Enter the Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest

One of the most popular elements of our annual Endangered Species Day celebration is the Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest. Every year, students from around the country submit their artwork highlighting endangered and threatened species for consideration, and every year the judges have an enormous challenge in picking a winner from so many inspiring and thoughtful submissions (you can see last year’s semi-finalist and award-winning entries here.)

Last year’s winner was Miles Yun, his entry is pictured to the left. He sent along his thoughts about the contest and why it is important to him below. Thank you, Miles!

By Miles Yun, Grand Prize Winning Artist 2016 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest

The Endangered Species Coalition Youth Art Contest was the first art competition, out of many, that I competed in, in which I saw a clear connection to helping society improve its faults. The fact that our nation’s Endangered Species Coalition ran the contest gave a sense of importance to my work.

Not only did this contest allow me to actively participate in the effort to bring awareness and change to a critical problem in our society, but it also gave me the opportunity to learn more specifics of individual endangered species. As I researched and drew these animals, I developed a connection to our suffering neighbors, further fueling desire to lend a hand. Learning more about the unique species we could all help really gave me a different perspective on our individual and societal choices and the consequences affecting our fellow Earth inhabitants. Especially in an ever-growing society where other issues and topics dominate media, this new outlook is valuable as it reminds us that we have yet to fix one of our largest mistakes.

The Endangered Species Coalition Youth Art Contest is a contest that combines students’ artistic skills, creativity, learning experience, and motivation to benefit the world. Share the news of this contest for it is not only a contest, but also an experience that fosters motivation and care in America’s youth that will play a crucial role in all of our future. Anyone K-12, homeschooled, or a member of a youth group can join the coalition’s endeavor to shape a better future. So, what are you waiting for?

You can learn more about this year’s Saving Endangered Species Youth Art  Contest and submit an entry here.

To Kill a Mouse: Congress Quietly Increases Attacks on Endangered Species Act by 600%

By Taylor Parker, contributing writer to Endangered Species Coalition.

Congressman Steve Pearce introduced a 200-page bill over a mouse. Representative Pearce said he is trying to bring jobs to his district by stripping the New Mexican Meadow jumping mouse of protections. He is trying to sneak his bill in as a rider to H.R. 5538, a bill meant for funding the Department of the Interior. Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma has a bill to ban listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken, Rep. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania wants to reduce protections for the Northern Long-eared Bat, and Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington has a bill to delist wolves. In fact, instead of actually focusing on building jobs or fixing infrastructure problems in their respective states, all of the authors of the 142 bills and riders harm, or strip protections from America’s wildlife in the 114th Congress.

In the last 5 years there has been a 600% increase on attacks on the Endangered Species Act. According to the Center for Biological Diversity’s research earlier this year, the 114th Congress has “dramatically increased its efforts to take away protections for species, and has set a record-breaking 87 attacks in 2015…and 42 attacks since 2016 started.” Between 1996 and 2011 there were approximately 70 attacks.  Yet, from 2011 to 2016, there have been  227 attacks, more than 3 times the attacks in 5 years than seen in the previous 15.  It’s scary and somewhat unbelievable– rare species in the US have never faced this kind of pressure legislatively.

NM Meadow Jumping Mouse. Photo credit USFWS.

NM Meadow Jumping Mouse. Photo credit USFWS.

In fact, according to the Center for American Progress, “every 2.5 minutes, the American West loses a football field worth of natural area to human development.” While this 600% increase of ESA attacks is occurring, the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse, Prairie Chickens, bats, wolves, and approximately two thousand other species in the United States are threatened with more development and serious pressures. Trying to carve out their existence in a continuously encroached upon land, these species don’t need our representatives mounting the unprecedented attack that they are, for the interests that they are, while ignoring critical discussions needed in Congress right now. One of the arguments you always hear is that environmental issues get in the way of progress and jobs. However, the current blockade toward progress is not the rare species that deserve protection but a wasted misdirection of valuable congressional time and energy.

Instead of valuing our country’s heritage of unique wildlife and wildlands for the genetic, ecological, and American treasures that they are, this Congress is threatening that heritage. Instead of focusing on protecting the open spaces that we still have, this Congress is trying to dismember one of the only Federal laws protecting our national heritages. Instead of focusing on other important issues such as veteran affairs, education, infrastructure, and child nutrition this Congress is spending an inordinate amount of time working backwards, attacking species that once gone are gone forever.

The New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse is so rare that it is listed as Endangered wherever it is found. It is only found in about 8 populations on this planet, all within Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. About 10 inches long, it is nocturnal, and can jump up to 6 feet in the air. Their young are born defenseless, blind, and deaf. Ecologically, they eat whatever they can find in the harsh environments they live and they provide an important food source for the foxes, owls, hawks, and snakes. Habitat destruction is its main threat.

If Congressman Steve Pearce succeeds, the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse will have nothing protecting it from habitat loss. Losing the protection it has under the Endangered Species Act could send the species down a perilous path toward extinction. The same could happen to the prairie chickens, the sea otters, the salmon, and all of the other species affected by a 600% increase in Endangered Species Act attacks pushed by this Congress. Our country’s living heritage deserves better and we as voters, citizens, and as a species deserve the respect of responsible representatives of our interests – not myopic and temporary business interests.

Oregonians Oppose Hunting of Wolves

Poll: Most Oregonians Oppose Hunting of Wolves, Favor Nonlethal Conflict Prevention


PORTLAND, Ore.— A new poll conducted by Mason Dixon Polling and Research finds that the vast majority of Oregon voters — from both rural and urban areas — oppose using hunting as a management tool for wolves in the state and believe wildlife officials wrongly removed state protections from wolves. The poll also revealed that most Oregonians believe nonlethal methods should be the primary focus in reducing conflicts between wolves and livestock.

