18 Jan 2008, 11:27pm
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Feds may slash butterfly habitat in half

Environmentalists call federal proposal ‘recipe for extinction’ for endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly

Federal wildlife officials Thursday proposed slashing by almost half the amount of land they designated earlier as “critical habitat” for the Quino checkerspot butterfly, one of Southern California’s most endangered animals.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed reducing the amount of land targeted for special treatment under the Endangered Species Act from 172,000 acres to 98,000 acres. Officials said the revision was necessary to focus on saving those areas where significant butterfly populations still exist.

As in the past, the agency’s strategy for saving the insect focuses solely on Southwest Riverside County and the Otay Mountain area of southern San Diego County —- the only known places where the butterfly still lives… [more]

16 Jan 2008, 1:55am
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Lawmakers: Wolves still endangered

By Gazette News Services [here]

Five congressmen from the House Natural Resources Committee want to delay a plan to remove gray wolves in the Northern Rockies from the federal endangered-species list.

In a recent letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the congressmen wrote that states “hostile to wolf conservation” could reduce today’s 1,500 wolves to “as few as 300″ if the predators lose protected status.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which Kempthorne oversees, plans to announce the delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies next month.

That would allow Idaho, Wyoming and Montana to host public hunts for the animals. The states already are setting hunting seasons and quotas.

Last year, more than 140 wolves were killed in the Northern Rockies by federal and state officials and ranchers in response to wolves’ preying on livestock.

The Dec. 17 letter to Kempthorne was signed by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.; Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.; Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.; Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md.; and Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J.

Wolves in the Great Lakes region were removed from the endangered species list in 2007.

11 Jan 2008, 12:50am
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USGS Scientist Reveals 2007 California Wildfire Impacts on Wildlife

The Southern California wildfires in late 2007 impacted more than humans. Wildlife also suffered. Listen to USGS Biologist Robert Fisher describe what USGS scientists discovered about the wildfire impact on wildlife by listening to episode 25 of CoreCast, the USGS podcast.

“Certain groups of animals seem to be disproportionately impacted by the fires, such as non-forest salamanders and shrews,” said Fisher. “We are not sure whether there is a physical change in the landscape after the fires where these animals do not have enough wet habitats to live in or whether there is a toxic effect of ash that may be directly causing mortality.”

Scientists are also concerned about the wildfire impact on the landlocked southern steelhead rainbow trout population in the Santa Ana Mountains of Orange County, Calif., because it may be the last genetically pure form of its kind in these mountains. Most other fish populations in this area have been wiped out over the past 20 years due to drought and flood conditions.

“When I was in the Santa Ana Mountains in July, there seemed to be a little more than 100 rainbow trout of all different size classes, scattered in about a quarter of a mile in the canyon, primarily in 10 to 12 pools,” said Fisher. “So it really is a restricted area, a restricted population, and any additional stresses in that type of situation are really going to have an impact on them.”

While examining a post-wildfire burn site, scientists observed extreme dry ravel events - a river of rocks - falling down hillsides and filling up the pools of water where the trout live. If the trout survived the dry ravel, the next impact could be when rain mixes with the dry ravel, and the mixture begins to move. This mixture could fill in the creek systems in the canyon and remove the rest of the water sources, Fisher said… [more]

Decision on Listing Polar Bear Postponed

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Federal officials said Monday that they will need a few more weeks to decide whether polar bears need protection under the Endangered Species Act because of global warming.

The deadline was Wednesday, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it now hopes to provide a recommendation to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne in time for a decision by him within the next month.

The department has never declared a species threatened or endangered because of climate change, Hall said.

“That’s why this one has been so taxing and challenging to us,” he said.

Environmental groups that petitioned to protect polar bears, arguing that warming threatened their habitat, said they would go court to ensure a timely decision.

“We certainly hope that the polar bear will be listed within the next month,” said Kassie Siegel, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity… [more]

26 Dec 2007, 8:33pm
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San Francisco police probe fatal zoo attack

By Jim Christie

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - San Francisco police on Wednesday investigated whether a Siberian tiger had help in escaping its zoo habitat before it killed a teenager and injured two other people on Christmas Day.

Police told a news conference at the San Francisco Zoo that they were treating the city-run facility as a crime scene. Investigators are looking into whether the tiger, which had mauled a zoo employee last year, had been taunted before its rampage. Police also indicated they were considering whether someone might have let the 9-year-old tiger, known as Tatiana, out of its exhibit.

Police shot and killed the tiger after it turned toward them as they attempted to divert its attention from one of the injured victims on the ground.

Zoo spokeswoman Lora LaMarca said zoo officials could not comment on how the tiger got out of its habitat, a grotto surrounded by a 15-foot (4.5 meter) moat and 20-foot (6 meter) wall. “It is an ongoing police investigation and it is still being looked into,” LaMarca said.

