6 May 2008, 7:04pm
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Montana FWP To Intervene in Wolf Delisting Lawsuit

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks announced Thursday that it will intervene in a lawsuit filed this week challenging the federal government’s delisting of gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

The agency also plans to oppose a request from 12 conservation groups seeking a preliminary injunction from the federal District Court in Missoula.

The injunction, if approved, would reinstate federal Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves while the court considers the lawsuit.

“FWP supports wolf delisting and we’ll join the legal proceedings to help ensure that wolves in Montana remain under state jurisdiction and continue to be managed under a plan that has won nationwide praise and support,” said Jeff Hagener, director of FWP in Helena. … [more]

30 Apr 2008, 4:46pm
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Harsh winter, hunting, annual cull cut Yellowstone bison population in half

GARDINER, Montana (CNN) — More than half of Yellowstone National Park’s bison herd has died since last fall, forcing the government to suspend its annual slaughter program.

Between harsh weather, hunting and an annual cull, fully half of Yellowstone National Park’s bison have died.

1 of 3 More than 700 of the iconic animals starved or otherwise died on the mountainsides during an unusually harsh winter, and more than 1,600 were shot by hunters or sent to slaughterhouses in a disease-control effort, according to National Park Service figures.

As a result, the park estimates its bison herd has dropped from 4,700 in November to about 2,300 today, prompting the government to halt the culling program early. … [more]

28 Apr 2008, 11:47pm
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Rabid bobcat attacks two hikers

By Gabrielle Fimbres, Tucson Citizen

TUCSON - The two University of Arizona scientists first spotted the eyes.

It was a bobcat, staring at Katrina Mangin and Rich Thompson as they hiked Saturday through one of their favorite spots in the Santa Rita Mountains, south of Gardner Canyon.

Thompson, 46, immediately knew he and his wife were in trouble.

“Rabid bobcat!” Thompson, a geologist, shouted to Mangin, a 54-year-old marine biologist. “Watch out!”

The next 10 minutes, the couple fought off the bobcat before Thompson pinned it to the ground with a stick and killed it with a hammer from his backpack.

Tests later determined the animal was rabid.

“It wasn’t hard to figure out that there was no choice but to fight it to the death because it was so persistent,” he said. “It’s very sad. This poor kitty cat was deranged by its disease-riddled brain. I love the native cats. It was terrible to have to kill it.” … [more]

28 Apr 2008, 11:45pm
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Friends of the Earth Starve Millions of Africans to Death

Leftwing extremist group Friends of the Earth [here] have been blamed with starving to death millions of the poorest people in the world. The wealthy “environmental” international organization favors famine in Africa over humanitarian food aid.

By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY

Food: Today’s headlines are filled with Americans expressing their fears of food shortages and frustration with spiraling grocery prices. As part of the solution, it’s time to give genetically modified crops a try.

There’s much resistance to overcome, however. In the fall of 2006, Friends of the Earth publicly asked governments in the hungry African countries of Ghana and Sierra Leone to recall American food aid that contained genetically modified rice.

Four years earlier, when southern Africa was tormented by famine, the U.S. offered 540,000 tons of genetically modified grain.

Though the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 14 million Africans, including 2.3 million children under 5, were at risk of starvation, leaders in the region rejected the food. … [more]

28 Apr 2008, 5:52pm
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Environmental, conservation groups sue over wolf delisting

BILLINGS, Mont. — Environmental and animal rights groups sued the federal government Monday to force it to restore endangered species status for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lifted federal protections for the estimated 1,500 wolves in March. It turned over management responsibilities to state officials in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana for the first time in more than three decades.

The lawsuit alleges those states lack adequate laws to ensure wolves are not again eradicated from the region. At least 37 were killed in the last month.

The groups are seeking an immediate court order to restore federal control over the species until the case is resolved.

“We’re very concerned that absent an injunction, hundreds of wolves could be killed under existing state management plans,” said attorney Jason Rylander with Defenders of Wildlife, one of 12 groups that filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

Sharon Rose, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said her agency had not yet received the lawsuit and could not comment on the allegations.

Rose did say the agency’s decision was based on science that will hold up in court.