Details of the poll results include the following:

  • 72 percent oppose changing Oregon law to allow trophy hunting of wolves.
  • 67 percent oppose hunting wolves as a tool to maintain deer and elk populations.
  • 63 percent oppose Oregon’s removal last year of endangered species protections for wolves.
  • 67 percent said they don’t believe wolves pose an economic threat to the cattle industry that necessitates killing wolves.
  • 72 percent said nonlethal conflict prevention measures must be attempted before officials are allowed to kill wolves.

“It’s very encouraging — and far from surprising — that the survey indicates a broad majority of Oregonians believe we can, and should, find ways to coexist with wolves,” said Dr. Michael Paul Nelson, a professor at Oregon State University whose research focuses on ecosystems and society. “And it should be instructive to policymakers that these results demonstrate that people across the state — even in rural areas most affected by wolves — want our public policies on wolves to reflect the facts, not unsubstantiated rhetoric and opinions.”

“Science shows that effective management of wolves does not involve hunting, and this poll clearly shows the people of Oregon stand with the science. We trust that any future management decisions made by the commission will represent the wishes of the people and current research.”

The Oregon wolf conservation and management plan adopted by the state in 2005 is now belatedly undergoing a legally mandated five-year review. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is holding meetings, including one taking place today in La Grande and another on Dec. 2 in Salem, to accept public testimony on proposed updates to the plan. Conservation groups are calling for a revival of provisions that require clear, enforceable standards that helped reduce conflict from 2013 to 2015. The livestock industry and some in the hunting community are calling for policies that make it easier to kill wolves. In March Commission Chair Finley argued for allowing trophy hunts to fund conservation. Without revision the plan reduces protections for wolves, eliminates enforceable standards, and could allow hunting as soon as next year.

At the end of 2015, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed an estimated 110 wolves in the state, ranging across 12 percent of habitat defined by that agency as currently suitable. Published science indicates that Oregon is capable of supporting up to 1,450 wolves. The tiny population of wolves that currently exists occupies only around 8 percent of the animals’ full historic range in the state. Last year the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to strip wolves of protections under the state endangered species law, despite comments submitted by more than two dozen leading scientists highly critical of that decision. The commission’s decision is being challenged in court by Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild.

“It is clear from the feedback and analysis the state received that there was no scientific basis for delisting wolves in Oregon,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands and an attorney on the delisting case. “And to the extent that the state was responding to public wishes of Oregonians, this poll demonstrates that Oregonians did not support this premature delisting by the state.”

“Oregonians value wolves and feel that the state should be doing more to protect them, including resolving conflicts with livestock without resorting to guns and traps,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With the state wolf plan review now underway, we hope the Fish and Wildlife Commission follows the science and refuses to make changes to the wolf plan based on fearmongering from those opposed to sharing our landscapes with wildlife.”

“Science shows that effective management of wolves does not involve hunting, and this poll clearly shows the people of Oregon stand with the science. We trust that any future management decisions made by the commission will represent the wishes of the people and current research,” said Danielle Moser of the Endangered Species Coalition.

“It’s clear from the poll that Oregonians are in favor of conservation, not deputizing hunters to kill more wolves,” said Arran Robertson, communications coordinator for Oregon Wild. “The idea that wolf-hunting is an appropriate tool to manage deer and elk populations is absurd. Rather than stooping to Oregon’s default policy of scapegoating and killing native wildlife, officials should focus on enforcing poaching laws and maintaining quality habitat.”

“Oregonians strongly support the recovery of wolves in our state,” said Quinn Read, Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “And they want to see common-sense management practices such as the use of nonlethal conflict prevention tools to allow wolves and people to share the landscape.”

“On behalf of the Pacific Wolf Coalition, we are pleased to hear from Oregonians,” said Lindsay Raber, coordinator for the Pacific Wolf Coalition. “This is an opportunity to learn from the public’s perspectives and values which will help inform and guide our continued efforts toward wolf recovery in the Pacific West states.”

The Pacific Wolf Coalition commissioned the poll, which was conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research on 800 registered Oregon voters on Sept. 20-22, 2016. The margin of error is + or – 3.5 percent.


The mission of the Pacific Wolf Coalition is to optimize an alliance of organizations and individuals dedicated to protecting wolves in the Pacific West. Together we hold a common vision where wolves once again play a positive, meaningful, and sustainable role on the landscape and in our culture. For more information, visit




Mexico: Say NO to Copper Mining in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve

This post originally appeared on the Texas Butterfly Ranch website and was written by Monika Maeckle. The Texas Butterfly Ranch is organizing the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival in San Antonio, Texas on October 21st and 22nd. Please attend if you are in the area! Go here to learn more.


By Monika Maeckle

Coming soon? Grupo Mexico copper mine in heart of Monarch butterfly roosting sites

While the U.S. channels millions of dollars into research, citizen science outreach, and public education on the importance of the Monarch butterfly migration, Mexico is considering the approval of permits that would allow its largest mining company with the country’s worst environmental record to reopen a copper mine in the heart of the Monarchs’ ancestral roosting sites.

Roosting sites

What will happen to the roosting sites if copper mining returns to Angangueo?  Photo by Monika Maeckle

Grupo Mexico, which trades on the Mexican Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol GMEXICOB and has a market cap of $317 billion, claims that a mine it operated until 1992 in Angangueo, Michoacán, technically never closed, and thus should be allowed to reopen, despite protections put in place for the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. The reserve was inscribed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2008.

Grupo Mexico touts itself on the company’s website as a “leader in low-cost production” and has a deserved reputation for lax ecological controls.  The company was responsible for the worst mining accident in Mexican history.

In August of 2014, the holding company’s Buenavista copper mine in Sonora released 10 million gallons of copper sulfate acid and other heavy metals into the Sonora and Bacanuchi rivers, contaminating the water supply of 24,000 people along the U.S. border with Arizona. Mexico’s Minister of Environment Juan José Guerra called the incident the “worst natural disaster provoked by the mining industry in the modern history of Mexico.”Grupo Mexico attributed the accident to heavy rains.

