known as M-44s that spray sodium cyanide into the victim’s mouth, causing tremendous suffering and releasing toxic chemicals into the environment.

Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity,Friends of the Clearwater and Project Coyote are represented by attorneys Laurie Rule and Talasi Brooks of Advocates for the West, and Kristin Ruether of Western Watersheds Project.

A copy of today’s filing can be read online here.

 

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Rare gray wolf seen at Grand Canyon may be dead   1 comment

From:  azCentral 12 News

Dec. 30, 2014 by Brenna Goth

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(Photo: Arizona Game and Fish Department)

 

The federally protected female wolf seen last month near the Grand Canyon may have been shot and killed in southwestern Utah on Sunday, wildlife groups fear.

If that’s true, the first northern gray wolf seen in northern Arizona in 70 years has been lost.

A hunter shot the radio-collared animal over the weekend in the Tushar Mountains outside of Beaver, Utah, according to a release from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The mountains are about 200 miles north of the Grand Canyon.

The hunter mistook the animal for a coyote, the agency said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not confirmed the wolf’s identity. But the Utah agency said the federal service identified the animal as a 3-year-old, female northern gray wolf. She was collared last January in Wyoming.

That description and the wolf’s location means she was likely the Grand Canyon wanderer, said Michael Robinson, wolf advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.

That wolf, first seen in northern Arizona in October, has has been celebrated by conservationists as a symbol of hope for the species’ recovery. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the wolf traveled at least 450 miles to reach northern Arizona and was likely looking for food or a mate.

“Justice should be done for this animal,” Robinson said. “This shouldn’t just be brushed under the rug.”

MONTINI: Hooowl no! What this killing teaches us about wolves, and us.

Conservationists were early advocates for the radio-collared animal spotted and photographed by visitors and hunters on the Kaibab Plateau north of the Grand Canyon National Park.

State wildlife agencies worked together to track the animal after they discovered its radio collar was dead. They were originally unsure if it was a wolf or wolf-dog hybrid.

An animal seen north of Grand Canyon on Oct 27, 2014.

An animal seen north of Grand Canyon on Oct 27, 2014.(Photo: Arizona Game and Fish Department)

 

In November, a genetic test on the animal’s scat showed it was the first Rocky Mountain gray wolf seen in the area since the 1940s.

Attempts to replace the wolf’s tracking collar were unsuccessful, though the agency said DNA tests could confirm its identity from previously captured wolves.

Gray wolves were once common in the area but disappeared in the early 1900s after being hunted and killed. Robinson said last month that the wolf’s presence proved the Grand Canyon was still a suitable environment for the species.

Sunday’s death — whether or not it’s the same wolf — is a setback, he said.

“Whether it was persecution or recklessness, it highlights that wolves still need protection,” he said.

The Center for Biological Diversity is calling for a full investigation into the Sunday shooting.

Conservation officials are still reviewing the case, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

 

Great Letters to the Editor! Lobo supporters call out AZ Game and Fish Commissioner in the press (posted 12/20/14)   Leave a comment

From:  Lobos of the Southwest

Dec. 15, 2014

Writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper is an excellent way to raise awareness about critically endangered Mexican gray wolves and the steps needed to help them thrive. Surveys of newspaper readers show that the letters page is among the most closely read parts of the paper. It’s also the page policy-makers look to as a barometer of public opinion.

AZ Republic, Phoenix
December 15, 2014

Politics trump science at Game and Fish

Chairman Robert Mansell of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission proposed that the wolf on the Kaibab Plateau in Northern Arizona is a result of a “radical environmental conspiracy.” (Letters, Dec. 7)

This confirms my suspicion that the commission does not utilize proper science when making decisions in regards to wildlife management.

The commissioner provides this conspiracy theory without providing the evidence to defend it. Wolves have been known to travel long distances without detection and this wolf, until proven otherwise, is no exception.

The commissioner also confirms what I have known for some time, that this commission is truly politically motivated. They should not use venues, like the largest circulating paper in Arizona, to expound their opinions.

