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, 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

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: 

“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,                  


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,


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,                  


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,


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,; Amey Owen, Animal Welfare Institute, 301-706-1390,


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,


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,


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,; Mark Salvo, Defenders of Wildlife,


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,


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,


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




Red Wolf Recovery at Critical Junction

This is a guest post from conservation biologist Justin Bohling. The USFWS is currently evaluating the future of the Red Wolf Recovery Program and is accepting public comments. Please take action to support the continued operation of the program here.


We have reached a critical junction in the recovery of the critically endangered red wolf (Canis rufus). The story of the red wolf is a complicated one, which has likely contributed to its anonymity. Historically distributed across the southeastern United States, the species was extirpated from much of range due to habitat loss and overharvest. Remnant populations then became threatened by hybridization with coyotes, which expanded in range as the red wolf disappeared. In the 1970s biologists identified only 14 remaining wild red wolves in the species’ last stronghold in a coastal region on the Texas-Louisiana border. Those individuals were transported to Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, WA and the species was declared extinct in the wild in 1980. 

Just inland from the famed Outer Banks, the five-county Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula in eastern North Carolina was selected as the location for the first red wolf reintroduction program. At the time, there were no coyotes present in this area. The first wolves were released in 1987 and the population grew slowly. Soon coyotes rapidly colonized the state and in 1993 the first hybridization event between a red wolf and coyote was documented. In response, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and scientists developed an aggressive management strategy to prevent the red wolf from disappearing once again. Since the management program was implemented in 2000, the red wolf population has grown to 80-100 individuals and hybridization with coyotes has been limited.

 Despite these successes, the program has suffered recent setbacks. Hunting of coyotes in North Carolina is relatively unrestricted. Although it is illegal to purposefully kill a red wolf, it is allowable to claim a defense of mistaken identity. Red wolves are similar in appearance to coyotes and consequently are occasionally killed. Recently the state allowed the hunting of coyotes at night, which likely exacerbates this problem. Deaths of red wolves from gunshot have increased over time. Not only does this reduce the red wolf population, but it may facilitate hybridization with coyotes by disrupting stable breeding pairs.

 Several conservation organizations have sued the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission over its approach to coyote management, which they argue threatens red wolf conservation. A federal judge recently issued an injunction restricting coyote hunting in the five-county recovery area. In response, the state submitted a request to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate the red wolf program and determine the future of recovery efforts. This includes the possibility of terminating the program.

 Along with returning a rare species to the wild, the program has been an inspiration for the recovery of other endangered species worldwide. Given the precarious nature of the red wolf, field and zoo biologists had to experiment with novel techniques to facilitate the preservation of this species. Managers at the Point Defiance Zoo utilized ground-breaking techniques in captive breeding and reproductive biology to manage the small population that are now commonplace in zoos. The red wolf program is one of the first efforts to reintroduce a species into the wild using individuals bred in captivity. Biologists honed techniques such as soft-releases and acclimation periods. Another strategy was the release of captive-born red wolves to isolated islands along the coast of the Southeast US. These islands, which are relatively free of human disturbance, provided wolves the opportunity to learn ‘how to be wild’ while ensuring their safety.

The management strategy itself is an incredible achievement. Combining field surveys with genetic monitoring to limit hybridization is a revolutionary approach. Non-invasive genetic sampling, which involves collecting DNA from biological material such as feces, has been instrumental to monitoring efforts. Researchers using genetics reconstructed the pedigree for the wild wolf population, a feat that provided unprecedented information on the life history of these animals. The Fish and Wildlife Service also experimented with sterilizing coyotes they captured to serve as territorial “placeholders” that would exclude fertile coyotes from colonizing the region. To provide the population with a boost of genetic diversity, federal biologists place captive-born pups into wild litters, a process known as “cross-fostering”. This practice has been adopted by other endangered species recovery programs.

 The red wolf program provided a template for the reintroduction of wolves to the western US. Recovery of this species involved a collaborative effort involving federal agencies, wildlife biologists, private landowners, the zoo community, academic researchers, conservation organizations, and additional partners. The recovery program should be trumpeted not only for its achievements in advancing red wolf restoration but inspiring similar efforts across the globe.

 As part of the review process, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has requested the public to submit comments regarding their thoughts on the red wolf program. The comment period is open until September 12th and several public meetings will be held. Canceling the program would give the red wolf the dubious distinction of being the first species declared extinct in the wild twice. Twenty-seven years of recovery and innovation have demonstrated the value of this program and it is critical that these efforts be continued.

Justin Bohling is a conservation biologist interested in advancing conservation strategies addressing the threats posed by hybridization and genetic introgression. His PhD dissertation received from the University of Idaho focused on red wolf biology and recovery. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Université Montpellier 2 in France.