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For the Love of the Lobo

Maggie Howell is the Executive Director of the Wolf Conservation Center, an Endangered Species Coalition member organization. In this interview with Zoe Helene, she talks about what endangered wolves sacrifice in captivity, the threat they face from hunters and ranchers in the wild, and her love for the lobo. 

This is a guest post from animal rights advocate Zoe Helene. (@cosmicsister).


 

I drove from Amherst, Mass., to the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) in Salem, N.Y., to interview executive director Maggie Howell on a humid midsummer day. I’d asked beforehand if I could play with Nikai, an inquisitive “ambassador” pup being closely guarded by a large, wise German Shepard “nanny” named Kai. WCC curator Rebecca Bose, the wolf pup’s primary caretaker, had set clear boundaries for my play date. I could enter the wolf pup’s sanctuary space, but if Nikai chose not to come to me or let me touch him, I would have to leave without having that experience.

To better my odds with Nikai, I’d brought a basket of treats and toys. A dried chicken strip and a no-squeak teething pull-toy were the only two things that met with Rebecca’s approval, but they did the trick. Nanny Kai got a chicken strip first, and then Nikai dove for his, devoured it, and climbed all over me looking for more. Rebecca promptly confiscated the bag of chicken strips and hid them for later because more might upset his tummy. Tough love.

Wolf Conservation Center's Ambassador Wolf Nikai • “I think that there should be more candor when it comes to what goes on behind the scene when recovering species.” – Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center

Wolf Conservation Center’s Ambassador Wolf Nikai • “I think that there should be more candor when it comes to what goes on behind the scene when recovering species.” – Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center

Nikai didn’t seem to mind. He let me rub his belly and the soft golden fuzz on his ears. He was all boy—cuddly, curious, feisty and full of himself in all the right ways. He looked into, rather than at, me with keen, kind, undeniable intelligence. At eight weeks old, he was already carrying out his mission of helping people understand his species by bridging the worlds of wolves and humans—as if he were born for it.

Nikai was, in fact, carefully selected to be a WCC Ambassador Wolf—one of four socialized, captive-bred wolves (including charismatic Atka, intense Zephyr, and shy, graceful Alawa) who roam in open spaces, close enough for visitors to make deep eye contact, at WCC’s 26-acre facility. WCC, the preeminent facility in the eastern United States for captive breeding of critically endangered wolf species, is also home to about 30 Mexican gray wolves who are being reared for release into the wild through the Species Survival Plan (SSP). Ambassador Wolves are key players in WCC’s mission of helping people understand the species and its complex, highly politicized plight.

As Nikai played with the pull-toy—just like the three Siberian Huskies I raised—I thought about the sacrifice he’s making. He’s very well cared for and loved dearly, but Nikai will never be free.

Maggie and I talked about that as well as her particular passion for Mexican gray wolves (the smallest and most genetically distinct sub-species of the North American gray wolf, known also as the lobo) and the crucial work she and her colleagues are doing to save a species in peril. Because the sad fact is, without efforts by organizations such as WCC, both Mexican gray and red wolves would still be extinct in the wild and the remaining gray wolves would be right behind them. Before recovery efforts began, the Mexican gray wolf population was down to five: four males and one female who was pregnant with seven pups. These last remaining lobos were captured in Mexico from 1977 to 1980 and transferred to the United States to establish a certified captive breeding program.

Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) • “The most joyful part of this work is releasing wolves into the wild. The worst thing I face in this work is when those wolves get killed.” – Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center

Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) • “The most joyful part of this work is releasing wolves into the wild. The worst thing I face in this work is when those wolves get killed.” – Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center

“We advocate for wolves’ rights because they cannot speak for themselves,” Maggie told me. “It’s a toxic environment out there when it comes to wolves.”

These wolves are native to the North American West, Southwest and northern Mexico (lobo is Spanish for wolf), and they ran free from prehistoric times until the last century. Extreme predator removal efforts, sanctioned by the U.S. government from the late 1800s through the mid 1900s, exterminated the species from its wild ancestral landscapes.

Under the Endangered Species Act, reintroduction efforts have established a small population of 109 lobos, descendants of the last remaining Mexican gray wolves who were captive bred and released into their native territories. It’s a long, sad story wrought with fear, ignorance and profit, in which antiquated hunting laws and private (cattle) industry powers get in the way of real progress.