Grupo Mexico

Grupo Mexico touts its low cost leadership on its website. Graphic via the worst natural disaster provoked by the mining industry in the modern history of Mexico,” said Grupo Mexico blamed the accident on heavy rains.

The accident was so severe that for the first time in Mexican history, PROFEPA, the country’s equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency, was forced by community outrage to file a legal complaint against the mining company, holding it financially responsible for the clean-up. Grupo Mexico was forced to create a $150 million trust to address the environmental impacts.

A September 2014 dispatch in El Financiero, Mexico’s leading business and financial news daily, cited a report from a special Mexican Congressional investigation into the Buenavista incident. The conclusion: “Grupo Mexico and its affiliate Buenavista del Cobre mine, far from being a socially responsible enterprise respectful of the environment and in solidarity with the local population, have put at risk human life, the environment and the economic development of the region.”

The above catastrophe wasn’t the only time Grupo Mexico unleashed a mining disaster. Back in 2006, an explosion at the Pasta de Conchos mine in Coahuila killed 65 miners. After striking 14 times because of methane leaks and generally unsafe working conditions, the unionized miners were blown to bits in the blast. In addition to the significant loss of life, serious environmental impacts resulted–air and water pollution, soil contamination, erosion, deforestation and more.

This incident, along with the Buenavista disaster and a corporate history of union busting and low-cost mining, have earned Grupo Mexico a reputation as “one of the country’s most irresponsible mining companies,” according to the Transborder Project in Washington, DC.

Copper mining at the Monarch roosting sites?

Will copper mining come to the Monarch butterfly roosting sites in Angangueo, Mexico? Photo by Carol Stoker, NASA, Wikipedia

The turn of events is literally unbelievable given that a little over two years ago Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto stood with President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and pledged to support the preservation of the Monarch butterfly migration.

In February 2014, shortly after scientists announced the Monarch butterfly population had dropped precipitously to historic lows of about 35 million butterflies from highs of 450 million in years’ past, the three heads of state gathered in Toluca, Mexico, just 75 miles from the roosting sites. With great fanfare, los trés amigos” committed to do what they could to save the Monarch butterfly migration.

“We have also agreed to work on the preservation of the Monarch butterfly as an emblematic species of North America which unites our three countries,” President Enrique Peńa Nieto said at the end of the summit. The leaders agreed to form a task force to study the situation and “ensure the conservation of the Monarch butterfly.”


President Barack Obama President Enrique Pen–a Nieto and Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to help save the Monarch butterfly migration back in 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

So, how does allowing a company with one of the worst environmental records in Mexican history to reopen a copper mine in the heart of the Monarch Butterfly Biopreserve move us toward that goal?

“In México, in governmental affairs linked to big companies, corruption has no limits,” said one Mexican scientist, who, like several Mexican residents interviewed, asked to remain nameless for fear of reprisals.  Another source said he would like to speak out, but wouldn’t because he had neither the “stature nor protection” to do so.

The move by Grupo Mexico to reopen the mine has been underway for years, but came into U.S. focus most recently when Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Dan Fagin addressed the subject in a thoughtful April 29 New York Times opinion piece headlined “A Mine vs. a Million Monarchs.”  The article lays out the complex issues facing the community of Angangueo as they struggle for economic stability building a nascent ecotourism economy in the middle of the Mexican mountains.

Fagin’s piece was shared profusely on the DPLEX list, an email listserv of about 800 butterfly aficionados, from academics to novices, as well as other online outlets. The exposure provoked a petition by the Endangered Species Coalition, Tell the Mexican Government to Reject Mining in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve. 

Sign the petition today.

Click on the link and sign the petition today.

“It’s difficult to say what’s going to happen,” said Dr. Chip Taylor, founder of Monarch Watch, the citizen scientist program that tags thousands of migrating Monarch butterflies each fall, by phone this week. He added that he’d heard that many in the Mexican government oppose the mine.

“There are lots of declarations by people who say that they’re not going to let certain things happen– and then they do happen.”  Taylor encouraged a united front in opposition to the reopening of the mine.

Grupo Mexico did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Sign the petition here.


This post originally appeared on ( We thank them for allowing us to repost it here.

Overwhelming Opposition to CPW’s Carnivore Killing Studies

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is proposing two different studies, one in the Piceance Basin and the other near the Arkansas River, to kill large numbers of mountain lions and black bears in an effort to increase mule deer populations in the state.  For those of us who understand the importance of conserving biodiversity and the interconnectedness of all ecosystems, these attempts are alarming.  Mule deer decline across the West is a legitimate concern; however, addressing the problem through unsustainable and unscientific killing of mountain lions and bears is not the solution.

This past Monday, myself and 70 others gathered in Denver to attend a CPW Listening Session, in which liaisons to CPW’s Commission, which is a group of citizens appointed by the governor, listened to comments of opposition and support for the newest attempts to lethally manage wildlife, in particular black bears and mountain lions, in Colorado.

Fortunately, 23 people spoke in opposition and only 5 spoke in support of the plans to cull black bears and mountain lions.  For those who spoke in support of the lethal management studies, the justifications ranged from downplaying the importance of predators in ecosystems, personal anecdotes of witnessing a localized decrease in mule deer population and an increase in carnivores, and understandably, concerns for mule deer herd health.  

