Archive for the ‘environment’ Tag
October 18, 2016 By Michael Wright Chronicle Staff Writer
A wolverine passes through an alpine meadow near Logan Pass on Aug. 3, 2012, in Glacier National Park.BEN PIERCE/CHRONICLE
Federal officials are taking another look at whether wolverines deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act, months after a federal judge ordered them to do so.
This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened a 30-day public comment period on the idea of listing the wolverine as a threatened species under the law, a move intended to keep the species from reaching the brink of extinction.
The move comes six months after a federal judge sided with environmental groups in a suit over the USFWS decision to withdraw a 2013 proposal to list the wolverine. The judge ordered the agency to reconsider protections for the wolverines as soon as possible. A USFWS appeal of the decision was withdrawn earlier this month.
Opening a comment period kicks off a new environmental review process, where the agency will try to determine whether the animal should be listed. A final decision is expected in 2018.
USFWS spokeswoman Serena Baker said the agency would begin assessing the status of wolverines and that they are looking for any data the public might have about the animal and the impacts of climate change.
She said the agency will “really take an honest look at the science and let the science lead us.”
Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the review timeline is too long and that the wolverine needs protections as soon as possible.
“The idea of undertaking a two-year review is non-practical and certainly not what the court envisioned,” said Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not return a call requesting comment.
Wolverines, carnivores in the weasel family, are believed to number only about 300 in the lower 48. They are known to be in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon but are hard to find because they don’t live in large groups and range far.
The animal depends on snow to survive. Female wolverines need at least 5 feet of stable snow to build birthing dens, USFWS says. The deep snow offers security for young wolverines and can help the animals withstand frigid winter temperatures.
Environmentalists worry that warming temperatures and decreasing snowpacks caused by climate change are diminishing the animal’s available habitat, which is one reason they would like to see them protected as an endangered species.
USFWS proposed listing the animal as threatened in early 2013. But a year later, the USFWS withdrew the listing proposal. A post on the agency’s website said it found “the effects of climate change are not likely to place the wolverine in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future.”
The Center for Biological diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and a litany of other groups challenged the withdrawal in court. In April, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen sided with the groups, calling the USFWS’ withdrawal of the listing proposal “arbitrary and capricious.”
“No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change,” Christensen wrote.
He added later that the USFWS needed to take action at the “earliest possible, defensible point in time to protect against the loss of biodiversity within our reach as a nation.”
Santarsiere said that means the agency should take final action much sooner than two years from now, adding that it “seems nonsensical to not protect these animals.”
Baker said the agency needs the time so they can use the best available science in its final decision.
Comments can be submitted at regulations.gov. The docket number for the proposal is FWS-R6-ES-2016-0106.
Michael Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 582-2638. Follow him on Twitter @mj_wright1.
August 25, 2016 bLynda V. Mapes
Gabe Spence, of the WSU Large Carnivore Lab, listens for the signal from radio collars on the Profanity Peak wolf pack. (Robert Wielgus/Washington State University)
The state is going to wipe out the Profanity Peak wolf pack because they are killing cattle, but a WSU researcher monitoring the den says the conflict is predictable and avoidable.
For the second time in four years, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife is exterminating a wolf pack to protect Len McIrvin’s cattle — this time, a WSU researcher says, after the rancher turned his animals out right on top of the Profanity Peak pack’s den.
Robert Wielgus, director of the Large Carnivore Conservation Lab at Washington State University, has radio-collared 700 cattle and dozens of wolves, including animals in the Profanity Peak pack, as part of his ongoing study of conflicts between wolves and livestock in Washington. He also camera-monitors the Profanity Peak pack’s den.
“This livestock operator elected to put his livestock directly on top of their den site; we have pictures of cows swamping it, I just want people to know,” Wielgus said in an interview Thursday.
McIrvin, of the Diamond M Ranch, near the Canadian border north of Kettle Falls, Stevens County, in northeastern Washington, did not return calls for comment Thursday. The allotment Wielgus monitors, and McIrvin grazes, is on public land in the Colville National Forest.
The cattle pushed out the wolves’ native prey of deer, and with a den full of young to feed, what came next was predictable, Wielgus said.
After the wolves repeatedly killed McIrvin’s cattle, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, as per its protocol, authorized shooting wolves in the pack by helicopter, killing the pack’s breeding female by mistake. The department then stopped the killings after the wolf predations subsided.
But the department announced Saturday that after more cows were killed, it would eliminate the entire Profanity pack. That killing is ongoing, and department staff killed four more wolves this week, bringing the total to six.
