Court rules federal agency wrongly withdrew bi-state sage grouse protections

wildearthguardians.org

Matthew Koehler

SAN FRANCISCO—A federal court has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally withdrew its proposal to list the bi-state sage grouse as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley on Monday vacated the agency’s 2020 withdrawal of the bird from the proposed listing, reinstated the 2013 proposal to list the birds as threatened and ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a new final listing decision.

“These rare dancing birds have a shot at survival thanks to this court decision,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’ve watched for more than a decade as these sage grouse have continued to decline. Without the Endangered Species Act’s legal protection, multiple threats will just keep pushing these grouse toward extinction.”

The bi-state sage grouse is a geographically isolated, genetically distinct population of greater sage grouse, which are famous for their showy plumage and mating dances, during which the males make popping sounds with large, inflated air sacs. They live only in an area along the California-Nevada border and face multiple threats. Population declines are particularly acute at the northern and southern ends of the birds’ range.

The court found that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2020 decision to withdraw the bird’s proposed listing failed to consider the small overall population of the bi-state sage grouse and the significance of the potential loss of subpopulations most at risk of being wiped out.

“These unique sage grouse populations in the Eastern Sierra are heading toward extinction from numerous threats, including livestock grazing, cheatgrass invasions, raven predation and extreme droughts,” said Laura Cunningham, California director at Western Watersheds Project. “They deserve a chance to thrive with legal protection.”

The birds were originally proposed for listing as threatened in 2013, but the Fish and Wildlife Service abandoned the proposal in 2015. In 2018 a federal court found the Service had wrongly denied Endangered Species Act protection to the bi-state sage grouse and required the agency to re-evaluate the bird’s situation. The bird was again proposed for protection, but in March 2020 the Trump administration withdrew the proposal.

“The court’s decision is a win for the bi-state sage grouse, which deserve Endangered Species Act protections,” said Joe Bushyhead, endangered species attorney with WildEarth Guardians. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must address the threats to these birds and their habitat, as well as the failure of existing efforts to halt their decline.”

Sage grouse populations in California and Nevada are isolated from other sage grouse by unsuitable habitats and former habitat that has been heavily developed. The bi-state sage grouse populations together are estimated to be no more than 3,305 birds, far below the 5,000-bird threshold that scientists consider the minimum viable population.

“The decision reinforces important legal principles for endangered species: that agencies must base their decisions on the best available science, fully explain their decisions, and carefully consider the status of an imperiled species, especially segments that are small and vulnerable,” said Daniel Ahrens, a law student with the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, which represented the conservation groups in court.

Stanford law student Zach Rego, who also represented the conservation groups, said the court was right to hold that the Service “must do more to show that conservation measures, like the removal of invasive cheatgrass, will be effective in preventing the bi-state sage grouse’s extinction.”

Efforts to protect the birds, including placing markers on barbed-wire fencing in cattle and sheep operations to reduce collision deaths and vegetation treatments, have failed to stem their decline. Federal scientists predict localized extinctions in the north and south ends of the range. Scientists also estimate occupied habitat has decreased by more than 136,000 acres over the past 11 years.

Bi-state sage grouse are found on lands originally inhabited by the Washoe and Paiute peoples.

The conservation groups that successfully challenged the withdrawal include Desert Survivors, the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians. The groups are represented by attorneys from the Center and the Stanford Law Clinic.

bi state sage grouse usfws flickr wildearth guardians

The bi-state sage grouse lives only in an area along the California-Nevada border and faces multiple threats, including grazing, mining and habitat loss. Photo by USFWS.

https://wildearthguardians.org/press-releases/court-rules-federal-agency-wrongly-withdrew-bi-state-sage-grouse-protections/

UK bird flu research project launched to protect poultry and seabirds

A notice from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

A notice warning of an avian influenza outbreak, taken on 25 January in Windsor, UK

www.newscientist.com

Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images

Adam Vaughan

A UK government-backed project – FluMap – aims to help understand how bird flu is evolving and finding its way into poultry farms Environment 20 June 2022

Scientists have embarked on a one-year, £1.5 million research project to combat the highly pathogenic strain of bird flu wreaking havoc on UK seabirds and heaping pressure on poultry farming.

With reports last week of growing numbers of seabirds – from gannets and guillemots to razorbills and skuas – being found dead on UK beaches, the risk is growing of the disease spreading to and from poultry. A record 122 poultry cases have already been recorded in the UK last winter, up on 26 the winter before. Meanwhile, more than 1100 cases have been detected in wild birds, compared with about 300 the previous winter.

Ian Brown at the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency hopes the government-backed project, dubbed FluMap, will help researchers fill knowledge gaps about how the H5N1 influenza is evolving and precisely how it is finding its way into poultry farms.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2325036-uk-bird-flu-research-project-launched-to-protect-poultry-and-seabirds/

Hybrid WOW Legislative Hearing – June 16, 2022 | The House Committee on Natural Resources

naturalresources.house.gov

Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Date: Thursday, June 16, 2022 Add to my Calendar Time: 09:00 AM Location: Longworth House Office Building 1324 Presiding: The Honorable Jared Huffman, Chair

On Thursday, June 16, 2022 at 9:00 a.m. ET, in room 1324 Longworth House Office Building and via Cisco WebEx, the Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife will hold a hybrid legislative hearing on the following bills: 

  • H.R. 4768 (Rep. David Joyce, R-OH) To require the Secretary of the Army to initiate at least 5 projects to reduce the loss and degradation of Great Lakes coastal wetlands, and for other purposes. Detrimental Erosion Forcing Enhanced Needs to Defend (DEFEND) the Great Lakes Act.
  • H.R. 6936 (Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-NY) To provide for the issuance of a semipostal to benefit programs that combat invasive species. Stamp Out Invasive Species Act.
  • H.R. 6949 (Rep. Dwight Evans, D-PA) To amend the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act to reauthorize Delaware River Basin conservation programs, and for other purposes. Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2022
  • H.R. 7398 (Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN) To prohibit wildlife killing contests on public lands, and for other purposes.Prohibit Wildlife Killing Contests Act of 2022.
  • H.R. 7792 (Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-NM) To provide for a national water data framework, and for other purposes. Water Data Act
  • H.R. 7793 (Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-NM) To provide for the water security of the Rio Grande Basin, to reauthorize irrigation infrastructure grants, and for other purposes. Rio Grande Water Security Act.
  • H.R. 7801 (Rep. Mike Levin, D-CA) To amend the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 to allow the Secretary of Commerce to establish a Coastal and Estuarine Resilience and Restoration Program, and for other purposes.

For hearing materials and schedules, please visit U.S. House of Representatives, Committee Repository at http://docs.house.gov/.

https://naturalresources.house.gov/hearings/hybrid-wow-legislative-hearing_june-16-2022

Return of the Buffalo – Flathead Beacon

A bison grazes among blooming arrowleaf balsamroot on the Bison Range nature preserve on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Over three days the Salish and Kootenai celebrated the restoration of the Bison Range to tribal ownership allowing them to manage the resources and wildlife for the first time in 112 yearsBy Micah DrewMay 25, 2022

Red Sleep Mountain rises 2,000 feet above the floor of the Mission Valley, one of the best vantage points to take in the dramatic expanse of the Mission Mountains that form the valley’s eastern border. The top of the mountain is only accessible via a one-way dirt road that winds through 18,524 fenced-off acres in the heart of the Flathead Indian Reservation. 

That swath of land is home to deer, elk, bears and approximately 455 bison, a herd of animals whose history is intricately bound to the Salish and Kootenai people. 

However, for more than a century that parcel of land was federally owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as a National Wildlife Refuge known as the National Bison Range (NBR). Tribal members were cut off not only from their ancestral land and the herd of bison they helped bring back from the brink of extinction, but from their ability to leverage generations of resource conservation knowledge to protect the landscape and habitat within the fence line. 

For decades, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) actively sought to restore ownership of the NBR to allow the Salish and Kootenai to resume full management responsibilities of the range. 

The Bison Range nature preserve on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Rich Janssen, head of the CSKT’s Natural Resource Department (NRD), said in a 2015 interview with Montana Public Radio that he believed the range would be returned in his lifetime. 

“I just had that feeling back when I was 45, I felt in my heart that I thought it was going to happen,” Janssen said last week. “You know we just weren’t going away until it was done, and when I turned 50 it happened.”

Legislation to restore the Bison Range was included in the 2020 annual omnibus spending bill, known as Public Law 116-260, which was signed on Dec. 27, 2020, transferring the land to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to be held in a trust for the tribes, effectively restoring the land forcefully taken more than a century ago.

“The range was always a postage stamp of pink, which is the federal land color, on our land status map for so long,” said Whisper Camel-Means, division manager of fish, wildlife, recreation, and conservation for the tribal NRD. “Now it’s green, the tribal ownership color, and we don’t want this hard border anymore. Yes, we have a fence to keep the bison in. But as much as we can I want to see that line blurred, making the bison range holistic with the rest of our management and the rest of our reservation.”

Tribal dancers celebrate the restoration of the bison range

Dancers march to the dance floor during the powwow portion of the Bison Range Restoration Celebration on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

While the legislation restoring the Bison Range was signed in late 2020, it wasn’t until January of this year that the transfer was completed. As a culmination of decades of work, as well as to commemorate the opening of the range under full tribal management for the first time, the CSKT held a three-day celebration last week that began with prayers, dances, and a powwow on Friday, May 20 and ended with half-price admission to the Bison Range on Sunday, May 22. 

 The ceremonies reached a peak on Saturday afternoon inside the gym of the Salish Kootenai College in Pablo. A multigenerational crowd packed the venue and, after songs by Flathead Nation singers and opening prayers by tribal elders, the first Native American Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland took the stage, tearing up as she started speaking. 

“I cannot help but imagine what this area looked like before European contact with vast herds of bison roaming the plains, when our Indigenous ancestors lived on this land alongside the plethora of animals and each respected their place in the balance of nature,” Haaland began. “With the loss of tribal homelands and the depletion of the buffalo herds, Plains tribes lost traditional connections with this beautiful animal; but in spite of that tragedy and loss, we are still here. You are still here, and that’s something to celebrate.”

