Monthly Archives: September 2007

Clay Evans: People Take Responsibility

Do it for the bears!

Read the opinion. 



Second Aerial Gunning Accident in Two Months as Call for Ban Mounts

Aerial gunning (from a helicopter)Washington, DC — Two federal agents suffered serious injuries in a helicopter crash this month while conducting a coyote hunt in Pecos County, Texas. This accident is the latest in a series of air crashes that has led to growing call to cut off public funding for shooting coyotes using aircraft, a practice called “aerial gunning.”

In the latest incident, pilot Ronald Honaker and passenger Gerald Porter were briefly hospitalized when their helicopter experienced mechanical problems and crashed into a field outside Stockton, Texas, on September 12. On June 1, 2007, two federal agriculture agents died when their plane crashed during an aerial gunning trip in Wayne County, Utah. The June accident prompted twenty-seven conservation groups, led by Sinapu and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), to petition the U.S. Department of Agriculture to halt its aerial gunning program altogether.

The September crash brings the federal government’s aerial gunning accident toll to 52, including 10 fatalities and 30 injuries.

“Aerial gunning is especially risky business because the normal risks of flight are multiplied by low altitude maneuvering in pursuit of agile, quick and very smart animals,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, which keeps an updated analysis of aerial gunning incidents. “We have documented pilots flying into power lines, trees and cliffs and gunners shooting into the mechanical workings of their own aircraft.”

South Dakota, one of only two states that provides any state funding for aerial gunning, has grounded its planes after a plane crash on July 31, 2007 in which two of its agents were injured. South Dakota is now reviewing whether to entirely discontinue its aerial gunning program after sustaining four such accidents since 1998. Continue reading

Condors vs. the NRA

Hunters’ lead bullets often shatter when they hit a bone of their prey and are left behind in “gut” piles.  Scavengers that dine on the piles can be harmed–particularly susceptible are condors and raptors.  Great bruha over the lead controversy on’s site today.  Join the fray and

Read a story on today’s 

Feds Behead Pups with Shovels

Denning Photo
This coyote pup is being pulled out of it den with a “denning” hook.  Denning is a practice conducted by the USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services. Photo courtesy of Wildlife Damage Review (taken by Dick Randall circa the 1970s).
Reaching a new low, the USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Wildlife Services (WS) revealed that their agents cut the heads off of coyote puppies with shovels in Oklahoma and Wyoming. WS’s web-based report actually declared that “hand tools” were used. The awful details were ferreted out by Brian Vincent, a conservationist employed by Big Wildlife.

The federal agents involved should receive the same legal scrutiny that Michael Vick, the Atlanta Falcons footballer, did. Vick was implicated in the killing eight dogs on his property.

Read the Associated Press story.

To see all the native carnivores killed by Wildlife Services in 2006, click here.

Amazing Bear Rescue – Donner Summit Bridge

This was going around the Net; thought I’d post because it’s just amazing to behold. ~wkr

Read the story.


Continue reading

"Truthiness" Only Gets You So Far

Wolf packThe topic of predators in general, and wolves in particular, conjures much emotion on both sides; one need look no further than the comments posted on various articles in this blog to see how hot people’s blood runs. Look closer at these comments, however, and you’ll notice that where the emotion runs particularly high, the credibility of the statements made often runs particularly low.

Notably, the subject of wolf restoration seems to draw the same tired old assertion that wolves are wiping out their prey. A bit of horse-sense would lead most to the conclusion that if wolves were prone to eat themselves out of house-and-home that they’d have gone extinct long ago. But we strive to go beyond horse sense here. To the largest extent possible, we aim to back-up our assertions with peer-reviewed science. So, in that spirit, I present below a refutation of one such bit of wolf folklore. More importantly, I will edit individual comments to this blog that continue to perpetuate wolf hysteria with links back to this and other posts that refute such myths.

Public dialog is important. Thoughtful, well informed dialog is even more important. So, consider this:

Question: Are wolves responsible (or primarily responsible) for the decline in the density of Yellowstone’s Northern Range elk herd?

Ongoing research in Yellowstone National Park indicates that the decline of Northern Range elk is multi-causal: climate effects due to drought, predation (wolves, bear and cougar), increased hunter harvest of female elk at the time of wolf reintroduction. At the time of wolf reintroduction, elk density was 13-15 elk per square kilometer on the Northern Range, a very high elk density. Now elk density is 6-7 elk per square kilometer, still very dense. Most areas outside Yellowstone National Park are below 1 elk per square kilometer. Therefore elk in Yellowstone National Park have declined from very dense to just dense. Data indicate that fewer elk is proving beneficial to other aspects of the system (vegetation, scavengers, bears, songbirds, etc).

Literature cited:

John A. Vucetich, Douglas W. Smith, Daniel R. Stahler. 2005. Influence of harvest, climate and wolf predation on Yellowstone elk, 1961-2004. Oikos. 111 (2), 259–270.

Roger J. Anderson and Alice Wondrak Biel. 2005. Ten Years of Yellowstone Wolves (1995-2005). Yellowstone Science. 13 (1). 2-45.

Fur-trapping ban gets new day in court

Backers of the voter-approved amendment say it was undermined when the state OK’d use of nonlethal traps.

Wildlife conservationists and the state renewed a decade-old feud Monday over a constitutional amendment banning fur trapping, debating whether animals could be caught in nonlethal traps and then killed.

In a downtown Denver courtroom far from the state’s wilds, District Judge Larry Naves heard arguments about the intent of Amendment 14, which curbed lethal trapping in the state when it was approved by voters in 1996.

“This is a watershed moment for Amendment 14,” said Susan Morath Horner, the attorney for conservation groups Sinapu and Forest Guardians. “At issue in this case … is whether it did or did not sound the death knell to the trapping of Colorado’s wildlife for pelts and trophies.”

She contended that the state wildlife commission undermined the amendment’s intention when it approved the use of box traps – self-closing cages baited with food used to to capture and then kill fur-bearing animals such as mink, coyote and fox.

Read the Story.