26 Aug 2009, 8:49pm
Deer, Elk, Bison Homo sapiens Wolves
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Wolves — When Ignorance is Bliss

Wolves mustn’t be coddled if we hope to balance them with modern ecosystems — and to avoid becoming prey

by Valerius Geist

Nothing convinces like personal experience! And I too am slave to it. As an academic I confess to this with some distress, because by training, experience and attitude I should be above it. That I am not alone in this habit is of little comfort. And so it was with wolves.

In my field research on mountain sheep, goats, moose etc. I also observed wolves, and my experience with North American wolves matches that of colleagues. Consequently, during my academic career and four years into retirement I thought of wolves as harmless, echoing the words of more experienced colleagues while considering the reports to the contrary from Russia as interesting, but not relevant to an understanding of North American wolves. I trusted my wolf-studying colleagues to have done their homework and I dismissed light-heartedly the experiences of others to the contrary. I was wrong!

I saw my first wolf in the wild early one morning in May 1959, on Pyramid Mountain in Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia. I spotted an ash-gray wolf, with a motley coat, sitting and watching me from a quarter mile away with an eager, attentive look about his dark face. His red tongue was protruding, while golden morning light played on his fur. In the spotting scope his image was crisp and clear. I do not know if my heart skipped a beat, but it well might have. Whose wouldn’t?

Five months prior, in early January, I had had an informative brush with a wolf pack just a few miles from that spot. A friend and I were observing moose. We were in the midst of a migration and some two dozen, mostly bulls who had shed antlers, were dispersed over a huge burn. A few were feeding on the tall willows, but most were resting in the knee-deep snow. Suddenly we heard a low, drawn-out moan. When I glanced at the moose I saw that all were standing alert, facing down the valley. We were green then and perplexed about this unearthly sound.

As if to answer us, a high-pitched voice broke in, and then another and another. We realized we were hearing wolves. Within minutes a chorus was underway—and so were the moose. All were hastily moving up the valley and 10 minutes later the moose had vanished. I opted to stay at our lookout while my friend borrowed my rifle and went to search for the wolves. He saw them at dusk as they walked across a small lake, a pack of seven. Try as he may, the rifle would not fire; it had frozen in the great cold. This may have been kind fortune, for the first wolf I shot with that rifle instantly attacked me, but collapsed before reaching me. The second screamed, and that has triggered pack attacks in the past. Had the pack attacked, I would have been minus a friend in minutes. While a large man can subdue an attacking wolf, even strangle it, there is no defense against an attacking pack.

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25 Aug 2009, 10:37am
Homo sapiens Marine mammals Wolves
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NY Times Gums Up Science

The New York Times, that bastion of unbiased science, managed to gum up more research last week with a yellow journalism article about paleo Indians on the California coast.

The blaring headline in the NYT read, “Ancient Man Hurt Coasts, Paper Says”, but that is the opposite conclusion reached by the researchers.

Some excerpts from the NYT article:

Ancient Man Hurt Coasts, Paper Says

By CORNELIA DEAN, NY Times, August 20, 2009 [here]

The idea that primitive hunter-gatherers lived in harmony with the landscape has long been challenged by researchers, who say Stone Age humans in fact wiped out many animal species in places as varied as the mountains of New Zealand and the plains of North America. Now scientists are proposing a new arena of ancient depredation: the coast.

In an article in Friday’s issue of the journal Science, anthropologists at the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Oregon cite evidence of sometimes serious damage by early inhabitants along the coasts of the Aleutian Islands, New England, the Gulf of Mexico, South Africa and California’s Channel Islands, where the researchers do fieldwork.

“Human influence is pretty pervasive,” one of the authors, Torben C. Rick of the National Museum of Natural History, part of the Smithsonian Institution, said in an interview. “Hunter-gatherers with fairly simple technology were actively degrading some marine ecosystems” tens of thousands of years ago.

And, the researchers say, unless people understand how much coastal landscapes changed even before the advent of modern coastal development, efforts to preserve or restore important habitats may fail.

Dr. Rick’s co-author, Jon M. Erlandson of the University of Oregon, said people who lived on the Channel Islands as much as 13,000 years ago left behind piles of shells and bones, called middens, that offer clues to how they altered their landscape.