“We believe we made the right decision — that the wolf had recovered and the regulatory mechanisms are there” to ensure its continued survival, Rose said. … [more]

4 Apr 2008, 1:19am
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Scientists: Tahoe Wolverine not from state

San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, April 3, 2008

The mysterious wolverine captured in photographs from a remote camera in the Tahoe National Forest is not a native of California or Washington, U.S. Forest Service scientists revealed Wednesday.

A DNA analysis of scat collected near where the feisty predator was photographed last month revealed that the animal is a male that shares genetic traits with wolverines in the Rocky Mountains, but it was not clear exactly where it came from or how it got to California.

“This is just one gene we’ve looked at and this one is most prevalent in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, but it can also be found in lower portions of Canada and Alaska,” said Michael Schwartz, a research ecologist and the genetics team leader for the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Mont.

“While we can’t rule everything out, we know that this type never occurred in the historical California population and it does not occur in the contemporary Washington cascade population,” he said.

Cameras set up in the forest north of Truckee last month twice captured images of the wolverine, which some speculated could have descended from the historic population that once roamed the Southern Sierra Nevada.

The last documented California wolverine was killed off around 1922. Despite several reported sightings over the years, many believe the California wolverine is extinct.

The new findings do not shed much light on where the wolverine that was photographed came from or how it ended up in Tahoe. The nearest known resident population is about 600 miles northeast in Idaho’s Sawtooth Range.

“I don’t think I want to speculate at this point,” Schwartz said.

Wolverines have been known to travel great distances, but the farthest any particular animal has been documented going is 235 miles, Schwartz said.

The other possibility, Schwartz said, is that the wolverine was a pet or captive that was released into the Tahoe National Forest. … [more]

22 Mar 2008, 12:18am
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Iraqis take up arms against gray wolves

Hungry packs have lost their fear of humans, devouring livestock in front of farmers.

By Hassan Halawa and Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, borrowed from Wolf Crossing [here]

SAMAWAH, Iraq — The bloodthirsty enemy had gathered on the city’s perimeter, but this time, the locals were ready.

The enemy: packs of hungry gray wolves that had overcome their fear of humans and begun feasting on livestock, right in front of local farmers.

“The locals formed armed groups, exchanging shifts throughout the day in order to protect people, cattle, sheep and also children and women heading to schools from those ferocious wolves,” said Mohammed Abu-Reesha, a Samawah resident. “They appear during the day and don’t fear bullets and challenge even men holding rifles.”

The gray wolf, also called the Arabic wolf in Iraq, is among the most impressive predators in the Middle East. It grows up to 6 1/2 feet long and stands as tall as 3 1/2 feet, weighing up to 120 pounds, said veterinarian Fahad Abu Kaheela.

It has powerful jaws and can sprint at 40 mph. The wolves hunt strategically, organizing themselves into packs and communicating via howls at different tones. They’ve been prowling Iraq’s dusty wastelands for hundreds of years. But something strange happened this year. Locals believe the wolves must have crossed some threshold of desperation, a tipping point that had prevented them from traipsing onto human turf.

Some farmers speculated that the wolves migrated from deserts to the villages because of three years of sparse rains and a lack of suitable prey. Others, including vet Abu Kaheela, said the incursions began after nomadic tribes began using high fences to protect their livestock, perhaps driving the wolves to population centers.

Hussein Dakhel said a pack of a dozen wolves devoured five of his sheep while acting largely undisturbed by gunfire aimed into the air. “We understood that wolves would run if they hear the sound of man or weapons,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of species this is.”

To fight the wolves, residents set up positions at night just beyond their hamlets and armed themselves with AK-47s and pistols.

In the village of Hamidiyah, wolves attacked farmer Mohammed Slaim’s cattle. He shot at one wolf from 100 yards away.

“I hit him, but he started coming toward me, not caring about his injury,” he said.

“I answered him, along with my uncle, with a barrage of bullets, and he dropped dead 2 yards from us,” he said. “Since that day, we are committed to guarding the house in case any of them might come back.”