Even with an official protective “endangered” categorization, lobos face threats in the wild. Because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has designated the species “experimental non-essential”—a loophole that allows extra leniency for “management”—lobos are allowed to roam only in small areas of public land also used by the livestock industry as inexpensive, subsidized grazing land. Occasionally a wolf kills a sheep or cow, and the “experimental non-essential” designation and accompanying special section 10(j) regulation allows USFWS to remove or kill the wolf.

USFWS’s rationale is that the species isn’t in danger of extinction because its genetics are represented in captivity, but adapting to captivity is weakening the species. This could result—and is resulting—in smaller litters, less successful breeding and decreased pup survival, Maggie told me. The WCC and a coalition of conservation groups have sued USFWS for failing to implement a valid recovery plan for the lobo, Maggie said, because “it’s crucial that the species be allowed to survive in the wild.”

A few highlights from my conversation with Maggie follow.

Mountain of American Bison Skulls • A mountain of of American bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer (mid-1870s). Photo courtesy Wiki Commons / Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

Mountain of American Bison Skulls • A mountain of of American bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer (mid-1870s). Photo courtesy Wiki Commons / Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library

THE MONEY VALUE OF LIVING BEINGS

What goes on here at the Wolf Conservation Center?

We nurture wolves, advocate for their rights. We teach about 40,000 people a year (adults and kids, but mostly kids) about the importance of wild wolves in the wild landscape. We have 24 wolves and 13 Mexican gray wolves here, but they’re not on exhibit for the public. They’re in five different secluded, private enclosures. Our goal is to release them someday into their ancestral wild lands.

You’re also the coordinator for the Northeast Wolf Coalition, an alliance established last year. What’s that all about?

We’re uniting conservation organizations in New York, New England, and beyond to raise awareness and teach people the biological, economic and ethical reasons to facilitate wolf recovery.

How did we get to this point in the first place? Wasn’t it the government that gave the command to massacre the wolves—or was that coyotes?

Basically, it was everything. It was a way to get carnivores, or any other species they felt was in the way, off the landscape. It was about looking out for your livestock and clearing the land for farming. It was also a way to make a living. It was the same with bison. Have you ever seen that photo from the mid 1870s with the hunter standing in front of a mountain of bison skulls? Mind-blowing.

Everyone should know that photo. It should be in every schoolroom, every public library. It’s one of those pictures that tells a thousand words—stating the case on our (not-so-distant) cultural history. Those skulls were ground up to be used as fertilizer.

We recently screened a Natural Resources Defense Council video called Wild Things about Wildlife Services, which is a misnamed agency within the USDA that kills off wild animals. Every year, Wildlife Services kills more than 100,000 native carnivores and millions of birds, and they’ve been getting away with this for almost a century. Taxpayers foot the bill.

You see wolves playing a role in the economic system as well.

The economy is the ticket for wildlife. Yellowstone Park and the greater Yellowstone region, for example, have hunting and trapping seasons. Last year it cost Montana residents $19 to go out and kill a wolf. That was the wolf tag price. It seems unbelievable to me to put a money value on a living being. But Yellowstone visitors spend $35 million annually, specifically with the hopes of seeing a wild wolf. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that right now there are about 100 wild wolves in Yellowstone. If you take $35 million and divide it by 100, you get roughly a monetary value of about $350,000 per wolf. Plus, these people spend their money at stores and hotels and restaurants so the local economy also benefits. Fewer people are likely to visit Yellowstone if these hunts continue.

I support the wild horse warriors, and most of what they’re dealing with is perceived competition for government-subsidized wild rangelands by cattle ranchers.

It’s very inexpensive to graze on public land, and most of it is public land. Powerful groups of people are passionate about what is going on with these wild horse roundups, and so much of what is happening with the wolves is very similar. It’s either recreation or industry; in this case it would be the livestock industry trumping the intrinsic rights of many species or the recovery of the species.

Charismatic Arctic Ambassador Wolf Atka • Ambassador Wolves are key players in WCC’s mission of helping people understand the species and its complex, controversial, and highly politicized plight. The Wolf Conservation Center's "Rock Star", Ambassador wolf Atka has visited over 200 schools, nature centers, museums and libraries helping people learn about the importance of his wild “brothers and sisters”. He loves to travel and has a spectacular howl, which he enjoys sharing with audiences.