Former Interior secretaries expressly opposed the restoration of land ownership, making Haaland’s presence an important affirmation of the reunification. As the first Native American in the presidential Cabinet, Haaland’s position also prompted emotional reactions from many attendees who congregated around her for handshakes and photos. 

“When our wildlife management and conservation efforts are guided by Indigenous knowledge developed over millennia, we all succeed,” Haaland said. “The return of the bison range to these Tribes is a triumph and a testament to what can happen when we collaboratively work together to restore balance and ecosystems that were injured by greed and disrespect.”

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks at the celebration of the Bison Range restoration

Deb Haaland, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, speaks at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo May 21, 2022. Micah Drew | Flathead Beacon

Throughout the celebrations, tribal elders relayed the history of the Tribes’ relationship with the buffalo, both in person and through screenings of the short documentary film, “In the Spirit of Atatice: The Untold Story of the National Bison Range,” which was commissioned by CSKT to explain how members of the Tribes were responsible for initially bringing buffalo to the Flathead Indian Reservation from across the Continental Divide when the animals were at the brink of extinction, a narrative that was fractured by the creation of the Bison Range. 

The idea to restore bison to the Flathead Reservation dates to the 1860s when a tribal member named Atatice, or Peregrine Falcon Robe, was on a buffalo hunt across the Continental Divide and asked the tribal chiefs if they could bring some bison back with them, but the chiefs were at an impasse.

His son Latati, or Little Falcon Robe, was able to realize his father’s vision while on a buffalo hunt by bringing some orphaned calves across the Divide. A small herd began to flourish on the Reservation, but in 1884, Latati’s stepfather sold the herd to tribal members Michel Pablo and Charles Allard without Latati’s consent. 

The Allard-Pablo herd continued to grow and, in 1901, a portion of the herd was sold to Charles E. Conrad in Kalispell. Three years later, the Flathead Allotment Act opened land to non-Indian homesteaders, effectively ending free range on much of the Reservation and allowing the federal government to force Pablo to sell the remaining head of his herd.

When the American Bison Society began scouting land to establish a bison range to preserve the species, the organization contracted with the ecologist Morton J. Elrod, a professor at the University of Montana who recommended the Flathead Indian Reservation as a fitting landscape, where the species could return to its native land. In 1908, the federal government seized 18,524 acres of land to establish the National Bison Range.  

Flags fly over the Bison Range Visitor Center on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In a wrenching twist of irony, the 36 animals that made up the initial herd for the range were purchased from the Conrad family — the same animals (or their direct descendants) that formed the Allard-Pablo herd prior to the federal government’s forceful removal. 

The establishment of the Bison Range continued the fragmentation of the reservation, which was reflected in the Salish translation for the range: “fenced-in place.”

“It was common knowledge that the fence was as much to keep the Indians out as it was to keep the buffalo in,” former CSKT councilman Leonard Gray said over the weekend. “I remember growing up driving down [U.S. Highway] 93 heading toward Ravalli and knowing this was the Bison Range but that it was federal land and I just didn’t feel welcome.”

For decades, tribal members were prohibited from working for the Bison Range; as recently as the early 2000s, only one tribal member, Darren Thomas, was employed there. 

“There’s so many things you can learn from a buffalo — from how they act, how they behave, their strength, their kindness, their wiseness, how they run in a herd,” Thomas said. “So as a Flathead Nation, now we are truly a buffalo nation.”

An elder's folder hands during a prayer at the Bison Range restoration celebration

Salish elder Johnny Arlee folds his hands over his hat and cane during a prayer at the Bison Range Restoration Celebration on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Rich Janssen has worked for the NRD for more than a decade, helping to steer conservation and restoration work across the 1.25 million-acre reservation, protecting habitat for everything from grizzly bears and bighorn sheep to trumpeter swans and bull trout. 

That meant managing thousands of acres abutting the imaginary ecological boundary of the Bison Range, including shared wetlands, watersheds and wildlife habitat, without being able to complete the same work on the other side of the fence.

Now conservation work can continue unfettered by jurisdictional divides, an efficient, but subtle difference. Day-to-day management of the range and bison hasn’t changed much since the transition from federal to tribal management, though Janssen said one difference is how the annual bison roundup is conducted. The roundup allows biologists to monitor the health of the herd, as well as cull some animals to send to other herds or auction off to raise funds for the range. Starting last fall, staff implemented a low-stress handling procedure, doing away with the use of whips and horses and cattle-like treatment. 

“The roundup took a little longer than normal,” Janssen said. “It was an extra day to gently move them through the corrals and handle them with the respect they deserve and we’re already seeing the changes in the bison. They’re really taking to our way of caring for them.”

The most visible change to the Bison Range is at the visitor’s center in Moiese, where a newly renovated wing of exhibits details the history of the Tribes’ relationship to the bison and the land. There are also plans for a cultural center and a second entrance to the range at the top of Ravalli Hill, located directly off U.S. Highway 93, which will make access easier for travelers. 

“We’re getting a lot of traffic and it’s only getting larger,” Janssen said. “We’re inviting the public to come out and enjoy the Bison Range, especially if they can’t get into Glacier and can’t get into Yellowstone.”

Rich Janssen, Department Head of Natural Resources for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Preparing for a greater number of visitors means addressing a backlog of deferred maintenance on the Bison Range that has piled up through the years. Janssen said the Tribes are working on improving the roads, making the visitor’s center ADA accessible and upgrading technology to make both staff and visitor experiences smoother.  

“Some people have been worried about the transition, but we’ve already got our feet on the ground, and I don’t worry about this place failing,” said Camel-Means, the NRD’s division manager of fish, wildlife, recreation, and conservation. “We can manage wildlife and we can manage places and now we get to manage this land in the same way. Failure isn’t a term that’s part of my vocabulary anymore because we don’t have to worry about other people ruining things for us for a political agenda.” 

If there was one entity that didn’t seem to understand the magnitude of the weekend’s celebration, it was the dozens of buffalo lounging hillside across the Bison Range, unfazed by the procession of cars driving past, visitors snapping photos through open windows. 

Just over the summit of Red Sleep Mountain, a few bison were grazing among the blooming yellow arrowleaf balsamroot. Standing out in stark contrast to the adult’s dark brown shapes were a few diminutive reddish baby buffalo, a few of the 20 calves born this spring, which Secretary Haaland fittingly referenced in her closing remarks.

“Today represents a return to something pure and sacred,” she said. “I am confident that the future is as bright for the little calves just learning to walk in the spring as for the generations of CSKT members who will be reconnected with their ancestral traditions over the decades.”A cow bison rests with her calf on the Bison Range nature preserve on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.

Editor’s Picks

Summer Preview

Glacier Park Pilots Vehicle-Reservation Program into Second Year

Surging summertime crowds have prompted a ticketed-entry strategy to manage congestion problems in and around the park, and persistent overcrowding could mean it’s here to stay Environment

Return of the Buffalo

Over three days the Salish and Kootenai celebrated the restoration of the Bison Range to tribal ownership allowing them to manage the resources and wildlife for the first time in 112 years Books

Art, History, and the Atomic Bomb

Author, illustrator and Flathead resident Jonathan Fetter-Vorm reflects on the 10-year anniversary of his debut book, a graphic history of the first atomic bomb

Support independent journalism.

If you enjoy stories like this one, please consider joining the Flathead Beacon Editor’s Club. For as little as $5 per month, Editor’s Club members support independent local journalism and earn a pipeline to Beacon journalists. Join the Editor’s Club

© 2022 Flathead Beacon, All Rights Reserved. Use of this site is subject to the Flathead Beacon’s Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Flathead Beacon

https://flatheadbeacon.com/2022/05/25/return-of-the-buffalo/

WildChoices

WildChoices assists local and international tour operators, agents, and individual travellers to make informed, ethical choices about captive wildlife tourism facilities in South Africa.

HOW IT WORKS

WildChoices identifies the captive wildlife facilities* in South Africa that offer tourist attractions and activities including interactions and volunteer programs, and assesses them by applying the publicly available SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Decision Tool published in 2019, to publicly available online information about the facilities and their activities.

The Tool is in the form of a decision tree (see below) that guides the user through the rapid assessment of a facility against a series of qualifying and disqualifying criteria to help decide which captive wildlife tourism facilities to support and which to avoid.

The assessment process results in one of three possible outcomes: Support, Support with Caution, or Avoid.

Neither the list nor the assessment results are static and are updated with any new information to keep the list and assessment result current. No online information prior to 2018 has been considered in the assessment process.

For the full SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Guidelines click here.

For the full SATSA Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Decision Tool click here.

**Captive wildlife facilities are defined as facilities that keep wild animals in a human-made enclosure that is of insufficient size for the management of self-sustaining populations of the species and designed to hold the animals in a manner that prevents them from escaping and facilitates intensive human intervention or manipulation in the provision of food and/or water, artificial housing and/or healthcare.

BACKGROUND

The Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) is a non-profit, member-driven association representing the Southern Africa region’s tourism private sector. It has over 1,000 members including accommodation establishments, airlines, attractions, transport operators, conference organisers, marketing organisations, tour operators and destination management companies.

At SATSA’s annual conference in August 2017, members raised concerns about the proliferation of captive wildlife attractions and activities in South Africa, and the negative impact that unethical facilities might have on tourism and brand South Africa.

In 2018 SATSA established a Board Committee on Animal Interactions and commissioned BDO South Africa, an independent consulting firm, to:

  1. Define the types of entities that fall within the ambit of captive wildlife interactions including standardising definitions and terminology;
  2. Develop an ethical framework to evaluate operations that involve captive wildlife interactions to underpin the debate and establish the principles upon which the ethicalness of animal interaction operations may objectively be evaluated;
  3. Develop a set of guidelines for the self-regulation of captive wildlife tourism experiences.

In November 2019 SATSA published their Captive Wildlife Attractions & Activities Guidelines and Decision Tool.

In 2021 Brett Mitchell and Gavin Reynolds, both members of the 2018 SATSA Board Committee, founded WildChoices.

