Monthly Archives: August 2007

Senator Craig's Mating Call May Help Wolves

Around this shop, we’ve been tapping our feet for a long time . . . waiting for wolf-hating senators to leave office. We had no idea this meant “come hither.”

Apparently, Senator Larry Craig‘s mating call seems to have gotten him into trouble, according to the New York Times. Apparently, family values and wolves don’t mix. Recall Helen Chenowith?


Chet Brokaw reports on Aerial-Gunning Matter

PIERRE — A month after a state plane crashed and injured two people, conservation groups have asked South Dakota wildlife officials to scrap an aerial gunning program that kills coyotes that prey on cattle and sheep.

The program is dangerous for pilots and gunners, wastes taxpayer money and fails to control the coyote population, according to the petition delivered this week to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department officials.

“It doesn’t work,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, a Colorado-based group that organized the petition effort.

Read the story.

Aerial Gunning Battle Shifts to South Dakota

State Agents Crash Four Planes since 1998 as Accident Toll Mounts Nationally

Washington, DC — The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department is reconsidering using airplanes to hunt coyotes in light of its most recent accident. A national coalition of conservation organizations is petitioning the state to end the practice of sending its agents up in aircraft to shoot wildlife (a practice called aerial gunning) in favor of other means of predator control.

On July 30, 2007, South Dakota game agents crashed an airplane during a coyote hunt. Fortunately, the agents walked away from the accident but one suffered a head injury requiring 56 stitches. This is the fourth such aircraft crash in South Dakota since 1998. After the July accident, South Dakota grounded the remaining plane in its fleet and the agency is reviewing whether to discontinue its aerial gunning program.

Beyond South Dakota, the practice of aerial wildlife hunting is drawing flak on a national level. The lion’s share of aerial gunning takes place as part of a $100 million a year federal called Wildlife Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agricultures. In 2005, Wildlife Services killed 34,056 animals by aerial gunning, including badgers, bobcats, red foxes, grey wolves and even domestic housecats.

On June 1, 2007, two Wildlife Services agents died when their plane crashed during an aerial gunning trip in Wayne County, Utah. Since 1979, the federal program has experienced a total of 51 accidents that resulted in 10 fatalities and 28 injuries.

The conservation groups contend that aerial gunning is inherently risky because pilots are often distracted, flying at low altitudes with little margin for error. In 106 plane or helicopter crashes recorded by the groups, pilots have flown into power lines, trees and land formations. In some instances, gunners have shot their own aircraft or bullet casings have become lodged in the cabin’s mechanical workings. Continue reading

Green groups seek end to aerial predator control

A fatal air crash in Utah two months ago by a federal crew chasing and killing coyotes has prompted a Colorado group to petition for an end to aerial predator control.

“It’s inherently dangerous, and it’s crazy,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, which has created AGRO, A Coalition to End Aerial Gunning of Wildlife. “Just look at the crash reports we have.”

On the group’s Web site ( is a list of all federal and nonfederal crashes by those involved in aerial predator hunting. Between 1975 and 2007, the group has tallied 55 accidents with 28 fatalities involving nonfederal aircraft and 51 accidents and 10 fatalities between 1979 and 2007 involving federal aircraft.

Read the story. 

South Dakota Game & Fish Crashed Aerial Gunning Plane

    STURGIS — Looking back on those tense moments before the crash, Tony DeCino still doesn’t know how things went so wrong so fast.

    The airplane was running fine. The wind was light. A low pass over the brown pastures of the Cheyenne River breaks put him and gunner Dan Turgeon within 50 yards of the furry targets below.

    And the 12-gauge shotgun bucked repeatedly against Turgeon’s shoulder, firing clusters of heavy steel shot that sent two coyotes tumbling into the grass.

    To that point, it was a perfect run.

     “We’d killed both coyotes. We’d already pulled up, cleared the terrain and were in a descent to go back and check on the animals,” DeCino said. “Over the course of a couple of seconds, things changed from perfectly fine to me trying to maneuver that airplane and us being in the dirt.”

    It was the first crash landing for DeCino, a seasoned 54-year-old pilot with 17 years experience as a flight instructor. He walked away with minor injuries and understandably nagging questions about its cause.


Read story 

Groups seek more protections for lynx

Albuquerque (AP) — Conservation groups from three states are asking federal wildlife officials to provide endangered species protections for the Canada lynx throughout its range in Northern New Mexico.

Lynx chasing a hare

The elusive, long-haired cats are federally threatened in several states in the West, but not in New Mexico. They are even considered endangered by state officials in neighboring Colorado, where more than 200 lynx have been reintroduced since 1999.

Some of the cats have drifted south into New Mexico, and conservationists argue they should be protected here as well.

The groups sent a petition seeking protections Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said Matthew Bishop, a New Mexico attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, which is representing the conservationists.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service has never once used an artificial state boundary or county boundary or any boundary below the international level … to divide one biological grouping or population of a species,” Bishop said in an interview. “This would be the first time.”

Bishop said the petition seeks to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to make a decision on the lynx’s status in New Mexico since the cats have been spotted in the state.

Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Elizabeth Slown said Wednesday that the agency had not seen the petition. She said the agency will likely have 60 days to review the document and decide if federal biologists need to do more research on whether the lynx should be listed in New Mexico.

If the agency were to deny the petition, Bishop said, his clients would immediately challenge the ruling in court. “Any decision not to protect the lynx in New Mexico would be seen as arbitrary and capricious,” he said. “The lynx needs more habitat, not less.”

While the Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t consider New Mexico as part of the lynx’s historic range, conservationists contend in the petition that the finding is irrelevant because research shows some 80 lynx have been located in Northern New Mexico and several have been found dead in the state since the reintroduction program began in southern Colorado.

Bishop also noted lynx habitat and the snowshoe hares the cats feed on don’t stop at Colorado’s southern border, but continue into New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountain ranges.

“I’ve seen conservation maps, and it just drives you crazy. There’s a straight line (at the Colorado border),” he said. “It drives you crazy because you just know that suitable habitat stretches down into New Mexico.”

The groups that signed the petition include Santa Fe-based Forest Guardians; the Center for Native Ecosystems in Paonia, Colo.; Animal Protection of New Mexico; Carson Forest Watch of Llano, N.M.; Sinapu of Boulder, Colo.; and the Animal Protection Institute of Sacramento, Calif.

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN | Associated Press

This article originally appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican and on in Denver.