Charismatic Arctic Ambassador Wolf Atka • Ambassador Wolves are key players in WCC’s mission of helping people understand the species and its complex, controversial, and highly politicized plight. The Wolf Conservation Center’s “Rock Star”, Ambassador wolf Atka has visited over 200 schools, nature centers, museums and libraries helping people learn about the importance of his wild “brothers and sisters”. He loves to travel and has a spectacular howl, which he enjoys sharing with audiences.

MOTHER NATURE’S DOG IN CAPTIVITY

Tell me about your wonderful Ambassador Wolves.

Our ambassadors are raised from a very early age by devoted staff and volunteers. They help teach visitors and students to understand the importance of their wild kin through personal interaction. They’re really the ones on the front line of the lesson, and they will never live free in the wild.

That’s quite a sacrifice.

It truly is, and it isn’t like they have a choice. We try to find a new way to thank them every day. We’re constantly asking ourselves whether it’s worth the sacrifice they make for their wild brothers and sisters.

So, is it worth it?

So far I think it is, especially because we’re so close to New York City. People who visit us here actually think about wolves when they might not normally think about anything even close to wolves. Through the Ambassador Wolves, they feel a very real connection.

It was such a treat to hang out with Nikai!

We only do this with Ambassador pups for about two months with the public. Developing a basic comfort level around people is vital for them to become an educational ambassador and leading a happy and healthy life at the WCC.

Wolves have such a close kinship to dogs, and so many people are crazy about dogs. You would think that more people would be advocating for wolves.

You’d think. I don’t understand why that connection isn’t there. I wish we could get more of the dog people involved. I like to look at the wolf as Mother Nature’s dog.

Rebecca Bose with Lobo Pup • “Being curator of these precious critically endangered lobos is a privilege, and holding this amazing new life in my hands is what it’s all about.” – Rebecca Bose, Wolf Conservation Center Wolf Conservation Center’s Curator, Rebecca Bose, bottle feeding one of F749’s pups from 2013.

Rebecca Bose with Lobo Pup • “Being curator of these precious critically endangered lobos is a privilege, and holding this amazing new life in my hands is what it’s all about.” – Rebecca Bose, Wolf Conservation Center Wolf Conservation Center’s Curator, Rebecca Bose, bottle feeding one of F749’s pups from 2013.

CAPTIVE BREEDING IS A DESPERATE MEASURE

Captive breeding is surely a desperate measure, but if you weren’t doing this, these wolves would be extinct. Lobos were just about “extinct in the wild,” right?

Yes. The red wolf and Mexican gray wolf were in crisis and about to go extinct in the wild when we took the last remaining wolves into captive breeding programs.

What’s it like for them in captivity?

Most of our wolves are off exhibit so they don’t become habituated, which means we almost never get to see them—which is hard for us because of course we love wolves. It also means they get appropriate food such as road-kill deer. They can also hunt within their fenced-in territories. They have a lot of natural social interactions. We let them be wolves as much as we can because how better to prep them for the wild?

Do the wolves have names other than the numbers?

We keep the alphanumeric names for the educational component and also because we want people to realize that these wolves are something much bigger than just our facility or their pack. They are part of a desperate recovery of their species.

How do you decide which captive-bred wolves get released into the wild?

Genetics governs most decisions. They look for wolves that will enhance gene pool diversity in the wild landscape. Behavior and health also play a role. A wolf that’s been on exhibit his or her whole life and likes people is not a good candidate for release. The wolves most likely to be released because of genetics are placed in facilities where they can be kept off exhibit so they don’t become accustomed to human beings and stop responding to humans the way they naturally should. Most wild wolves are naturally fearful of people—or perhaps have learned to become fearful of people because they should be.

Many people are fearful of wolves! Our culture insists on continuing to teach children that wolves want to eat us.

And we’re not on the menu. We’re just not the type of animal that wolves would be looking to eat—unless they were truly desperate and there was just nothing else.

You would think that as a culture we could mature beyond believing in fairytales with antiquated ideas and villains based on ignorance! It must be difficult to fight that. What’s the most challenging thing you face in this work?