WildChoices launched in March 2022 with a list of 219 assessed facilities.

facebookinstagram

https://www.wildchoices.org/

Wildlife deaths caused by hair ties, surgical masks and other ordinary household items

www.abc.net.au

Amber Irving-Guthrie

We know that plastic bags, straws and microplastics have a deadly reputation when they wind up in the ocean, but there are other everyday items that are killing animals regularly without us noticing.

This story contains images that readers may find distressing.

Recently, a platypus was found dead in Warburton, 2 hours east of Melbourne, with an old hair tie wrapped around its neck.

Geoff Williams from the Australian Platypus Conservancy says platypuses are killed from hair ties more often than you might think.

“We are currently aware of one or two platypus deaths per year in Victoria caused by hair ties. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg,” he says.

Dead platypus appears to have been choked by a hair tie.
This platypus was found choked by a hair-tie at Warburton in Victoria recently.(Supplied: Johnathan McLay)

“Very few dead platypus are ever found as the animals typically die in the water or in underground burrows. The actual number of platypuses that are killed by litter entanglement is much higher.”

Dr Kate Robb from the Marine Mammal Foundation says entanglements are a constant threat for marine life.

“We’re very well aware of things like plastic bags, food wrappings and balloon strings … but there are these other lesser-known hazards that [are killing animals],” Dr Robb says.

“Anything that has a ring structure can be deadly, for example box [packing] tape is problematic, especially when we are getting more and more things delivered.”

Duck with baby's teething ring caught in its bill.
Pacific black duck discovered with a teething ring caught in its bill, at Werribee.(Zoos Victoria: Gary Gale)

Common dangers for animals

Here are some of the items causing regular animal entanglements that Dr Robb believes should be brought the public’s attention:

Platypus killed by elastic band, a gloved hand holds the band
Platypus killed by elastic band entanglement, Preston Victoria. (Supplied: Australian Platypus Conservancy)

“The rim around your hat that keeps it on your head becomes an issue when the hat breaks down,” she says.

“The velcro at the back of your hat also becomes a circular object and is dangerous.”

People collecting Fishing buckets and other plastic waste.
Fishing buckets and other plastic waste collected by Colleen Hughson and friends.(Supplied: Colleen Hughson)

“Just like hats, buckets that are used for bait can blow off into our waterways and they can also create those circular rings that cause entanglements,” Dr Robb says.

“A lot of birds are getting caught in face masks … in the straps that go around the ears,” she says.

“Anything that forms a circular shape can be really problematic and dangerous for our animals.”

Discarded surgical face mask tangled in seaweed.
Colleen Hughson found endless waste from the pandemic.(Supplied: Colleen Hughson)

Boating supplies in beach waste

Victorian environmental warrior Colleen Hughson says she has noticed a myriad of random things washing up on beaches in Western Victoria.

“We found lots of fishing gear, fishing ropes and nets, 200 litre drums and chemical containers,” she says.

Ms Hughson recently walked 100 kilometres over seven days collecting rubbish between Portland and Warrnambool.

“Most of the stuff we found was ocean-based waste and litter. Not so much your single use items … but rubbish that was falling off ships and boats,” she says.

“We were collecting some bottle neck rings … but the fishing rope is the biggest issue. Birds get tangled up so easily in fishing rope.”

Two people carrying plastic tubing they have collected from the beach.
Colleen Hughson collected waste along the Shipwreck Coast.(Supplied: Rosana Sialong)

Dr Robb says there are ways we can dispose of rubbish and make sure it doesn’t end up around an animal’s neck.

“One of the main things we can do is to cut anything that is ring shaped before throwing it out. Rip straps off your face masks … and cut hair ties before throwing them out,” she says.

“Cut anything that has a ring shape before you put them in the bin or into the recycling.”

Ongoing plastic production an issue

“We can change our processes further upstream with the way things are manufactured, but it changes with the consumer,” says Dr Robb.

“There’s a push from the consumer for manufacturers to create products that are more sustainable, and is less likely to kill our wildlife.”

Dr Paul Read from Sea Shepherd Australia says we should be looking at a more significant problem when it comes to marine life entanglements — the waste from commercial fishing boats and the amount of plastic we produce.

Waste collected on Victoria's coastline laid out in order of plastic to netting.
Rubbish from Colleen Hughson’s 100km trek along Victoria’s southern coastline.(Supplied: Colleen Hughson)

“We need to address the plastic problem at the source, which is the constantly running tap of plastic production, as well as combating the massive amount of debris caused by the industrial fishing industry,” he says. 

“We need to campaign for plastic alternatives, remove existing fishing nets from the ocean, ensure compliance with fisheries laws by commercial fishers and combat illegal fishing.”

Dead platypus caught in a fishing line.
This platypus got caught in fishing line at Werribee.(Supplied: L Taillard)

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-09/unsuspecting-household-items-are-killing-wildlife/100976976?utm_medium=social&utm_content=sf255633425&utm_campaign=abc_adelaide&utm_source=m.facebook.com&sf255633425=1

The Beauty of Nature

“Harpy Eagle”

The Harpy Eagle lives in Brazil and United States is 3 ft 6″ high and the female weighs 20 pounds and the male 13 pounds, with talons bigger than bear claws.

U.S. Allows Hunters to Import Some Elephant Trophies From African Countries

Elephants at a waterhole in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.
Credit…Eric Baccega/agefotostock, via Alamy

After settling a lawsuit filed during the Trump administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service granted six permits to bring elephant parts into the country. It may approve more in the coming months.

www.nytimes.com

April 1, 2022

Miranda Green

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service informed some hunters last month that it would allow the import of six elephant trophies into the United States from Zimbabwe. The African elephant carcasses will be the first allowed into the country in five years.

The decision reverses an agencywide hold on processing elephant trophy import permits that was put in place during the Trump administration in November 2017, and has since prevented any elephant tusks, tails or feet from being brought into the country.

The reversal is the result of a September 2021 settlement with the Dallas Safari Club, a big-game hunting organization that sued the Trump administration in December 2019 for pausing trophy permit processing. The environment and tourism ministry of Namibia was also a plaintiff in the case. The Fish and Wildlife Service is required under the settlement to process the permits of the 11 hunters named in the suit, as well as 73 other outstanding permit applications. That could potentially lead to additional trophies being brought into the United States from countries that allow limited hunting of elephants for sport.

According to a Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson, both parties “negotiated a settlement they consider to be in the public interest and a just, fair, adequate and equitable resolution of the disputes set forth in the plaintiffs’ complaint.”

The service’s decision to settle the lawsuit continues a long-running dispute between hunters and biodiversity experts over whether trophy hunting is beneficial or harmful to big game species, particularly endangered animals like the two species of African elephants. It has also prompted criticism from activists and biodiversity groups who question why the agency did not fight the lawsuit or reinstate a similar ban that was instituted during the Obama administration.

They point out that the move goes against President Biden’s commitment on the campaign trail to limiting hunting imports. The critics also say it is the latest in a series of confounding steps by the Biden administration to acquiesce to lawsuits leftover from the Trump administration and a failure to invest in more protections under the Endangered Species Act, like conserving more gray wolves. They argue these actions show that Mr. Biden hasn’t kept his word on environmental priorities.

“We expected the Biden administration would have halted everything and taken a hard look and made some tough decisions that maybe this isn’t something we should be doing given the biodiversity crisis,” said Tanya Sanerib, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “So to have the reality be the exact opposite of that, it feels like whiplash.”

For trophy hunters and big game groups, the reversal came as a long delayed win.

“It’s a victory for conservation because in a lot of these places where elephants reside, the habitat is only made available because of hunting dollars,” said Lane Easter, 57, an equine veterinarian in Texas whose trophy permit was approved under the settlement for a Zimbabwe hunt he did in 2017.

The majority of trophy hunters are from the United States. Under the federal Endangered Species Act, hunters must prove before they import a trophy that killing the animal aided in the “positive enhancement” of a species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s perspective, which predates Mr. Biden’s election, is that trophy hunting can qualify as species enhancement if it’s “legal, well-regulated hunting as part of a sound management program,” the agency spokesperson said.

Big game hunters say that the money they spend on hunts is later invested in the rehabilitation of the species and economically benefits nearby communities, preventing poaching. They also say that hunting certain animals like elephants and lions can benefit overall herd health.

Hunters can spend upward of $40,000 on an African hunt in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia and Namibia, and many of them win the rights through bidding wars held at national conferences like the Safari Club International’s annual convention.

But groups like Humane Society International say that hunting a species does not benefit its survival and that the Fish and Wildlife Service should not allow paid hunts to qualify as a method of species enhancement, especially on animals the United States considers threatened. The International Union for Conservation of Nature in 2021 revised its listing for both species of African elephant to highlight that both are at greater risk of extinction.

Critics also say there is little proof that money paid for a hunt ultimately helps the species recover, especially when corruption has been found to be rampant in several of the countries where African elephants reside.

“There is no evidence that trophy hunting advances conservation of a species,” said Teresa Telecky, a zoologist and the vice president of wildlife at the Humane Society International.

When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, big game hunters expected it would be easier to import elephant trophies. The week before Thanksgiving in 2017, the Fish and Wildlife Service reversed an Obama-era ban, allowing hunters to import elephant trophies from several African countries. The news set off a storm of disapproval and criticism, with even staunch allies of Mr. Trump warning the move might increase the “gruesome poaching of elephants.”

Just 24 hours later, Mr. Trump tweeted that he would put the decision on “hold.” After that tweet, not a single elephant trophy was approved for import to the United States.

“Because the president found trophy hunting distasteful he essentially abrogated the law with a tweet,” said George Lyon, the lawyer who represented the Dallas Safari Club, “and that’s not how the administrative process is supposed to go.”

So far, the wildlife service said it had processed eight permits. In addition to the six it allowed, it denied two, and it is expected to rule in coming months on more. Mr. Lyon estimated that as of last September, close to 300 elephant trophy permits from various African countries were awaiting processing.

Mr. Easter says he’s not wasting any time to bask in his legal victory. His elephant’s tusks are already being prepared for shipment to his home in Texas.

“They are going to hang in the living room of my house, and I will remember that elephant for the rest of my life,” he said.

He has another trophy hunt in Africa booked for August.