CWP Meeting, Monday 9-22-16. Photo credit Hailey Hawkins

CPW Meeting, Monday 9-22-16. Photo credit Hailey Hawkins

Many compelling questions and concerns surfaced from the diverse group of 23 people who spoke in opposition to the lethal management studies.  A self-identified ethical hunter expressed that trophy hunting is more detrimental to herd health than natural carnivores, because those hunters are consistently taking the bucks with the greatest genetic health.  Several people questioned the carrying capacity of Colorado to support the CPW objective of having 500,000+ mule deer, and rather, pointed to habitat encroachment from development and fossil fuel extraction as the true culprits of decreasing mule deer numbers.  Another spoke of the inevitable changes to wildlife habitat that are and will continue to be caused by global climate change.   A clergyman spoke of our divine responsibility to protect creation and to mourn the death of God’s creatures, not perpetuate it.  And yet another individual expressed that the plan reeks of politics.  Instead of addressing ATV use in wilderness areas and fossil fuel extraction, we are scapegoating carnivores.  Alternatives to these lethal plans were suggested, including studying the effects of development on the mule deer habitat rather than killing predators and reducing the number of hunting tags sold.

Mountain lion. Photo credit USFWS

Mountain lion. Photo credit USFWS

Even with overwhelming opposition from folks on the Front Range, these plans are still on the table until December 14th, when the Commission has their final meeting of the year.  How can you help?  Send an email to the CPW Commission in protest of the two lethal management studies above (Talking points here via HSUS).  While the decline of mule deer across the Western US is a major concern, killing mountain lions and black bears is not the solution.  To quote an individual from Monday’s Listening Session, “Nature is a much better manager of wildlife then we could ever be.”

As I was sitting in the Hunter Education building at CPW’s Denver office, I felt it ironic that as people voiced their opinions about whether or not to kill mountain lions, a stuffed one hanging on the wall watched them from above.  I couldn’t help but think that however physically removed many of us are from these creatures, we are still, for good or bad, fundamentally connected.  In the grand scheme, our fate is intrinsically tied to theirs.  

I also was unable to ignore that everyone there, no matter what side they were on, were all genuinely concerned about the health of the herd.  There is no doubt that we all want a healthy Colorado, yet at this time, we still don’t agree on how to achieve that.  Until then, we must continue to stand for wildlife and ensure that our decision makers make the best choice for us and our delicate ecosystems in Colorado.  Stand for wildlife by emailing the CPW Commission today and voicing your opposition to these lethal management studies!

The War against Poaching In 2016

This is a guest post from Jack Smith.

Poaching has been around almost as long as people have been hungry, but only became an offense during the late middle ages when the right to hunt was limited to landowners. Clearly, back then the reasons were to protect the nobility’s right to sport rather than for wildlife conservation.

Things changed somewhat during 1700’s, at a time when poaching was a means of survival for many. Poaching gangs began selling on the black market and this brought about the beginnings of the poaching industry we know today – poaching for profit – putting wildlife in peril along the way.

It wasn’t until the 1900s when governments began legislating in an effort to protect wildlife. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was one of the first international agreements to protect migratory birds being killed or sold for profit. The 1960s saw the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species on Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) leading up to the Endangered Species Act in 1973. This was followed by the global ivory ban in 1989.

While many people are allowed to hunt and fish for food and population control, many animals, such as elephant, tigers, rhinoceros and bear are poached for their body parts. The illegal ivory trade has been well-documented in the media, but bear, rhinoceros, pangolin and tiger parts are sought for eastern medicine, even though most of these treatments has no proven medical value. This has resulted with many species decimated, threatened with extinction or, as in the case of the Western Black Rhino, wiped out altogether.

Wildlife is becoming history

The statistics make sad reading.

Governments have taken action. More than 154 nations having signed treaties to regulate the trade of 30,000 species of threatened animals and plants, but poaching is just as big a problem now as it’s ever been.

Rhino poaching is at a crisis point, with bigger numbers being killed year-on-year for the six years leading up to 2016.[v] You can see the figures here. All five remaining rhino species are on the IUCN’s redlist of threatened species, with three of those classified as ‘critically endangered’. This is thought to be due to growing demand in Vietnam and China.

Furthermore, Paul Allen’s Great Elephant Census found that approximately 100,000 elephants have been killed in the past four years alone. But the sad fact is animal trafficking and seizures of animal parts continue to grow annually.

What governments are doing…

Black_rhinoLaw enforcement does deter poachers, but there is no single answer to the problem. A number of strategies are needed, including armed patrols, community conservation/environmental education, captive breeding and translocation schemes.

In April, Kenya’s president put a torch to 105 tonnes of ivory worth $105 million on the black market, sending out a clear message to poachers and traders.[vi] Conservation efforts in India have actively increased rhino numbers after poaching peaked in 2013. It has fallen every year since[vii].

However, there have been setbacks too. A legal sale of ivory to China and Japan from elephants that had died of natural causes in Africa in 2008 backfired. There was a spike in poaching after the sale. There have been increases in rhino poaching year-on-year in South Africa too, from 2007 to 2014. 2015 saw the figure fall slightly from a record high of 1,215 to 1,175 and 317 suspected poachers were arrested, but it really is the tip of the iceberg[viii]. Unfortunately, in the battle against poachers, park rangers are often outgunned. More than 1,000 have been killed in the past decade.

What you can do…

All animals are vital in any habitat as they create balance in the ecosystem. Elephants, for example, open up forest land to create firebreaks and grasslands, and create water access for other animals by digging. They disperse seeds in their dung, which is also full of nutrients for plant growth. For these reasons, they are often called the ‘mega-gardeners of the forest’. If, like any species, elephants disappear, whole ecosystems get compromised, including our own, so it’s vital that we all take action to do what we can to prevent poaching.

Learning more about the problem at sites such as and is one thing, but you can also give up your time, fundraising at a local level. For those looking to make a much greater contribution, though, taking a year out from study or work and volunteering at one of the many anti-poaching or conservation schemes across Africa could be for you. Who knows? You could discover a new and rewarding career path while doing something really worthwhile for the planet we live in.



[iii] Orenstein, Ronald. 2013. Ivory, Horn and Blood: Behind the Elephant and Rhinoceros Poaching Crisis. Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books.






