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Saturday, January 2, 2016

The State of the Wolves, 2015-2016

Wolf image public domain via Pixabay

For wolves and their advocates, 2015 was a year of triumph and tragedy. The year began with the glow from a great victory: wolves had been placed back under federal protection in four states where they had been slaughtered. The year ended with advocates breathing a tired sigh of nervous relief that wolves had not been stripped of that federal protection through a last-minute, cagey congressional rider.
Meanwhile, wolves did what comes naturally: dispersed in search of mates and territory. Wolves returned to their home in a state where they had not walked in ninety years. In other wolf states they dispersed into new areas.
And we humans also did what comes naturally: we let our wide-ranging beliefs about these essential predators bring out our best and worst. In one state, pro-wolf and anti-wolf groups met regularly to try and find common ground. In another state, a poacher in his truck chased an innocent wolf down, shot it, turned himself in, and was fined a measly $100 for killing an endangered animal.
Here is a wolf-state-by-wolf-state report on the triumphs and tragedies of 2015. As well as a glimpse into what 2016 may hold in store for wolves and their advocates.

California

Pups from California’s Shasta pack. (CDFW)

In May and July, trail cameras in Siskiyou County recorded images of two adult wolves and five pups. California’s first wolf pack was named the Shasta Pack. Their scat was analyzed, and DNA revealed that the Shasta pack’s breeding female was born into Oregon’s Imnaha Pack, that state’s first wolf pack.

Any wolf that enters California is protected under both state and federal Endangered Species Acts. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will encourage the use of non-lethal methods to minimize livestock losses from wolves. This welcoming of wolves was, for Patricia Herman, founder of California-based Protect the Wolves advocacy group, “…our biggest success after fighting for so long with so many states to stop killing them. When we found a state that actually welcomed the idea of wolves it was a dream come true.”
The gray wolf is native to California. Records from 1750 to 1850 show that wolves roamed California’s Coastal Range from San Diego to Sacramento. From 1850-1900, they were spotted in Shasta County and in the central Sierra Nevada.
California has plenty of room for more wolves. The Klamath-Siskiyou and Modoc Plateau regions in northern California and southwestern Oregon could support up to 470 wolves, according to a study conducted by the Conservation Biology Institute and reported by the California Wolf Center.
CDFW is preparing for the return of wolves by developing a wolf management plan. “But the plan steps far outside the bounds of credible research and into the world of special interest-driven politics when it calls for authorizing the state to kill wolves when the population reaches as few as 50 to 75 animals,” says Amaroq Weiss of the Center for Biological Diversity. The deadline to comment on California’s plan is February 15, 2016.

 

Oregon

Wolf from Oregon’s Wenaha pack. (ODFW)

By early 2015 Oregon had 81 wolves in nine packs, most in eastern Oregon. OR-7’s Rogue pack lives in the southwestern part of the state. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) confirmed that two new wolves were spotted traveling in territory near the Rogue pack.

Oregon’s response to the return of wolves has been positive. “Oregon has been the only state in the nation with a meaningful wolf population that did not kill them despite having the authority to do so,” said Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild.
But that may change. In November, ODFW stripped Oregon’s wolves of state endangered species protection. Wolves remain fully protected in the western two-thirds of state under the federal Endangered Species Act. In Northeast Oregon, where most of the wolves live, ranchers can still only shoot a wolf caught in the act of wounding, biting, killing, or chasing livestock. The state still makes non-lethal deterrence the first choice for resolving conflicts between ranchers and wolves. 
To delist wolves, ODFW had to show that wolves were not in danger of extinction or population failure. The agency claims it did that. Klavins says ODFW did not.  “They ignored substantive critiques from world-renowned scientists while justifying delisting based on a few sentences (in some cases cherry-picked) from a small number of selected experts of varying levels of credibility. They ignored over 20,000 public comments and overwhelming public testimony in favor of continued protections. They ignored troubling conflicts of interest and likely violated important legal requirements. The agency was dishonest with conservation stakeholders. Governor Brown was silent.”
On December 30, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal challenge to the removal of protection from gray wolves under Oregon’s Endangered Species Act.

 

Washington

Pups from Washington’s Diamond pack. (WDFW trail cam)

By early 2015, Washington had at least 68 wolves in 16 confirmed packs in the eastern and central portions of the state. Though Congress stripped wolves of federal Endangered Species Act protections in the eastern third of the state, all wolves remain protected under Washington’s ESA.

