Archive for the ‘Defenders of Wildlife’ Tag
October 5, 2016 by Ben Prater – Defenders of Wildlife Blog
FWS Proposal is a Disaster for the World’s Most Endangered Wolf
On September 12, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced its proposal on the fate of the Red Wolf Recovery Program. To say that I am disheartened would be putting it mildly. I’m a lot closer to: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
While the FWS tried to spin it that they are still committed to recovery of the red wolf, the agency’s proposed actions speak much louder than their rhetoric. Here’s what FWS proposed – and what’s wrong with it.
First, the FWS proposed “to move quickly to secure the captive population of red wolves, which we now know is not sustainable in its current configuration.” This was, in our book, very clearly a ‘red herring’ for the red wolf and here’s why:
- By looking at the FWS’s own Population Viability Analysis (PVA) – an assessment frequently used in conservation biology to determine the probability that a species will go extinct within a number of years – there is no more than a 0.5 percent chance that the captive population of red wolves will go extinct over the next 100 years.
- The same analysis shows that without immediate action, the wild population of red wolves could perish in less than ten years.
Next, the FWS proposes “to determine where potential new sites exist for additional experimental wild populations by October 2017.” While expanding release sites and recovery locations throughout the red wolf’s original range in the Southeast makes total sense for the species, giving up on wolves in North Carolina absolutely does not. That move makes me howling mad.
- A recent poll shows that 81 percent of voters statewide agree that: “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help the endangered red wolf population recover and prevent its extinction.”
- Additionally, 27 legislators from North Carolina wrote to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in August 2016, asking that the agency redouble its efforts to recover the red wolf.
This program was once the model of success for wolf recovery efforts in the United States. Despite the efforts of dedicated on-the-ground staff, poor decision-making by FWS’ Southeast Regional Office has caused this program to crumble. As a result, the population of wild red wolves in North Carolina has crashed from a high of 150 to less than 45 wolves today. That’s reason to fix the program, not to close it down. It will take years to build new recovery programs and public support for wild wolves in other locations, and in the meantime, we could be learning from an expanded effort in North Carolina.
FWS also proposes “to revise the existing experimental population rule to apply only to the Dare County Bombing Range and Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge…” What does this actually mean for wolves on the ground in North Carolina?
- Starting in 2018, FWS plans to reduce the habitat of the world’s only population of wild red wolves from 1.7 million acres spread over public and private lands, down to 200,000 acres of public lands in one county. This reduces the red wolf recovery area and habitat to just 12 percent of its former range.
- Additionally, FWS wants to round up any red wolves outside of Dare County and put them into a captive breeding program in zoos across the country.
This is a complete disaster for wild red wolves. Restricting wolves to one small space in the wild doesn’t put them on the road to recovery and goes against their very biology. Thankfully, our legal team working with our conservation partners recently won a preliminary injunction against the Service, limiting how red wolves can be removed from private land. But the fact that officials would even suggest this measure doesn’t bode well for future management decisions.
Finally, FWS proposes to “complete a comprehensive Species Status Assessment and five-year status review for the red wolf (by Oct. 2017), building on the foundation of work accomplished over the past two years and past history. This will guide the Service’s recovery planning in the future.”
All I can say is this is a massive game of kick the can down the road. This proposal is, essentially, a plan for extinction. Clearly, the current administration is backing away from a nearly 30-year investment in recovering red wolves in the wild and passing the buck to the next administration. The FWS decision undoes nearly three decades of work to recover the red wolf in North Carolina. The Red Wolf Recovery Program was the example for wolf restoration efforts in Yellowstone National Park and for the Mexican gray wolf in the Southwest.
There will be public comment periods on this proposal once the FWS begins to make official decisions. When this happens, we’ll be calling on everyone who cares about red wolves to tell the FWS to do its job and recover endangered species in the wild, not just in captivity. We will be organizing red wolf supporters to stand up for their native wolf. And we will continue working with private landowners, elected officials and the public to build on the strong support for red wolves in North Carolina.
It is time for the public and the conservation community to stand firm and united behind red wolf recovery. Together we can lead this program towards a better future, and save the world’s most endangered wolf from extinction.
SPEAK UP FOR RED WOLVES
Red wolves are dangerously close to extinction in the wild, and they need your help. Insist that FWS recommit to red wolf recovery – before it’s too late!