Mexican Gray Wolves Need More Help

This is a guest post from animal activist and advocate Barbara Troeger.

Mexican gray wolf recovery

The Mexican gray wolf reintroduction into the wild is the third and most recent such wolf introduction in the United States. Red wolves were introduced into North Carolina in 1987, from an initial set of 14 “founders”; they now number fewer than 45 in the wild. The Northern Rockies were repopulated with 54 wild gray wolves from Canada in 1995; there are now 1,704. (The gray wolf never left the Great Lakes.)

The Mexican gray wolf recovery program started in 1998, in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area which comprises the Apache National Forest in Arizona, and the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. There were only 7 founders. There are now 97 wild and about 240 captive Mexican gray wolves, known as “lobos”.

From Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY, a contributor of three lobos to the wild in recent years.

From Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY, a contributor of three lobos to the wild in recent years.

The size of the Mexican wolf population has grown slowly since 1998 (chart below).  In order to expand their narrow genetic profile, the lobo needs to reproduce in the wild. The politics leading to a sharp decline in releases of new wolves during the Obama administration has limited the population and the gene pool.  Litter sizes are smaller and pup survival rates lower.          

          Fish and Wildlife Service statistics





















Population  at year end




















Initially Released




















Until last year, releases for newly introduced wolves were only allowed in Arizona’s Apache National Forest, where wolf packs have established themselves too close together, and grazing cattle cover over 75% of the land.  The Gila National Forest has large areas without livestock, but New Mexico blocked a plan for many new wolf introductions this April with a lawsuit. Two cross-fostered pups (a genetic strategy new for lobos) were allowed to settle there.

In sharp contrast to all other U.S. wolf populations, Mexican gray wolves are subject to a rule (which is in conflict with the nation’s wildlife laws) that allows them to be captured and returned to captivity if they pass beyond their designated boundaries. This has a devastating impact on the mortality of the removed wolf and the remaining disrupted pack.

Lobos also suffer the greatest in their interaction with grazing livestock. Yellowstone wolves have large areas to roam which are free of cattle.  Northern Rockies wolves, unlike lobos, have written rules that protect them from being killed or removed if they feed off a dead cow that was not killed by a wolf. In 2007 the American Society of Mammalogists condemned the Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to remove carcasses, due to the potential for unfair consequences for Mexican wolves.

The Center for Biological Diversity stated in 2013 that the overall removal/mortality rate for the Mexican wolves is an alarming and unsustainable 64%, primarily because of boundary issues and alleged cattle depredation.

Attitudes and the future

Americans are more favorably disposed to wildlife now than in 1978, a 2014 poll found. In particular, their positive feelings for eight traditionally stigmatized species went up, with wolves rising in popularity by 42%. Mexican wolves now have an approval rating of 69% in New Mexico and 72% in Arizona. Polls in those states taken 21 years ago show widespread, persistent support.

However the Fish and Wildlife Service has succumbed to the state governments’ negative stance on wolves in the new rule that went into effect in 2015. According to the best scientific evidence, the Mexican gray wolf needs to expand into the Grand Canyon region, northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, in order to survive. Instead, lobos were allotted a large region in southern New Mexico and Arizona, much of which is not suitable for them.

Also, the situations in which Mexican gray wolves can legally be killed have been widened. FWS personnel themselves killed 33 Mexican wolves through 2013. Illegal and USDA Wildlife Services killings together with legal killings are a serious extinction risk for Mexican wolves. Research has found that more killing opportunities does not show increased support for the Endangered Species Act.

To what extent are governmental bodies worsening America’s long enduring war on predators?

On the state level, fish and game departments are appointed by governors, and funded mostly by hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. This “sportsman’s” demographic is on the wane, while those watching and advocating for wildlife and the environment are on the rise. (They spend more money in the national parks.) In the growing new ethic, people want to preserve healthy wilderness, not kill wolves from helicopters so there are more elk to shoot.

On the federal level, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service kills many endangered wolves, and manages wolf  “harvests”, with the stated purpose that legally sanctioned killings reduce poaching. However a study in Wisconsin from 2001 to 2009 showed that after the government killed 43 endangered wolves, wolf tolerance decreased, and wolf poaching increased.  Conflict with grazing livestock may be the greatest source of Mexican gray wolf deaths, risking the species’ extinction. The many harmful impacts of grazing on dry western land are extremely costly to taxpayers and should be examined objectively.

Mexican gray wolves need greater help than they currently receive if we hope to restore them to this landscape. This can be accomplished, in part, by evaluating and revising the manner in which USDA’s Wildlife Services and USFWS determine wolves should be killed, and by increasing the locations and number of wolves released into them.

Conservationists Express Outrage That Entire Pack of Wolves, 12 Percent of State Population, to Be Killed for Preying on Livestock on Public Lands

Via the Center for Biological Diversity.

OLYMPIA, Wash.— The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has indicated it plans to kill the entire Profanity Peak wolf pack over conflicts with livestock on national forest lands in northern Ferry County. This is the second time in four years that an entire pack of endangered wolves has been slated for death due to the grazing of privately owned cattle on publicly owned lands. Washington currently has a confirmed population of 90 wolves, and killing the Profanity Peak pack, which consists of 11 known wolves, would result in the eradication of 12 percent of the state’s endangered wolf population.

We can’t keep placing wolves in harm’s way by repeatedly dumping livestock onto public lands with indefensible terrain, then killing the wolves when conflicts arise. These allotments should be retired by the U.S. Forest Service — or livestock losses should simply be expected, and wolves shouldn’t have to pay for it with their lives.” -Amaroq Weiss, Center for Biological Diversity 

At least two of the pack’s wolves, including the breeding female, have already been killed as part of this operation.