But, as elsewhere, protection hasn’t stopped the killing. According to the Seattle Times, at least half a dozen Washington wolves have been killed by poachers since 2012. This includes a Whitman County poacher fined a measly $100 last September. Another wolf was struck and killed on Interstate 90. State sharpshooters in helicopters shot and killed seven wolves in one pack in 2012 for preying on livestock.
The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) went to court to stop such state-sponsored killing. WELC sued Wildlife Services, a federal extermination program under the USDA, challenging its authority to kill wolves in Washington. In late December the Seattle Times reported that a federal judge ruled that killing wolves “to reduce predation on livestock is not only highly controversial, but highly uncertain to work as intended, given the ongoing scientific dispute about the policy. Therefore, the agency must complete a full environmental-impact statement before engaging further in “lethal removal” of wolves…” 
As of early December, north-central Washington has a new wolf pack. The Loup Loup pack was identified after numerous reports of wolf sightings prompted wildlife officials to investigate the Methow Valley. Biologists tracked up to six animals traveling together. Because this pack is in western Washington, the animals are protected under the federal ESA. Officials plan to outfit at least one wolf with a radio collar.
Wolves have also been spotted in the North Cascades, where they have been moving back and forth across the Canadian border.  Scientists have identified more wild landscape in Washington that wolves could occupy, including on the Olympic Peninsula.

Idaho

Idaho wolf. (IDFG)

The most recent official count found 770 wolves surviving in Idaho at the end of 2014. In that same year, hunters killed 256 wolves, wildlife agents killed 67, and 19 other wolves died at the hands of humans.

And 2015 looks to be as deadly. Wildlife Services has removed 70 wolves and as of early December 120 wolves have been shot or trapped, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. And 145 more could still die.
The cost of hunting licenses reveals how Idaho values wolves. A wolf tag costs $11.50, while a turkey tag costs $19.75. A tag to take an elk costs $30.75. Hunters may buy up to five wolf hunting tags per year and use electronic calls to attract wolves.
A group of hunters with the misleading name Idaho for Wildlife was planning a January 2016 wolf and coyote killing derby on public lands near Salmon, Idaho. The contest included a $1,000 prize for whoever kills the most wolves and another $1,000 to the killer of the most coyotes. But in mid-November the group canceled the derby after being challenged in the courts by the Western Environmental Law Center, representing WildEarth Guardians, Cascadia Wildlands, and the Boulder-White Clouds Council. Four other groups—Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, and Project Coyote—also sued the Bureau of Land Management, contending the permit opposes the federal government’s wolf-reintroduction efforts.
Both lawsuits continue since the derby organizer has said that the derby would be held in January—but on private ranches in the Salmon area and on U.S. Forest Service land that doesn’t require a permit.
In early-August, conservation groups won another victory for Idaho wolves. Earthjustice, representing Ralph Maughan, Defenders of Wildlife, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, and the Center for Biological Diversity, had filed a federal lawsuit to halt the killing of wolves in Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Idaho wanted to kill 60% of the wolves in this federally protected area managed by the USFS. But the USFS has told Earthjustice that Idaho will kill no wolves in the area in the winter of 2015-2016.

Montana

Wolf from Montana’s Smart Creek pack. (MFWP)

The number of gray wolves in Montana continues to fall under state management. The verified population at the end of 2014 (latest data) was 554, as compared to 627 wolves at the end of 2013, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP). In 2011, the year wolves were stripped of ESA protection, there were 653 wolves in Montana.

In 2014, 308 wolves died; 301 at the hands of humans. Wildlife managers, including Wildlife Services, killed 57 of those wolves. Hunters killed 206 during the state’s expanded 2014-15 hunting season. A wolf-hunting license costs $19 for residents, and 20,383 wolf licenses were sold in 2014. The combined maximum hunting and trapping bag limit is five wolves per person.
Conservation groups saved some wolves from hunters. In July of 2015 The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission reduced from three to two the number of wolves that can be killed each year in two hunting districts near the north border of Yellowstone National Park. These districts are two of the three more tightly controlled wolf-hunting districts in the state. The third is near Glacier National Park, which already had a quota of two wolves. This quota reduction represents ongoing success: In 2014 wolf advocates were able to get the quota in those two units adjoining Yellowstone reduced from four to three wolves.
Also in 2015 MFWP brought together groups that want to protect wolves (for example, Wolves of the Rockies, Bear Creek Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Montana Audobon Society) and groups that want to shoot wolves (Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Montana Bowhunters’ Association, and Montana Stockgrowers’ Association). The groups discussed, among other issues, whether non-hunting conservation groups and hunter conservation groups can find common ground. “This is a promising move forward in working together for the betterment of wildlife management and is open to the public to attend,” said Kim Bean, vice-president of Wolves of the Rockies.

