Friday, June 30, 2017

Western Governors' Association Seeks to Dismantle ESA

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With most of Washington focused on fights over presidential tweets, healthcare, and Russian meddling, lawmakers are taking controversial steps to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

The Western Governors’ Association endorsed a policy resolution this week that aims to dismantle the Endangered Species Act to benefit their core constituencies: agriculture and energy.

Association chairman Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead is leading the charge in portraying the important federal law as being bad for business and harmful to the economy.

While the Western Governors' Association, Congressional leaders, and lobbyists are speaking for major corporations and special interests, YOUR individual voice as a voting American counts just as much.

Please urge your Congressional representatives to preserve the spirit and integrity of this effective federal law and to oppose any legislation that takes aim at ESA and imperiled wildlife!

TAKE ACTION.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fed's ‘Recovery’ Plan Puts Politics Before Science

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Risks Recovery of Highly Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves

Tucson, Ariz. – Despite the recommendations of scientists, the draft recovery plan for the lobo or Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) released today by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service unnaturally limits the population size and range of this subspecies in the Southwest. Exclusion of millions of acres of suitable habitat near Grand Canyon, north of the current recovery area, and an artificial cap on population size will limit real recovery of this species to a state-managed token animal instead of allowing it to fulfill its important role in maintaining ecosystem health.

“The proposed downlisting and delisting criteria specified in the plan show that the Fish and Wildlife Service is anxious to get the management of these animals to state agencies, including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which is overseen by a decidedly anti-wolf commission that has demonstrated strong hostility to recovery of Mexican wolves,” said Greta Anderson, Arizona Director for Western Watershed Project. “It’s less about recovery than it is an abdication of its own duties to ensure viable populations of wolves in the Southwest and to secure the future of this species.”

Instead of moving forward with a draft plan based on science-based recommendations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed the recovery planning process to be delayed and subverted due to political pressures from Arizona and the other three states important to Mexican wolf recovery. These pressures have focused on keeping wolves south of Interstate 40 and limited in population size to a number far below scientific recommendations.

“It is critical that some of the best habitat in Arizona for wolves – the Grand Canyon region – be part of this recovery effort,” said Emily Renn, Executive Director of Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project. “Capping the population and limiting the region for recovery so severely is not a recipe for a recovered Mexican wolf population.”

The population cap would compromise the scientific standards of the Endangered Species Act and leave recovery of a critically endangered species in the hands of the states. New Mexico has undermined meaningful recovery by blocking releases of wolves to the wild, and Arizona has recently moved to wield more control over the program, seemingly inspired by New Mexico’s actions. Last time Arizona ran the program, between 2003 and 2009, the wolf population in the wild actually declined.

“The agency claims that this plan will ensure resiliency, redundancy, and representation, but it is willing to go as low as 150 wolves in the U.S. for the purposes of downlisting – that is far from recovered and a dangerously low number,” said Sandy Bahr, Chapter Director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “Downlisting the species to ‘threatened’ will likely trigger even fewer protections for these animals.”

“The captive-breeding program that we operate aims to release wolves into their ancestral homes in the wild, but the success of our efforts requires a legitimate, science-based recovery blueprint that will ensure the survival of these iconic and imperiled wolves. This is not what the Fish and Wildlife Service delivered,” said Maggie Howell, Director of the Wolf Conservation Center.

Background

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service convened a recovery planning team in 2010 that included a Science and Planning Subgroup made up of some of the top wolf experts in the country. The Science and Planning Subgroup developed draft recommendations for recovery of the Mexican gray wolf based on the best available science, which included the following:
  • In addition to the current wild population of Mexican gray wolves in western New Mexico and eastern Arizona, two new core populations must be established in the Grand Canyon region in northern Arizona and southern Utah and in the Southern Rockies region in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, areas containing the most suitable habitat for Mexican gray wolves.
  • Natural dispersal must be possible between the three core populations through habitat connectivity.
  • Each of the three populations must have a minimum of 200 wolves and, together, must have, at the very least, 750 wolves.
  • There must be a decrease in human caused mortality.
  • Genetic rescue of the wild population must be addressed.

An abundance of research demonstrates the important role that wolves can play in restoring health and balance to the ecosystems they inhabit. Wolf-related tourism brings an estimated $35 million in annual tourist revenue to the Greater Yellowstone region. Similar economic and ecological benefits are very likely in Arizona once wolves are fully restored to the landscape.