The department targeted the Wedge Pack after McIrvin lost cattle to that pack, near the same area.
McIrvin has refused to radio-collar his cattle to help predict and avoid interactions with radio-collared wolves, Wielgus said.
He called the killing of cows by the Profanity Peak pack at their den site predictable and avoidable.
Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife authorized fieldstaff to kill the Profanity Peak wolf pack to prevent more attacks on cattle in the rangelands between Republic and Kettle Falls. The state is home to at least 90 wolves and 19 packs as of early 2016.
By contrast, Wielgus has documented no cattle kills among producers who are participating in his research studies and very few among producers using Fish & Wildlife’s protocol.
“In Washington, more cattle are killed by logging trucks, fire and lightning than wolves,” Wielgus said.
Carter Niemeyer, of Boise, Idaho, a wolf expert who led the effort to reintroduce them into Idaho for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before he retired in 2006, said things won’t change until the Forest Service changes its policy to bar grazing on allotments with known active dens and pup rendezvous sites.
“If this were on private land, it’s turn the page, ho-hum,” Niemeyer said. “But public lands have to be managed differently. Those lands belong to all of us, and so do the native wildlife.”
Killing the wolves is not a lasting solution, he predicted. “It is a short-term solution to a long-term problem; they will just come back,” Niemeyer said.
“It puts the responsibility on the managing authority; it’s, ‘Come get your wild dogs, you said you would, and you set the protocol, and I want these wolves out of here,’ and he (McIrvin) has a good track record of demanding that.”
But it’s the pack that’s got to go, not the ranchers using the allotment, said Ferry County Commissioner Mike Blankenship.
“The McIrvin family has run cows on that allotment for 73 years, and now all of a sudden they have to pull out because of wolves and go somewhere else?
“I haven’t met anyone here who wants them wiped out,” Blankenship said of wolves. “But we want them managed.”
The commission last Friday passed a resolution authorizing the Ferry County sheriff to take out the pack if the state doesn’t.
“For the most part, the local people believe the removal of that pack is long overdue,” Blankenship said. He said the county depends on a healthy ranching economy, which is also part of the state’s culture, custom and history.
“You don’t think Seattle had wolves originally? I am more than willing to pay as a county to round these critters up and bring them to you. If they are in your backyard, you have a whole new attitude about it,” Blankenship said.
Wolf advocates have been dismayed by the state’s decision to kill the pack — 11 animals of a total estimated state population of 90 wolves in 19 packs, as of early 2016.
Listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act west of U.S. Route 97, the wolves are not protected east of the highway. People remain their biggest impediment to recovery, which is required by state law.
Since July 8, 12 cattle have been killed or hurt in the Profanity Peak pack area, according to Fish & Wildlife. So far, the department has killed six wolves in the pack under the authorization of Director Jim Unsworth. He is appointed by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission, which in turn is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.
Donny Martorello, the department’s wolf-policy lead, said the state remains committed to wolf recovery and coexistence. It confirmed its first wolf recolonizations in 2008, and so far has authorized lethal removals in three instances.
“The majority of the time, these two can coexist,” Martorello said of wolves and livestock. “The department is committed to wolf recovery, but we also have a shared responsibility to protect livestock from repeated depredation by wolves.”
Wolves were hunted to extinction in Washington in the early 1900s, but have been gradually recolonizing, from populations in Idaho and British Columbia.
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2515 or email@example.com
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 Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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.
October 26, 2015 Source
by Ginny Sanderson
Culling has hit the headlines recently, and various species have topped the undesirables list. it seems to be fashionable across the globe to shoot first, ask questions later. From the Japanese randomly killing dolphins, to Australians going all out on sharks, I’d like to make a radical proposal to stop this madness.
In Norway the new fad is to kill the wolves, despite 80% of population wanting to keep the species in their high numbers. The problem is with farming: it is claimed that sheep are killed by these animals. However, around 1500 out of 2 million Norwegian sheep are killed by wolves a year, and these small numbers are compensated for. A much higher proportion of their deaths is predicted to be the result of some dumb sheep thing like falling down a crevasse. Moreover, wolves supposedly present a danger to human life. Remarkably, for a somewhat foreward thinking, humanitarian country, the proposed culling in Norway still seems to think of the wolf as the big bad creep out of a Brothers Grimm fairytale. In reality they affect humans very little: no one’s been killed by a wolf since 1800.