Ben Prater, Director, Southeast Program
Ben Prater supervises and directs Defenders’ efforts to protect imperiled wildlife and their habitats in the Southeast. He is also building on the outstanding work of our Florida and legal teams throughout the region and expanding our work into the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama which are home to sensitive habitats and many endangered species.
September 29, 2016 – Source
Red wolf (captive), © USFWS
Court Stops U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from capturing and killing wild red wolves
Defenders just scored a big victory in court that will provide needed protections for North Carolina’s dwindling population of wild red wolves. A federal judge in North Carolina has issued a preliminary injunction barring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from removing native wolves from the wild unless they pose an imminent threat to human safety or property.
Red wolf (captive), © USFWS
In recent years, the Service had been removing wolves simply because some vocal landowners don’t want them there – a significant departure from years of prior practice. Lawyers for Defenders of Wildlife and our allies argued in a court hearing on September 14 that a preliminary injunction was needed to stop the agency from further harming the world’s only population of wild red wolves. Today, Judge Terrence Boyle of the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a ruling preventing the Service from unnecessarily trapping and killing any more wolves.
Defenders brought the federal agency to court because under the Service’s recent management, the red wolf population had declined from more than 100 animals to fewer than 45. Recently, the Service had not only stopped key conservation actions to protect and enhance the wild population, but even authorized private landowners to kill red wolves on their land. The Service has also been capturing wolves throughout the five-county red wolf recovery area in North Carolina, and holding them for weeks or months before releasing them into unfamiliar territory, separated from their mates and pack.
This victory could help stabilize the wild population while the Service continues to deliberate over the fate of what was once a model carnivore reintroduction program. Earlier this month, the agency announced a proposal to trap and remove most of North Carolina’s red wolves and put them into captivity, abandoning all protective efforts except in one federal wildlife refuge (and adjacent bombing range) in Dare County. Lately, that habitat has supported just a single pack of wild wolves.
Defenders and our allies have lots of work ahead to convince the Service to protect North Carolina’s wild red wolves, reinvigorate the red wolf reintroduction program, and find additional places for wolves to live in the Southeast. Today’s court victory gives us – and the red wolves – a fighting chance.
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Well the three little pigs and Little Red Riding Hood are certainly not fans … but apart from myths, legends and children’s fairy tales, why is this beautiful creature so demonized in the modern world?
If someone asks you what is more likely to kill you; a wolf or a cow? You would probably go with the wolf, right? I know that’s what my first thought was. But let’s have a reality check.
Cows are responsible for an average of twenty two human deaths in the U.S. each year. On average wolves are responsible for zero. In fact, you are more likely to be struck by lightning or killed by an elevator than be killed by a wolf. In the 21st century, only two known deaths have been attributed to wild wolves in the entirety of North America.
The War on Wolves
So what’s with all the hysteria? Anti-wolf fanatics have been hard at it spreading myths and fairy tales, and sadly some people seem susceptible to this scaremongering and genuinely believe that the big bad wolf is going to enter their homes with fangs bared to gobble them up for dinner. You think I’m joking? I’m really not. But that’s not even the worst part. This anti-wolf rhetoric has made its way into the corridors of power.
Fairy tales are influencing legislation, regulations, public opinion and threatening the recovery of wolves and their vital contribution to our ecosystems.
I could give you countless examples of this war on wolves but let’s take a look at what’s going on in Washington state, where wolves are only just beginning to re-establish themselves after being very nearly wiped out by human persecution.
Anti-wolf fanatics have launched a campaign to demonise the wolf. In a crusade to win over the hearts and minds of Washingtonians a group by the name of Washington Residents Against Wolves (WARAW) have erected billboards carrying a warning of death and destruction to all by the big bad wolf. Snarling teeth, glaring vicious eyes … at first glance you could mistake it as an advertisement for a new horror flick. They even say that the wolf is going to kill your children! Reminds me a bit of a dingo stole my baby.
So it is pretty clear that calm, fact based debate is not on the table for the anti-wolf fanatic’s. They are steadfast in their quest of fairy tale ideologies. They even seem to openly admit this. With a quick browse of their Facebook page I noticed they have a picture of Little Red Riding Hood brandishing a gun and the message, “looks like Little Red decided to join WARAW and fight back on the wolf issue.” Well at least they are honest about the fairy tales within their ranks.