In a 2013 poll of registered voters, 87 percent of Arizonans agreed that “wolves are a vital part of America’s wilderness and natural heritage,” and 83 percent agreed that “the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should make every effort to help wolves recover and prevent extinction.”

The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to prevent extinction and to bring species back to healthy population levels. This law – passed nearly unanimously, signed by a Republican president, and supported by the majority of Americans and Arizonans – has a proven record of preventing more than 99 percent of species extinctions. Federal authority to conserve and protect endangered and threatened species and their habitats is clearly established. Although cooperative programs exist among states and the federal government, state conservation programs must be at least as protective of a species as the Endangered Species Act. Efforts to recover endangered species, including Mexican gray wolves, must be based on the best available science, not politics.

There were only 113 Mexican gray wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico at last official count, with just a small population now in Mexico. The widespread misinformation that led to the near complete extinction of these wolves is disproven by our current understanding of the important role wolves play in healthy functioning ecosystems – and by overwhelming public support for recovery of the world’s rarest gray wolf subspecies.

• Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter • Western Watershed Project • Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery • Grand Canyon Wildlands • Wolf Conservation Center • Lobos of the Southwest • Southwest Environmental Center •

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Chronic Wasting Disease More Dangerous Than Originally Thought?

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Beyond wolves, perhaps no issue is as controversial in the hunting community right now as chronic wasting disease (CWD), a degenerative neurological illness that is similar to mad cow disease, among elk, deer and moose.

With a new study suggesting humans may now be susceptible to chronic wasting disease from deer, isn't it time for wildlife policy makers to better acknowledge that wolves make prey populations healthier?

The preponderance of scientific evidence supports the view that wolves generally kill prey that are vulnerable, such as weak, sick, old, or young animals. By killing sick prey individuals, wolves remove infectious agents from the environment, reducing transmission to other prey. The scientific community argues that in this manner, wolves help reduce the spread of CWD.


No doubt wolves serving as an unexpected ally in protecting the America's most popular big game animals could be a hard reality to swallow for some hunters and hunting groups who have long opposed the predators. But it might be now or never.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Are We Experiencing the Sixth Mass Extinction?

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Recent scientific analyses found that one in six species will be lost forever if world leaders fail to act on climate change - and human activity is causing extinctions of unprecedented scale. We have entered Earth’s sixth mass extinction event. Even using the most conservative estimates, the rate of extinction during the 20th century was up to 100 times faster than it would have been without human impacts.

More via the The New York Times.

The impacts of mass extinction on our own immediate future is alarmingly relevant. As the world’s diverse species vanish, so do countless crucial functions we depend upon: the ecosystem services that have enabled humans to have a good standard of living.


That is why Congressional threats to our Endangered Species Act are unacceptable.

Please consider signing and sharing the Wolf Conservation Center's campaign to save the Endangered Species Act. Take action.

Infographic by Eco Sapien

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Shh.... Sunday in Progress

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 Life as a one month old Mexican wolf pup is exhausting! Running. Jumping. Exploring. Wrestling.Wiggling. A little one on one time with Mom is the perfect remedy. Learn more about the significance of this critically endangered family here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

One Month old Mexican Wolf Pups Wrestle


For wolves, playtime isn’t only fun, it strengthens family bonds and reaffirms social status within the pack.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Department of Justice’s McKittrick Policy Ruled Unlawful

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Late yesterday, a federal judge threw out the Department of Justice’s flawed ‘McKittrick Policy’ - a policy that prohibits prosecuting individuals who kill endangered wildlife unless it can be PROVED they knew they were targeting a protected animal.

The policy provides a loophole that has prevented criminal prosecution of dozens of individuals who killed grizzly bears, highly endangered California condors as well as DOZENS of critically endangered Mexican wolves.


The decision came as a result of a challenge brought by WildEarth Guardians and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance - great job!!

More.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

We Are Grizzly Bears, Not Trophies




They are not trophies.

Last week, Wolf Conservation Center staff and supporters encountered this beautiful grizzly bear mother and cub in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.

Once roaming widely across North America, B.C. is one of the last refuges of the grizzly bear. However, the future for this mother and cub remains uncertain.

Although they're classified as a species of special concern, roughly 300 grizzly bears are shot for trophy in BC each year.

During the spring trophy hunt season, female bears like the one we watched are often shot leaving their cubs to perish. In the fall female grizzlies may be pregnant when they are hunted. Grizzly bears have the second lowest reproduction rate of North American land mammals.