“Washington’s state wolf plan seeks to recover this endangered, majestic species, and by no stretch of the imagination can killing 12 percent of the state’s tiny population of 90 wolves be consistent with recovery,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We can’t keep placing wolves in harm’s way by repeatedly dumping livestock onto public lands with indefensible terrain, then killing the wolves when conflicts arise. These allotments should be retired by the U.S. Forest Service — or livestock losses should simply be expected, and wolves shouldn’t have to pay for it with their lives.”

In 2012 another entire wolf pack, the Wedge pack, was the target of an agency kill order near where the Profanity Peak pack now ranges, for conflicts with livestock owned by one of the same ranchers as in this instance, on both public and private lands. Aiming to kill the entire pack, state officials succeeded in killing six of the pack’s eight members. If the Profanity Peak pack is eradicated, this will bring to 17 the number of state-protected endangered wolves killed on behalf of one of the two livestock operators grazing in the pack’s territory in the Colville National Forest.

“Cows grazing in thick forest and downed trees in the Colville National Forest are in an indefensible situation where preventative measures crafted with the help of the Washington State’s Wolf Advisory Group — a diverse group of stakeholders — have been ineffective,” said Tim Coleman, executive director for Kettle Range Conservation Group, which is a member of the WAG. “We believe the wildest areas of our national forests should be a place where wolves can roam free.”

Washington’s wolves were driven to extinction in the early 1900s by a government-sponsored eradication program on behalf of the livestock industry. Since the early 2000s, the animals have started to make a slow comeback by dispersing into Washington from neighboring Idaho and British Columbia. But wolf recovery is still in its infancy, with only an estimated 90 wolves at the end of 2015. In 2012 nearly the entire Wedge pack was killed over livestock conflicts that occurred partly on federal public land, and in 2014 the agency sought to kill members of the Huckleberry pack — and did kill the pack’s breeding female — over livestock conflicts that occurred partly on state-owned lands. The Profanity Peak pack, first confirmed as a pack in 2014, ranges across territory that includes multiple public lands grazing allotments in northern Ferry County. 

“Wolves are an integral part of the American landscape, including right here in eastern Washington, and were once hunted to the very brink of extinction,” said Mike Petersen, executive director of the Lands Council. “Now that wolves are returning, there need to be places they are safe, and the Kettle River range is one of those places.”

Under Washington’s wolf plan, livestock owners who have had wolf-caused losses are eligible for taxpayer-funded compensation, and, as is the case here, are eligible for double compensation when the livestock were grazing on areas of 100 or more acres. Taxpayers have also funded the radio collars placed on pack members to help the agency with the species’ recovery, which have now been used to locate and kill the pack’s members. This practice is commonly referred to as the use of “Judas wolves” because the collared wolves unknowingly betray the location of their family members, who are then killed.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Kettle Range Conservation Group seeks to defend wilderness, protect biodiversity and restore ecosystems of the Columbia River Basin.

The Lands Council preserves and revitalizes Inland Northwest forests, water and wildlife through advocacy, education, effective action and community engagement.

The Endangered Species Coalition is a national network of hundreds of organizations and more than 175,000 activists working to protect imperiled species.

Half a Million People Urge U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Not to Abandon Red Wolves

With Only 45 Remaining, Species Is One of World’s Most Endangered Mammals

WASHINGTON—A petition including nearly half a million signatures was delivered to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week urging the agency to fulfill its legal duty under the Endangered Species Act to recover the critically endangered red wolf. To spur the agency to resume efforts to save a species now reduced to an estimated wild population of only 45, nearly 500,000 names were submitted in a petition drive organized the Animal Welfare Institute, Care2, the Center for Biological Diversity, Endangered Species Coalition and the Wildlands Network, and a couple local North Carolina high school students. The petition comes a little over a year after the Service officially announced it was suspending red wolf releases into the wild.  

It’s shameful how the Service has bowed to political pressure and deliberately undermined the success of its program to recover red wolves,” said Jamie Pang, endangered species campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency’s inaction is condemning this species to extinction.” 

Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild until a successful reintroduction program was established in North Carolina’s Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in 1987. By 2006, this program had enabled the population to expand to more than 130; since then the unique animals have received ample support from conservationists, the public and even private landowners who live within the red wolf recovery area.

“Until recently, the Service operated a successful red wolf recovery program with widespread public support for saving the wolves,” said Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute. “However, without a valid reason, the agency has now turned its back on the species and, instead, is sitting  idly by as red wolf numbers plummet.”

“It’s simply jaw-dropping that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife is consciously deciding whether to issue a death sentence — knowingly allowing a wolf found only in the United States to go extinct. The red wolf has been one of our greatest wildlife success stories and could be again,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “It is a day I never thought I’d see.”

Following a lawsuit by nonprofit groups to limit coyote hunting–once a threat to the red wolf’s survival–the Service faced increased political pressure to curtail the recovery program. In 2014, the Service eliminated the program’s recovery coordinator position and in June 2015 it stopped the introduction of new red wolves into the wild. The agency also ended its coyote-sterilization program, which was helping to prevent hybrid animals from harming the red wolf’s gene pool, curtailed law-enforcement investigations of wolf deaths to help bring poachers to justice, and allowed for both the lethal and nonlethal removal of wolves from private lands, arguably causing the population to sink.

“The red wolf is now one of the world’s most endangered mammal species. There are 37 times as many giant pandas, 100 times as many snow leopards, and 400 times as many African lions in the wild as there are red wolves left in eastern North Carolina,” said Ron Sutherland, a conservation scientist at Wildlands Network. “We hope Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will listen to the public and prevent the red wolf from going extinct in the wild again.”

“Hundreds of thousands of members of the Care2 community are speaking up for red wolves, demanding the howls of these amazing animals continue to sound through North Carolina. We hope our federal wildlife leaders hear this call and reverse course immediately,” said Aaron Viles, Senior Grassroots Organizer, with Care2.