MICHAEL SORUM
Scottsdale, Arizona

Arizona Republic, Phoenix
December 11, 2014

Commissioner’s Letter Disrespectful of Wildlife and Arizonans

Robert Mansell’s letter in Sunday’s Republic (“Wolf appears during controversy: Coincidence?,” Sunday Opinions) was as big a piece of groundless, inflammatory and uninformed claptrap as I’ve seen in quite some time. Mr. Mansell’s round-about allegation that a wild northern gray wolf was somehow “planted” on the Kaibab Plateau in northern Arizona in an effort to divert attention away from impending decisions on wolf management is at best paranoid, and at worst downright disingenuous.

As Chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, it is Mr. Mansell’s sworn duty to “conserve Arizona’s diverse wildlife resources and manage for safe, compatible outdoor recreation opportunities for current and future generations” (per the Department’s mission statement). Yet Mr. Mansell seems to be GAME-ing the system and FISH-ing for excuses not to responsibly manage one particular species of Arizona’s diverse wildlife – namely, the Mexican gray wolf.

Mr. Mansell’s letter was both disrespectful and a disservice to the majority of Arizonans who support the successful reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf.

ED COLEMAN
Tempe

Many thanks and congratulations to these talented and dedicated letter writers-your letters make a big difference in the effort to protect and recover our lobos!

Please take this opportunity to help Mexican wolves by writing your own great letter to the editor!
 Submission information and talking points are here.
Click here to join our email list for Mexican gray wolf updates and action alerts.
Visit us on Facebook here.

Donate to support our work for Mexican gray wolf recovery here.

 

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Study: Non-hunters contribute most to wildlife   3 comments

From:  WyoFile

Dec. 18, 2014 by Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Private lands, like the farm these goose hunters are on in Goshen County, provide essential habitat for wildlife. Some say federal lands, especially in the West, also are fundamental to wildlife conservation but haven’t been accounted for in the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Proponents of that theory estimate that hunters contribute only 6 percent to wildlife conservation nationwide. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr/WyoFile)

 

As Wyoming grapples with how it will fund wildlife conservation, hunters may lose some of their influence as other groups and interests are asked to increase their financial contributions.

Hunters have been key players in conserving wildlife in the post-frontier era, a development that’s come to be called the North American Model of Wildlife Management. Wyoming Game and Fish Department says 55 percent of its budget comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and fees, and that hunters contribute even more through taxes on guns and ammo.

Since 2005, however, the agency has received general fund money appropriated by the Legislature, now amounting to 6 percent of its budget. That opens the door for others to demand representation in wildlife management decisions.

But those interests, whether they be against hunting or against aggressive predator control, feel they already have a legitimate reason to be heard but still are being shut out.

“I would describe the North American Model as incomplete,” said Thomas Serfass, a professor at Frostburg State University in Maryland and chairman of its department of biology and natural resources who has studied the issue. “It’s never been a complete story of wildlife conservation.”

Hunters have rightly claimed credit for saving or restoring iconic American species, be they elk, antelope, ducks or wild turkey. Yet some point to imperiled sage grouse, declining mule deer populations and the recent Endangered Species Act protection of the Gunnison sage grouse as examples of a broken North American Model.

One of the elements that is missing from the North American Model’s history of wildlife conservation is the contributions of federal land management agencies, Serfass said.

“Federal funding has never been a prominent part of what’s been, or at least what’s been portrayed (as) the North American Model,” he said. “Setting land aside in the public domain in perpetuity is probably the most substantive thing we do for wildlife conservation.”

When the value of federal land programs are put into the mix of wildlife conservation today, hunters’ contributions diminish to a mere 6 percent of funding nationwide, a paper released in October says. “The basis (the North American Model) of public debate is a myth,” says the study Wildlife Conservation and Management Funding in the U.S. The group Nevadans for Responsible Wildlife, Management issued the paper.

“Times are changing,” said Donald Molde, co-author of the study and a former board member of Defenders of Wildlife. “The issue of wildlife — who pays for that (and) whether the non-consumptive user should have a say — this is a body of concern that’s really relatively new … in the last 10 years.”

“What about this public lands argument,” he said. “Holy Toledo, that’s a huge subsidy to hunters.”

Molde’s paper, written with Mark E. Smith, co-founder of the Nevada group, says the eight largest federally funded wildlife programs contribute $18.7 billion annually to wildlife, land management and related programs. Those agencies include the U.S. Forest Service at $9.7 billion, the National Park Service at $3.6 billion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at $2.8 billion and the BLM at $1.2 billion.

