Wolverines: Quest to protect magnificent mustelids continues

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Photo: Daniel J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com via AP

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

News flash: Climate change imperils wolverines and Feds must act! That’s the recent headline from ABC news, reporting on court proceedings in Missoula, Montana. On Monday, April 4th, “U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ordered wildlife officials to act as quickly as possible to protect the species as it becomes vulnerable to a warming planet.”

Cue the climate change deniers and those who don’t know much of anything about wolverines: “Wolverines are tough animals. I really don’t think ‘climate change’ is anything they can’t handle,” said one commenter at the Missoulian Facebook page.“There is no evidence suggesting that wolverines will not adapt sufficiently to diminished late spring snow pack (assuming there is any) to maintain viability,” wrote Wyoming governor Matt Mead back in May of 2013 (in the Northern Rockies, Montana and Idaho also opposed listing). But snow joke–snow matters. Wolverines are obligate snow denners who require remote, deep, and usually high elevations snow fields that persist well into spring. This is where natal and maternal dens enable them to birth and raise their young–in other words, enable them to surviveContinue reading

Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear delisting: Have your say

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T. Mangelson photo; click image for info

Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

As I write, over 400 comments have been recorded by the US Fish & Wildlife Service on its proposal to delist the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from Endangered Species Act protection. That’s 400+ comments in the first 10 or so days since the comment period opened (it closes May 10, 2016, at 11:59 PM ET). If the comments below (original spelling intact) whet your appetite for more, know that some 17 webpages are available for your perusal:

“This is the time that the FWS needs to STOP catering to the special interest groups and take into consideration the thousands and thousands of people from everywhere who come to the Yellowstone region to view wildlife in their element – NOT to support trophy or sport hunting. Hasn’t the death of CECIL taught you anything? … DO NOT DELIST THE GRIZZLY BEARS…”  

“There are way too many Grizzly’s! They are wounding and killing people!!! Are we really that stupid!!! It is damn scary going hunting with these things around. I wish the knuckleheads that protect these beasts would go wonder the woods so they can feed on them!!!” 

“I write to OPPOSE the proposed delisting. My family visited Yellowstone a couple of years ago. We were fortunate enough to see a mother grizzly with her three cubs. …It was magical, amazing and connected my children to nature in a way they have never forgotten. Delisting these bears would be premature. …Indeed, the number one cause of death for grizzlies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem these days is human. Delisting would only exacerbate this.”

“Congratulations to the USFWS! Exactly what the ESA was created to accomplish. Please don’t allow the anti-hunter/environmentalist crowd to obstruct responsible state managed hunting seasons. Please support the North American “model” of wildlife management that has for over 100 years proven to be successful!”

“I’m opposed to removing the Greater Yellowstone population of grizzly bears from the list of endangered and threatened wildlife. The support for delisting is primarily the result of a right wing political movement against the endangered species act itself. The science is being sacrificed for politics. The bears and ecosystem they support, are also being sacrificed. Follow the science. Ignore the politics. Do what you know is right.”

“It’s about time! … the grizzlies are out of control. The ecosystem can no longer sustain them at the rate they are expanding, I fully support this delisting and look forward to grizzlies being managed just like the other animals that have been a part of the extremely successful North American model of conservation. Please don’t let environmentalists interfere with facts and reason.”

“I strongly oppose the delisting of Grizzly Bears … Do not give in to those who would see these important bears as nothing more than a threat to their livestock, or a trophy to be gunned down. Allow science, not political pandering, to be the measuring stick of true recovery.”

“It is time to let the hunters do there part in conservation. Full support.”

But be forewarned–wading into this fray might set your head to spinning. Both sides claim that science is on their side. Many commenters–those clamoring for trophy hunting–consistently call for management to be turned over to the states in what is certainly an orchestrated campaign by hunting groups. Bears have lost their fear of humans, and hunting will fix that is another theme. A cattle association president bellyaches about “calf loss rates” due to grizzlies on national forest grazing allotments–the very same citizen-owned public lands that native grizzlies should have uncontested access to.

Remember Bear 399? You got acquainted with this special griz in “Bear 399: Delisting the grizzly you know.” The arguments against the premature delisting proposal are all laid out there: critical changes in food supply; habitat expansion and connectivity obstacles; immediate trophy hunting; too many conflict-related mortalities; and one that I failed to mention in that post (super-mom 399 notwithstanding)–“grizzly bears have one of the slowest reproductive rates among terrestrial mammals, due to their late age of first reproduction, small average litter size, and the long interval between litters: it may take a single female 10 years to replace herself in a population” (source). A list of good resources is also attached to that post. Everything needed to make a decent, succinct comment is there.

Will our comments against delisting change anything? Probably not. But let the final tally show that more people were selflessly concerned with species survival than with bragging rights to taxidermy mounts and bearskin rugs. I hold in my imagination the beautiful image of a human mom pointing out to her awe-struck kids the sight of a grizzly mom tending her own kids as she attempts to make her way through a human-dominated world that holds both wonder and respect for her life…and bullets for her death.