 

Wyoming

Wolf from Yellowstone’s Lamar Canyon pack. (Mary Strickroth)

At the end of 2014 (most recent count), Wyoming had 229 wolves in the state with an additional 104 in Yellowstone National Park for a total of 333 wolves.

In 2014 Earthjustice, representing Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Center for Biological Diversity, fought in court to keep Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Wyoming. The coalition won and stopped the killing of Wyoming’s wolves. The federal government and the state of Wyoming have appealed. “Wyoming appears determined to defend its uniquely hostile approach to wolf management,” said Tim Preso, managing attorney for Earthjustice.
History supports Preso’s statement. The federal government turned wolf management over to Wyoming in 2012. Most of the state was designated a predator zone, where anyone could kill any wolf, at any time, and for any reason. In less than two years, more than 200 wolves were slaughtered, according to Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife. Among the early victims of Wyoming’s killing spree was 06, the famous alpha female of Yellowstone’s Lamar Canyon pack.
The return of ESA protection has not stopped the killing. Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, reported in late-October that 55 wolves have been killed in Wyoming—mostly by Wildlife Services—and that is the largest government-funded wolf killing in eight years.
In mid-November, two U.S. senators (Republicans from Wyoming and Wisconsin) vowed to push to strip federal protection from gray wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes states—and to prohibit courts from intervening in those states on the embattled predator’s behalf.

 

The Great Lakes States

Wolf photo by USFWS

In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) estimated that 3,722 wolves live in the three Great Lakes states, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. About sixty percent of those wolves roam Minnesota. The remainder is split almost evenly between Michigan and Wisconsin.

In December of 2014, all of those wolves came back under the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act. Relisting was a huge victory for wolf advocates, but fighting to keep them listed, says Rachel Tilseth, of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, has been the biggest challenge of 2015. She told Wisconsin Public Radio, “Can states be trusted to manage wolves? I think not, and many other scientists agree that individual states cannot be trusted.”
In November two groups of scientists wrote letters about whether the gray wolf should be delisted as an endangered species.
First came a letter signed by 26 wildlife scientists urging the federal government to strip ESA protection from gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region. The scientists sent the letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Dan Ashe, director of USFWS. Among those writing the letter were David Mech, a wolf specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Minnesota. The scientists say that the integrity of the ESA is undercut if species aren’t removed when they’ve scientifically recovered. They believe that the combined population in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin represents recovery.
Less than a week later a group of 70 scientists and scholars wrote an open letter disagreeing with their colleagues. These scientists said that removing ESA protection from wolves in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin could be justified if and when the USFWS “uses the best available science that justifies delisting,” But, they added, ”Currently, it does not.”
“Quite simply, wolves still fit the legal definition of endangerment in the Great Lakes region and nationwide,” said the scientists, including John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson of Michigan Technological University, leaders of a long-standing study of wolves at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior.
The Associated Press reported that in the rebuttal letter, the scientists said public tolerance of wolves has risen substantially since they were given protection. Any suggestions that patience is wearing thin are spread by “special interest groups that are vocal, but small in number.”

 

Michigan

Michigan wolf (MDNR)

Michigan has about 630 wolves and all were believed to reside in the Upper Peninsula. In September, the website Michigan Live reported that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) confirmed that a second gray wolf has reached the Lower Peninsula. Genetic testing of male wolf scat found that this dispserser may have originated in northeast Ontario. Though wolves have moved into the Lower Peninsula, there’s not yet evidence of a breeding population.

Meanwhile, in Isle Royale National Park, the wolf population has fallen to three, including one deformed from inbreeding. In 2014, park officials hoped that new wolves would come to the island across ice bridges, but that didn’t happen. “There is now a good chance that it is too late to conduct genetic rescue,” John Vucetich told UPI. Vucetich and Rolf Peterson suggest that fewer and smaller ice bridges as well as development on the mainland may hinder repopulation.