“We have shell middens that are full of sea urchins,” Dr. Erlandson said. He said he and Dr. Rick theorized that the sea urchins became abundant when hunting depleted the sea otters that prey on them. In turn, the sea urchins would have severely damaged the underwater forests of kelp on which they fed.

“These effects cascade down the ecosystem,” Dr. Erlandson said.

Today, coastal scientists argue about a similar cascade, which some attribute to sea otters’ being eaten by killer whales.

Two papers by Rick and Erlandson are posted at W.I.S.E. in the History of Western landscapes Colloquium [here, here].

The paper that discusses shellfish is:

Erlandson, Jon M., Torben C. Rick, Michael Graham, James Estes, Todd Braje, and René Vellanoweth. 2005. Sea otters, shellfish, and humans: 10,000 years of ecological interaction on San Miguel Island, California. Proceedings of the Sixth California Islands Symposium, edited by D.K. Garcelon and C.A. Schwemm, pp. 58-69. Arcata: Institute for Wildlife Studies and National Park Service.


We use data from San Miguel Island shell middens spanning much of the past 10,000 years in a preliminary exploration of long-term ecological relationships between humans, sea otters (Enhydra lutris), shellfish, and kelp forests. At Daisy Cave, human use of marine habitats begins almost 11,500 years ago, with the earliest evidence for shellfish harvesting (11,500 cal BP), intensive kelp bed fishing (ca. 10,000-8500 cal BP), and Sea Otter hunting (ca. 8900 cal BP) from the Pacific Coast of North America. On San Miguel Island, Native Americans appear to have coexisted with sea otters and productive shellfish populations for over 9,000 years, but the emphasis of shellfish harvesting changed over time. Knowledge of modern sea otter behavior and ecology suggests that shell middens dominated by large red abalone shells–relatively common on San Miguel between about 7,300 and 3,300 years ago–are only likely to have formed in areas where sea otter populations had been reduced by Native hunting or other causes. Preliminary analysis of sea urchin lenses, in which the remains of urchins are unusually abundant, may also signal an increasing impact of Island Chumash populations on kelp forest and other near shore habitats during the late Holocene. Such impacts were probably relatively limited, however, when compared to the rapid and severe disruption caused by commercial exploitation under the Spanish, Mexican, and American regimes of historic times.

Note that the abstract says, “Native Americans appear to have coexisted with sea otters and productive shellfish populations for over 9,000 years” and “Such impacts were probably relatively limited, however, when compared to the rapid and severe disruption caused by commercial exploitation under the Spanish, Mexican, and American regimes of historic times.”

That is not the same as “Ancient Man Hurt Coasts”; in fact, it’s the opposite.

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18 Aug 2009, 5:06pm
Wildlife Agencies Wolves
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Idaho Fish and Game Commission Sets Wolf Hunt Limits


The Idaho Fish and Game Commission, Monday, August 17, set harvest limits for Idaho’s first public wolf hunting season this fall.

Fish and Game models indicate Idaho now has at least 1,000 wolves. The population increases at a rate of about 20 percent a year, without hunting.

The commissioners adopted a strategy that would help meet the state’s wolf population objective, as outlined in the 2008 Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan.

Hunters will be allowed to take up to 220 wolves this fall and winter. Wolf tags go on sale at 10 a.m. August 24, at all license vendors. A resident tag costs $11.75, and a nonresident tag costs $186.

One of the commission’s top considerations is retaining state management of Idaho’s growing wolf population. Idaho has an approved wolf management plan, developed with public involvement. The plan was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and found acceptable by a federal judge.

The commissioners’ decision is consistent with the population goals set out in the plan.

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11 Aug 2009, 10:33am
Cougars Wildlife Agencies bighorn sheep
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Mountain Lions Extirpating Bighorn Sheep in AZ

Critical bighorn sheep population continues to struggle

Press Release, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Aug. 5, 2009 [here]

Feds seek comment on draft EA; proposed action will allow needed management

PHOENIX - They are as much an icon of the Southwest as Wyatt Earp, yet the desert bighorn sheep, known for their head-to-head crashing battles and ability to defy gravity by clinging to rocky cliffs, have experienced staggering population declines on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

Continued monitoring of the public’s bighorn sheep population on the Kofa NWR has state and federal wildlife agencies concerned for the future of this historic herd, whose population crashed from an estimated high of 812 animals in 2000 to a record low of less than 400 in just six years.