San Francisco’s medical examiner identified the victim of the fatal attack as Carlos Sousa Jr., 17, of San Jose, California. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The two other victims, 19- and 23-year-old brothers from San Jose, were reported in stable condition at a San Francisco hospital… [more]

23 Dec 2007, 10:52pm
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Representative says wolf reintroduction is ‘ineffective’

Rep. Stevan Pearce is expressing his discontent with regards to the direction the Mexican gray wolf recovery program is heading in New Mexico.

“I am disappointed more of my colleagues could not see the wisdom in eliminating an unsuccessful, ineffective program that has not only failed to produce results, but also threatens the lives and livelihoods of New Mexicans,” he said. “We have tried the reintroduction program for 10 years and have seen only growing problems and more wolf-human interactions.”

Pearce said he believes the time has come to concede that wolves cannot successfully be reintroduced into New Mexico, and is disappointed Congress has not yet reached that view.

“I will continue working to ensure that we are protected from these captive-bred habituated wolves,” he said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must take active steps to better manage problem wolves and guarantee that farmers, ranchers, their families, and their livestock are not repeatedly stalked and attacked.

“I will furthermore continue working to educate my colleagues with regards to the problems associated with this program.”

Pearce said the vote by Congress this past June to continue the recovery program was a setback. The congressman said he intends to put more pressure on those who he believes have only wasted tax dollars and created what he termed “a menace within our communities.”… [more]

23 Dec 2007, 8:03pm
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Alaska Wolf Attacks

Neither the three women nor their dogs heard the pack of wolves creeping up behind them as they jogged on Artillery Road in the frigid morning air.

Camas Barkemeyer, 26, her dogs Buddy, a 3-year-old American bulldog, and Ginger, a 6-year-old husky, were among that group on Fort Richardson a little after 10 a.m. Thursday. One minute it was peaceful. Then she glanced back and saw the pack of about eight wolves spanning the road, only a few feet behind.

A melee ensued, accompanied by screaming, snarling, blood and pepper spray.

“The thought went through my head: ‘What dog? What dog am I going to let go?’ ” Barkemeyer said. “It was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever been through.”

The increasingly emboldened Elmendorf wolf pack is blamed for killing one dog and wounding another in Eagle River this week as Anchorage saw its seventh wolf attack in the past month, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game…

Links to all Alaska wolf attack stories on Wolf Crossing [here]

14 Dec 2007, 11:37pm
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Final plan less lethal than earlier proposal to cull elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park’s final plan to cull the elk herd in the Estes Valley is less lethal than a draft proposal released last year.

Park Superintendent Vaughn Baker laid out the culling strategies as part of the final environmental impact statement of the park’s Elk and Vegetation Management Plan during in a phone conference Tuesday morning.

Somewhere between 2,200 and 3,100 elk live in the Estes Valley and Rocky Mountain National Park, making it one of the highest population concentrations in the Rocky Mountains, Baker said.

Park biologists believe the elks’ foraging habits are to blame for reduced numbers of new-growth aspen and willow trees in the park, sparking a five-year effort to create the plan to reduce the herd size.

The management plan unveiled Tuesday has park officials and “authorized agents” culling 100 elk each winter with mainly rifles over a 20-year period, and no more than 200 animals killed annually. To goal is to achieve a target elk population of between 1,600 and 2,100 animals in 20 years, Baker said.

“That will be a year-to-year decision to determine how much culling is needed for the following winter,” he said.

Some years, no elk could be culled, Baker said, but added that the plan could change if populations aren’t going down.

That’s a dramatic shift from the preferred alternative released in the draft plan in July 2006, which had 200 to 700 elk shot annually to cut the population down to 1,200 to 1,700 animals in just four years. That plan would cost $16 million to implement and had rangers or authorized agents suited out with night-vision devices to corral and kill animals at night using various lethal devices… [more]

Antarctica’s penguins threatened by global warming

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Antarctica’s penguin population has slumped because of global warming as melting ice has destroyed nesting sites and reduced their sources of food, a WWF report said on Tuesday.

The Antarctic peninsula is warming five times faster than the average in the rest of the world, affecting four penguin species — the emperor penguin, the largest and the grandest in the world, the gentoo, chinstrap and adelie, it said.

“The Antarctic penguins already have a long march behind them,” Anna Reynolds, deputy director of WWF’s Global Climate Change Programme, said in a statement at the Bali climate talks.

“Now it seems these icons of the Antarctic will have to face an extremely tough battle to adapt to the unprecedented rate of climate change.”… [more]

11 Dec 2007, 11:49pm
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Biologists revert farmland to wetland to sell credits

MONROE (AP) — As Canada geese bank westward above the green and blue expanse of Muddy Creek Wetland, wood ducks, mallards, pintails and northern shovelers paddle on the shallow ponds below.

The 108 acres near Monroe used to be a rye grass farm and was a cattle ranch before that.

Now low soil berms hold rainwater in ponds and indigenous prairie grasses poke up through the mud.

It’s the work of two wildlife biologists, Chris Kiilsgaard and Jeff Reams who have pooled their money and experience to return this patch of Willamette Valley to its former function.

They’re avid environmentalists, but hope to make some money as well.