The Casualties of War
The sad fact is that, as ridiculous as this anti-wolf hysteria is, wolves do suffer and will continue to suffer as a result of this demonization. Just look at Idaho.
Over 1,470 wolves have been killed in Idaho since 2009 when the state demanded the chance to control wolves within its territory. Wolves have been slaughtered by various methods including firearms, aerial gunning, trapping and snaring. And shockingly this is just the beginning of Idaho’s war on wolves as a wolf killing fund has been set up to kill hundreds more wolves. All of this despite the fact a recent scientific study shows that killing wolves actually increases livestock predation. What an absolute tragedy.
Could this be the future for Washington’s wolves? Reassuringly Washingtonians are not falling for the fairy tales. Billboards where erected by Defenders of Wildlife to counter the anti-wolf campaign and the bulk of the funding was actually initiated by locals who thought the anti-wolf bill boards needed a response. It is wonderful to see local people taking a stand for their natural heritage and rejecting the crusade of the fanatics. But we must also speak out for wolves.
So What Can You do to Protect Wolves?
Wolves need you now more than ever to secure their full recovery.
As an apex predator, the wolf plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and thriving ecosystem. When the wolf population was removed from the Yellowstone region of Wyoming, we saw an increase in small, grazing animals who decimated the local verbiage, making tree roots less stable, leading to an increase in soil erosion. Soil erosion poses a threat to local waterways and can damage the health of aquatic life. The wolf is the stable peg that holds the entire ecosystem in balance and if we do not wish to see this same sort of degradation in Washington, or other regions of the U.S. it is up to us to protect the wolf species.
The greatest threat to wolves in the U.S. is the proposal to delist them from Endangered Species Act Protection. Demand that this reckless delisting proposal is abandoned and secure the full recovery of gray wolves.The wolves in Idaho desperately need your support. If you are sickened by the 1, 470 wolves already killed then please take part in this action.
Source/One Green Planet
By Mark McCormick
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. 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 of Sacramento is California representative for Defenders of Wildlife.
From: Duluth News Tribune
February 22nd, 2015 by Lisa Herthel-Hendrickson
Much of what’s in the media regarding wolf hunting is propaganda. “Propaganda” is biased with undertones promoting a particular cause. The statement in a Jan. 14 letter that “city people don’t understand wolves” was propaganda at its finest. The assertion was narrow, lacked credibility and failed to consider the larger picture.
I rarely see mentions of the complexities surrounding pack instincts and wolf communities. Killing one wolf impacts a larger system. Are we as a civilized culture defending practices that have devastating repercussions on ecosystems based on the premise humans are a superior life form responsible for population control?
I have lived in rural Minnesota most of my life and now live in Duluth. In 15 years I’ve seen two wolves. Recently, a colleague caught a glimpse of a lone wolf in her yard that frightened off when she approached. Wolves are shy and elusive creatures. Rumors and misinformation abound.
Sport and population-control hunting causes an increase, not a decrease, in livestock and pet predation. Individual wolves, especially pups, depend on their pack (and not just the alpha, contrary to popular belief) to learn hunting and social skills required for survival. Wolves are more likely to prey on easier targets such as domesticated or livestock animals when their packs are compromised.
Under the recent federal ruling, it remains legal for an individual to kill wolves deemed a threat to human life. Even a perceived threat suffices. No one challenges the right of livestock owners to kill wolves posing a threat to their livestock.
I raise the question: What’s the wolf hunt actually about? In northern Minnesota, where anti-wolf sentiment is on the verge of hysteria, I can’t help but believe it’s about human predators perpetuating values that disrespect natural order and fellow species important to intricate ecological systems of life.
From: Center for Biological Diversity
Dec. 23, 2014
SEATTLE— Conservation groups are now offering up to a $20,000 reward for information leading to conviction of those responsible for the illegal killing of the breeding female wolf of the Teanaway pack in Washington’s Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Last month the groups posted a reward offer of up to $15,000, but have now increased the amount, after a member of Conservation Northwest stepped forward to contribute an additional $5,000.
Photo of a member of the Teanaway pack courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This photo is available for media use.