These animals, which have called Scandinavia their home for thousands of years, are facing extermination by ignorance and fear-mongering. Absurdly, farmers have said the animal “contributes nothing.” Well besides balancing the ecosystem what do you expect wild animals to contribute to the human world? It’s like saying ‘hamsters are shit bankers, so to hell with the lot of them’. And quite frankly I think this statement is rash, existentially wolves may ‘contribute’ more than economics can measure. If it wasn’t for wolves, what would people get tattooed to represent their spirituality? Jokes aside, if people do not pay attention to this ridiculous occurrence its existence will only snowball, and these majestic creatures will become extinct.
Similarly the Hufflepuff mascot is being culled by our meat obsession. Not to go all Morissey on you, but the British badger is effectively being killed so we can kill other animals. It’s not even working. The aim of the policy is to prevent TB spread in livestock. The randomised culling however has led to the remaining badgers spreading to TB areas and catching the disease, so the problem has just been aggravated. My only suggestion in this line of thinking, for a completely successful British cattle-farming, is to kill every animal apart from the ones we want to eat. In fact, kill all the cattle too because 94% of bovine TB spread is due to herd-to-herd transmission. If we’re going to roll with this fists-first attitude, why not go the whole hog (or cow)?
One could argue that it is a survival of the fittest, dog-eat-dog world. If the Dodo was too stupid and fat to survive, that’s not our problem. The issue I take with this reasoning is that it’s regressive and insulting to humanity: have we not evolved beyond the carelessness of survival techniques such as these? Aren’t we intelligent enough to realise when something is destructive – and what’s more, ineffective – and found a logical and peaceful way around it? It’s like we haven’t made any progress since we were hairy cavemen and ladies thrusting spears at woolly mammoths.
To me, culling is an unnatural, nonsensical and lazy policy which does not belong in the modern world.
Written March 2014
From The Outdoor Journal on August 2, 2015 by Howard Meyerson
Gray wolves now live in every Upper Peninsula county.
GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. – One or more wolf packs now live in every Upper Peninsula county, having spread from west to east over the past 20 years. Most –for now – are concentrated in Western counties, according to state wildlife officials.
“More live in the Western U.P. than East, but it’s not a huge difference,” said Kevin Swanson, the statewide wolf and bear program coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “There is at least one pack in every county now, and many more in some.”
In all, there are 125 packs, approximately 636 wolves, according to data from the agency’s last winter wolf survey in 2013/2014. The survey was not conducted last winter because of the “controversy over them and because they were listed again as an endangered species,” Swanson said.
“We are looking to do a winter survey to see how many there are,” he said. “We haven’t seen (U.P.) deer density this low in decades, probably not since the early 1980s. We’re wondering what we will see because deer are their main prey. The winter started out very badly last year, but we had an early break up and deer were able to get away. I’ve seen more fawns this year. It looks like we have had good fawn production.”
Two to five wolves per pack
Wolves travel in packs, but pack sizes vary. Survey data indicates that 23 packs were roaming pairs. Other packs were larger, averaging five wolves. Wolf territories also varied widely, from 5 square-miles to 291 square miles, averaging 45 square miles. Wolf territories have shrunk as the population has grown, Swanson noted.
“We had exponential growth from the 1990s to early 2000s: 68 packs in 2003 and 125 packs in 2013 and 2014,” Swanson said, adding that wolf reproduction is assumed to be good. The next survey will tell more.
Livestock depredation continues to occur. Eleven incidents have been recorded so far in 2015. Ten cows have been killed, along with one pig. Dogs have been spared, but it is still early in the season.
“Last year (2014) we had 43 total depredation incidents – 26 cattle and 17 dogs,” Swanson said. “The vast majority (of dogs killed) were hunting dogs. Most were bear hounds, but some were beagles out hunting snowshoe hare. The dogs were all far from the hunter or owner when they were attacked and killed.”
Attacks on dogs typically occur in mid-to-late summer or fall once the dog training season opens in early July, Swanson explained.
No wolf presence has yet been confirmed in Lower Peninsula, according to Swanson. There are signs, but no hard-evidence.
“We haven’t confirmed any since 2008 when one was confirmed,” Swanson said. “We’ve seen tracks that are wolf-like, but their presence has not been confirmed. I’d guess we might have a few (in the northern Lower Peninsula, but they are hard to detect.”
© 2015 Howard Meyerson
Appears in Michigan Outdoor News.