Why is this population of sheep so important?

“A driving force behind the original establishment of the Refuge was the protection of desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana), and significant management emphasis remains on maintaining the bighorn sheep population,” as stated in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service letter dated Aug. 4, 2009, in reference to the 1939 Executive Order (#8039) that established the Kofa.

The Kofa NWR sheep population has played a critical role in reversing the decline of desert bighorn sheep for more than 50 years. The herd is a historic source population for re-establishing, supplementing, or expanding other sheep populations across the Southwest, in many cases bringing back this incredible species to places where they were extirpated.

“A wide range of outdoor enthusiasts-wildlife watchers, hikers, hunters, photographers, tourists-are able to enjoy the desert bighorn sheep in many parts of the state and the Southwest,” said Pat Barber, the Yuma regional supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Those experiences are made possible by 50 plus years of collaborative translocation efforts by wildlife agencies, landowners and hunter/conservation organizations.”

Some of the more popular destinations that have received sheep from the Kofa herd in the past are the Superstition Mountains, Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness, the Galiuro Mountains, and the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. There are a number of areas in Arizona that are slated to receive bighorn sheep translocations, including the Pusch Ridge Wilderness, the Mineral Mountains, Big Horn Mountains, Buckeye Hills, and others.

Unfortunately, translocations using sheep from the Kofa were discontinued in 2005. Translocations using animals from the Kofa herd will not resume until the population approaches the long-term population level of 600-800 sheep. The department’s sheep translocation efforts from other source populations continue, but at a reduced rate without the once highly productive Kofa herd as a source.

“A key factor to the herd’s future is managing for the best success in reproduction. Desert bighorn sheep have low birth and survival rates, and any additive mortality to females and their lambs quickly affects the herd’s ability to increase,” said John Hervert, Wildlife Program Manager.

What’s the urgency?

Although managers are working to address several issues that might limit sheep recovery, such as water availability, disease and human disturbance, predation is a growing concern.

Past surveys indicated that, historically, mountain lions were virtually non-existent or only transient guests around the Kofa region. However, in recent years, a number of lions have become frequent users on and around the Kofa, which is having a greater predation effect on the bighorn sheep population during a time when they are already struggling.

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9 Aug 2009, 8:25pm
Wildlife Agencies Wolves
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Montana FWP To Intervene In Federal Wolf Delisting Lawsuit

Press Release, MFWP, August 04, 2009 [here]

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has intervened in a federal lawsuit aimed at turning back a recent decision to remove gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains from the federal list of endangered species.

FWP will also oppose any preliminary injunction requests that seek to reinstate federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the northern Rockies.

“Montana’s wolf population is growing and is well protected by Montana law and well-managed under the state’s federally approved wolf conservation and management plan,” said Joe Maurier, director FWP in Helena. “Montanans have worked hard for more than a decade to recover wolves and FWP will work equally hard to ensure that wolves in Montana are managed under a highly regarded and science-based state plan.”

The case is before U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula. Under a similar lawsuit filed in 2008, Molloy reinstated federal protection for the wolf.

The recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains was set at a minimum of 30 breeding pairs-successfully reproducing wolf packs-and a minimum of 300 individual wolves for at least three consecutive years. This goal was achieved in 2002, and the wolf population has increased every year since. Today, more than 1,600 wolves inhabit the Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Area-which comprises Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah. That growing population is connected to a continuous population to the north in Canada and Alaska. At least 500 wolves now inhabit Montana.

9 Aug 2009, 12:12pm
Bears Homo sapiens
by admin

Don’t Feed The Bears

The latest craze of the dingle-brained rich is to feed bears. Wealthy McMansion owners from Aspen to Lake Tahoe have adopted the insane practice of putting food out for black bears in a kind of twisted substitute for human charity.

It is de rigeur to hate the human race, and so the deep-pocketed-and-guilt-ridden set are uncomfortable feeding starving people. Instead they feed bears to quell their feelings of self-loathing. Besides, bears are cute whereas hungry people are homelessly homely.

Until the bears turn on their charity-givers and kill them and eat them. This news is just in from Colorado.