Only 5 percent of those agencies’ operating budgets and land acquisition costs are funded by hunters or related activities, the authors say. A similar ratio occurs in the private sector among conservation nonprofits, the study says.

“The 10 largest non-profit conservation organizations contribute $2.5 billion annually to habitat and wildlife conservation; of this, 12.3 percent comes from hunters and 87.7 percent from the non-hunting public,” the paper says. The Nature Conservancy tops the list at $859 million annually, followed by land trusts, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife Fund and Ducks Unlimited, the latter at $147 million.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was last of the top 10 at $54 million, according to Molde and Smith.

Theodore Roosevelt was a hunter, conservationist and one of the architects of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. That doctrine  credits hunters for wildlife health because of their financial contributions to game management through the purchase of hunting licenses. As the non-hunting public contributes more to state wildlife agencies, it is asking for a larger role in decision making. (Library of Congress - click to enlarge)

Theodore Roosevelt was a hunter, conservationist and one of the architects of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. That doctrine credits hunters for wildlife health because of their financial contributions to game management through the purchase of hunting licenses and more. As the non-hunting public contributes more to state wildlife agencies, it is asking for a larger role in decision making. (Library of Congress)

“With increased awareness and interest of the general (non consumptive) public in controversial wildlife management issues such as fur trapping, predator control, trophy hunting, coyote killing contests and wolf reintroduction, a debate is before us as to whether the general public is or should be afforded a proper voice in wildlife management decisions,” the two wrote. “Sportsmen favor the current system, which places a heavy emphasis on their interests through favorable composition of wildlife commissions and a continued emphasis on ungulate management.”

“Nonhuman predators (wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, ravens and others) are disfavored by wildlife managers at all levels as competition for sportsmen and are treated as second-class citizens of the animal kingdom,” the paper says. “Sportsmen suggest this bias is justified because ‘Sportsmen pay for wildlife,’ a refrain heard repeatedly when these matters are discussed.”

Molde has been arguing with Nevada wildlife authorities about lion hunting and trapping for 40 years, he said, but officials hear other voices. “The guys who stand up and shout the loudest are the ones that shoot deer, elk and bighorn sheep,” he said.

Their argument goes like this, Serfass said: “We provided the funding and technical resources, for example, restoring ungulates. In the process hunters vilify predators.” Thus, “they (hunters) should have primary attention in the way predators are managed.

“That attitude has taken us back 70 or 80 years in the progress we have been making in predator and prey management,” he said.

Even choosing to buy a license shouldn’t entitle one to a louder voice, Molde argues. Such influence may even undercut elements of the North American Model.

The North American Model of Wildlife Management:

• Wildlife is a public-trust resource
• Elimination of markets for wildlife
• Allocation of wildlife by law
• Wildlife can only be killed for a legitimate purpose
• Wildlife are considered an international resource
• Science is the proper tool for the discharge of wildlife policy
• Democracy of hunting (not restricted to those of means)

From “Large Carnivore Conservation” edited by Susan Clark (Yale) and Murray Rutherford (Simon Fraser University). The two argue in the book that the North American Model is inconsistent in its principles.

In recent years Wyoming has seen the establishment of the Cougar Fund, Wyoming Untrapped, and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, each of which seeks to defend predators. Wildlife Advocates recently sued federal agencies over the elk hunt in Grand Teton National Park and is criticizing the Game and Fish’s killing of a grizzly bear near Clark.

The challenged elk hunt in Grand Teton may be an example of how some people feel left out, according to a masters’ thesis being prepared by Marian Vernon, a teaching fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She interviewed more than 30 people about the park’s elk reduction program.

“(W)hile stakeholders tend to define the problems associated with the park elk hunt in technical terms (e.g., problems of elk overpopulation, human safety), the underlying problem — and the ultimate source of the conflict — is that many stakeholders feel disrespected and excluded from the process by which government agencies make decisions about wildlife management and conservation on public lands,” she wrote in the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative fall 2014 newsletter. “The results of my study suggest that agencies should shift the focus of their attention away from ecological and biological details of elk management and instead focus on improving transparency, participation and involvement with outside stakeholders.”

Serfass, at Frostburg State, agrees.

