Monthly Archives: July 2007

Wolverine Needs the Protection of the Endangered Species Act

Wolverine (Gulo gulo).  Courtesy of Anna Yu / AY Images.  Copyright 2006 - Anna Yu.

America’s elusive and imperiled wolverine needs Federal protection!

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recently gathered comments regarding a petition to list the wolverine (Gulo gulo luscus) as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. The Biodiversity Legal Foundation originally filed the petition in 2000, and the government originally rejected it based upon the assertion that the petition failed to present substantial scientific and commercial information supporting the need to protect wolverines under the Endangered Species Act.

The primary basis for the government’s decision was that, because wolverine are so secretive and occur at relatively low densities in very remote regions, the petitioners could not prove that the wolverine was actually imperiled by human activities. Yet, we do know much about the types of human activities that take place in typical wolverine habitat, and that much of this activity can render such places uninhabitable for wolverines. Moreover, we know that global climate change is likely to negatively affect wolverine habitat.

Citizens weigh in!

Comments from around the country emphasized the following:

  • A variety of human activities, including road building and logging, is destroying wolverine habitat, and the connectivity between core areas of habitat;
  • Trapping continues to jeopardize wolverines;
  • Climate change may seriously affect wolverines, which are dependent upon the very specific climatic conditions of high alpine environments;
  • Wolverine would stand a much greater chance of survival under the protections of the Endangered Species Act; over 99% of the species listed under the Endangered Species Act have been saved from extinction; and
  • Waiting for absolute proof that wolverines are imperiled is poor stewardship, and a recipe for extinction.

In the coming months, the government will review all comments and any new published science on the wolverine. We hope that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will do the right thing at the end of their review: list wolverines as endangered, and grant them significant critical habitat in the U.S.

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Being "Good Ancestors"

Each year the federal government and others kill tens of thousands of native wild carnivores: badgers, bears, bobcats, coyotes — especially coyotes, foxes of all stripes too — arctic, gray, kit, red, and swift — mountain lions, wolves, skunks, raptors, and ravens. They aerial gun, poison, trap, and shoot. They use dogs to chase down their quarry. Their brutality exemplifies why it is doubtful whether future generations will call us “good ancestors.”

Our native wild animals are killed in large quantity each year in a vain attempt to protect domestic livestock. While sustainable agriculture is an important concept, the American system has become so politicized, insensitive, and corrupt that we cause indelible harm not only to individual animals, but entire ecosystems. Yet, native carnivores provide balance.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services explain away their misdeeds using faulty rationale. They claim in Colorado, for example, their purpose is to “keep lamb losses below 5%” (USDA-WS, 2005). They claim but for their work, the livestock-producing industry would fail, and they claim that ecosystem health is beyond the scope of their jurisdiction — that duty belongs a host of other state or federal agencies.

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NPR: Coyote Advocates Demand End to Aerial Gunning

Listen to this story… by Jeff Brady . . . Click Here.

All Things Considered, July 6, 2007 · Environmental groups want the government to stop shooting coyotes from airplanes and have filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program demanding an end to the practice.

A Deadly Plane Crash

The petition comes on the heels of a fatal plane crash involving two agency employees who were pursuing coyotes on June 1 in South Central Utah. The coyotes had been preying on a rancher’s sheep.

The deaths of pilot Joseph Harris and gunner Glen Stevenson have drawn attention to the government’s practice and prompted animal protection and environmental groups to question the merit of the government’s aerial gunning program.

“Predator control is out of control when people are dying,” says Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, a group dedicated to protecting carnivorous animals and their habitats. Sinapu is the Ute Indian word for wolves.

A Cruel Practice?

Keefover-Ring is also concerned about the targets of the government’s aerial gunning program, which she calls cruel and, worse yet, ineffective.

“The federal government has been working to kill coyotes for the last 100 years using traps, poisons and guns, and the result has been they’ve actually expanded their range threefold,” Keefover-Ring says.

But the government insists that the aim of its aerial gunning program is not to kill all coyotes.

“We’re trying to resolve localized problems of wildlife predation or wildlife conflicts,” Bill Clay, USDA deputy administrator for Wildlife Services, says.

In rural areas, most of those conflicts are between coyotes and sheep. The USDA says ranchers lost about $11 million worth of lambs and sheep to coyotes in 2005.

So after a brief pause to review safety procedures and inspect the agency’s airplane fleet, pilots and gunners are back to hunting coyotes from the air.

Wildlife officials in N.M. shoot wolf after her third cattle kill

Federal government continues to push recovery program toward failure.

The story below, which originally appeared on the website of KVOA Ch. 4 in Albuquerque, shines a bright light on the Federal government’s compromises on behalf of the livestock industry, and on how such compromises are allowing the livestock industry to bait wolves so that they will be killed. All of this is playing out to the detriment of Mexican wolves, one of the world’s most imperiled mammals.

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ALBUQUERQUE — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday shot a female Mexican wolf in Catron County, less than a week after cattle killings that subjected the wolf to a three strikes rule.

The program to reintroduce endangered Mexican gray wolves into the Southwest requires the permanent removal of any wolf linked to three livestock killings a year — either by trapping and keeping it in captivity or by shooting it.

Historic photo of wolf caught by a bounty hunter during the early 1900s.

The wolf, designated AF924 for alpha female 924, had killed two head of livestock before being relocated to Catron County on April 25. The day after her release, county officials demanded she be removed before she had a chance to kill another cow.

Fish and Wildlife said at the time it had no reason to remove her under the program’s three-strikes rule.

The agency issued a lethal order for the wolf Tuesday night after the weekend killings of a cow and calf.

Catron County Manager Bill Aymar said Thursday he’s not a fan of the wolf program, “I couldn’t be with seeing all that happens down here” — but it was a shame Fish and Wildlife killed the wolf.

“If they had actually acted upon our first request and removed that wolf, that wolf might still be alive,” he said.

AF924, the alpha female of the Durango pack, was pregnant when released. Elizabeth Slown, a spokeswoman for Fish and Wildlife, said Thursday her pups are old enough that they are eating solid food. She said the agency will provide supplemental feeding for the male to feed them.

A landowner in the area told agency officials there are four pups, she said.

Late last month, Catron County issued a notice of intent to trap the wolf and turn her over to Fish and Wildlife because she was stalking the Adobe Ranch in southeastern Catron County where the Mike Miller family lives. The county’s wolf incident investigator did not immediately trap the animal, however.

Then last weekend, wolves killed the cow and calf.

Wildlife Services, a federal agency that investigates reports of wolf depredation, confirmed that AF924 and her mate, alpha male 973, were involved.

Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Services and other groups made the decision to credit the wolves with one depredation each — a third strike for the female and a first for the male.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity in Pinos Altos said Thursday the female wolf was killed “because the Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish all refuse to require the ranching industry using public lands to clean up their dead livestock that attract wolves.”

Robinson has long criticized the government for not requiring ranchers to remove cattle that die for whatever reason on their grazing allotments. “The wolves scavenge on cattle carcasses and eventually switch to killing cattle,” he said.

Slown said the wolf program’s current rules do not allow Fish and Wildlife to order carcass removal. “That’s an excellent topic for people to contemplate” as the agency considers changing the rules, she said.