When our wolves get killed. It’s always a risk when you’re doing the absolute best thing for them, which is releasing them into the wild, and then they’re killed by criminals. The first two wolves we released were both were illegally shot and killed shortly after we released them.

What is the most joyful thing you get to experience?

The most joyful part of this work is releasing wolves into the wild.

LoboWeek • The Wolf Conservation Center (@nywolforg) and a consortium of wolf-advocacy groups have declared March 23 through March 29 as #LoboWeek in an effort to get the word out.

LoboWeek • The Wolf Conservation Center (@nywolforg) and a consortium of wolf-advocacy groups have declared March 23 through March 29 as #LoboWeek in an effort to get the word out.

ENCLOSURE LIVE WEBCAM

Ambassador Wolf Atka

Ambassador Wolves Zephyr, Alawa, and Nikai: Wolf Rock Cam

Mexican Gray Wolf F613 and Children: Enclosure Cam

The enclosure cameras were made possible by a grant from Patagonia.

ONLINE RESOURCES

Wolf Conservation Center (@nywolforg)
Northeast Wolf Coalition (@NEwolforg)
Species Survival Plan
Endangered Species Act
Natural Resources Defense Council (@NRDC)
Project Coyote (@ProjectCoyote)
Yellowstone Park (@YellowstoneNPS)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Scientists, Business Leaders, Tribes, and NGOs to Congress: Oppose Anti-Wolf Legislation

This week, more than 50 scientists, representatives of 5 Native American tribes, 24 business leaders, and 82 organizations sent letters to Members Congress asking them to oppose legislation that seeks to remove federal protections for gray wolves.

The scientists say in their letter that, “The  best  available  science  indicates  that  the  gray  wolf  occupies  a  mere  fraction  of  its  historic  range  and   therefore   has   not   yet   recovered   from   centuries   of   systematic   persecution.”

The letter is signed by 50 world-renowned scientists and biologists including Rolf Peterson and John Vucetich of Michigan Technological University, and Adrian Treves of University of Wisconsin, Madison. 

The letter signed by tribal representatives, business leaders, and organizations  from around the United States noted that “(W)olves in states that no longer have federal wolf protections have been subjected to increasingly hostile state management practices.” In it, the signers ask Members of Congress to avoid repeating the mistakes made when it passed the 2011 appropriations rider delisting wolves in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah. That 2011 legislation opened the door to aggressive wolf management in the Northern Rockies and weakened the Endangered Species Act by leaving it vulnerable to future attacks such as ones that are up for consideration today.

You can take action by asking your U.S. Congressional Representative and Senators to oppose any legislation that would strip wolves of Endangered Species Act protections.

 

Wolf Killed in Utah Was Grand Canyon Wolf

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service confirmed today in a press release that the wolf killed late last year in Utah was the Grand Canyon wolf that had been named Echo.

The Service used DNA analysis to determine that she was the wolf that had been made famous for her journey from the Northern Rockies to the Grand Canyon. She was identified by USFWS as 914F. She was collared in Wyoming on Jan. 8, 2014, and spotted in the Grand Canyon area in the fall of last year. 

The UWFWS said in its release an investigation is ongoing into the killing of the wolf, though early reports indicated that the individual that shot her told state authorities he was hunting coyote and believed her to be such. 

As Defenders of Wildlife noted in their statement, “coyote hunting in habitat frequented by wolves is deadly for wolves.”

Wolves are protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and killing them is a violation of that law. You can take action by asking the Obama administration to fully prosecute all killers of endangered species.

This tragic killing further illustrates the crucial need to continue to protect wolves in order for them to recover.

Twenty Years Later

Twenty years ago this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists released eight gray wolves into the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, restoring the top predator to the park’s landscape after a 30-year hiatus. Before the year’s end, a female from the Rose Creek pack and a male from the Crystal Creek pack joined up to create the first free-forming pack of wolves observed in Yellowstone in half a century. Biologists named it the Leopold pack, after the conservation pioneer, Aldo Leopold. A second release of wolves into Yellowstone and central Idaho soon followed. Now, two decades later, at least 1,700 wolves roam the Northern Rockies in more than 300 packs. They are hunting, denning and breeding just as they had for thousands of years preceding their extirpation.

wolfphtoThe remarkable comeback of the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies is not only a grand success story of the Endangered Species Act, but undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements in the history of American wildlife restoration. Hundreds of Americans and westerners of all stripes came together to help make room for wolves in the West, including ranchers, conservationists, hunters, wildlife managers, Native Americans and even politicians from both sides of the aisle.