“Probably a lack of access (to decision-makers) is one of the weakness in how we conduct wildlife conservation,” he said. “As a democratic society, if we’re talking about the public trust, people need more access.”

Despite the argument about the role of public lands in wildlife conservation, state management budgets are still viewed through the lens of the rifle scope, the critics said.

“Access is related to contributions,” Serfass said. “The first thing we have to do is realize we need a broader funding base.

“Non-hunting conservationists need to step up and demand to participate in funding,” he said. “The infrastructure is not in place. The average person who cares about conservation doesn’t necessarily (participate in) those types of activities,” like hunting.

“They certainly don’t have a voice with congressional caucuses that deal with sportsmen activities,” he said. “If they don’t belong to one of the higher-end conservation organizations, it’s a challenge for them to participate.”

Attempts to find new ways to fund wildlife conservation are ongoing not only in Wyoming but also nearby, not always successfully. In North Dakota, voters this month rejected a proposal to set aside 5 percent of the state’s oil extraction tax for conservation, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

In Montana, Fish Wildlife and Parks stalled a proposal to sell a wolf-management stamp that would have funded non-lethal elements of the agency’s program. Critics on both sides of the predator argument didn’t have faith in the proposal. The nonprofit Wildlife Institute offered reasons in an online essay.

Ducks Unlimited member Fred Kingwill and Sprigger hunt on the Salt River in Star Valley. Waterfowl hunters contribute to wildlife management through taxes on guns and ammo, as well as by buying licenses and duck stamps. Ducks Unlimited is the top hunters' conservation group in the country, a recent study says. (Angus M Thuermer Jr/WyoFile Ñ click to enlarge)

Ducks Unlimited member Fred Kingwill and Sprigger hunt on the Salt River in Star Valley. Waterfowl hunters contribute to wildlife management through taxes on guns and ammo, as well as by buying licenses and duck stamps. Ducks Unlimited is the top hunters’ conservation group in the country, a recent study says. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr/WyoFile)

“The lack of relationships with citizens who do not hunt or fish can lead to indifference or mistrust that undermines public support for new revenue sources,” the policy group said. “At the same time, the longstanding relationship between agencies and hunters that has fueled conservation for the past century can also create resistance to allowing other interests to help fund state agencies.”

Regardless of the role of federal lands and budgets in sustaining wildlife in Wyoming, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission decides on game populations, hunting seasons and so on. The governor appoints the seven members of the commission, who represent districts across the state. Laws limit the number of members from a single political party.

Wyoming wants to set up a task force to figure out how to ensure long-term Game and Fish funding, said Neil Thagard, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Western outreach director. The group supports wildlife conservation through the North American Model. Sportsmen, business owners, oil and gas interests would come up with a plan at the governor’s request, Thagard said, and he’s been asked to serve.

While it’s too early to predict what might come out of such a group — yet to be assembled and announced — Thagard would like to see non-consumptive users engaged, he said.

“There’s no one in this state that doesn’t benefit from sustainable fish and wildlife populations,” he said. “I would just like to see everyone step up to the plate and be willing to provide funding for professional wildlife management.”

“As far as the funding to the professional wildlife agencies, it is sportsmen that are paying the bill, and that’s a good thing,” he said. Some hunters want to keep it that way, he said. If the system changes, the fear among some is “We as sportsmen are going to lose control.”

Thagard agrees that federal lands in the West are essential to healthy wildlife populations, hence his stiff opposition to states acquiring them. At the state management level, where most game populations, hunting seasons and limits are set “I think the hunter does have a louder voice — but they’re the ones engaged with the agency,” he said.

He also would defer to technical and biological experts, unlike Yale’s Vernon who is studying the Grand Teton elk hunt and suggesting decisions be made in a broader context that includes interests and stakeholders that have not traditionally been involved.

“What does the science say we need to do to appropriately manage fish and wildlife resources,” Thagard said. “It should be science-based information that influences the decisions.

“Our Wyoming Game and Fish are heavily influenced at times by policies established at the state level and by special interests,” he said. “That doesn’t always bode well for wildlife.”

Thagard said he’d like to see game and fish license prices linked to the consumer price index. If such were to happen, hunters and anglers would see less sticker shock than if prices were hiked once every decade or so, as they are now. Such a move also would keep the Legislature, which today approves license-price increases, out of the picture.