 

Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said in August that the state’s wolf population estimate has not varied “significantly” over the last three years. The latest survey estimates that 2,221 wolves live in 374 packs within northern and central Minnesota. That estimate is down from the previous winter’s estimate of 2,423 wolves.

 

Wisconsin

In June, wildlife officials announced that the state’s wolf population is close to an all-time high. Preliminary surveys conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) place current wolf numbers between 746 and 771, about a 13 percent increase from last year’s 660.

In August, WDNR reported that a pack of three to four wolves resides in the Wisconsin Dells area, according to WiscNews. Except for one other location in the state’s southwest, this is the farthest south that wolves have migrated in Wisconsin.

 

A Look Ahead to 2016

Here’s how some of the advocates contacted for this report see 2016 shaping up.

Wolf photo public domain via Pixabay

“Sadly, our wolf, wildlife, and environmental issues will play out in the political arena based largely on special interest and politics, not on science, conservation, or preservation,” says Dr. Robin Chriss of Chriss Wildlife Consulting. “We need to be there in solidarity as wolf advocates, to be a voice. If not, we will lose a lot in 2016.”

“Corporate ranchers and farmers,” says Patricia Herman of Protect the Wolves, “don’t want to learn to coexist with wolves. They just want to continue to take more and more land, until there is no room for wildlife anywhere.”
“Keeping the Great Lakes wolves under federal protection,” says Rachel Tilseth of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, “is and will be the biggest challenge of 2016.” 

 

For Oregon Wild’s Rob Klavins, 2016 looks scary. “Anti-wolf interests and their political allies have brought anti-wolf legislation every year since wolf recovery began. They’ve promised to do so again, and wolves have lost some of their champions in recent years.”

Kim Bean from Wolves of the Rockies believes the attack on the ESA will continue and “wolves will most likely be delisted nationally.” This leaves the states to manage wolves without any federal help. “We as advocates,” advises Bean, “need to stand and fight even harder, and will need the help of an empathetic public to do so. We need one loud and powerful voice.”

In the Temple of Wolves
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Posted by Rick Lamplugh at 7:43 AM, January 2, 2016


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More Wolves Bring Hope for Recovery in California   2 comments

November 5, 2016 by: Alicia Graef

Wildlife officials have officially confirmed a new pair of wolves in the northeastern part of the California, which has brought more hope that their presence will be restored in the state.

Wolves once ranged widely throughout California but were persecuted, shot, poisoned and otherwise eradicated from the landscape almost a century ago. That changed in 2011 when a lone wolf wandered down from Oregon and became the first known wolf to venture into the state since 1924.

The return of that wolf, OR-7, helped clear the way for the safe return of others of his kind. His appearance sparked widespread curiosity and support for wolves. Wolves were later protected under the California Endangered Species Act, which makes it illegal to harm, harass or kill them in the state.

Last year, California saw its very first official wolf pack after almost 100 years. But OR-7 has long since returned home to Oregon and has settled down and started his own family.

Now, it looks like OR-7′s son is carrying on his legacy as a far-ranging adventurer.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), genetic testing of scat samples released this week have confirmed that the male in the newly discovered pair is one of OR-7′s pups who was born in 2014.

Although it’s not known where the female originated, officials suspect she may have dispersed from another western state.

lassen-wolf

Credit: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The two now join members of the Shasta pack as residents of the state, who were the first to be confirmed last year in Siskiyou County, but the whereabouts of that pack are currently unknown. While there’s currently no evidence the latest arrivals have had any pups this year, they may yet become the state’s second official pack.

“This is another landmark day for wolf recovery in California,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Scientists have long said California has great wolf habitat; wolf OR-7 proved that with his historic travels here between 2011 and 2014, and now his son and his son’s mate are helping create a legacy. The female in California is particularly exciting because she’s bringing genetic diversity that’s essential for achieving long-term recovery for wolves in the Golden State.”

Photo credit: Thinkstock

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Wildlife: Another Oregon wolf moves to California   Leave a comment

January 8, 2016 – Source

Room to roam?

OR25, a yearling male in the Imnaha Pack, after being radio-collared on May 20, 2014.  Photo courtesy of ODFW. Download high resolution image.

OR25, a yearling male in the Imnaha Pack, after being radio-collared on May 20, 2014. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Staff Report

The wild mountains, plateaus and forests of northeastern California are becoming a stronghold for wolves dispersing from Oregon.