The restoration of wolves has produced a ripple effect of ecological benefits that would have delighted Leopold. In some areas in and around Yellowstone, over-browsed vegetation has been able to recover and regenerate as wolves have thinned and distributed highly-concentrated elk herds. And since wolves tend to prey upon weaker animals, elk herd health is strengthened in the process. (Biologists in Yellowstone have even reported that elk in the park are becoming larger and tougher now that they have another predator to contend with.) Elsewhere in the region, antelope fawn survival has increased as wolves have reduced over-abundant populations of coyotes—the main predator of antelope fawns.

While many in the livestock industry protest about the toll wolves take on cattle and sheep, in fact, livestock mortality due to wolves is relatively small and pales in comparison to livestock losses attributable to other causes. And livestock depredation by wolves can be significantly reduced with appropriate livestock management practices, such as using guard dogs, shepherds and range riders.

Similarly, some hunters have complained that wolves are decimating populations of elk around the region, but that is also an exaggeration. While a few elk herds have declined (for many reasons, including climate change, habitat loss and over-hunting—in addition to wolf predation), many elk herds are faring quite well in the presence of wolves. According to state wildlife agency data, there are actually more elk, overall, in the Northern Rockies than there were at the time of wolf reintroduction. And elk hunting success rates have remained high, especially for those hunters who are willing to walk.

As much as wolves are simple, wild animals trying to eke out a living, they are also hugely symbolic. For those of us who appreciate them, wolves are a symbol of wild places. And for those who despise them, wolves represent, in part, the federal government that returned them to the West. But I believe that the next generation of westerners will grow up accepting that wolves are simply one piece of whole suite of native wildlife in the Northern Rockies – not some mythical monster foisted upon the region. As I reflect upon the historic wildlife restoration event that was kickstarted two decades ago, I cannot help but wonder where we will be with wolves two decades hence. Will some of the seemingly intractable wolf management battles that currently plague western policy debate subside? I hope so.

 

 

Federal Court to USFWS: Relist Great Lakes Wolves

Breaking news from ESC member group Humane Society of the United States:

Sport hunting and trapping of wolves in the Great Lakes region must end immediately, a federal District Court has ruled. The court overturned a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision that removed Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves living in the western Great Lakes region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  

We have written previously about the urgent need for USFWS to again protect wolves in Wisconsin due to aggressive and unsustainable hunting and trapping,  and congratulate and thank HSUS, Born Free USA, Help Our Wolves Live and Friends of Animals and Their Environment for taking the lead and holding USFWS accountable on WGL wolf protection through the courts.

Read the release in its entirety here.

Congress Making California Drought Worse Through Legislation

By Dr. C. Mark Rockwell
California State Representative
Endangered Species Coalition

The severe drought afflicting much of the West is being used as a smokescreen by some in Congress to undermine critical environmental and wildlife laws including the Endangered Species Act. This past summer and spring, the House of Representatives and Senate passed bills designed to help affected communities with drought relief. Since then, they have not be able to find common ground.

drying landAs you read this, closed-door negotiations are going on in Congress to push through a bill that could be full of bad policy, and long term harm to environmental laws that most Americans support. It appears that the Endangered Species Act, Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and possibly the Clean Water Act are all on the target list, at least from information leaking out of these closed-door talks.

These negotiations could result in Congress pushing through a bill at the last minute without any opportunity for the public to review and comment on this bill or ask for any changes. This is not how Congress should work!

As this goes to all of you, several major conservation groups have just released a comprehensive paper full  of more than 50 actions both the state and federal government can take to relieve the current drought, as well as amour California against future dry periods. Congress should take the time to review and discuss this new paper before taking any actions. The primary goal of the paper is a balanced approach to water management to both provide water for people and the environment. The current Congressional effort does not accomplish that balance.

Legislation that undermines state and federal wildlife and water quality laws could imperil native salmon runs along the West Coast, devastate the critically endangered Delta smelt, lead to starvation and disease among the majestic birds that migrate along the Pacific Flyway, and compromise drinking water quality for millions.