Special offer. Subscribe for

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/science/elephant-trophies-hunting.html?fbclid=IwAR33VZ1781F-rUh6oYtY-jqWr6goQG1Af1p9jLNxxEg6hR7VL8YfIdXjqDk

Another One Of Biden’s Accomplishments

“Young man noticed a strange stump and decided to get closer to it! What happened next made him gasp!”

Help Protect Our Wolves

What a shot! Game Warden shoots antler off buck to free it from net

Photo Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Game Commission

What a shot! Game Warden shoots antler off buck to free it from net

by CBS 21 NewsThursday, March 24th 2022

BERKS COUNTY, Pa. — One buck in Berks Co. is an antler lighter, but safe, thanks to a PA State Game Warden.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission posting this amazing story on it’s Facebook page.

A concerned resident called the Game Commission when they saw a buck with it’s antler stuck in a net.

State Game Warden Ryan Zawada was nervous that chemical immobilization was not a safe option because of the distress level of the deer.

So, he decided the best option was to shoot the antler off.

Pennsylvania Game Commission

🦌 This buck recently shed an antler in a nontypical way.

State Game Warden Ryan Zawada recently responded to quite the call when a concerned citizen reported a buck had it’s antler stuck in a net in Berks County.

Given the deer’s state of distress upon arrival, SGW Zawada was nervous that chemical immobilization was not a safe option to remove the deer from the net. He decided the best option was to shoot the caught antler off. After the shot, one antler lighter, the buck ra… See more

May be an image of outdoors
May be an image of 1 person, deer and nature
May be an image of deer and nature

After the shot, the buck ran off, unharmed.

Now that’s what I call a good shot.

https://local21news.com/news/local/what-a-shot-game-warden-shoots-antler-off-buck-to-free-it-from-net

Montana: Aerial Hunting of Wolves Runs Afoul of Federal Law

National Rifle Association

Despite a recent interpretation of Montana state law that aerial hunting of wolves is not prohibited, doing so runs afoul of federal law.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks argued in state District Court recently that state law does not prohibit aerial hunting of wolves. FWP’s arguments came as legal justification for the agency removing language from the state’s wolf regulations that had stated hunting wolves from aircraft was barred. The agency says that inclusion of that language in the regulations for a decade was an error.

In response to media reporting on the case, a number of readers pointed to federal law addressing aerial hunting. The Airborne Hunting Act of 1972 “prohibits shooting or attempting to shoot or harassing any bird, fish or other animal from aircraft except for certain specified reasons, including protection of wildlife, livestock and human life as authorized by a federal or state-issued license or permit.”

“It is accurate to say that, under the federal Airborne Hunting Act, hunting wolves or other animals from the air is prohibited in most circumstances,” Jessica Sutt, a spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in an email. “The law allows for permitted federal or state agents to shoot from aircraft for defined management purposes. The average person with a hunting license can’t shoot from an aircraft under AHA.”

In response to a question about the federal law, FWP spokesperson Greg Lemon wrote in an email, “The federal law that prohibits aerial hunting has an exception for state-permitted activities. We believe FWP (is) exempted from that law.”

In an effort to clarify the state’s position, the Montana State News Bureau asked the agency whether “permitted activities” meant licensed hunters could use aircraft. FWP spent more than a week in part doing legal analysis on the question, Lemon said, and replied on Wednesday: “Aerial recreational hunting of wolves is currently prohibited by federal law.”

Outside of state or federal agents shooting from the air, the federal law does come with exceptions that have led states to allow the public to shoot from the air under certain circumstances. Language in Montana and other state programs describes the activities as management for livestock or wildlife depredation.

The Montana Department of Livestock offers aerial hunting permits specifically for coyotes and foxes. Licensed pilots may purchase a permit via an application that includes a request from a livestock producer. The application specifies the permit does not allow shooting coyotes or foxes for recreational purposes.

Alaska developed “intensive management” programs for certain areas where it has determined moose or caribou populations are below desired levels. The public may apply for permits that allow a pilot and gunner to shoot wolves, or bears in some cases, from the air in an effort to bolster ungulate numbers. In several places, however, Alaska states that aerial hunting is prohibited outside of the intensive management areas and without the permit.

“These permits allow for aerial shooting by a backseat gunner,” one management plan states, as well as spotting wolves from the air, landing and immediately hunting.

Idaho uses language stating that recent efforts to expand methods of take for wolves do not include aerial hunting, citing the federal law.

“These expanded methods do not currently include aerial shooting of wolves, which is subject to the Federal Airborne Hunting Act and not allowed in Idaho,” according to Idaho Fish and Game. “If Idaho should allow aerial hunting of wolves, it would be specific to designated control actions and by permit from the Idaho Department of Agriculture, which is authorized through the Federal Airborne Hunting Act.”

The issue with Montana’s wolf hunting laws and regulations arose as FWP and the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission are facing a lawsuit from two wildlife advocacy groups. The groups say they were denied the right to participate when FWP removed language that had previously appeared in wolf hunting and trapping regulations stating that aerial hunting was prohibited by a rule made by the commission. The groups argue in part that regulation changes should have gone through the open commission process rather than be done unilaterally by FWP.

According to testimony from a former FWP attorney, an agency review found the commission had not passed such a rule and likely lacked the authority to do so. The review concluded that the state Legislature, rather than the commission, would need to make a change in order to prohibit aerial hunting of wolves under state law, according to testimony.

The Montana Legislature has enacted state bans on aerial hunting for “big game” animals, such as elk and mountain lions, as well as “furbearers” like as bobcats and beavers. But wolves are legally defined by the state as a “species in need of management,” and the Legislature has not enacted a similar prohibition for wolves, state wildlife officials said in testimony and court documents.

The current wolf regulations do not mention the federal prohibition on aerial hunting. FWP does not have authority to enforce federal law but in some cases has passed rules and regulations through the commission shaped by federal law, such as regulations for hunting migratory birds, or a game warden having authority to write a ticket for driving off road on federal land.

https://www.americanhunter.org/content/montana-aerial-hunting-of-wolves-runs-afoul-of-federal-law/

With Plenty Of Room For The Kids

“Hippos Can’t Swim?

Judge restores gray wolf protections, reviving federal recovery efforts

wildearthguardians.org

Gray wolves in the Northern Rockies still face brutal slaughter

OAKLAND, CA—Today, a federal court restored Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf after they were eliminated by the Trump administration in 2020. The ruling orders the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to resume recovery efforts for the imperiled species. Today’s decision redesignates the gray wolf as a species threatened with extinction in the lower 48 states with the exception of the Northern Rockies population (map), for which wolf protections were removed by Congress in 2011.

The most recent data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its state partners show only an estimated 132 wolves in Washington state, 173 in Oregon (with only 19 outside of northeastern Oregon), and fewer than about 20 in California. Nevada, Utah, and Colorado have had a few wolf sightings over the past three years, but wolves remain functionally absent from their historical habitat in these states. In 2020, Colorado voters directed the state to reintroduce wolves by 2023.

“The nation has witnessed the brutality that happens when ‘management’ of wolves is returned to anti-wolf states like Montana and Idaho, which have implemented an aggressive eradication agenda, including surrounding Yellowstone National Park,” said Lindsay Larris, Wildlife Program director at WildEarth Guardians. “Restoring federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves is essential to their recovery throughout their historic range, so while we are thankful for this ruling we also call on Secretary Deb Haaland to issue emergency relisting protections for the Northern Rockies wolf population to halt the senseless slaughter taking place.”

“The science is clear that gray wolves have not yet recovered in the western U.S. By design, the Endangered Species Act does not provide the federal government the discretion to forsake western wolf recovery in some regions due to progress in other parts of the country,” said Kelly Nokes, Western Environmental Law Center attorney. “Today’s decision will bolster recovery of western wolves – a keystone species wherever they exist – and improve ecosystem health more broadly.”

From the decision: “…the Service did not adequately consider threats to wolves outside of these core populations. Instead, the Service avoids analyzing these wolves by concluding, with little explanation or analysis, that wolves outside of the core populations are not necessary to the recovery of the species… In so concluding, the Service avoided assessing the impact of delisting on these wolves.” Opinion at 11.

In delisting wolves, the Service ignored the science showing they are not recovered in the West. The Service concluded that because in its belief there are sufficient wolves in the Great Lakes states, it did not matter that wolves in the western U.S. are not yet recovered. The Endangered Species Act demands more, including restoring the species in the ample suitable habitats afforded by the wild public lands throughout the western U.S. Wolves are listed as endangered under state laws in Washington and California, and only occupy a small portion of available, suitable habitat in Oregon.

“This ruling is a huge win for wolves in states like California, Oregon, and Utah where they have yet to achieve stable, robust populations,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and executive director with Western Watersheds Project. “We are relieved to have staved off premature delisting with this case, but there is still a huge amount of work ahead to protect wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming where they face some of their biggest threats.”

The conservation groups have long been active on wolf recovery issues in the western U.S., including working with western states to develop science-based wolf management plans, mounting cases to rein in rogue federal government wolf-killing programs, promoting recovery efforts in the Southwest for critically imperiled Mexican gray wolves, and working with local governments and landowners to deploy non-lethal tools that prevent wolf-livestock conflicts.

“Over the past two winters, we lost icons of wolf recovery when OR-7 and his mate OR-94 passed away in southern Oregon’s Cascades. These two wolves represent the first generation of wolves in western Oregon in nearly a century,” said Michael Dotson with the conservation group Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center based in southwest Oregon. “Delisting is premature and obviously politically driven.”

“Wolves are an integral part in the health and resilience of western ecosystems,” said Adam Gebauer, Public Lands Program director at The Lands Council. “Local land managers, state wildlife offices and the federal government must work together and rely on science and not politics to ensure their recovery. Wolves are our allies in the conservation of wildlands.”

“Today’s victory injects hope and resources into ongoing efforts to restore wolves across their historic range,” said Bethany Cotton, conservation director for Cascadia Wildlands. “We look forward to engaging with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure wolf management is guided by sound science, not prejudice.”