If done right, it could pay off in millions of dollars. Muddy Creek is part of Oregon’s growing bank of mitigation banks, wetlands that developers and land managers can buy into when they can’t avoid damaging wetlands themselves… [more]

9 Dec 2007, 1:26pm
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Judge: Study grouse again

BOISE, Idaho — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ignored expert advice when it decided to deny federal protection to the sage grouse, and the agency must reconsider its decision, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

In a decision highly critical of the agency and its decision-making process, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said the service also failed to use the “best science” available when deciding not give the declining species protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Such protection could have dramatic consequences in Wyoming, where state and industry officials fear it would shut off millions of acres to livestock grazing and energy development.

John Emmerich, deputy director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said Wyoming has vast areas of sage grouse habitat and the bird is widely distributed across the state.

“If a species like that gets listed, it’ll have huge ramifications,” he said… [more]

9 Dec 2007, 1:25pm
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Grizzly attacks evoke response

BILLINGS, Mont. — Grizzly bears, the West’s largest and most fearsome predators, are back in a big way in the Northern Rockies — rising in numbers, pushing into new territories and mauling hunters who stumble across them in the wild.

While state and federal officials laud the bear’s remarkable comeback from near-extinction last century, others say it’s time to lift the remaining protections that helped them recover and point to the recent grizzly encounters as evidence.

“We’ve got grizzly bears eating people who come here to hunt,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commissioner Vic Workman, who fended off a grizzly during a Nov. 25 hunting trip near Whitefish. “It’s getting out of whack. We’ve got too many bears.”…

The biologist in charge of restoring grizzlies acknowledges they appear to be on track toward recovery in some areas. For example, in central and western Montana they’ve expanded their range by more than 2,300 square miles over the last two decades…

But Christopher Servheen, grizzly recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said it will take at least five more years of research to show the bear’s progress is not fleeting.

While there is no comprehensive data on grizzly-human conflicts, an Associated Press tally shows at least a dozen grizzly bear attacks reported since April. Seven victims were injured, including several severely… [more]

9 Dec 2007, 1:22pm
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Truck plows through bighorn sheep

THOMPSON FALLS, Mont. (AP) — At least 25 bighorn sheep lapping up salt-based de-icer on Montana Highway 200 have been struck and killed by vehicles this year, including seven struck by one semitrailer east of here earlier this month.

Witnesses told Bruce Sterling, a wildlife biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, that the truck’s brake lights never came on as it passed a readerboard asking drivers to slow down because sheep congregate on that part of the highway and that 18 had already been killed this year.

The trailerless semi slammed into the herd, killing at least seven sheep, cutting some in half, Sterling said. Others may have been fatally injured, but wandered away before dying, Sterling said…

In an effort to reduce sheep deaths, which have topped 350 since Sterling began keeping records in 1985, FWP has tried putting salt blocks out away from the highway, with little success.

“Salt is a natural mineral the sheep routinely seek out,” Sterling says, “and finding it on the road has become a learned behavior over the course of many years. It’s difficult to put salt blocks out and expect them to find it.”

They’ve fired cracker shells near the herd, and the loud explosion works — for about a half hour.

Then they’re back, licking up the de-icer again.

“Our saving grace is that the sheep aren’t active at night,” Sterling says. “They go up into the cliffs to bed down at night. If they were down on the road at night, I don’t know if we’d have any left.”… [more]

7 Dec 2007, 2:52pm
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NM Jumping Mouse a Candidate for Endangered Species Protection

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ The New Mexico meadow jumping mouse is among a handful of species from the Southwest that is being considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency released a list of the latest candidates Thursday. They include the mouse, a snail and a frog from Arizona, a fish from Tennessee and a variety of buckwheat found in Nevada. The list names 280 plants and animals in all.

As for the mouse, agency officials in New Mexico say it once was found in about 100 locations from the Jemez Mountains in the north, down through the Rio Grande Valley to the Sacramento Mountains in the south. Now, the mouse can be found in about 10 places.

“It’s literally on the brink of extinction,” said Nicole Rosmarino, the conservation director of Forest Guardians, a Santa Fe-based environmental group that has been monitoring the mouse… [more]

For additional information regarding the meadow jumping mouse, see [here]

7 Dec 2007, 2:50pm
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Anti-wolf group responds to state management plan

Coalition wants all wolves out of Idaho

Wolves are on the minds of many Idahoans following this week’s unveiling of the state’s plan to manage the species if it’s delisted from federal protection early next year.

But wolves are in the hearts of the Idaho Anti-wolf Coalition, a group that passionately wants all wolves removed from Idaho.

The group, led by Stanley outfitter Ron Gillette, doesn’t trust the federal or state government to manage wolves, which they say are wiping out elk populations. The coalition is circulating a petition to back Idaho out of the recently released management plan and to refuse cooperation with the federal government.

“This is a crisis that’s going on,” said Twin Falls hunter Tony Mayer at a meeting hosted by the group Tuesday night at the Turf Club in Twin Falls. “This is a despicable situation. It’s an epidemic. It’s a problem.”

The group says any number of wolves in Idaho are too many, and they blame the government for what they call a wildlife crisis… [more]

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