Ouray County woman’s body found; bear attack suspected

By Le Roy Standish, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, August 08, 2009 [here]

A 73-year-old Ouray County woman, possibly killed by bears, was found dead on her property around noon Friday, according to the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

The woman lived about four miles north of Ouray in a quiet, rural subdivision with large-acreage lots. The town is south of Montrose on Colorado Highway 550.

“We haven’t confirmed the cause of death yet, but this woman was found this afternoon around noon and it appeared that she had been mauled by a bear,” said Joe Lewandowski, a spokesman for the DOW.

A Ouray County Sheriff’s Department deputy, investigating the woman’s death, was attacked by a bears.

The deputy shot the bear six times with a shotgun.

“They got here about 12:30, and as they were examining the scene, a bear came out of the woods and the Ouray County sheriff’s deputy shot the bear,” Lewandowski said.

“This bear was shot, but we don’t know if that was the bear that was involved with mauling the woman.”

The woman’s death and the attack of the deputy has triggered a response from the federal government. Wildlife Services, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been mobilized and is baiting bears onto the property with the intention of killing them, Lewandowski said.

The bears have lost their fear of humans. The woman found dead was frequently seen by neighbors feeding bears on her property, Lewandowski said.

“With this sort of habitation we don’t have any choice, and that is what is really sad. There have been as many as 14 bears that have been observed at the house,” he said.

So the unnamed Ouray County woman was known to feed bears, who were known to congregate on her property, and not her family, her neighbors, nor the authorities did anything about it until she became bear chow herself.

The entire community sat there with their heads in the sand (or somewhere) while an insane lady baited bears into their midst. And now she is dead, others have been attacked, and the bears have to be put down.

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7 Aug 2009, 10:22am
Birds Endangered Specious
by admin

Parallel Universe, Part One: When Two Worlds Collide – Ranching and Litigation

By Julie Kay Smithson, property rights researcher, London, Ohio [here]

Today’s ranchers raise beef that is leaner, grown with an eye toward both responsible grazing techniques and health-conscious consumers. Unlike America’s east, where private property is in the majority of land ownership, the federal government owns vast areas in the American west. Ranchers own grazing permits on federal lands. Modern ranching has become complex. Ranching practices must be leaner and greener in order to be environmentally responsible and profitable.

The West and its federal, or “public,” lands, is no exception.

Under the Taylor Grazing Act, the first grazing district to be established was Wyoming Grazing District Number 1 on March 23, 1935. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes created a Division of Grazing within the Department to administer the grazing districts; this division later became the U.S. Grazing Service and was headquartered in Salt Lake City. [1]

The Continental Congress, through the “Land Ordinance of 1785,” adopted a “Rectangular Survey System” on May 20, 1785, which defines the public lands by Township, Range and Section, modified by the Act of May 18, 1796, and other subsequent Acts into the recognizable cadastral survey system of today. Originally established by Congress in 1812 under the Treasury Department as the “General Land Office.” The GLO, among other things, was responsible for the surveys of the public lands. Successor to the GLO emerged when the consolidation of the GLO and the Grazing Service occurred on July 16, 1946, creating the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). [2]

In today’s world, being savvy about definitions and laws is vital to running a business. It is also of paramount importance to those whose custom and culture, work and lifestyles, carry the indelible stamp of resource providing: America’s farmers, commercial fishermen, miners, ranchers, and timber growers and harvesters. The saying, “If it can’t be grown, it must be mined,” is true. Food and fiber grown in America is necessary for the health of our nation. Responsible resource utilization encompasses not only the ability to extract or harvest resources, but also the keen, ever-learning manner in which those resources are brought from source to consumer.

Twenty-first century resource providers never leave the classroom – they are constantly in pursuit of new and better ways to both protect the natural environment and provide products that are skillfully grown/raised to be healthful. The old days of just “being” a rancher, farmer, logger, miner, or fisherman, are, as they say, “history.” Today’s history is being written by those dedicated to making a positive contribution to the earth and its people. Such dedication requires a willingness to learn that goes far beyond the confines of learning institutions, one that also respects the science that is ever evolving from those places.

Today’s holders of grazing permits in the West must keep in mind that new ways of grazing mean everything from riparian restoration to making sure livestock don’t tarry too long at any one watering or grazing location.

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