“The politically driven delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies by Congress incorrectly included all of eastern Washington, east of US Highway 97. It was an arbitrary decision then and it still is today,” said Timothy Coleman, director of Kettle Range Conservation Group and former member of the Washington state Wolf Advisory Group.  “Eighty-five percent of wolves killed in Washington were from the Kettle River Range, where unfortunately the gray wolf is still at risk despite the court’s excellent decision. And though Washington has kept state endangered species protections for wolves, that clearly provides little protection. Had wolves retained federal Endangered Species Act protection, entire wolf families would not have been slaughtered and could have dispersed into unoccupied areas of the state with excellent habitat such as southwest Washington, Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park.”

“California’s wolves are just starting to return home,” said Tom Wheeler, executive director at the Environmental Protection Information Center. “Today’s decision means these animals will have the help of federal wildlife managers to establish a true foothold in their historic habitat in the state.”

“We must learn to coexist with gray wolves. These highly intelligent and social animals play a key role in balancing entire ecosystems,” said Kimberly Baker of the Klamath Forest Alliance. “Federal protection is paramount to safeguarding this nation’s rightful heritage.”

Unfortunately, today’s decision will do nothing to stop the ongoing slaughter of wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming—including surrounding Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. These states removed wolves’ endangered species protections via federal legislation. The current war on wolves in the northern Rockies shows the stark reality of what happens when “management” is turned over to states hostile to wolves.

In just the past few months, at least 23 Yellowstone wolves—more than 20% of the park’s entire wolf population—have been killed outside the park, causing widespread outrage and condemnation from Yellowstone National Park’s supervisor, wolf researchers, and wildlife professionals. Hunters in Montana and Idaho can lure wolves out of Yellowstone with bait, strangle them with snares, and shoot them at night on private land.

Both states have established wolf bounties and in Idaho it’s legal to run down a wolf with ATVs and snowmobiles. While celebrating today’s positive ruling for wolves, the groups also call on the Biden administration to immediately issue emergency relisting protections for the Northern Rockies population of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act.

The coalition of western wildlife advocates involved in this legal challenge includes WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, Cascadia Wildlands, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Klamath Forest Alliance, and Kettle Range Conservation Group, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center.

https://wildearthguardians.org/press-releases/judge-restores-gray-wolf-protections-reviving-federal-recovery-efforts/

Alligators Take Over Nuclear Weapons Plant | Reports from the Frontline

U.S. treatment of wolves is brutal, often illegal, and bitterly partisan

grist.org

Maggie Howell 7 – 9 minutes

Maggie Howell is the executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center.

Wolves are being slaughtered with a zeal that goes beyond the typical thrill of the hunt. Last month, Oregon state police asked for help and nonprofits offered a reward of nearly $50,000 for leads in identifying the criminals who poisoned two wolf packs, killing eight of these noble creatures in one of the slowest, most horrific ways possible. 

Such slaughters have ramped up since the Trump administration removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list in October 2020. The change took effect in January 2021, leaving a patchwork of state regulations and wolf populations vulnerable not only to newly sanctioned hunting but to poaching, or illegal hunting, as well.

In Wisconsin, 218 wolves were killed in the span of three days last February, exceeding the state’s quota by nearly 100. The loss represents about a third of Wisconsin’s wolf population. In Washington, where wolves are still protected, a breeding mother wolf was poached in May. Since Montana’s wolf season opened on September 15, hunters have killed 195, including three members of the most viewed pack in the world

Meanwhile, states like Montana and Idaho have green-lit baiting and trapping and allow hunters to use vehicles — like ATVs and helicopters — to chase down wolves. In Idaho, hunters can use packs of dogs and shoot wolf pups in their dens. To encourage wolf hunting, the state will even reimburse hunters for as much as $2,500 in costs for each wolf killed, essentially offering a bounty. Though these types of hunting practices are banned for certain species, state governments have perplexingly decided to allow them for wolf hunts — policies that swiftly followed Trump’s removal of wolf protections, all led by Republican legislatures. 

Opposition to protecting wolves tends to come from ranchers and some hunters, who see the wolves as threats to livestock and game. As Idaho State Senator Van Burtenshaw put it, “There’s a wave of wolves coming in, and we just want to slow that wave down, minimize our costs, and bring back the ranching family.” But data show that wolves can easily coexist with cattle, sheep, and other animals. There are many options for non-lethal wolf management, like erecting flags around cattle pens to scare off wolves. And the reality is that wolves are not a major threat: Studies show they are responsible for just 1 percent of livestock deaths (dogs are responsible for more losses than wolves). Meanwhile, ethical hunters who understand ecology appreciate wolves because they make deer and elk populations stronger by selecting for weaker members of the herd. 

Unfortunately, wolf management is no longer simply a debate among farmers, ranchers, and wildlife conservationists. Wolves have become politicized. After Montana Governor Greg Gianforte illegally slaughtered a wolf last spring, Vox reporter Benji Jones noted that “The wolf debate doesn’t seem to have much to do with science-based management. Instead, it comes down to how people view wolves … and how their politics inform those views.”

What’s driving hunters to kill as many wolves as possible in the most torturous ways possible is another facet of our bitterly divided country. Gianforte trapped and killed a banded wolf that had wandered across the border from Yellowstone Park — he was in violation of a licensing requirement but received only a warning letter. This fall, he expressed his frustration with the federal government reconsidering wolf protections, tweeting, “We don’t need Washington coming in” to manage wolves. U.S. Representative Liz Cheney complained about “Efforts from the radical environmentalist left to re-list the Gray Wolf.” Wolves seem to have become a focal point for those railing against big government, a symbol of coastal elitism encroaching on rural values. When I talk to hunters from my home office in Westchester, New York, they will offer a version of “how would you feel if we put wolves in Central Park?”

In the wilderness, however, wolves are what’s called a keystone species, meaning they have a disproportionately large impact on their entire ecosystem. It only takes a few of these apex predators to effectively manage populations of deer, elk, and bison, which in turn ensures a healthy level of vegetation to sustain smaller animals like beavers, songbirds, and fish.

Prior to the 1900s, roughly a quarter of a million wolves thrived throughout the lower 48 states. Without really understanding the ecological consequences, settlers nearly killed them all by the mid-20th century, reducing their range to a small portion of the Great Lakes region. Thankfully, with the Endangered Species Act of 1973, we began giving this animal opportunities to recover.

When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park, scientists found they rejuvenated the landscape. Freed from predation for 70 years, the elk and bison populations had exploded. The aspen trees, willows, and cottonwoods were stripped bare, leaving nothing for the smaller animals, and the landscape degraded. Without the structure that trees and plants offered, the soil lost its integrity and riverbanks collapsed, redirecting waterways. Countless other animals vanished when the food they had depended on had been overgrazed. The return of the top predator kept those big herbivores moving, allowing habitats to rebound.

Each year, Yellowstone draws an estimated $35 million from people who visit specifically to see the wolves. Yet hunters have killed 23 during this winter’s hunting season; just 91 remain within the park.

The current anti-wolf frenzy is not based on economics, and it’s not based on science. It’s driven by something deeper and darker. Some of my peers have received anonymous emails with graphic photos of slaughtered wolves, and such pictures with celebratory comments are not uncommon on social media. Former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe, who supported lifting wolf hunting restrictions but has since called on Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to authorize an emergency relisting, said, “What is happening in Idaho and Montana is not hunting. It is pure, unbridled cruelty.”

There was no valid scientific reason for delisting the gray wolf in the first place; it was purely a political move to mobilize Trump’s base days before the 2020 election. Biden can easily reverse this by emergency order. We don’t even need to wait for the year-long review being undertaken by U.S. Fish & Wildlife — the inhumane trophy hunting can be temporarily halted tomorrow.

The larger challenge will be helping people see the wolf as an ecosystem guardian rather than a fairytale villian. If people feel that the government is encroaching on their freedom, taking out anger on our country’s majestic animals won’t solve it.

The views expressed here reflect those of the author. 

Fix is committed to publishing a diversity of voices, and we want to hear from you. Got a bold idea, fresh perspective, or insightful news analysis? Send a draft, along with a note about who you are, to opinions@grist.org.


https://grist.org/fix/wolf-hunting-brutal-bitterly-partisan-why-wolves-need-protection/

Gods in Shackles – What Elephants Can Teach Us About Empathy, Resilience and Freedom

PROTECT ALL WILDLIFE

SANGITA IYER FELL IN LOVE WITH THE COW ELEPHANT LAKSHMI AS SOON AS SHE SAW HER

With a foreword by the world-renowned chimpanzee conservationist, Dr. Jane Goodall (DBE), Gods in Shackles: What Elephants Can Teach Us About Empathy, Resilience, and Freedom is a moving memoir that follows a biologist, journalist, and award-winning wildlife filmmaker Sangita Iyer, who finds her purpose in advocacy for the Asian Elephants in her childhood hometown of Kerala, India. Gods in Shackles book touches on themes ranging from conservation and climate change to religion, philosophy and emotional well-being and how Elephants relate to each of these. The book is slated for release on February 8, 2022, and will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and everywhere books are sold.

Dr. Jane Goodall

Elephants are self-aware, conscious beings. They can feel and grieve the loss of both Elephants and humans. Elephants are supremely intelligent, with a…

View original post 1,189 more words

Beth Pratt raised millions for a cougar overpass – Los Angeles Times

www.latimes.com

Louis Sahagún 12 – 15 minutes

MIDPINES, Calif. — 

On a warm spring morning in 1976, when Beth Pratt was 7 years old, she noticed a “For sale” sign posted in the woods near her home just north of Boston.

“I asked my mom what it meant,” she recalled. “She said the land was up for sale and would soon be flattened by bulldozers.”

The next day, Pratt went door to door in her neighborhood of old elms and deep porches asking for donations to save one of her favorite outdoor playgrounds. Then she called the phone number on the sign and made an offer: $5.

After several seconds of silence, the person on the other end of the line said, “Wonderful. Just $40,000 more and that property is all yours.”

Today, Pratt is still raising money for causes she believes in. At 52, Pratt heads the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation’s #SaveLACougars campaign, which seeks to raise funds to build an $87-million bridge that will allow isolated clans of cougars to cross a 10-lane stretch of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills.

To get a full measure of her dedication to the cause, start with the campaign’s poster puma, P-22. A likeness of the lone mountain lion prowling the chaparral-covered slopes in Griffith Park is tattooed on Pratt’s upper left arm.