“This new donation to help bring the Teanaway wolf poacher to justice shows how passionate Washingtonians are about protecting our rare and recovering wildlife,” said Jasmine Minbashian of Conservation Northwest. “There is strong support for wolf recovery in Washington, and people are appalled by this type of illegal killing. We’re thrilled to see our supporters stepping up like this, they make our work possible.”
The Teanaway Pack wolf was killed in mid-October near Salmon la Sac in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, making it the fourth known illegal wolf-killing in the state in 2014. In February a member of the Smackout Pack was found killed in Stevens County; in August a wolf was found gunned down in Ferry County; and a Whitman County farmer is facing potential prosecution after chasing a wolf for miles, then gunning it down after seeing the wolf near his field.
“It’s hard to comprehend these senseless illegal killings, because not only are wolves legally protected, there is no evidence these wolves were doing anything harmful at the time of their deaths,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “What’s more, if anyone thinks they were helping out livestock producers by killing wolves, the exact opposite is true; a brand new study published by a Washington State University wolf scientist demonstrates that killing wolves can increase wolf-livestock conflicts.”
Wolves, which were largely eradicated from the state by the early-to-mid 1900s, are starting to make a comeback, and are fully protected under the federal Endangered Species Act in the western two-thirds of Washington and throughout the state under state endangered species law. The state wolf-conservation goal is a minimum of 15 successful breeding pairs for three consecutive years in three recovery regions across the state from eastern Washington to the Olympic Peninsula. To date, numbers of successful breeding packs in the state have been stagnant at five packs since 2012. However, in 2014 three of those packs will no longer qualify as successful breeders since the breeding females of the Huckleberry Pack and the Teanaway Packhave both been killed and a wildfire resulted in the loss of most pups from the Lookout Pack.
“This deplorable action should not be left unchecked. Washington’s wolf population remains precarious, and killing the breeding alpha female of the Teanaway pack has cascading consequences for continued wolf recovery in Washington,” said Shawn Cantrell, Northwest regional director for Defenders of Wildlife. “This reward will hopefully help law enforcement bring the perpetrator to justice.”
According to Special Agent Eric Marek with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, the investigation is still open and ongoing. Anyone with information about the killing of the Teanaway female wolf, or anyone who may have noticed suspicious behavior in the Salmon la Sac area in October, should contact federal law-enforcement agents at (206) 512-9329 or (509) 727-8358. State law enforcement may be contacted at the 1-877-933-9847 hotline for reporting poaching activity in Washington.
The organizations that have contributed to the reward fund for information leading to a conviction in this case include the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Defenders of Wildlife, The Humane Society of the United States, The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust and Woodland Park Zoo.
From: National Geographic News
The remains of wolves killed by wildlife officials hang over the side of a truck in Montana in 2004. These animals, which were not part of the Huckleberry Pack, were killed because they attacked cattle.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL SARTORE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE
In late August, a government sharpshooter in a helicopter hovering above a wooded eastern Washington hillsidekilled the lead female wolf of the Huckleberry Pack. The aim was to end attacks by the wolf pack, which had killed more than two dozen sheep.
The research, published today in the scientific journal PLOS One, flies in the face of the common idea that the swiftest and surest way to deal with wolves threatening livestock is by shooting the predators. It adds to a growing understanding of how humans influence the complex dynamics driving these pack animals, sometimes with unexpected consequences.
As wolves spread across the West, triggering more encounters with sheep and cattle, and as two states host wolf-hunting seasons, the new research also adds more fuel to an already heated political debate about how to deal with wolves.
“The livestock industry, they’re not going to be happy with this,” said Rob Wielgus, a Washington State University ecologist and the study’s lead author.
Back From the Brink
Shooting wolves is a long-standing practice in the ranching world. It helped lead to the animal’s eradication in the western United States in the 1930s. Since the wolf’s reintroduction in the mid-1990s, government officials and ranchers have frequently reached for a gun to cope with livestock problems—killing more than 2,000 wolves by 2013.
In 2011, wolves were removed from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Washington, Oregon, and Utah. (Wyoming got a similar stamp of approval in 2012, but a federal judge recently overturned that decision.) That has made it easier to shoot wolves—Idaho and Montana now even allow recreational hunting.
But there have never been any large-scale studies of whether killing wolves really helps protect livestock.