Economically, B.C.’s grizzly bear trophy hunt threatens the growing and sustainable wildlife-based tourism industry. Eco-tourism and bear viewing attract thousands of people to B.C. every year and create sustainable employment.

There is simply no scientific, ethical or economic rationale for the trophy hunt. Yet this year, government officials EXTENDED the grizzly bear trophy hunting season in the Great Bear Rainforest.

Please help.

Sign Pacific Wild's petition today to ban the grizzly bear trophy hunt in B.C.

Sign here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Red Wolf Peek-a-boo!

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Enter the secret lives of red wolves via the Wolf Conservation Center red wolf webcam!

Tune in!

The red wolf (Canis rufus) is the only wolf species found completely within the United States. Once common throughout the southeastern United States, red wolf populations were decimated by the 1960s due to intensive predator control programs and loss of habitat. In 1980, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) declared red wolves extinct in the wild after the last wild red wolves were gathered to survive in captivity, their wildness caged.

With the support of the Federal Red Wolf Species Survival Plan, a national initiative whose primary purpose is to support the reestablishment of red wolves in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research, and under the aegis of the Endangered Species Act, red wolves were reintroduced in North Carolina in 1987. They were the first federally-listed species to be returned to their native habitat, and have served as models for other programs.

But today, USFWS, the very agency charged by federal law with protecting endangered species, is walking away from recovering the last wild red wolves to satisfy a few very vocal opponents. The current estimate puts the remaining wild population at their lowest level in decades. Fewer than 35 wild red wolves remain.

Learn what you can do here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

4 Week Old Mexican Wolf Pup Cuddles With Mom

This is what love looks like.

Beyond being adorable, this critically endangered wolf pup represents the Wolf Conservation Center’s active participation in an effort to save a species from extinction. The Mexican gray wolf or “lobo” is the most genetically distinct lineage of wolves in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By the mid-1980s, hunting, trapping, and poisoning caused the extinction of lobos in the wild, with only seven rescued and placed in captivity. Because the entire existing Mexican wolf population descended from just seven founders rescued from extinction, genetic health is the primary consideration governing most recovery efforts. In 1998 the wolves were reintroduced into the wild as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act.

The WCC is one of 55 facilities in the U.S. and Mexico participating in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan – a bi-national initiative whose primary purpose is to support the reestablishment of Mexican wolves in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research.

Currently 13 Mexican wolves call the WCC home. In the U.S., there is a single wild population comprising only 113 individuals - an increase from the 97 counted at the end of 2015.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day


Remarkable fathers can be found all over the world and one of them resides right here at the Wolf Conservation Center! Mexican gray wolf M1059 (a.k.a. Diego) wears the badge of fatherhood like a pro. He has exhibited admirable patience, affection, and protectiveness, exemplifying the amazing role that a father plays in the wolf world.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sea Wolf Sings in the Great Bear Rainforest



During the Wolf Conservation Center's 2017 summer adventure in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest, WCC staff and supporters were treated to a wild melody.

One of earth’s most stunning wildernesses on Canada’s Pacific coast, the Great Bear Rainforest is home to a myriad of healthy populations of species of plants, birds and animals, including subspecies and genetically unique populations of wildlife like the Spirit Bear and coastal gray wolf.

It's the kind of place that one can still watch grizzly bears, humpback whales, spirit bears, wolves and so much more all in a single day - while learning about the challenges that threaten its unique biological diversity.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Pupdate: Critically Endangered Mexican Wolf Pups Growing Bolder


The Wolf Conservation Center’s critically endangered Mexican gray wolf pups are almost 4 weeks old! This is a significant milestone for the adorable trio.

With their eyes wide open now, the kiddos are able to wander out of the den while staying near the den entrance and their menu has expanded to include small pieces of meat regurgitated by their parents and older siblings. The pups are growing rapidly so be sure to tune in to the WCC webcams to follow their progress!

Tune in now!

Protect grizzly bears - ban the trophy hunt in B.C.

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Three days ago, Wolf Conservation Center staff and supporters encountered this beautiful grizzly in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest.

When bears emerge from their dens in the spring, food is in short supply with only the green grass available to eat at lower elevations. Because food is relatively scarce early in the season, bears tend not to put on weight until well into June. We came upon the grizzly in one of Great Bear's many estuaries, or “nurseries of the sea,” where the river meets the ocean. For hours we watched her quietly peruse a patchwork of sedge grass while periodically sizing us up with a glance to ascertain out intentions.