This week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife reported that yet another wolf — a three-year old male — appears to be “exhibiting dispersal behavior” in Modoc County.The latest report comes after the agency said a small pack, including two adults and five wolf pups, has set up a territory in Siskiyou County.

The Modoc County wolf left his birthpack in northeastern Oregon in April, was in southwestern Oregon by December and recently crossed the border into California, according to wildlife conservation advocates.

“California is clearly wolf country because they keep coming here from Oregon. This is a great moment to celebrate,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “Perhaps they are following a scent trail from other wolves that have come here the past couple years but, whatever the reason, it makes it all the more necessary to ensure they have the protections needed to thrive once they get here.”

The gray wolf is native to California but was extirpated from the state by the mid-1920s.

In June 2014 the California Fish and Game Commission voted in favor of the petition, making it illegal to intentionally kill any wolves that enter the state. In 2012 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife convened a citizen stakeholder group to help the agency develop a state wolf plan for California, and recently released a draft plan for public comment.

“With the establishment of the Shasta pack and now with OR-25’s presence, it is all the more critical that the state wolf plan provide management strategies that will best recover and conserve these magnificent animals,” said Weiss.

Wolves and livestock can live in harmony   Leave a comment

From The Sacramento Bee August 10, 2015

Speakers for and against the preservation of the gray wolf take turns at the microphone at a 2013 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hearing in Sacramento.

Speakers for and against the preservation of the gray wolf take turns at the microphone at a 2013 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hearing in Sacramento. Jose Luís Villegas Sacramento Bee file

By 1924, wolves in California had been completely driven from the lands that they called home for centuries – hunted, trapped and slaughtered to near-extinction.

Now it looks like wolves are finally making their way back home to the Golden State where they belong. California is graced with rich areas of suitable habitat that can and will support a healthy wolf population, and wolves clearly want to return.

Having trekked last summer in a remote part of Siskiyou County where the now-famous wolf OR-7 traversed – and where officials announced last week a second gray wolf was spotted – I can see why wolves would choose to inhabit this rugged, wild part of our state. And I strongly believe they will – it’s just a matter of time and human tolerance.

Wolves are one of America’s most iconic species, but until recently, we were in grave danger of losing them in the lower 48 states. Thankfully, people have finally begun to see that without wolves, the ecological health of our landscapes suffers. Today, 83 percent of California voters believe that “wolves should be protected” and “are a vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage.”

In protecting gray wolves, it appears California is headed in the right direction. In June 2014, the state Fish and Game Commission voted to shield them under the state Endangered Species Act.

Despite the state’s support, some people still believe in the fables of the “big bad wolf.” Many don’t know about the true lives of wolves, the strong social bonds they nurture within their familial packs, or their important role in the natural world. They also don’t know that California’s extensive ranching industry can coexist with returning wolves, given the right tools.

So it is up to Californians to ensure that wolves are indeed welcome, and to provide protections as they make their way toward recovery. The state must avoid the mistakes in places such as the Southwest and in the Northern Rockies, where the first reaction is to kill as many wolves as possible instead of seeking solutions that protect both livestock and wolves.

California has the opportunity to forge new partnerships to reduce potential conflicts. Lawmakers, conservation professionals, local officials and private landowners should cooperate to help ranchers use proven, nonlethal methods – including specialized fencing, range riders and guard dogs – and develop even more innovative ones. This focus on “coexistence” should be a key part of the final wolf management plan adopted by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Defenders of Wildlife has a long history of working with ranchers in other parts of the West. I have seen firsthand the success of these efforts, such as on the Wood River Wolf Project in central Idaho, where wolves have successfully shared habitat with the highest concentration of sheep grazing on public lands in the state. We’re ready to work with the ranching community to bring these successful tools to California.

California, along with Oregon and Washington state, has an important role to play in setting the standard for managing wolves in a more principled, ethical and sustainable manner, avoiding the ruinous path followed by other western states where slaughtering wolves is considered wildlife management. I believe California can lead the way to peaceful wolf restoration and recovery.

By Pamela Flick
Pamela Flick

Pamela Flick

Pamela Flick of Sacramento is California representative for Defenders of Wildlife.

California Bans Bobcat Trapping in 3-2 Vote   1 comment

From Kcet August 5, 2015 by Chris Clarke

A bobcat stakes out a gopher hole in Marin County | Photo: Len Blumin/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The California Fish and Game Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to ban bobcat trapping everywhere in California. The vote, which took place at the Commission’s regular meeting in Fortuna, caps a controversy that started when a Joshua Tree resident found traps illegally placed on his land less than a mile from the National Park.