“We have too much legislative meddling in Game and Fish agencies,” he said. “This isn’t just Wyoming, it’s all over. We don’t need politics driving fish and wildlife management.”

If non-consumptive users feel left out of the wildlife management picture, so too do non-resident hunters. They’re one of the largest, if not the largest single group of contributors to the Game and Fish budget, Dubois outfitter and former legislator Budd Betts said.

He is a board member of the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, a group that relies heavily on out-of-state clients.

Non-resident hunters can pay more than $1,000 for an elk license, $10,000 all-told for travel and an outfitted hunt. Even if non-consumptive users contribute to the Game and Fish budget, “the lion’s share is still going to come from the non-resident,” Betts said.

Like non-consumptive users, non-resident hunters also don’t have a direct line to the commission, Betts said.

“The Wyoming outfitters are really the only voice for the non-resident hunter – the only organized and sophisticated voice,” he said. “You have to have a commercial group speak for the major license (revenue) source. You have to have a trade organization to speak for that group.”

There’s no proven way to capture revenue from non-consumptive wildlife users, no method like taxing camera or binocular sales, Betts said. Should such a system be developed, or should general fund money increase as a proportion of the Game and Fish budget, that could worry hunters.

Park Service biologists carry a tranquilized wolf pup in Yellowstone National Park before they collar it with a radio transmitter during the wolf transplant project in the mid 1990s. Several groups that support predators are making increasing complaints about how large carnivores are treated in Wyoming. If Wyoming broadens its wildlife funding base beyond hunters, it will likely have to deal with those new constituents' views. (Angus M Thuermer Jr/WyoFile Ñ click to enlarge)

Park Service biologists carry a tranquilized wolf pup in Yellowstone National Park before they collar it with a radio transmitter during the wolf transplant project in the mid-1990s. Several groups that support predators are making increasing complaints about how large carnivores are treated in Wyoming. If Wyoming broadens its wildlife funding base beyond hunters, it will likely have to deal with those new constituents’ views. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr/WyoFile)

“The issue has always been (that) when you lose your hunter base for funding, it no longer becomes a hunter-based philosophy,” guiding wildlife management, he said. There could be “some sort of a non-hunter incursion into Game and Fish management.”

Wyoming voter approval of a constitutional amendment in 2012 guaranteeing the right of residents to hunt, trap and fish reflects how they feel about preserving their hunting heritage. Meantime, non-residents may be at the limit of what they would pay for a Wyoming elk license, Betts said.

“We’re going to be significantly overpriced versus other states,” he said. “The only way to maintain your competitiveness is to maintain your quality.”

That opens another Pandora’s box, he said. “That circles back around (to) all the issues people have with Game and Fish — herd numbers, late cow seasons, and how they go after predators,” Betts said.

If Wyoming finds a long-term funding solution, it may not satisfy everybody. Thagard and Molde’s divergent views of state wildlife agencies suggests as much.

“What would happen if Wyoming Game and Fish went broke and went out of business,” Molde said. “You’d still have wildlife all over Wyoming. They’d probably be doing just fine.” State game agencies exist, “simply to provide for hunter opportunity,” he said.

Thagard couldn’t see that more clearly – in the opposite direction. From elk feedgrounds to sage grouse conservation to habitat projects, wildlife today needs help.

“They don’t exist by themselves,” he said of wildlife. “We’re intervening to try and sustain it.”

Resources:
Click here to view a Game and Fish video about its funding history and challenges here:

In this article, backcountry hunters and anglers weigh in on why it is a bad idea to transfer federal lands to the states.

— Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He began working at the Jackson Hole News in 1978, and was editor of the Jackson Hole News and Jackson Hole News&Guide before joining WyoFile. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307) 690-5586. Follow him @AngusThuermer.

 

Guest: Killing wolves will come back to haunt farmers and ranchers   Leave a comment

From:  Seattle Times

Dec 12, 2014 by Amaroq Weiss Special to The Times

Killing wolves to save livestock will lead to greater killing of livestock, guest columnist Amaroq Weiss writes, pointing to a new scientific study

A gray wolf

 

FOR decades, whenever wolves preyed on livestock, the routine response among many ranchers and wildlife managers across the West has been brutally simple: kill the wolves.

More dead wolves equal fewer dead cows and sheep, the reasoning went.