The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 to reduce animal suffering caused by people.  AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild.


Care2is a community of 36 million standing together for good. People are making world-changing impact with Care2, starting petitions and supporting each other’s campaigns to help individuals, animals and the environment. A pioneer of online advocacy since 1998, Care2 is a B Corporation, or social enterprise, using the power of business as a force for good.


The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


The Endangered Species Coalition is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to stop the human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery. The Endangered Species Coalition works to safeguard and strengthen the Endangered Species Act, a law that enables every citizen to act on behalf of threatened and endangered wildlife—animals, fish, plants, and insects—and the wild places they call home.


Wildlands Network is a nonprofit organization that works to reconnect and rewild nature in North America. With offices in the United States and Mexico, Wildlands Network advocates for continental-scale wildlife corridors and for the recovery of top carnivores such as wolves and cougar.


If lead ammunition is bad for people and the environment, why do we still use it?

This post originally appeared at

By Andy McGlashen @AMcGlashen


Andrea Goodnight knows firsthand what lead poisoning looks like. A veterinarian at the Oakland Zoo, Goodnight treats endangered California condors when testing shows dangerous levels of the toxic metal in their blood.

If blood lead levels get too high, condors, eagles and other raptors “regurgitate everything and can’t hold anything down, so basically they’re starving to death,” Goodnight says. “A very clinically ill bird is very distressing. They’re weak, they fall over, they just can’t feed themselves at all and eventually they die. To me, it’s an absolutely horrible way to die.”

Treatment is usually enough to save the birds, but the experience is invasive and stressful for condors, she says. “And then they get poisoned again, and they go through it all again.”

Ammunition is the main source of lead that poisons condors. Lead’s availability, density and malleability have made it a cost-effective bullet material for centuries. But lead bullets can lose half of their mass on impact, leaving hundreds of tiny fragments both in the meat hunters take home and the entrails they leave behind, which are a food source for many wild creatures. Before California outlawed lead ammunition in its eight-county condor range in 2008, hunters there left behind more than 30,000 lead-tainted carcasses or “gut piles” each year, according to a 2003 study. A 2009 review of the scientific literature found more than 130 species of animals known to have been exposed to or killed by lead from ingesting it or eating lead-tainted meat.

Pointing to a growing body of research that links it to wildlife deaths and suggests it’s a threat to people who eat wild game, some scientists say it’s time to phase out lead ammunition in favor of non-toxic alternatives. But gun rights advocates have largely beaten back attempts to regulate lead by dismissing the science and stoking suspicions that what lead ammunition opponents have in their crosshairs is not lead, but hunting altogether.

Patchwork Regulation

Many hunters are voluntarily switching to lead-free ammunition, and others would do the same if they fully understood the risk to wildlife and to their own families, says Leland Brown, a non-lead hunting educator with the Oregon Zoo. But he says the hunting community as a whole often feels unfairly attacked by environmental groups and underappreciated for its conservation ethic.

“I really strongly think that, given the right information, they will move toward using non-lead ammunition,” he says. “It’s just not going to happen overnight.”

A U.S.-wide ban on hunting waterfowl with lead was instituted in 1991 after scientists estimated that 2 million waterfowl a year were dying from eating lead shot while scooping up food from the bottoms of lakes and streams or ingesting pebbles to grind food in their gizzards. In 2013 California approved a statewide ban on lead ammunition that began with certain types of hunting in 2015 and will apply to all hunting beginning July 1, 2019. Minnesota officials are considering a ban on small-game hunting with lead in some parts of the state, and 34 states in addition to California have regulations that go beyond the federal waterfowl ban. But in most states and for most types of hunting, lead remains the go-to material.

California Condor Credit USFWS

California Condor
Credit USFWS

The U.S. is not atypical in having a patchwork of lead regulations. Canada requires hunters to use non-lead shotgun pellets in wetlands and national wildlife areas and for hunting most migratory birds. Lead shot is outlawed in Denmark, the Netherlands and the Flemish region of Belgium. Several other European Union members have instituted or are considering bans on hunting waterfowl with lead, but the EU has no legislation restricting its use. Norway in 2005 adopted a nationwide ban on hunting with lead but its parliament in 2015 repealed the ban outside of wetlands, saying there was insufficient evidence to support it.

Lead poisoning causes brain damage and, in humans, is thought to be linked with lower IQ, poor school performance and violent behavior. Even the ancient Romans knew lead could cause cognitive damage and death.

“Indeed, we know more about the toxicity of lead than we do about almost any other contaminant,” says Myra Finkelstein, an environmental toxicologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz who studies lead’s effects on wildlife.

Finkelstein was among 30 scientists who signed a 2013 consensus statement citing “the overwhelming scientific evidence of the toxic effects of lead on human and wildlife health” and calling for “reducing and eventually eliminating the introduction of lead into the environment from lead-based ammunition.”

Science vs. Legislation

The emblematic animal victim of lead poisoning, the California condor, was brought back from the brink of extinction through a captive breeding program begun in the 1980s. There are now over 400 condors in California, Arizona and Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, with more than half of them wild and the rest in captivity. A 2012 study by Finkelstein and colleagues noted that, each year, one in five free-flying birds has blood lead levels high enough to require treatment; lead poisoning is responsible for more than half of condor deaths.

Finkelstein’s research showed that the regional lead ban in the condor range was ineffective in protecting the wide-ranging birds. The study found that “the prevalence of lead poisoning in California condors is of epidemic proportion” and used isotope “fingerprinting” to demonstrate that lead ammunition is the main source. The scientists concluded that only eliminating or substantially reducing lead poisoning rates could bring about a real recovery of condors.

“It’s a crazy situation where we can’t use our toxic substance law for exactly what it’s designed for.” –Jeff Miller

Environmentalists say the science is clear and have twice petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate lead ammunition nationwide under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The EPA rejected the petitions, saying its hands are tied because of an exemption in TSCA for ammunition. When the groups sued EPA, federal district and appeals courts sided with the agency.