Concern over the threat to bobcats in Joshua Tree and elsewhere in the state prompted the California Legislature to pass AB1213, the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013, which directed the Fish and Game Commission to establish trapping-free buffer zones around national parks, wildlife preserves, and other areas where trapping is already prohibited.

After studying a pair of proposals for those buffer zones’ boundaries, the Commission voted in a narrow majority to adopt so-called “Option 2,” which essentially declared the entire state a buffer zone in which trapping is prohibited.

California bobcats had come under increasing pressure from trappers in recent years as acombination of fashion trends and illegality of other cat furs increased the global price for bobcat pelts.

“The vote today is historic and shows California’s national leadership in wildlife protection,” said Camilla Fox of the group Project Coyote, which had worked to promote both the Bobcat Protection Act and the more extensive buffer zone proposal. “This victory will help protect California’s native bobcats from the insatiable international fur market where individual bobcat pelts can sell for as much as $1,000 per pelt.”

The vote came after Fox delivered a petition with more than 30,000 signatures in favor of a total ban.

Observers had been far from certain about the outcome of Wednesday’s vote, as two of the Commissioners who voted for the statewide ban — Anthony C. Williams of Huntington Beach and Eric Sklar of St. Helena in Napa County — were attending their first meeting as Commissioners, and thus had little track record on wildlife issues. They were joined in their vote for a statewide ban by Commission president Jack Bayliss of Los Angeles.

Commissioners Jim Kellogg of Contra Costa County and Jacque Hostler-Carmesin of Humboldt County voted against the statewide ban.

Though the number of bobcat trappers in California has been steadily dwindling since the 1970s as the sport goes out of fashion, individual trappers had been taking more cats in recent years as a partial result of the boost in the potential financial gain from bobcat pelts. Trapping advocates opposed both the statewide ban and Option 1, which would have banned trapping in about half the state. The California Trappers Association had asked the Commission to delay a decision until the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife could complete a bobcat population census, which hasn’t been done for 36 years.

Wednesday’s vote protecting all of California’s bobcats wasn’t what Tom O’Key imagined when he found a trap in 2013 that had been illegally placed in a rock pile on land he owns near the National Park in Joshua Tree. His find, reported to local media in the area, generated a firestorm of opposition to trapping. A local group, Project Bobcat, organized to support a legislative ban, and a broad coalition of groups from Project Coyote and the Center for Biological Diversity to national humane groups lent their full support.

Reached in Fortuna in the wake of the vote, O’Key admitted to KCET that he was celebrating. “I feel liberated,” he said. “I never had an inkling that it all would end up this way.”

Abalone poacher on Mendocino Coast sent to prison   3 comments

From:  The Press Democrat

 

A Sacramento man was sentenced Friday to state prison for poaching abalone on the Mendocino Coast, a rare punishment for the crime.

Dung Van Nguyen, 41, was sentenced to 32 months in state prison and taken into custody, Mendocino County Deputy District Attorney Tim Stoen said.

Nguyen, a previously convicted abalone poacher, pleaded guilty in September to a misdemeanor count of poaching abalone for commercial purposes and a felony count of falsifying an abalone report card. In doing so, he admitted to falsely claiming he had not taken any abalone on an original abalone report card in order to obtain a duplicate card, said Stoen, who files a majority of the county’s abalone cases as a coast-based prosecutor.

Stoen said he’s sent just three other people to prison for abalone poaching-related crimes in Mendocino County because poaching alone — even in egregious cases — is just a misdemeanor.

Three Bay Area residents accused of taking 59 abalone for commercial purposes last month face only misdemeanor charges, he noted.

The per-person daily limit on abalone is three. The annual limit is 18.

Stoen said it is difficult to get felony charges filed against poachers. It requires convictions either for filing false documents, as in Nguyen’s case, or conspiracy to take abalone for commercial purposes, Stoen said.

Abalone poaching is a major problem on the Mendocino Coast.

“It’s a scarce resource. It’s terrible when these people just come up here and abuse it,” District Attorney David Eyster said during a recent interview.

Stoen said he filed 313 abalone poaching cases last year.

Some of the cases resulted in lifetime fishing bans and large fines for the defendants. Eighteen abalone poachers arrested in a black market sting last year recently were ordered to pay more than $139,000 in fines. Eleven were given lifetime bans from fishing, according to Fish and Wildlife officials.