Groundbreaking is just around the corner. The thought of it brings a proud smile to her face.

“When I took on this assignment I thought, well, how hard can it be?” Pratt said, shaking her head. “I didn’t dream it would grow into a nearly $100-million project that would consume almost 10 years of my life.”

The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is set to break ground in late January.

An artist’s rendering of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, set to break ground in late January.

(Living Habitats and National Wildlife Federation)

When it is completed, the 200-foot-long, 165-foot-wide bridge will be the largest and most expensive of its kind in the world — and the only one designed to save a species from extinction.

It is crucial, scientists say, to restoring gene flow among small, isolated populations of cougars trapped south of the freeway that roars with 300,000 vehicles each day in the Santa Monica Mountains and cougars confined to the north in the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains.

Recent scientific studies suggest there’s an almost 1 in 4 chance that Southern California mountain lions, which have the lowest genetic diversity documented for the species aside from the critically endangered Florida panther, could become extinct within 50 years.

The next few months are vital for those cougars and for Pratt, regional executive director in California for the federation. As of early December, the effort still needed $5 million to meet deadlines and contractual obligations.

Beth Pratt works in her office at her home in Midpines, Calif., near Yosemite National Park.

Beth Pratt works in her office at her home in Midpines, Calif., near Yosemite National Park. Her ability to raise considerable amounts of money owes, in part, to a group of connected L.A. Westsiders.

(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)

Yet Pratt looked pleased on a recent morning, writing grant proposals and soliciting donations over the phone in her home near Yosemite National Park. Her living area is filled with artistic renderings and life-size cardboard cutouts of mountain lions.

She had reason to be pleased. Future historians may look back on the second decade or so of 21st century American architecture as the Age of Wildlife Crossings. Congress in November passed a national infrastructure package that for the first time sets aside $350 million in federal funding for wildlife crossings to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in all 50 states.

This would not have been the situation most people would have predicted when Pratt took on the tricky fundraising job. Wildlife bridge proposals, she quickly learned, come with a hitch: You need money to get past the blueprints, but you need blueprints to generate donations.

It’s rare these days — and almost impossible — to see a big-bucks urban wildlife project survive such long odds, particularly in a region that is home to unbearable traffic jams, smog and cookie-cutter planned developments.

Her ability to raise money in breathtaking amounts owes, in part, to a group of connected L.A. Westsiders — celebrities, corporate leaders and philanthropists — who have ready cash and enjoy throwing elegant private fundraisers for progressive causes.

Beth Pratt relaxes at her home in Midpines, Calif.

Beth Pratt, a self-described “goofy, loud, middle-class Boston Irish woman” who dresses in blue jeans and worn tennis shoes, relaxes at her home in Midpines, Calif.

(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)

While the Westside may not be the natural habitat of a self-described “goofy, loud, middle-class Boston Irish woman” who dresses in blue jeans and worn tennis shoes, Pratt learned that she could successfully coax the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Barbra Streisand without changing habits.

Pratt carries a backpack instead of a purse. At one Beverly Hills fundraiser, the host asked, “Are you going hiking after this?”

“I discovered that mountain lions are a great icebreaker when you don’t have much else in common,” she said. “For example, when I met my favorite actor, Viggo Mortensen, at a Santa Barbara film festival, I only talked about cougars and not about my 20-year crush on him.” Pratt shoved a furry P-22 figurine under his arm as a reminder.

Her other gifts are patience, energy, ambition and what Cinny Kennard, executive director of the Annenberg Foundation, described as “relentless competence.”

Between solicitations to prospective donors, Pratt has partnered with photographer Robb Hirsch to publish the first in-depth account of the wildlife in Yosemite in almost 100 years.

She also promotes the Liberty Canyon project during visits to local elementary schools and annually retraces the 20-mile odyssey that P-22 braved from the Santa Monica Mountains to Griffith Park. The cat’s route took him over concrete and backyards, commuter traffic and culverts.

A 2014 photo provided by the National Park Service shows a mountain lion known as P-22 in the Griffith Park area near downtown Los Angeles.

(National Park Service )

“Some of her supporters have been moved to tears,” said Paul Edelman, deputy director of natural resources for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, “seeing Beth emerge from the brush near the carousel at Griffith Park looking bedraggled, dusty and sunburned.”

When asked about her heroes, she quickly gives credit to Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, who wants to bring healing hikes and what she calls the “outdoor Black experience” to more Americans.

Selfie taken by Beth Pratt of herself and Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp

A selfie taken by Beth Pratt with Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp, right, who wants to bring healing hikes and what she calls the “outdoor Black experience” to more Americans.

(Beth Pratt)

Pratt sensed a kindred spirit in Mapp after they met about a decade ago. They both have great faith in the transformative power of the outdoors, and they both were struggling through personal issues while launching unprecedented projects that would define their careers and nurture new cooperative relationships between the urban and the wild.

“We became professional confidants who bonded in our own brand of sisterhood,” said Mapp, 49, a former Morgan Stanley analyst whose Outdoor Afro has expanded into a nonprofit with chapters in 36 cities across the nation. “For us, it was like Stars Wars’ Yoda says, ‘Do or not do. There is no trying.’”

::

The #SaveLACougars campaign kicked off in 2014 after the National Wildlife Federation and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund joined forces to raise money for the project at Liberty Canyon, about 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

“Normally, the majority of funding for projects of this scale comes from government agencies and not private donations,” Pratt said. “But the incentive was powerful to act quickly and reach out to visionary private investors or the lions of L.A. County would vanish within our lifetime.”

One of Pratt’s first donors was veteran rocker David Crosby. “This has always been a very uphill project and Beth is a very brave, focused and strong girl,” he said. “I plan to be there when they cut the ribbon on that wildlife bridge.”

Beth Pratt holds a cutout of a mountain lion

Beth Pratt’s home in Midpines, Calif., is filled with artistic renderings and life-size cardboard cutouts of mountain lions.

(Gary Kazanjian / For The Times)

Since 2020, wildlife biologists have discovered the physical manifestations of extremely low genetic diversity among several of the dozen cougars that roam the 275 square miles in and around the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area — a tail kinked like the letter “L,” only one descended testicle and abnormal sperm.

In the face of such a dire prognosis — what biologists call an extinction vortex — conservationists are stepping up calls for construction of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing at Liberty Canyon.

As envisioned by architects and Caltrans, cougars would move unseen by humans over a reinforced concrete-and-steel wildlife crossing landscaped with native vegetation — including oak and willow trees — and irrigation systems, and shielded with sound walls and light deflectors to dampen the noise and glare of headlights below.

Fencing up to 12 feet high would funnel wildlife including mountain lions, bobcats, deer, coyotes, skunks, badgers, squirrels, mice and lizards over the passage. To reduce roadkill, fencing would also extend several miles in both directions from the project footprint.

Project partners include the California Department of Transportation, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the National Wildlife Federation.

Because the bridge crosses the freeway, Caltrans will oversee design and construction — but the agency is not providing funding. Instead, most of the funds come from more than 3,000 private, philanthropic and corporate donors around the world, including a recent $25-million challenge grant from Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation.

Mountain lions as a species are not threatened in California, but the state Fish and Game Commission has granted cougars in six regions from Santa Cruz to the U.S.-Mexico border “candidate status” to be listed as threatened sometime next year.

The action came in response to a petition co-sponsored by the Center for Biological Diversity and the nonprofit Mountain Lion Foundation. It argues that six isolated and distinct cougar clans within those regions make up a subpopulation that is threatened by extinction.

“In car-centric California, what we do with our roads is critical to the future of mountain lions,” said Brendan Cummings, the center’s conservation director. “A new, more hopeful relationship is breaking ground on the side of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon.

“This project is significant not just because it will directly benefit our endangered Southern California cougars,” he added, “but also because of what it represents: the most important step toward reimagining and rebuilding our infrastructure to ensure a continuing place for them and other wildlife in 21st century California and beyond.”

Not everyone is a believer, however. Critics ask why we should willingly share more space in our crowded world with stealthy, 140-pound predators who kill livestock and might menace us if we walk down a trail at night.

Pratt has answers. And there is an edge of impatience mixed with her self-effacing humor as she delivers them.

“I don’t want to see people hurt, but it’s important to put the risk in perspective,” she says. “Over the past century there’ve been less than 20 mountain lion attacks in California, six of them fatal. Yet, 3,000 to 4,000 people die every year on California’s highways.

“So c’mon,” she adds, “ask yourself when was the last time you helped pull an endangered lion back from the edge of extinction?”

There have been tumultuous years. But by perseverance and a generous measure of personal charm, Pratt has become California’s most recognizable promoter of wildlife crossings.

“Beth rocks,” said Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis. “I’d like to see her apply her considerable organizing powers to other roads driving local lions toward extinction.”

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2021-12-11/beth-pratt-raised-millions-for-a-cougar-overpass

Lovely in Solitude

www.earthisland.org

Lovely in Solitude

Haniya Javed 8 – 10 minutes


In Pakistan, a snow leopard in captivity highlights the plight of her species.

Our 4×4 truck bumps over boulders and splashes through streams as it drives further into the deep forest of Naltar Valley in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region. This area is popular for its alpine ski slopes, mountain glaciers, green meadows, and vibrant lakes. But today, our guide has promised us a view of one of the Himalaya’s more hidden natural wonders.

We’re on our way to see a snow leopard.

Our bumpy ride comes to a halt in a clearing of trimmed grass scattered with pine cones. Tall trees cast shadows on the hot summer day and wave in an intermittent breeze.

We get out of the car, stretch our limbs, and make our way to a caged enclosure, where a bearded man named Ghulam Rasool greets us. He then turns toward the cage, makes kissing noises, and calls out, “Meri Lovely (My Lovely.)” Lovely, known locally as Lolly, looks away uninterested, her spotted black and white back towards the crowd. “She’s well fed at the moment,” says Rasool. “She growls and responds when she wants food. She’s a good girl.”

As more tourists arrive and the chatter gets louder, Lovely lets out a low rumble. It’s a faintly audible growl from deep within her body — nothing like the roar seen and heard in popular media. She turns her head and briefly scans the commotion, opens her mouth to show sharp canines, and then looks away again, back into her own world.