Once roaming widely across North America, B.C. is one of the last refuges of the grizzly bear. But the future of this grizzly remains uncertain.

Despite widespread opposition, the B.C. government continues to treat this vulnerable and iconic species as an expendable resource.

During the spring trophy hunt season, female bears like the one we watched are often shot leaving their cubs to perish. In the fall female grizzlies may be pregnant when they are hunted. Grizzly bears have the second lowest reproduction rate of North American land mammals.

Economically, B.C.’s grizzly bear trophy hunt threatens the growing and sustainable wildlife-based tourism industry. Eco-tourism and bear viewing attract thousands of people to B.C. every year and create sustainable employment. There is simply no scientific, ethical or economic rationale for the trophy hunt.

Although the spring season to hunt grizzlies for trophy ended today, the extended fall season begins in two months. As B.C. politicians return to the legislature in exactly one week on June 22nd, the fate of BC's grizzlies is yet to be determined. These bears need your help.

Please sign and share Pacific Wild's petition today to ban the grizzly bear trophy hunt in BC.

Sign here

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Scientists Say Killing Alberta’s Wolves Benefits Industry, Not Endangered Caribou

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In an open letter published in Nature Alberta, scientists contend that killing Alberta’s wolves benefits big industry, not endangered caribou.

Over the past decade, the Alberta government has killed more than 1,000 wolves in its efforts to conserve caribou by employing snipers in helicopters, snares, and strychnine-laced bait to kill wolves (slowly). An elementary principle of ecosystem-based conservation has always been the retention, protection, and restoration of key habitat. Despite this, Alberta is allowing oil and gas operations to continue in critical caribou habitat.


Are Alberta's wolves paying the ultimate price for Alberta's negligence and inaction? What say you?

Read the letter here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Protect the Last Wild Wolves

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Federal wildlife officials want to hear from you about the fate of the endangered red wolf. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is crafting a revised recovery plan for the red wolf, a process that has been complicated by opposition from some landowners, court cases to stop those landowners from killing the wolves, support from scientists, and conflicting messages from federal officials themselves.

As of June 13, the USFWS has received more than 2,100 comments. The agency is accepting public input through July 24th and red wolves need many more voices to save them from the brink of extinction. Please follow this link to see how you can #StandForWolves.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Enjoy Our Natural World in a Sustainable Way

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Now that the new summer season is upon us, millions of people will be venturing forth in great outdoors - the only home left for our wildlife.

Thus , it's important to remember that we should enjoy our natural world in a sustainable way that avoids human-created impacts. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics program reminds us of some guiding principles that have been adapted so that they can be applied in our backyards or the backcountry.

Take a look here.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Don't Give Up On Last Wild Red Wolves

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The red wolf is an American icon. It is one of the few large carnivore species endemic to the United States. Their importance to a balanced and resilient ecosystem is undeniable. Decades of hunting, trapping, and habitat loss pushed wild red wolves towards extinction. In 1980, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) captured the last remaining wild red wolves (the mere 14 animals) and declared the species extinct in the wild. In 1987, red wolves received a second chance on the wild landscape. Captive-bred red wolves were released in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge as part of a federal reintroduction program under the Endangered Species Act.

 
For a while, thanks to sustained federal leadership, the red wolf recovery effort was making steady progress toward recovery in eastern North Carolina. In many ways, the red wolf program was the pilot program, serving as a model for subsequent canid reintroductions, particularly those of the Mexican gray wolf to the American Southwest and the gray wolf to the Yellowstone region.

The wild population peaked at an estimated 130 wolves in 2006 and fluctuated between 130 - 100 for several years thereafter. Since 2014, however, USFWS has failed to follow the best available science, ignored scientific recommendations by halting all key management activity, and took a series of actions that have undermined the red wolf recovery program, including:

  • Eliminated its full time red wolf recovery coordinator position and to re-direct red wolf staff to other programs.
  • Reduced or eliminated efforts to collar and track wild red wolves.
  • Abandoned its scientifically proven coyote placeholder program through which coyotes are captured, sterilized, and returned to the wild to avoid hybridization.
  • Halted all captive-to-wild release events and pup fostering.
  • Issued permits to private landowners to take and kill wolves.
  • Refused to control coyote hunting in the recovery area, and the subsequent loss of red wolves to gunshot.
  • Halted all red wolf education and outreach efforts.