Coho salmon

Coho salmon

Water shortages this year have been caused by the drought – not environmental protections. Federal legislation weakening environmental protections won’t make it rain.

Short sighted Congressional action that undermines these laws is not an answer to the problems, but only an effort to help some communities at the expense of others. Some farmers win, others lose. All fishing communities in central California, coastal areas from central California to Portland, Oregon, lose. San Francisco Bay estuary loses. The S.F. Bay-Delta, the hub of farming and recreation for much of the north state loses. This is not a balanced approach, and picks winners and losers.

There are sustainable solutions to the drought but undermining existing environmental protections should not be part of them. We ask Congress not to undermine important environmental protections, and to take the time to review the new drought relief document from the conservation community. Winter is here giving us some time to be thoughtful and diligent. Congress should not make things worse by a quick and unbalanced legislation.

USFWS: Protect Wisconsin’s wolves

 A group of respected scientists recently alerted the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) that the state of Wisconsin is inaccurately reporting the impacts of aggressive hunting and trapping seasons, poaching, and other factors leading to wolf mortality, leaving the FWS unable to accurately detect what could be a substantial decline in wolves in the Western Great Lakes.

Photo credit Flickr user Sherwood411

Photo credit Flickr user Sherwood411

In a pair of letters to FWS Director Dan Ashe and the Acting Regional Director, the scientists laid out the results of their research showing that the state of Wisconsin could be radically undercounting wolf deaths. Their findings show that contrary to the state’s reported 28 percent, wolf mortality could be as high as 55 percent.  They reported that among radio-collared wolves in 2012, for every 4 wolves legally hunted, another 7 were illegally killed, 8 were killed by the government or vehicles, and 2 died of natural causes.

Following that, the state declared another wolf-hunting season and legally hunted another 257 wolves in October 2013 and 150 wolves in October 2014. At the close of last season, the state reported a staggering 19 percent decline in the population.

Wisconsin’s wolf population cannot handle more of the same. These scientists warn that the according to their findings, the population could be on the verge of collapse. 

The scientists alerted Director Ashe and his staff in September. They received a written reply advising them to pursue the matter with Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources. as “the Service no longer serves as a regulating entity to protect the wolf…”

The Endangered Species Act is clear about what is expected of the Service. It says:

“The Secretary shall implement a system in cooperation with the States to monitor effectively for not less than five years the status of all species which have recovered to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this Act are no longer necessary.”

wiwolfharvestdnrIf what the scientists have found is accurate–and to date their findings have not been challenged–the Service has a responsibility to immediately protect Wisconsin’s wolves. The Act does not give Director Ashe and his staff the option to defer their work to the states when convenient.  

Right now, the state’s hunting and trapping season is by its count 8 animals short of their annual quota just one month into a 4 month season. If the analysis of the state’s data is correct, they could be well beyond that already-aggressive limit, pushing these just-recovered wolves back to the brink. 

The Endangered Species Act grants the FWS authority to temporarily relist species when serious concerns have been raised about the state’s management plan.  The FWS must now act on that authority and relist wolves while it assembles an independent peer review board to analyze the state’s wolf plan. 

You can take action by asking FWS Director Ashe to immediately relist Wisconsin’s wolves.

Less lead ammunition & less lead poisoning in California condors

Potentially great news as reports show that Federal biologists are reporting a dramatic drop in the treatment of California condors suffering from lead poisoning.

The Summit County Citizens Voice reported that just “13 condors were treated for lead exposure between Sept. 1, 2013 and Aug. 31, 2014, down from 28 birds the previous year.” 

Initiatives to reduce the use of lead ammunition are credited for the decrease in poisonings. Lead poisoning is one of the greatest roadblocks to continued condor recovery. You can learn more about the evidence of toxic effects of lead in wildlife and solutions to address the problem at www.gettheleadout.org, a project of ESC member group, the Center for Biological Diversity.

You can read the whole piece on the Summit County Citizens Voice website.

Making Halloween Howl-o-Ween

Get tools to make wolves part of your Halloween celebration.

Halloween is days away and it couldn’t be coming at a more important time for wolves. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is set to release any day its rule kicking virtually all of the wolves in the lower 48 off of the endangered species list.  Wolves have barely begun to recover across the country and need protections to get there. We’re seeing in states from Idaho, to Wyoming, to Wisconsin what disastrous policies are produced when Endangered Species Act protections are removed.