Stoen commended state Fish and Wildlife officials for their efforts to halt abalone poachers. But he’d like to see their hard work result in harsher penalties to better deter the crime.

“They should definitely be made more strict,” Stoen said of the penalties.

You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or glenda.anderson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MendoReporter

Defenders of Wildlife Blog   Leave a comment

Re-blogged from Defenders of Wildlife blog:
© Ron Paul
30 SEPTEMBER 2013

Why Are the Feds Giving Up on Wolf Recovery in California?

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Jamie Rappaport Clark, President & CEOTen years ago, the idea of gray wolves in California was a faraway dream. At the time, there were fewer than 1,000 wolves across the entire western United States—most of them safely tucked away in the forests of central Idaho, northwest Montana and Yellowstone National Park.

Wolf OR7 gained national attention when spotted in California - the only wolf in the state, despite a great deal of suitable habitat.

Wolf OR7 gained national attention when spotted in California – the only wolf in the state, despite a great deal of suitable habitat.

Since then we’ve seen wolves reclaim more of their former habitat. At the end of last year, there were nearly 2,000 wolves in the West, including almost 100 wolves in the eastern portions of Washington and Oregon. Miraculously, at the very end of 2011, a lone male wolf even crossed into California. The wolf, known officially as OR-7 and nicknamed “Journey,” was the first wolf to set foot in the state since the 1940s.

OR-7 lingered for just over a year before returning to Oregon. Yet his presence in California stirred the imagination of wolf advocates and the fears of wolf haters alike. The possibility of wild wolves once again roaming northern California suddenly became very real. As a result, California Department of Fish and Wildlife started making plans in case more wolves return.

But the chance of wolves permanently returning and surviving in California is quickly diminishing. In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced its intention to abandon wolf recovery across most of the lower 48, including eliminating federal Endangered Species Act protections for any wolves that arrive in the Golden State. Without federal resources and support, it’s questionable whether California will be able to sustain long-term recovery efforts for this important missing part of its natural heritage.

Who cares if wolves ever return to California? According to a recent poll, 69% of Californians support restoring wolves to suitable habitat in their state. Importantly, 80% of respondents also agreed that wolves should continue to be protected under the Endangered Species Act until they are fully recovered.

That’s because Californians understand the potential benefits that wolves can bring to the ecosystems they inhabit. In the same poll, seventy-three percent agreed that wolves play an important role in maintaining healthy elk and deer populations and that restoring wolves to forests and wilderness areas will bring a healthier balance to the ecosystem.

gray wolf yellowstone

Gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park (© Sandy Sisti)

This has certainly been the case in places like Yellowstone National Park where the return of wolves has brought a number of positive environmental changes. Wolves keep elk and deer on the move and away from sensitive river areas where streamside vegetation had been destroyed by decades of over-browsing. Now, aspen, willow and cottonwood trees are flourishing in creek bottoms in Yellowstone National Park, providing additional food, shelter and shade for beavers, songbirds and fish.

But there’s more to wolves than just filling a vital ecological niche. For many, this iconic species represents the very essence of the wild — that which cannot be controlled and keeps us humble as human beings at a time when our dominion over the planet is nearly absolute. That’s why 83% of Californians agree that wolves should be protected in the state and are a vital part of America’s wilderness and heritage.

Wildlife conservation and protecting our precious natural resources must be guided first and foremost by sound science, rather than by political convenience. So when 16 of our nation’s top biologists wrote a letterin May, questioning FWS’ decision to abandon wolf recovery, it should give us all pause. Why is the federal government so anxious to throw in the towel?

We did not stop fighting for bald eagles until they were soaring in the skies from coast to coast. We did not quit protecting American alligators until they once again occupied suitable habitat from Texas to Carolina. And we shouldn’t abandon wolves when they only occupy less than 10 percent of their historic range and about a third of currently suitable habitat nationwide.

I think we can do better. On Oct. 2 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is hosting a public hearing in Sacramento to hear what Californians think about the federal delisting proposal. Please consider attending the hearing to voice your support for continued wolf recovery. This is one of only three public hearings nationwide and the only one on the West Coast — perhaps our last chance to make a difference and ensure that having wolves in California doesn’t become a forgotten dream.

Originally published in the Sacramento Bee 

Want to speak out for wolves? Click here for information about the public hearings, and how to submit your comments. 

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