Dec, 30, 2014 by Jonathan Drew
Hank, one of the two resident red wolves is seen at the Red Wolf Education and Health Care Facility in Columbia, N.C., on June 4, 2014. (Stephen M. Katz | The Virginian-Pilot)
In the 27 years since federal officials reintroduced the red wolf in the wild, a restoration program has mustered about 100 of the carnivores in a handful of North Carolina counties. A decision looms in early 2015 on whether to continue efforts to maintain the only wild population of the species.
How the species’ existence will play out, in the wild or in a cage, has been debated in courtrooms, at high levels of the federal government and in 48,000 public comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The importance of the decision is reflected in the deliberate pace the agency is taking.
Tom MacKenzie, a spokesman for the wildlife service, said that the decision on the program’s fate is expected in the first three months of the year but that he couldn’t be more specific.
“They’re trying to get it done early as possible, but in a deliberative process that allows for everyone’s opinions to be brought in,” he said.
Once common in the Southeast, the red wolf had been considered extinct in the wild as of 1980 because of factors including hunting and loss of habitat. In 1987, wildlife officials released red wolves bred in captivity back into the wild in North Carolina. About 100 of them now roam five eastern North Carolina counties, and about 200 are in captive breeding programs.
As part of their evaluation, federal officials commissioned an independent review in late 2014 that found flaws in how the program is run, ranging from inadequate understanding of population trends to poor coordination with local managers. The report also suggested that red wolves be reintroduced in additional areas.
The federal agency has said all options are on the table. When a program to restore the wolves to the Smoky Mountains in the western part of the state ended in 1998, the agency tried to capture all of the animals and bring them back to captivity, Leopoldo Miranda, an assistant regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, has said.
MacKenzie said Miranda and other decision-makers were unavailable for an interview.
In November, conservation groups won a court battle to impose stricter hunting rules for coyotes in five eastern North Carolina counties — including a ban on nighttime hunting — that are meant to protect the wolves, which look similar. The groups cited gunshots as a leading cause of death for the wolves, even though it’s illegal to kill them in most circumstances.
The settlement agreement does allow for daytime hunting on private land by permit. A lawyer for the Animal Welfare Institute, Tara Zuardo, said she hopes that allowing daytime hunting will placate landowners and reduce political pressure that wildlife officials may be feeling. All coyote hunting had been banned for several months before the settlement was struck.
Zuardo said she’s hopeful that federal wildlife officials will decide to continue or modify the red wolf program — and perhaps release them in additional sites — rather than pull the plug.
“In my opinion, if they were to terminate the program it would be a political and financial decision,” said Zuardo, whose group was one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the coyote hunting rules. “And certainly if Fish and Wildlife chose to do that, they will be challenged. It’s not a good idea.”
Tanzanian officials have dismissed claims Chinese diplomatic and military staff have purchased illegal white ivory while on official visits to East Africa made by an environmental activist group.
The country’s foreign minister said the report by the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) was a “fabrication” designed to upset growing ties between Tanzania and China.
“We should ask ourselves as to why these allegations are surfacing a few days before (Tanzanian) president Jakaya Kikwete‘s visit to China,” foreign minister Bernard Membe told parliament.
“These are mere fabrications.
“It is obvious that perpetrators of these allegations are people who do not wish to see our country attain development.
“The false reports were made out of jealousy seeing that Tanzania enjoys cordial relations with China.”
The minister asserted that the two countries have been sharing intelligence reports which have enabled numerous interceptions of ivory destined for China from Tanzania.
“China is doing a lot to help us solve this wildlife-threatening crime,” Tanzania’s tourism minister Lazaro Nyalandu said.
“It is easy to see how cooked-up the report is, because saying that the Chinese president‘s plane was used to carry tusks is illogical.
“Such crafts are usually heavily guarded and surrounded by hundreds of people, leaving no room for any foul play.”
Embassy staff ivory ‘major buyers’ since 2006
According to the EIA, when Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Tanzania in March 2013 members of his government and business delegation bought so much ivory that local prices doubled.
The group quoted ivory traders as saying the buyers took advantage of a lack of security checks for diplomatic visitors to smuggle their purchases back to China on Xi’s plane.
The report said similar sales were made on a previous trip by China’s former president Hu Jintao and Chinese embassy staff have been “major buyers” since at least 2006.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei also described the report as “groundless”.
Tens of thousands of elephants are estimated to be slaughtered in Africa each year to feed rising Asian demand for ivory products.
Reports said the demand comes mostly from China – the continent’s biggest trading partner.
Almost all ivory sales were banned in 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to which both China and Tanzania are signatories.