19 Mar 2008, 12:36am
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Number of bison killed sets record

By MIKE STARK, Billings Gazette

Roughly one out of four bison in Yellowstone National Park has been captured, sent to slaughter or otherwise killed this winter.

The unofficial tally on Monday reached 1,098, topping a previous record of 1,084, set in the winter of 1996-97. The number could exceed 1,200 in the coming days.

Park officials said there were an estimated 4,700 bison in Yellowstone before winter set in, the second-highest total ever recorded.

But as temperatures turned cold, bison began having a harder time breaking through crusty snow to find the food below. As they have done for years, groups began to wander west and north toward lower elevations.

State and federal management policies, though, are designed to keep bison from wandering too far, out of fear that they might transmit brucellosis to cattle in the area. …

A larger percentage was taken in the winter of 1996-97, when 1,084 of the estimated 3,400 bison were shot or sent to slaughter, prompting widespread outcry.

But the population rebounded to a record 4,900 in the summer of 2005. The following winter, nearly 1,000 were removed in government management and hunts, and again the population bounced back.

“It says we have a very strong and robust population,” Nash said. … [more]

17 Mar 2008, 10:56pm
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Predator makes kills in Two Dot area

By BRETT FRENCH, Billings Gazette [here]

TWO DOT - Her voice tinged with emotion and the video camera jiggling in her shaking hand, Tonya Martin filmed and narrated the scene she found behind her ranch home March 5 - five sheep had been killed by a wolf and another five were wounded, three of them, as it turned out, fatally.

“In the end, it’s hard to watch what your animals go through,” said Martin, 36, while showing the location of the slaughter on Thursday. “It makes me question what the future will be with them.”

Martin was driving a tractor out to feed her cow-calf pairs around 8:30 a.m. on March 5 when her mother-in-law, Katherine Martin, spotted the big black wolf. The wolf trotted out of the brush, crossed the county road, went under a barbed-wire fence and paused to look back.

“We knew what it was right away,” she said. “Our first instinct was to go after it.”

At the time, Martin didn’t know the wolf had killed five of her sheep. Had she known, the .222 rifle that always rides in the tractor could have been used to legally kill the wolf. It wasn’t until the Martins investigated that they found the sheep flighty and hiding in the barren cottonwood trees along Big Elk Creek. Scattered around the drainage were five dead sheep and five others that were injured.

A veterinarian was called to patch up the five injured sheep, most of them with torn throats, but only two of those survived.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Martin said. “Some were hamstrung, their legs were broken and twisted. I’d never seen kills like it before. The sheep were scared to death.”

“It was a sad day, because I know he’ll be back, and he’ll be back with friends.” … [more]

17 Mar 2008, 5:35pm
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States ready to manage wolves

COEUR d’ALENE — Few animals have been as politicized and socially divisive as the wolves of the Rocky Mountains.

Now in the remaining days before the gray wolf is expunged from the Endangered Species List, state management agencies, stakeholder groups and a menagerie of wildlife groups are getting ready with their responses.

Federal hands have guided wolf recovery efforts for 13 years, but this month the management responsibility of wolves will be passed to the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. The rule, posted in the Federal Register in February, will take effect March 28.

Days after the rule was posted, a coalition of 11 conservation groups charged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with violating the Endangered Species Act.

The groups, which include the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, argue wolves are not numerous enough in the Rocky Mountains to maintain a healthy, viable gene pool. They intend to challenge the service in federal court.

The lawsuits will likely be ongoing for the foreseeable future, but the states will be granted management as planned, unless the coalition convinces the court to file an injunction. … [more]

15 Mar 2008, 6:56pm
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Protection sought for snails, slugs in Northwest forests

PORTLAND, Ore. — Conservation groups want the federal government to protect 32 species of snails and slugs under the Endangered Species Act.

Tierra Curry, a biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity, says that since the Bush administration took steps to allow more logging in old-growth Pacific Northwest forests, the snails and slugs are in danger of going extinct.

The petition says they perform a critical role in the food web, consuming forest litter and in turn being eaten by wildlife.