Enter Wielgus. He has a track record for turning conventional wisdom on its head when it comes to attempts to control predators. In 2008 he made news with research that found shooting cougars led to more attacks on livestock. When mature adults were killed, Wielgus said, less seasoned adolescents moved in and were more likely to prey on cows and sheep.
After wolves arrived in Washington in 2008, growing to 13 packs by 2013, Wielgus turned his attention to the newest carnivore on the block. He examined 25 years of data on killing of wolves and cases where wolves attacked cattle and sheep in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming—the first states where wolves were reintroduced.
Gray Wolves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What the Data Say
Wielgus found that when a wolf was killed, the chances of livestock getting killed increased the following year in that state—by 5 to 6 percent for cattle and 4 percent for sheep. With each additional wolf killed, the chance of livestock attacks rose further. The trend didn’t reverse until more than a quarter of the wolves in the state were killed in a single year. Then livestock losses started to decline.
That level of wolf-killing happened several times even while wolves were federally protected, under rules that allowed shooting of wolves that threatened livestock. And it is happening now in Idaho and Montana. Last year, hunters killed 231 wolves in Montana and 356 in Idaho, helping to reduce the population to slightly more than 600 in each state. The Idaho legislature this year created a Wolf Depredation Control Board, a move critics say is aimed at pushing wolf numbers down to just above 150—a cutoff that could trigger renewed protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Wielgus isn’t certain why more livestock die when smaller numbers of wolves are killed. But he suspects it’s tied to changes in pack behavior. Packs are led by a male and female breeding pair. If one or both of those wolves is killed, the pack can break up, giving rise to several breeding pairs—and thus an uptick in the wolf population. Livestock losses decline only when enough wolves are killed to overwhelm their ability to keep up through reproduction.
The theory fits observations made in and around Yellowstone National Park. Wolf packs inside the park—where wolves aren’t shot—are large and complex, with wolves of a variety of ages living together, said Doug Smith, a lead wolf researcher at Yellowstone. Wolf packs elsewhere tend to be just a breeding pair and pups.
For Wielgus, the upshot of his study is that while killing a wolf might sometimes be necessary, as a routine practice it’s counterproductive and unsustainable. Either livestock losses go up or, if enough wolves are killed to reduce livestock deaths, wolf numbers eventually drop so low that wolves wind up back on the endangered species list. If the killing slows to less than 25 percent of the wolf population per year, his study suggests, depredation rates shoot back up.
“It’s a bit of a catch-22,” Wielgus said. “You can reduce them now, but you can only reduce them so far, and when you stop that heavy harvest, now you’re at maximum livestock depredation.”
Is There Another Way?
Reaction to the new study was split down predictable fault lines. Wolf conservationists pointed to it as evidence that shooting wolves to save livestock usually doesn’t make sense. “You have this very archaic paradigm of kill first, ask questions later,” said Suzanne Stone, senior northwest representative for the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife. Overall, people in the livestock industry are “still pretty rigid in their views that the only way to deal with predators is to kill them. And that’s not true. It actually works against them.”
Stone has run a program with sheep growers in one Idaho valley aimed at finding ways for sheep and wolves to coexist. The ranchers there resort to a number of tactics to protect roughly 30,000 sheep: monitoring wolves to avoid grazing the sheep near denning sites, using guard dogs, flashing bright lights to scare off wolves, stringing a wire hung with small strips of fabric around the flock at night, and increasing the number of people herding the animals.
Stone said the program is cheaper than dispatching a gunman in a helicopter. Fewer than 30 sheep have been lost to wolves in seven years, and no wolves have been killed.
Stan Boyd, executive director of the Idaho Wool Growers Association, said his group works with members to help them deter wolves without shooting the animals. But he still sees guns as critical tools, and he says wolf problems have declined recently as the number of Idaho wolves has gone down.
“Wolves get into livestock, we kill the wolves. And that works well,” Boyd said. “The professor can say whatever he wants. We’re not going to just let wolves run wild.”
In Washington state, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which paid for Wielgus’s research, is waiting for him to complete a broader examination of all options for managing wolves, said John Pierce, the agency’s chief wildlife scientist. “In the long run, we definitely would prefer to do nonlethal removal if we can figure out how it works,” Pierce said.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on the Huckleberry Pack. In the aftermath of the shooting of the lead female, will fewer sheep die in wolf attacks—or more?