Lovely is a nine-year-old snow leopard who spends day and night alone, with no other animals of her kind. The only change in her life are her two habitats. In the winter, when snow blankets the valley and snow leopards look for food and mates, their fur keeping them warm and broad paws working as snowshoes, Lovely is kept in a cage near a ski resort. When the snow melts away, she’s brought into the lush green valley where tourists visit her. She has never hunted or mated. Nor will she be able to.

“Lovely’s only utility at the moment is recreation,” said Hussain Ali regional program manager of the Snow Leopard Foundation. “Since she didn’t receive the early days training of hunting and survival from her mother her chances of survival on her own are nil.”

As I watch Lovely in her cage, I’m struck by the paradox this big cat represents. Snow leopards belong in the wild, but Lovely’s captivity affords tourists the ability to see a snow leopard up close, to learn about this predator’s plight. This cage is also her blessing, in a region where snow leopards are losing habitat and the mountains they call home are becoming more and more inhospitable. As Ali says, without her captivity, Lovely would likely be dead.

Snow leopards populate the mountain ranges of 12 countries across Central and South Asia. Scientists estimate that fewer than 6,400 snow leopards inhabit an estimated area of 1.8 million square kilometers. Their habitat is threatened by development and land degradation. Snow leopards are also killed by pastoralists who see the big cats as predatory threats to their livestock. According to a report from the World Wildlife Fund, an estimated 450 snow leopards are killed each year.

In Pakistan, as part of a recent habitat sampling, it has been estimated that there could be as few as 40 snow leopards, far fewer than previous estimates of around 420 cats. However, experts believe that more than 70 percent of the world’s snow leopard habitats are still unknown — and many of these habitats may be situated in Pakistan. Either way, saving and conserving every snow leopard is important.

But in Lovely’s case, saving her meant taking her from the wild. In December 2012, volunteers from the Khunjerab Villagers Organization (KVO), a community-based nonprofit working for wildlife conservation, were on a routine stroll around Khunjerab National Park, more than 100 kilometers from Lovely’s present location. Upon reaching the Khunjerab River, the volunteers spotted a female snow leopard perched against the backdrop of the snowy mountains, gazing into the far distance.

The volunteers instantly took out their camera and began to film. After all, these elusive big cats rarely showed themselves. In the footage shared by the volunteers, the snow leopard sits still, her translucent gaze mirroring the breathtaking views around her. She looks below the line of the camera facing her and then switches her gaze upward on her left. Then, for a split second, she looks squarely into the lens of the camera.

While the volunteers watched her make these repeated motions, they heard a low cat-like whimper from below. They looked down to find a cub by the riverbank, its foot stuck in the icy slush. The cub, hardly a month or two old, appeared to be frozen.

“The mother snow leopard was watching the cub from atop,” said Mubat Karim Gircha, office manager at KVO. In the video, the mother snow leopard starts climbing up hill, looks one last look behind, and disappears from sight. “The mother was crossing the river along with her two cubs. One of the cubs made it across and went its way climbing up. The other one, Lovely, was left frozen along the bank,” he said.

After the mother left, torn between her concern for the two cubs in opposing directions, the volunteers, along with representatives from the provincial wildlife department, took the cub to a nearby wildlife check post. A small fire was lit and goat’s milk was fed to the cub.

The next evening, officials from the Snow Leopard Foundation, including Hussain Ali, visited the site and inspected the snow leopard’s condition. “It was in good health,” said Ali. “We scanned the area and tried locating the tracks of the mother. The cub [inside the cage] was left outside for four to five hours in the hopes that the mother may come looking for her,” he said, adding that it didn’t work. “The local community and volunteers were extremely anxious that the cub would die if left on its own in the wild. Hence, there was no option but to keep it in captivity inside a sanctuary.”

Lovely isn’t the only case of a captured snow leopard living a lonely life. One prominent case is Leo, who currently resides in the Bronx Zoo in New York City. In 2005, Leo was recovered from a shepherd in Naltar Valley and moved temporarily to New York as part of a memorandum of understanding signed between the World Conservation Society and the Gilgit-Baltistan administration.

Another case is the tragic tale of snow leopard, Sohni, who died in captivity three years ago in a zoo in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Sohni was originally gifted to the son of Shahbaz Sharif, brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and had been living a life of isolation and neglect.

Lovely isn’t neglected, but she could be taken care of in a better way. If anything, her presence is a reminder that we have work to do when it comes to learning how to coexist with these big cats. As excited kids poke their fingers through the cage to get a reaction from Lovely and adults gather against the enclosure to pose for a selfie with her in the background, one can’t help but think about how circumscribed this beautiful creature’s life is here. When the numbers of her species are depleting for so many reasons, and little is known about those very numbers due to unchartered areas of research, Lovely stands as a reminder of the wild leopards we should strive to protect.

Haniya Javed

Haniya Javed is an independent reporter from Pakistan covering the environment, human rights, and labor migrations. She tweets @haniyajaved1.

You Make Our Work Possible

You Make Our Work Possible

We are standing at a pivotal moment in history, one in which education and advocacy around the climate emergency, public health, racial injustice, and economic inequity is imperative. At Earth Island Journal, we have doubled down on our commitment to uplifting stories that often go unheard, to centering the voices of frontline communities, and to always speak truth to power. We are nonprofit publication. We don’t have a paywall because our mission is to inform, educate and inspire action. Which is why we rely on readers like you for support. If you believe in the work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation to our Green Journalism Fund.

Donate

https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/lovely-in-solitude/

The Beauty of Mother Nature

The Norwegian wolf is extinct

World Animals Voice

The wolves that live in Norway and Sweden today are actually Finns, as extensive studies of their genetic make-up have shown.

Hunters wiped out the original Norwegian wolf population in the wild around 1970.

Solitary gray wolf / grey wolf (Canis lupus) hunting in the snow in forest in winter -Norway

“The original Norwegian-Swedish wolves probably had no genetic similarities with today’s wolves in Norway and Sweden,” says Hans Stenøien, director of the University Museum of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

Stenøien is the lead author of a new report that looks at the genetic makeup of the Norwegian-Swedish wolf population in much more detail than has previously been the case.

“We did the largest genetic study on wolves in the world,” says Stenøien.

This is part of an extensive report on the wolf in Norway commissioned by the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) in 2016.
But by that…

View original post 740 more words

Onlookers “Tag Along” with Southbound Swallow-tailed Kites

abcbirds.org

Media Contact: Jordan Rutter, Director of Public Relations| jerutter@abcbirds.org | @JERutter

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and partners are following the migratory journeys of three Swallow-tailed Kites to gather data that will help inform conservation measures across this bird’s range, to help assure a brighter future for the kites and their southeastern forest habitats. Photo by David Spates

(Washington, D.C., September 17, 2021) Swallow-tailed kite is one of North America’s most beautiful birds of prey, with distinctive black-and-white plumage, narrow wings spanning four feet, and a forked, elongated tail. Although the U.S. population of this migratory raptor is considered stable, it is much-reduced from numbers of the past. American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and partners are following the migratory journeys of three Swallow-tailed Kites to gather data that will help inform conservation measures across this bird’s range, to help assure a brighter future for the kites and their southeastern forest habitats.

ABC collaborated in June with International Paper and the Avian Research and Conservation Institute (ARCI) to successfully capture, tag, and release the three  kites near Georgetown, South Carolina. Other partners included Resource Management Service, Forest Investment Associates, and White Oak Forest Management.

Each bird was fitted with a GPS transmitter that will track its movements throughout the year. Swallow-tailed Kites are long-distance migratory birds, spending their spring and summer months in the southeastern U.S. and wintering in Central and South America.

“Since early spring, these kites were roosting, feeding, and nesting within the same working forest landscape where International Paper and other forest companies produce and procure the wood fiber that goes into many of the products we use every day,” says Emily Jo Williams, ABC’s Vice President for the Southeast Region.

“The data these birds provide will help us ensure that these sustainable working forest landscapes provide society with renewable forest products and critical habitat for Swallow-tailed Kites and a host of other wildlife species,” Williams says. ”We look forward to what the kites can tell us about their wintering grounds over the next few months, and to learn more when they return to the southeastern U.S. in spring 2022.”

A map of the tracked flight paths for three Swallow-tailed Kites that were successfully captured, tagged, and released through ABC’s collaboration with International Paper, Avian Research and Conservation Institute, Resource Management Service, Forest Investment Associates, and White Oak Forest Management.

Over the past two months, the team has been “watching” the three tagged birds, each carrying the name of its nesting location along with its GPS transmitter. As of September 2, all three kites departed breeding areas in South Carolina, traveled through Florida, and successfully crossed the Gulf of Mexico.

According to ARCI, the timing and tracks across the Gulf for these Swallow-tailed Kites are shaped by the prevailing winds of hurricanes and tropical storms that were active in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico at the time. These birds apparently can sense related changes in the atmosphere and respond by using favorable tailwinds to cross the open water as fast as possible.

“Despite all the tropical storm activity in late August and early September,” says Williams, “we have witnessed ‘textbook’ migration pathways used by our tagged Swallow-tailed Kites that have carried them across the Yucatán Channel and western Caribbean.”

The bird known as Carver’s Bay left Florida on August 13, crossed the Gulf for an astounding 41 hours before landing in southern Belize, and last checked in from Honduras on September 5. Big Branch left Florida on August 17, stopped over in Mexico, and is currently also in Honduras. Peters Creek was the last to leave South Carolina on August 30, traveling over Naples and the southern tip of Florida, stopping for a night in western Cuba, and then crossing to the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, where he arrived on September 2 and remains for now. As the birds continue into South America, they will have to traverse the Andes Mountains to finish their journey to wintering areas in Brazil and Bolivia.

You can follow along and keep track of these Swallow-tailed Kites at ARCI’s blog or on their Facebook page.

Read more about ABC’s and partners’ work with Swallow-tailed Kites here.