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Links to documents & commenting:

  • Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants: Removing the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Population of Grizzly Bears From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, here. Includes link to docket folder, summary, and extensive supplementary and background information.
  • Docket folder summary: Includes a few comments, a link to “view all” comments, and a “comment now” button for your own two cents.

Channel your inner wolverine!

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Click image for details

Kathleen Stachowski
Other Nations

Happy Wolverine Birthday! According to the Wolverine Foundation, February 14th is the day designated to symbolically mark the birth of wolverine kits. They come into the world under five inches long, weighing 3.5-5.11 ounces, and covered in white fur. They sometimes hang with one or the other parent for up to two years before going their own scrappy way.

Just a few days ago, on Feb. 9th, Gulo gulo’s lawyers were in a Missoula, Montana courtroom where a U.S. District judge heard arguments pertaining to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s denial of Endangered Species Act protection for wolverines–specifically examining whether the decision was reasonable…or arbitrary (article).   Continue reading

Bear 399: Delisting the grizzly you know

P1120382Kathleen Stachowski    
Other Nations

We humans don’t relate well to nonhuman animals at the population level–so goes the theory. But give us the particulars about a specific individual–tell us his or her story–and we get it: this is someone who has an interest in living. Someone with places to go…kids to raise…food to procure. Like us, this is someone who wants to avoid danger–while living the good life. This is an individual with a story–and a history.   Continue reading

Wildlife Welfare: Adopting a New Ethic Everyone Can Agree Upon

Michelle D. Land

Stacked Harris Hawks

Harris’s Hawks, native to the Southwest, form complex social groups and hunt cooperatively, sometimes stacking 3-birds high to maximize good perching locations and find prey more efficiently.

Why animal protection organizations and environmentalists don’t collaborate more meaningfully is a long-standing question without a satisfactory answer.

Typically, the explanation for a lack of sustained cooperation between the two is that animal protectionists are concerned about individual animals, while environmentalists care only about populations or healthy ecosystems. This “mission loyalty” is a false dichotomy. Climate change perturbations, palm oil plantations, industrial farming, habitat loss, over-harvesting…the list of intersecting interests is too long to exhaust. Ecosystems are comprised of millions of individual animals. And individual animals depend upon healthy ecosystems to thrive. Conservation biologists, Chris Darimont and Paul Paquet in their 2010 article, Wildlife conservation and animal welfare: two sides of the same coin? illuminate this point:

Although rarely considered, depriving animals of their life requisites by destroying or impoverishing their surroundings causes suffering of individuals through displacement, stress, starvation, and reduced security. The same human activities driving the current extinction crisis are also causing suffering, fear, physical injury, psychological trauma, and disease in wild animals. These discomforts are well beyond and additive to what might occur naturally (i.e., non-anthropomorphic).

On November 18th, a report by the Endangered Species Coalition entitled
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Animal Law & Environmental Law Conference

David Cassuto

From the email:

Animal Law and Environmental Law: Exploring the Connections and Synergies

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Settlement Provides Whales Protection from Naval Sonar Operations

Charles T. Jordan

A settlement has been reached that will provide whales and dolphins some peace and quiet in the waters around Hawaii and Southern California. The US Navy, on September 14, agreed to curb its use of sonar in these waters in order to prevent harming whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals.

Studies have shMap 1 Cali own that whales and dolphins use their ears to navigate and survive in their habitat. However, this has gotten more difficult due to the immense quantities of noise in our waters. One particularly devastating source of noise is sonar. Vessels use sonar to detect dangers in the water to prevent collision. Sonar systems send out a high pitched and far ranging sound waves which have been shown to be harmful to marine mammals. The Navy, in its own five year Pacific weapons testing and training plan, estimated that marine mammals would be effected nearly 9.6 million times during high-intensity sonar exercises and weapons detonations. Injuries to the animals include ruptured eardrums and temporary hearing loss which in turn affects the animal’s normal behavior patterns; resulting in stranding, habitat avoidance and abandonment, and even death.Map 2 Hawaii

For many years a number of environmental groups (including the NRDC, Earthjustice, and Greenpeace) have been fighting the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS) in order to protect marine mammals from sonar interferences. Most recently in Conservation Council for Hawaii v. National Marine Fisheries Service, the plaintiffs sued NFMS to enforce the Navy’s five year training and testing plan in Hawaii and Southern California. On September 14 a settlement was reached, in which the Navy agreed to limit the use of sonar in the waters. These limits include; maintaining safe distances from mammals, limited number of sonar and weapon training and testing within certain areas near southern California (map 1), and prohibiting sonar and weapon training and testing in areas near Hawaii (map 2).

While this settlement represents a significant win for these marine mammals, and will certain do a lot to insure their survival, Continue reading

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