While all 32 species are rare, seven are known to inhabit only one or two locations, making them particularly susceptible to extinction. … [more]

15 Mar 2008, 6:51pm
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Wolf population grows by a third

By KARIN RONNOW, Bozeman Daily Chronicle Staff Writer

Montana’s wolf population increased 34 percent over the past year, to an estimated 422 wolves in 73 packs, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks reported Thursday.

The wolves are nearly equally distributed between northern and southern Montana, according to the agency’s annual wolf report, although the bulk of the population growth was in northwestern and far western Montana, where it increased by about 92 wolves, to 213.

In the Greater Yellowstone area, the population increased by 14 wolves, to 209.

Some of the growth can be chalked up to the birth of at least 163 wolf pups last year, the FWP report noted. But there were other reasons, too.

“Our monitoring is getting better and we have hunters, landowners and many others taking the time to tell us where and when they see wolves or wolf sign,” Carolyn Sime, the FWP’s wolf management coordinator in Helena, said in a written statement.

Wolves are still listed under the Endangered Species Act. Delisting was set for late March, but lawsuits are expected to delay that.

While the numbers are growing, 102 wolf deaths were recorded last year, according to FWP. Seventy-three of those followed livestock killings; seven were killed illegally; and six were hit by vehicles or trains. The others died from a variety of causes common in the wild n from poor health to old age.

“Despite the loss of 102 wolves, the Montana wolf population is still very secure,” according to the written statement on the report. … [more]

14 Mar 2008, 9:48am
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Gregoire agrees to expand cougar hunts with hound dogs

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed a bill expanding the use of dogs in cougar hunts.

Under the measure, a pilot program allowing cougar hunts with dogs is extended another three years, on top of the four years it has been in place. The bill also allows all counties to join the program, instead of just the five currently enrolled.

Gregoire says the measure addresses safety threats that cougars pose to people and livestock.

Animal-rights activists contend using dogs is cruel and unfair, and that the big cats’ population is declining.

Voters banned the practice in 1996, by passing Initiative 655. [here]

13 Mar 2008, 8:28pm
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Alaska Wolves to be Shot from Helicopters

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, March 12, 2008 (ENS) - The Alaska Board of Fish and Game has decided that about two dozen wolves from several packs on the southern Alaska Peninsula will be exterminated using aerial gunning to boost the caribou population.

The wolves have been killing newborn calves, said biologist Cathie Harms with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The herd had an estimated 10,000 animals in 1983, but now numbers about 600.

Harms said Fish and Game staffers will use a helicopter to locate and kill the wolves from the air starting this spring. She said it is the first time since the mid-1980s that such an operation has been authorized.

A survey of the herd in 2006 discovered one calf per 100 cows, according to Fish and Game. That number decreased to 0.5 calves per 100 during a survey conducted last year, Harms said.

The department intends to give calves a chance to survive and restock the herd, which it says is important to subsistence hunters. … [more]

12 Mar 2008, 12:56pm
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Changes to Idaho Salmon Fishing

BY ROGER PHILLIPS, Idaho Statesman

Salmon anglers could see more salmon and changes to traditional fishing areas this spring and summer when chinook salmon return to Idaho.

Fish are just starting to enter the Columbia River and head upstream toward Idaho, but preseason predictions are for 83,550 hatchery chinook to cross Lower Granite Dam, which is the last dam before the fish reach Idaho. That would be four times more fish than returned in 2007 and the second highest return since 1975.

The bright forecast is prompting F&G to try to open a fishing season in April, well in advance of the fish arriving.

“We would like to open the season as soon as possible so the public can make preparations,” F&G’s anadromous fish manager Pete Hassemer said.

Anglers could see more fishing areas open on the South Fork of the Salmon River and the Upper Salmon, but fewer places on the Little Salmon River.

Private land on the Little Salmon River near the Swinging Bridge area has been posted after a new landowner bought the property. The landowner is still allowing some access on his property but not as much as the previously owner allowed, Hassemer said.

That could mean less access to the river and fewer parking and camping areas.

Changes could also be in store for summer salmon fishing on the South Fork of the Salmon River east of Cascade. Wildfires burned much of the river corridor last year, and Boise National Forest officials have asked F&G to reduce impacts to burned stream banks by spreading anglers over a wider area, Hassemer said. … [more]

 
  
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