And in many cases the reasoning is likely dead wrong, according to research published recently by a leading Washington state wolf scientist.

Confounding widely held beliefs, the new study indicates lethal responses to livestock predation by wolves often lead to an increase in attacks, or depredations.

It’s a message that may not be heard in Washington, where state wildlife managers responded to livestock depredations by eradicating the Wedge pack in 2012 and killing the alpha female of the Huckleberry pack last summer. Recently, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife announced it will swiftly move to lethal tactics if the Huckleberry pack kills any livestock next spring and, in statements to conservation groups, has said it is considering “pre-emptive” killing of wolves. Both of these policies flout the state wolf plan, which emphasizes conflict-deterrence as opposed to simply killing wolves.

Killing of wolves by the state compounds illegal wolf-killing by those few who take things into their own hands.

Reports last month that the alpha female of the trouble-free Teanaway pack was fatally shot come on the heels of a Whitman County farmer chasing a wolf for miles before killing it, and Stevens County commissioners exhorting county residents to kill wolves. Earlier this year, a wolf from the Smackout pack was found illegally killed in Stevens County and another wolf was discovered gunned down in Ferry County.

The groundbreaking research by Washington State University wolf scientist Rob Wielgus, published in the Dec. 3 issue of the scientific journal PLOS One, suggests killing wolves can have unexpected results, dissolving previously well-behaved packs and leaving small groups or lone wolves more inclined to kill livestock.

Wielgus said many states are aggressively managing wolves based on the largely untested perception that lethal control reduces depredations. His findings reflect research by other scientists showing increased black bear and cougar mortality results in more depredations.

Examining annual reports from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture over 25 years, Wielgus’ analysis found that each wolf killed increased the chance of livestock depredation the following year by 5 percent. Not until the mortality rate of wolves exceeds 25 percent would livestock depredations decrease.

His study opens the door to further study and debate about whether we’re doing enough to recover wolves. A recent study I co-authored analyzing the additional good wolf habitat across the United States found that more than 25,000 square miles of suitable habitat remains unoccupied in Washington — more than five times the area currently occupied.

In all, the study identified more than 350,000 square miles of additional habitat for gray wolves in 19 states, offering the potential to nearly double the wolf population in the Lower 48 states to around 10,000 by expanding recovery into suitable areas of the West Coast, Northeast, southern Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon area where the first gray wolf in the region in more than 70 years was just confirmed.

But, as we consider expanding wolf recovery to levels that leading scientists deem more sustainable, we must first expand our approach to wolf management.

And, as our knowledge of how human activities impact wildlife continues to evolve, Washington’s wolf-management policies must evolve toward serving not just hunters and ranchers opposed to wolves but the interests of a broader range of taxpaying constituents, who demand that wildlife be managed not as a problem but as a treasured public trust.

Amaroq Weiss is a biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity where her work focuses on recovering wolves across the Northwest, Rockies and California.

 

Female wolf travels hundreds of miles to northern Arizona   1 comment

From:  Deseret News

By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 21 2014 7:49 p.m. MST

Updated: Friday, Nov. 21 2014 7:49 p.m. MST

Wildlife officials have confirmed the first gray wolf in northern Arizona in more than 70 years.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — A female gray wolf from the Northern Rockies traveled hundreds of miles into northern Arizona, marking the species’ first appearance in the region in more than 70 years and the farthest journey south, wildlife officials confirmed Friday.

A wolf-like animal had been spotted roaming the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the adjacent national forest since last month. Biologists collected its scat and sent it to a University of Idaho laboratory for testing, verifying what environmentalists had suspected based on its appearance and a radio collar around its neck.

“The corroboration is really good to get,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Biologists don’t know the wolf’s age or from where it traveled. The radio collar wasn’t transmitting a signal, and cold weather forced biologists to suspended efforts to capture the animal and replace the collar.

The Idaho lab might be able to glean more details about the wolf from its DNA, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Jeff Humphrey said that could take several weeks or months.

“We’ll let this wolf be a wolf where it’s at, and if it decides it’s going to move back north, it can do that,” he said. “Or if somebody joins her, then that’s nature taking its course.”

Wolves often roam vast distances in search of food and mates. But the farther they go, the less likely they are to find a mate, said Ed Bangs, who led recovery efforts for wolves in the Northern Rockies over two decades before retiring from the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011.