This Halloween we are celebrating wolves and the fight to protect them through our Howl-o-Ween campaign. Halloween Howl-o-Ween is an easy time to help spread the word and organize support for wolves. We’ve designed small flyers  that you can hand out to ghouls and goblins at your door or others that you can give to thank people for candy while trick-or-treating. If you’re dressing up for Howl-o-Ween, we have instructions on making a wolf mask and links to buy them online if you prefer.  We even have printable sticker graphics and social media buttons. Learn more at www.stand4wolves.org

Most importantly, you can sign the Citizens’ Wolf recovery Vision Statement and ask others to join you. It spells out clear, achievable steps to achieve real and enduring wolf recovery in the United States.  We will deliver it to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to give them a roadmap to success.

 

New Report Highlights Ten American Species Our Children May Never See

 Monarch Butterflies Have Declined by More Than 90 Percent

 

Washington, D.C. – Our children are less likely to see monarch butterflies, a bumblebee, and a host of other once-common wildlife species due to farm pesticides, declining ocean health, climate change and dirty energy production, according to a new report by the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, Vanishing: Ten American Species Our Children May Never See, highlights ten disappearing species and the causes of their dramatic population declines. Additionally, the report identifies everyday actions that people can take to help slow the disappearance of our nation’s iconic wildlife. The report can be viewed and downloaded from the website: vanishingwildlife.org 

“With each passing day, our children are less and less likely to experience the full beauty of nature and see the kind of wildlife that baby boomers, Gen Xers, and even Millennials experienced,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “We owe it to our future generations of Americans to protect our vanishing wildlife and the special places they call home.”

According to the report, up to a billion monarch butterflies used to color our skies each summer, yet only about 33 million remain – a decline of more than 90 percent. Additionally, the once-common little brown bat has been decimated by the fungal disease, White-nose syndrome, and is now virtually extinct in the Northeast United States. Finally, the rusty-patched bumblebee, an important pollinator, has disappeared across 87 percent of its range, and diseases are thought to be responsible.

Coalition member groups nominated wildlife species in the report. A committee of distinguished scientists reviewed the nominations, and decided which species should be included in the report. “Scientists agree that climate change is a huge threat in many direct and indirect ways to species diversity and survival,” said Dr. Jan Randall, Professor Emeritus of Biology at San Francisco State University, and chair of the scientific advisory committee for the report.

“As the situation for many species grows ever more dire, our direct actions are able to rescue some of them from extinction,” said Dr. Peter Raven, President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical Garden. “This list should inspire hope and at the same time lead us to devote full attention to the species most in need.”

The ten species in the report are the mountain yellow-legged frog, monarch butterfly, North Pacific right whale, great white shark, little brown bat, whitebark pine, rusty patched bumblebee, greater sage-grouse, polar bear, and the Snake River sockeye salmon.

“Snake River sockeye are among the highest and farthest migrating salmon on the planet – climbing 6,000 feet in elevation and 900 miles against the current to return to their spawning grounds,” said Sam Mace, Inland Northwest Program Director for the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. “We are the last generation that can save these extraordinary fish from extinction.”

“The monarch butterfly is a part of almost every child’s summer experience,” said Sarina Jepsen, endangered species program director at the Xerces Society. “The loss of such a widespread butterfly suggests that we are changing our landscape at an unprecedented scale.” 

“When species like monarch butterflies and whitebark pine are in trouble, that means we’re all in trouble, because they’re leading indicators of the health of the planet,” said Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “By acting now to conserve these animals and plants for future generations, we will also be restoring our natural heritage and creating a safer, healthier world for all.”

“This report does a great service by calling attention to the fact that species are vanishing before our eyes, including species like the little brown bat, which are underappreciated and, despite their small size, are of enormous value to our ecosystem,” said Cathy Liss, President of the Animal Welfare Institute.

The Endangered Species Coalition has also produced a slide show to accompany the report, featuring stunning photos of each of the ten species in the report. The Coalition produces a “Top 10” report annually, focusing on a different theme each year. Previous years’ reports are also available on the Coalition’s website.