USFWS’s consistent mismanagement and neglect over the past few years has led to a rapid decline in North Carolina's red wolf population. Current estimates put the only wild population of red wolves at just 28, its lowest level in decades.

On September 12, USFWS announced their decision to reduce the wild red wolf population even further.

The agency called for significantly reducing the range of the existing wild population wolves and to remove from private and public lands most of the last wild red wolves to put them in captivity.

Ironically, the federal agency claimed its decision was "based on the best and latest scientific information" from the red wolf Population Viability Analysis (PVA). However, the very scientists who drafted the PVA charge that USFWS based its plan on “many alarming misinterpretations” of their scientific analysis and warn that USFWS's plan “will no doubt result in the extinction of red wolves in the wild.”

USFWS's singular focus on the captive red wolf population will result in the extinction of red wolves in the wild. Unless the Service allows expansion of the current population in North Carolina, resumes work to curtail hybridization with coyotes, and utilizes additional reintroduction sites across the red wolf’s historic range, this iconic predator will exist in captivity alone.

How to take Action:

Last month, USFWS gave notice the start of a 60-day public comment the federal agency's proposed rule. Thus, we now have the opportunity to tell the USFWS, the very agency charged by federal law with protecting endangered species, that it’s unacceptable for them to walk away from red wolf recovery. Please use your unique voice to protect the world’s last wild red wolves. To access detailed information to help support your comments, see the emergency petition to the USFWS to revise the red wolf's 10(j) rule and petition for a new red wolf recovery plan.

Submit Comments Online:

Submit your comment HERE from now until July 24. When you submit your comment, it is important you use your own words.

Submit Comments via Mail:

You may submit comments by mail to the following address:

Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS–R4–ES–2017–0006
Division of Policy, Performance, and Management Programs
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters
MS: BPHC
5275 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22041–3803

Attend a Public Meeting:

June 6, 2017, 6:30–8:30 p.m. in Swan Quarter, NC
Mattamuskeet High School cafeteria
20392 US–264, Swan Quarter, NC 27885
June 8, 2017, 6:30–8:30 p.m. in Manteo, NC
Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge auditorium
100 Conservation Way, Manteo, NC 27954

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Rare Mexican Wolf Pups Debut on Webcam


A critically endangered Mexican gray wolf living at the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) made a priceless contribution to the recovery of her rare and at-risk species on Monday – she had pups! On May 22, Mexican gray wolf F1226 (affectionately nicknamed Belle by supporters) gave birth to a litter of three pups – each no larger than a Russet potato. This is the second litter born to mom (age six), and dad, (age nine).

Stashing her pups in a nest among the thick brush, F1226 had been keeping her newborns out of sight. But to the delight of a global audience, the pups debuted via live dencam early this morning!

Beyond being “adorable,” the pocket-sized predators represent the Center’s active participation in an effort to save a species on the brink of extinction.

The WCC is one of more than 50 institutions in the U.S. and Mexico participating in the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan – a bi-national initiative whose primary purpose is to support the reestablishment of Mexican wolves in the wild through captive breeding, public education, and research.

Because the entire existing Mexican wolf population descended from just seven founders rescued from extinction, genetic health is the primary consideration governing not only reproductive pairings, but also captive-to-wild release efforts. Although both components are equally critical to Mexican wolf recovery, release events are far less frequent than successful breeding.

In recent positive steps toward recovery, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has been ushering genetically diverse captive wolf pups into the wild through its pup-fostering initiative. Pup-fostering is a coordinated event where captive-born pups are introduced into a similar-aged wild litter so the pups can grow up as wild wolves.

Mexican wolf F1226's newborns were not eligible for wild-foster, the timing of the litter is relatively late compared to wild-born pups.

“Although we hoped pups from our center would receive the ‘call of the wild’,” said Rebecca Bose, WCC Curator. “We’re elated that there have been foster events from other facilities this year! Pup-fostering is an incredibly effective tool for augmenting the genetic health of the wild population.”

“Maybe next year some lobo pups from the WCC will get this amazing opportunity,” said Maggie Howell, WCC Executive Director. “In the meantime, we’re counting on USFWS to continue with releases beyond pup season because recovery demands releasing more family groups into the wild too.”

The wolf parents and pups are not on public exhibit, but thirteen live webcams accessible via the WCC website, invite an unlimited number of viewers to enter the private lives of these elusive creatures.
Tune in now