###

American Bird Conservancy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving wild birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With an emphasis on achieving results and working in partnership, we take on the greatest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on rapid advancements in science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. Find us on abcbirds.org, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (@ABCbirds).

https://abcbirds.org/article/onlookers-tag-along-with-southbound-swallow-tailed-kites/

Rise and Shine

Bald eagles dying ‘senseless deaths,’ Pennsylvania wildlife center says. Here’s why

news.yahoo.com

Julia Marnin

Bald eagles — America’s symbolic bird — are dying “senseless deaths,” a wildlife center in Pennsylvania is warning.

These birds of prey are dying from lead poisoning and have been for years.

“This was a rough year with lead toxicity in our adult bald eagles,” Centre Wildlife Care, a rescue service in Port Matilda in Centre County, wrote in a Dec. 6 Facebook post.

In 2021 alone, eight bald eagles were brought to the center suffering lead poisoning, and seven died.

This problem isn’t exclusive to Pennsylvania; millions of birds are affected each year, including bald eagles, by lead toxicity that is a “leading concern” for many species, according to the American Eagle Foundation.

Poisoning is brought on after birds of prey eat animal carcasses shot with lead ammo by hunters.

“All scavengers and humans are at risk of lead toxicity when consuming meat shot with lead ammo (bullets or pellets) especially the avian scavengers such as eagles, hawks and vultures,” Robyn Graboski, a spokesperson and wildlife rehabilitator for the center, told McClatchy News via email.

“We ask all hunters to use non-lead alternatives when hunting because hunters are our first conservationists.”

One bald eagle brought to the center died on Dec. 5 after it was caught in a leg trap for 10 days, the center said in the news release.

“Sadly, the infection caused by the trap injury complicated by lead poisoning was just too great to overcome. These losses hurt.”

“Simple acts like switching from lead ammo to copper and properly covering traps from aerial view can prevent these senseless deaths,” the center urged.

The bald eagle that recently died “was flying around at least 10 days with a leg hold trap attached to its foot,” Graboski said. “It was caught when it was too weak to fly.”

This eagle died on Dec. 5 after suffering from lead poisoning and infection.
This eagle died on Dec. 5 after suffering from lead poisoning and infection.

“When it arrived, it was thin, weak, dehydrated, anemic, exhausted, lost a toe, had a bacterial infection,” alongside “suffering from lead toxicity,” they added.

Lead poisoning causes a slow death that could last weeks for birds if it goes untreated, the center explains online.

Birds of prey “get lead poisoning through leftover gut piles, un-retrieved carcasses and varmint carcasses left in the field,” according to the center, as fragments of lead ammo “left in the tissue of carcasses” get ingested.

Additionally, the winged creatures can be poisoned from “lead tackle left behind in fish,” the center warns.

“When the lead hits the bird’s acidic stomach, it gets broken down and absorbed into their bloodstream where it can be distributed to tissues throughout their body,” according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

If a bird appears “weak, emaciated, and uncoordinated” and is having trouble walking, flying or moving at all, those are likely signs of lead poisoning, the commission said.

The birds also might suffer seizures, appear blind and refuse to eat anything.

“Bald eagles with lead poisoning often do not respond at all when approached,” the commission added.

It advises hunters to bury an animal’s carcass or gut pile if lead ammo is used.

“If the carcass or gut pile it too large to be removed from the environment, it can be buried or covered with debris to prevent scavengers from accessing the carcass and lead fragments,” according to the commission.

In 2014, Ed Clark, the president and co-founder of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, said in a news release by the American Bird Conservancy that lead poisoning in bald eagles “is not a new problem.”

“The question is not whether or not lead is causing the deaths of eagles and other wild animals; the real question is, what are we going to do about it?”

https://news.yahoo.com/bald-eagles-dying-senseless-deaths-200837291.html?soc_src=social-sh&soc_trk=tw&tsrc=twtr

RIP. Mopane 🦁

Guest opinion: Tester’s actions should reflect the truth on wolves

Wolf
Wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have stirred passionate debate between supporters and those who would like to see the animals removed from the landscape.

billingsgazette.com

STEPHEN CAPRA

This past year Montana’s governor and the Legislature, led by representative and trapper Paul Fielder from Thompson Falls, passed a series of reckless bills aimed at decimating the wolf population in our state, despite the fact we have record numbers of deer and elk requiring extra-long hunting seasons.

Testimony at the Legislature warned legislators that if they passed wolf slaughter bills, the federal government would intervene. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife is undertaking a 12-month review of the wolves’ status to determine relisting the wolves as endangered. Currently the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks — in desperate need of reform — has decided to allow anyone with a license to kill 20 wolves, 10 by shooting and 10 by trapping. Our state is sanctioning the torture and eradication of animals of tremendous intelligence and beauty. Destroying packs, which will lead to more livestock depredation, is designed to make wolves the cultural enemy.

But it’s not just Republicans who can hang their hat on this slaughter. If you examine the process, you can’t avoid seeing the handiwork of U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. It is Sen. Tester who moved to delist wolves and return them to state control in 2011, an effort that has proven to be a disaster. But Tester has long seen his tough reelections dependent on killing wolves, not thriving wildlife. His actions against wolves are a disgrace and deserve more sunshine and less double talk.

Many people I have spoken with believe wolf protection flows through the Interior Department. That is true to a certain extent, but it seems clear that the Interior Secretary would like to reinstate protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho. The problem seems to be coming from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an agency that will soon have as its director a person shepherded by Jon Tester — Martha Williams, former director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Williams’ reign at FWP showed little support for wolves and more talk than action about moving the agency out of the stone age and into the real world of allowing species to be self-regulating. There was no action to curb the rampant power of the NRA and trophy hunting and trapping organizations that control the agency and directly fund its narrow mission.

Now, thanks to Tester, Williams will be appointed director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after only a few years in wildlife management. The reason is simple; Tester does not want wolves placed back in protection. Tester’s refusal to meet with constituents on this seems based on the mistaken belief that he understands the will of people across Montana on the issue of wolves.

Tester does not understand the love for, emotion and passion that people bring to the table in their support of wolves. His written responses to constituents are tone deaf to concerns. He ignores the financial power wolves generate for Montana.

It’s not easy to be hard on a senator who has done so much for Montana. His votes on infrastructure, health care and many important issues have been bold and important, but his efforts to stop the protection of wolves need to be challenged.

Wildlife is the real treasure of the Treasure State, and wolves are valuable not only economically and environmentally, but also for disease control. Chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis are on the rise. Can we really afford to destroy wolves, the only known defense?

Most Montanans, including ranchers, find the wolf slaughter repugnant. The time has come for leadership that allows wolves to coexist.

Senator Tester, this is your chance to get right with wolves.

Stephen Capra is executive director of Footloose Montana.

Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!

https://billingsgazette.com/opinion/columnists/guest-opinion-testers-actions-should-reflect-the-truth-on-wolves/article_8a9cecf1-109e-56df-9c7e-8390e49133b4.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=user-share&fbclid=IwAR3M_zE_irM-gWLJKWtOqaxXJtzq1bEfY0aqUAfpoY9c7qRv4ZyQYNeLot8

Black-footed Albatross – American Bird Conservancy

abcbirds.org
Black-footed Albatross


Black-footed Albatross map, NatureServeThe Black-footed Albatross is the only one of its kind commonly seen off the North American coastline. It’s rather small as albatrosses go, but still impressive, with a six-foot wingspan. Its species name, nigripes, derives from two Latin words, niger meaning “black,” and pes meaning “foot.”

Although drift nets and longline fisheries remain constant threats, the Black-footed Albatross faces a gauntlet of newer challenges: invasive predators and introduced plants on nesting islands, ingestion of plastics, and climate change.

More than 95 percent of the world’s population of Black-footed Albatross nests in the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, with the largest colonies on Midway Atoll and Laysan Island. (Laysan is also home to the recently introduced Millerbird.) Although these islands are protected, they are vulnerable to the effects of sea-level rise and increased storm intensity.

 


Life over the Ocean

Black-footed Albatrosses are beautifully adapted for a life at sea and can remain airborne for hours, landing only on the water to rest or feed. Their specialized tubular noses (found among many seabirds, including Hawaiian Petrel and Newell’s Shearwater) filter salt, allowing the birds to drink seawater and giving them an excellent sense of smell.

This keen sense helps the albatross locate its prey over vast expanses of ocean. Favored foods include flying fish (both eggs and adults), squid, crustaceans, and offal thrown from ships.


They forage by seizing prey at the surface, up-ending to reach underwater, or diving short distances with wings partly spread.

Sign up for ABC’s eNews to learn how you can help protect birds
Faithful Partners, Devoted Parents

Like other albatross species, including Laysan and Waved, this bird is slow to mature, not breeding for until five years or older. It also has a low reproductive rate and mates for life.

Males are the first to arrive on the breeding grounds, where they re-claim the nest site that the bird and its partner may have used for many years. The strong pair bond shared by these birds is established and maintained through elaborate displays, including bowing, mutual preening, and head-bobbing.

The Black-footed Albatrosses’ nest, rebuilt each year, is a simple scrape in the sand, usually at or above the high-tide line in an open or sparsely vegetated area. Both birds build the nest and take turns incubating their single egg. If this egg is lost—whether to a predator or some other threat—the birds will not attempt to breed again until the following year.

Black-footed Albatross, Greg Lavaty

Black-footed Albatross in flight, showing its impressive six-foot wingspan. Photo by Greg Lavaty

For about 18 to 20 days after hatching, one parent broods and guards the nestling while other forages for food, switching off every day or two. The chick is fed by regurgitation by both parents until it fledges, at four to five months old.
Advocating for Black-footed Albatross

The Black-footed Albatross is included on the Watch List in the State of North America’s Birds 2016 report, which highlights species most in need of immediate conservation action.

ABC continues to advocate for Black-footed Albatross and other seabirds impacted by commercial fisheries. We also support legislation to ratify the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) by the United States. And we recently launched an interactive web-based tool to help fisheries avoid accidentally catching seabirds: fisheryandseabird.info.

ABC has also collaborated with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other partners to secure predator-free breeding habitat for seabirds on islands in Hawaii.

Donate to support ABC’s conservation mission!

Our weekly bird profiles provide an inside look at captivating species with video, birds calls, and fast facts dashboards.

https://abcbirds.org/bird/black-footed-albatross/