“It’s a crazy situation where we can’t use our toxic substance law for exactly what it’s designed for,” says Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups calling for federal regulation of lead ammo.

While Miller says the center will continue pursuing other avenues to bring about federal regulation, gun rights advocates appear to be winning the legislative battle over what they call “traditional” ammunition. The National Rifle Association has pushed bills that would block EPA from regulating lead ammunition under TSCA, and the group won a significant victory last year when President Barack Obama signed a defense bill that does just that. “I have to finally, actually acknowledge that, at least on that round, the NRA won,” says William Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.

And Snape said he’s even more concerned about proposed language in a federal spending bill that would permanently block the agency from regulating lead ammunition and fishing tackle not only under TSCA, but any other law. “We’re very worried that some of this language could find its way into a deal,” he says.

Scare Tactic

The NRA did not respond to requests for comment on this story. Its lobbying arm has contended that “anti-lead ammunition advocates want to ban all lead ammunition both at ranges and in the field, and they want to ban all hunting,” but the Humane Society of the United States policy statement the NRA points to only targets certain types of hunting, including bear baiting, contest killing, and trophy hunting of rare and endangered animals.

“The NRA is the real obstruction,” says Miller, noting that his organization is not against hunting in general. “It’s just a fear-based argument that, unfortunately, I think they think is good for their organization.”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry, referred Ensia to an online statement that says the group “opposes efforts to ban or restrict the use of traditional ammunition containing lead components for use in hunting or shooting unless there is sound science conclusively establishing that the use of traditional ammunition is causing an adverse impact on a wildlife population, the environment or on the human health of those consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition, and that other reasonable measures, short of restricting or banning the product, cannot be undertaken to adequately address the concern.” The statement dismisses the scientific literature on lead’s dangers and calls attempts by wildlife advocates and “anti-hunting groups” to ban or restrict lead ammunition “scientifically unfounded and nothing more than a scare tactic to advance their political agenda.”

NSSF also claims that a 2008 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of hunters and others in North Dakota who regularly eat wild game confirms there is no health risk from eating animals killed with lead, noting that none of the 736 participants had a blood lead level higher than the threshold at which the CDC recommends a health intervention.

The CDC has since cut in half the blood lead level at which it recommends a public health intervention to counteract lead poisoning, putting several study participants above today’s threshold. The agency warns there is no safe blood lead level in children.

But the group’s conclusion ignores the study’s broader finding that those who ate a lot of wild game tended to have higher blood lead levels than those who ate little or none, and the levels were higher the more recently the person had eaten wild game. NSSF reached and promoted a starkly different interpretation of the study than the North Dakota Department of Health, which reacted by issuing recommendations that pregnant women and children under six years old avoid eating venison shot with lead bullets.

Furthermore, the CDC has since cut in half the blood lead level at which it recommends a public health intervention to counteract lead poisoning, putting several study participants above today’s threshold. The agency warns there is no safe blood lead level in children.

The North Dakota study was prompted by independent research by a physician and hunter who found lead fragments in venison donated to food pantries. NSSF and other critics noted that the physician, William Cornatzer, sat on the board of directors of the Peregrine Fund, a leading group in efforts to protect condors from lead and other threats. But the findings — coming on the heels of a study that found lead in a quarter of venison samples from Minnesota food banks — convinced North Dakota officials to order the charities to throw out venison and only accept donations from bow hunters.

Price Point

Gun advocates are concerned that banning lead ammunition will leave many hunters unable to afford nontoxic alternatives, which are generally more expensive. But while overall hunting numbers have declined since California’s lead ban in the condor range began, the decrease reflects larger trends in hunting participation and appears unrelated to lead regulations, says Clark Blanchard, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Basically, the statewide hunter numbers have been declining slightly for the past decade,” Blanchard says. “However, it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the non-lead ammo regulations.”

While some lead-free ammunition costs twice as much as mass-market lead brands, non-lead bullets are comparable in price to premium lead ammunition, and can even be cheaper, according to the not-for-profit Institute for Wildlife Studies, which runs a website with information for hunters interested in switching to lead-free ammunition. The group says ammunition is typically among the smallest costs associated with hunting.

A 2013 study found little difference in price when comparing premium lead ammunition and nontoxic alternatives, and concluded that hunters who use lead-free options do not sacrifice performance. Even the NRA has praised the performance of copper bullets. And prices for non-lead bullets continue to fall. Federal Ammunition, for example, recently released a copper bullet under its budget Power Shok line, which Cabela’s sells in the popular .30-06 caliber for US$27.99 for a box of 20 rounds. Some Federal premium lead cartridges in the same caliber retail at US$24.99, while other premium lead bullets go for US$40.99 a box. Similarly, research has shown that — despite many hunters’ feelings to the contrary — nontoxic steel shotgun pellets are just as effective as lead shot at killing mourning doves, the nation’s most popular game bird. Prices vary, but Cabela’s sells 12-gauge Kent #6 steel shot for US$13.99 per box, while the same company’s premier lead shotgun shells in the same gauge and shot size range from US$12.99 to US$14.99.

Brown, from the Oregon Zoo, says non-lead bullets work better than lead bullets, because they cut deep into the animal’s body and bring it down quickly. He made the switch after learning how much lead bullets fragment on impact.

“I had fantastic success,” he says. “The few times since then when I’ve used lead ammunition, I’ve actually been less pleased. It didn’t do what I had gotten used to non-lead ammo doing, which was kill the animal quickly within 30 yards. I really don’t see any reason to use lead anymore.” View Ensia homepage

Editor’s note: Andy McGlashen is communications director for the Michigan Environmental Council, which has not done any work on the issue of lead in ammunition, though addressing other lead hazards is a priority of its work.