“It’s looking for love,” he said. “It leaves the core population and doesn’t know the love of its life is going to be right over the next hill, so it just keeps traveling.”

About 25 percent of the roughly 1,700 wolves from the Northern Rockies are being tracked, wildlife officials said. They are distinguished from the Mexican gray wolves found in the Southwest by their more full bodies and less pointed ears.

Mike Jimenez with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Wyoming said Northern Rockies gray wolves are hard-wired to disperse and have traveled hundreds of miles. One young female started off in Montana and traveled 3,000 miles over six months, making stops in Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Colorado before it died, he said. Colorado had been the farthest journey south for the animals until the female was confirmed in Arizona, he said.

Wolves from another major population in the western Great Lakes have likewise been found far from home.

Wolves largely were exterminated early last century across the lower 48 states, except in the western Great Lakes area. The Northern Rockies population was restored after 66 gray wolves from Canada were relocated to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in the mid-1990s.

They’ve been absent from the Grand Canyon region since the 1940s.

The Fish and Wildlife Service in recent years lifted federal protections for the animals in the western Great Lakes and the Northern Rockies. A federal judge recently ordered the protections re-instated in Wyoming after wildlife advocates sued.

Environmentalists are pressing for continued protection of gray wolves. Meanwhile, they celebrated the news of the one in northern Arizona.

“I wonder if she has any sense of the celebrity she has achieved,” said Drew Kerr of WildEarth Guardians.

Associated Press writer Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, contributed to this report.

Field reports: Wolf-shooting case in prosecutor’s hands   Leave a comment

From:  The Spokesman

POACHING – A Whitman County wolf-shooting case has been turned over by state officers to County Prosecutor Denis Tracy.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife police delivered their evidence to the prosecutor on Nov. 19.

The man who shot a wolf around Oct. 12 could be charged with a misdemeanor for killing an animal that’s protected in far-Eastern Washington by state endangered species laws, said Steve Crown, Fish and Wildlife police chief.

The agency turned over case after receiving DNA lab results that confirmed the animal was a wolf and not a wolf hybrid.

Tracy’s office staff said Wednesday that the prosecutor is still investigating the case and has set no deadline for making the decision on whether to prosecute.

The identity of the shooter has not been released although WDFW officers described the man as a county farmer.

The original WDFW report said the man chased the wolf in a vehicle and shot it in a Palouse farm field about 15 miles southwest of Pullman.

“We’re not recommending anything,” Crown said. “We’re simply referring the facts of the case in our report. It’s up to the prosecutor to examine the facts and the case law and decide whether to bring charges.”

Although exemptions are made for killing a wolf to protect life or livestock, unlawful taking of a state endangered species is punishable by sentences of up to a year in jail and fines up to $5,000.

The only wolf-killing case to be prosecuted in Washington resulted in Twisp ranching family members being ordered to pay fines totaling $50,000 in 2012 for killing two Lookout Pack wolves in 2008. Those wolves also were protected by federal laws.

A Kittitas County wolf-killing case remains under investigation. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Brent Lawrence said Tuesday no arrests have been made in the October shooting of an adult breeding female belonging to the Teanaway Pack near Salmon la Sac. Conservation groups have offered a $15,000 reward in the case.

Another wolf was found shot to death Feb. 9 near Cedar Lake in northeast Stevens County. Conservation groups joined with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to offer a $22,500 reward for information about the case. The case remains unsolved.

Bald eagles showing at Wolf Lodge Bay

BIRDS – Four bald eagles were counted Wednesday at Lake Coeur d’Alene in the weekly fall survey conducted during the annual fall-winter congregation at the northeast corner of the lake.

That’s up from zero birds counted last week by U.S. Bureau of Land Management biologist Carrie Hugo in her first survey of the season.

Eagles were at Higgens Point and in the Beauty Bay area this week, she said.

For decades, the eagles have provided a popular wildlife-viewing attraction as the birds are lured from mid-November into January to feast on the spawning kokanee that stack up in Wolf Lodge Bay.

“It is not too unusual for the count to be very low (in mid-November),” Hugo said.

The 2013 bald eagle count at Lake Coeur d’Alene peaked at 217 on Dec. 30.

 

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