The Ten American Species Our Children May Never See:

 

Mountain yellow-legged frog

Ninety-five percent of the Sierra Nevada and Southern California mountain yellow-legged frog populations have gone extinct due to human degradation of their habitats. Lakes we’ve stocked with trout are devoid of tadpoles, and pesticide contamination causes mutations, sterility, and death. More than 1,800 species of frogs currently face extinction.

Contact: Tierra Curry, Center for Biological Diversity, 928-522-3681, tcurry@biologicaldiversity.org                  

 

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterflies are totally dependent on milkweed for survival, but the wide-spread use of pesticides is killing off milkweed across millions of acres of the monarch’s core summer habitat. Climate change and illegal logging in their Mexican winter refuge further imperils the monarch’s survival.

Contact: Sarina Jepsen, Xerces Society, 971-244-3727, sarina@xerces.org

 

North Pacific right whale

The North Pacific right whale is the most endangered whale on Earth; there may be as few as thirty remaining in U.S. waters. Lack of genetic diversity and diminishing food sources due to climate change are major threats, but human activities—oil spills, ship strikes, and the Navy’s live sonar testing—may be sounding the death knell for this marine mammal.

Contact: Bill Rossiter, Cetacean Society, 203-770-8615, rossiter@csiwhalesalive.org                  

 

Great white shark

Only about 350 adult great white sharks remain off the coasts of California and Mexico. Hunting these sharks is illegal, but hundreds of young sharks are inadvertently caught in fishing nets and die each year. Great white sharks are the largest predatory fish and are important to maintaining balance in their ocean ecosystem.

Contact: Amelia Vorpahl, Oceana, 202-467-1918, avorpahl@oceana.org

 

Little brown bat

Little brown bats are in peril due to white-nose syndrome, an illness caused by a deadly fungus from Europe. These bats are virtually extinct in their core Northeast range, and up to 99 percent have died in affected areas. Weakened immune systems due to pesticide exposure and human disturbance in their caves are also factors in their demise.

Contact: Katie Gilles, 512-327-9721, Bat Conservation International, kgillies@batcon.org; Amey Owen, Animal Welfare Institute, 301-706-1390, amey@awionline.org.

 

Whitebark pine

Whitebark pine forests used to be plentiful high in the Rockies, but climate change has allowed beetle infestations and fungal disease to destroy these trees. More than 100 species depended on this pine for shelter and food, and the pine’s shading limbs regulated snow melt well into summer.

Contact: Sylvia Fallon, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202-513-6246, sfallon@nrdc.org

 

Rusty patched bumblebee

The rusty patched bumblebee is a critical pollinator. Its “buzz pollination” produces tomatoes that are consistently larger and sweeter than those produced by other pollination techniques. The rusty patched bumblebee is threatened by diseases from commercial bumble bees. All bumblebees face threats from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on plants that can even make their nectar and pollen toxic.

Contact: Sarina Jepsen, Xerces Society, 971-244-3727, sarina@xerces.org

 

Greater sage-grouse

The greater sage-grouse’s habitat once encompassed nearly 300 million acres, but their range has declined dramatically as humans have moved in to graze livestock and drill for oil and gas, without regard for sage-grouse habitat needs. Hundreds of miles of roads have fragmented sage-grouse populations, which are in peril due to aggressive degradation of their habitat.

Contact: Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy, 202-888-7490, sholmer@abcbirds.org; Mark Salvo, Defenders of Wildlife, msalvo@defenders.org

 

Polar bear

Polar bears are entirely dependent on ice for fishing, and a large adult requires an average of 4 to 5 pounds of seal blubber every day just to maintain its weight. But as climate change alters their habitat, they are being forced inland for denning, breeding, and feeding.

Contact: Contact: Shaye Wolf, Center for Biological Diversity, 415-632-5301, swolf@biologicaldiversity.org

 

Snake River sockeye salmon

Federal dams block the lower Snake River, making it almost impossible for these salmon to migrate to their spawning grounds high in the Rocky Mountains. These are the most endangered salmon in the world, but scientists agree that they can make a comeback if the river is unblocked so they can complete their life cycle by migrating to and from Redfish Lake.

Contact: Sam Mace, Save Our Wild Salmon, 509-863-5696, sam@wildsalmon.org

 

For more information please contact Derek Goldman, dgoldman@endangered.org (406) 721-3218 or Tara Thornton, tthornton@endangered.org (207) 268-2108.

 

 

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