Archive for the ‘Endangered Species’ Category

Grizzly encounters and other reasons for federal regulations In The Christian Science Monitor By Walter Rodgers

August 19, 2011

I see this bear as a brown bear and not an interior grizzly…but the point of the article is well taken…
Matt
My Alaska encounters with fly fishing and grizzly bears reveal how much America benefits from federal regulations. Without them, this pristine wilderness would likely not exist, and neither would many protections for consumers and workers

Imagine standing 40 yards across a river from a good-sized Alaskan grizzly bear emerging out of willow scrub. There is no tree to climb.

We regard each other, yet both of us go about our business. The grizzly is fishing for spawning sockeye salmon. I am trying to raise a meaty rainbow trout or a Dolly Varden on a fly resembling a salmon egg. We share 100 miles of the Kanektok River because the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge is strictly regulated by both the federal government and the state of Alaska. I encounter two, three, and sometimes more grizzlies a day. There are plenty of fish for all of us. This is the tundra as God made it.

But, absent federal regulation, this primordial wilderness would likely not exist. It was saved in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter and Congress worked to preserve Alaskan wilderness refuges, creating enclaves the size of California.

Grizzlies return with strings attached In The Bulletin By Jim Robbins New York Times News Servicee

August 16, 2011

There are things I would like to argue about in this article but there are some real good points in this article about grizzlies also…so I included the article in this blog.
Matt
The grizzly population in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem has grown from 200 to 300 in 1975 to 900 today.
The Associated Press file photo
Grizzlies return, with strings attached
By Jim Robbins / New York Times News Service
Published: August 16. 2011 4:00AM PST advertisement: DUPUYER, Mont. — Russell Talmo, a bear management technician, greeted John and Leanne Hayne at their ranch on the windswept edge of this tiny town with a gift: a can of pepper spray to ward off grizzly bears.

Hayne worries that she will encounter a grizzly when she walks to the post office, half a mile from home.

“One day I opened the back door, and there was one there and it stood up on its hind legs,” she said.

“It’s eerie and primal and it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. That’s when I decided I should carry pepper spray.”

The bears here in Montana can be whoppers, too. Occasionally, they exceed 800 pounds, the biggest that grizzly bears get outside Alaska. The record here for a captured bear is 860 pounds.

So it goes these days along the Rocky Mountain Front, where the high plains rise to meet the sculptured peaks of the Northern Rockies, south of Glacier National Park. In 1975, when grizzly bears were listed here in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem as threatened — a less restrictive form of protection than endangered — there were 200 to 300 grizzlies. Now, there are more than 900 in the ecosystem, and the population increases 2 to 3 percent each year. It is the largest population of grizzlies in the lower 48.

Once considered plains animals — they lived as far east as the Dakotas, as far south as Texas, and Lewis and Clark encountered them across the prairie — grizzlies were routinely killed by settlers as a threat to livestock and driven into the mountains, their last redoubt. After more than three decades of recovery efforts, though, they are coming down from their refuge and greatly expanding their range.

“Bears are recolonizing their grassland habitat,” said a pleased Talmo. “They are showing up in places where they haven’t been seen in generations.”

Bear debate

Because of the growth of the grizzly population, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are writing a plan to manage the bear if its protected status as threatened, under the Endangered Species Act, is lifted. Such a change is probably at least a few years away. Still, said Christopher Servheen, the service’s grizzly bear recovery coordinator since 1981, “they’re recovered, they’re doing well, they are pushing out in all directions.”

Some here think removing federal protections is overdue and would welcome it.

“You’ll be able to protect your property again” by shooting bears, said Bert Guthrie, a retired sheep rancher. “That’s a good thing.”

While protecting a species under the Endangered Species Act is more controversial than ever, it is remarkable that the storm that once swirled around grizzly bears, one of the few protected species that attack people — three to five attacks a year in the continental United States, usually because of a surprise encounter — has calmed considerably. That is a result, experts say, of a campaign to build support for the bear, accomplished largely by using sophisticated research tools and effective bear management techniques.

Talmo’s job with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is to roam a huge swath of wild country along the front in a pickup truck loaded with bear tranquilizers, dart guns, snares, radio collars and heart rate and oxygen monitors, responding to calls about errant bears and livestock kills.

Talmo shows people how to harden their defenses against the big bear. He pointed out an electric fence around a shed on the Haynes’ land, where the sheep they raise for their online wool business give birth. There’s also a stout new wire fence around the elementary school here in Dupuyer, which is next to thick stands of chokecherry and buffalo berry shrubs, favorite grizzly foods.

Though bears usually avoid people, every once in a while they don’t.

“We’ve had bears passing through the middle of Choteau,” Talmo said, referring to a larger town 35 miles to the south. “We go look for them, but by the time we get there it’s a ghost hunt — the bear is usually gone.”

He and another bear expert, Michael Madel, also haul the carcasses of dead livestock away from ranches and into the mountains, so bears will stay away from sheep and cattle. And they hold meetings in towns where bears are returning after being absent for decades to explain the animals’ behavior and ecology and tell people how to bear-proof their beehives and sheep pens.

Bears that kill livestock or get into other kinds of trouble are usually trapped, drugged and moved. If they continue to offend, they may be euthanized as a last resort. Males get one chance; females get three strikes.

Keeping bears out of trouble, says Servheen of the Fish and Wildlife Service, is the key to keeping bears from being killed.

“Mortality control is our No. 1 tool to bringing the bear back,” he said.

New tools for tracking bears are a big part of more effective management. In the last decade, GPS collars and other technologies have opened a much larger window on where bears go and what they do.

For years after the grizzly was first listed as threatened, those with a radio collar had to be detected electronically from aircraft to determine their location.

“That meant we knew where a bear was twice a week, during good weather at 10 a.m.,” when biologists were in the air, Servheen said.

Newer GPS collars store location information “on board,” or in the collar itself, which records a satellite fix as frequently as every hour.

There but seldom seen

What the scientists have found from collared bears active at night, for example, is that the animals are coming close to houses, even though few people see them. Simple measures like taking in bird feeders and dog food at night and using bearproof garbage cans are a critical part of keeping bears alive.

The more detailed collar data is also being used to understand which corridors bears use to move between large reserves, like wilderness areas, so that linkages through developed areas can be protected with conservation easements and other kinds of safeguards. Out of the 930 or so grizzlies in the ecosystem, about 60 or 70 are collared.

Among other new techniques for studying bears are a handheld device that takes a bioimpedance measurement from a captured bear by sending a small current through the animal that measures its electrical resistance, which is related to fat content. Bears with less body fat than others might be hungrier and more prone to getting into trouble, and so they can be more closely monitored. The current is not painful.

The bear’s hair also speaks volumes. With a snip, a biologist can examine isotopes — atoms of a chemical element — in a hair to learn what a bear has been eating. When a bear killed a camper last year near Yellowstone National Park, biologists wondered if the bear had been habituated to human garbage. Since most human food has corn syrup in it, biologists tested the hair for an isotope associated with corn. It did not have that isotope, meaning the bear had not foraged in trash cans.

Regardless of the new science, there are some things about bear behavior that have always been predictable.

“Subadult bears 2 to 4 years old are like teenagers that get into trouble,” said Talmo. “They are trying to figure out the world and their place in it.”

Nonp-profit Buys Land To Help Grizzly Bear Migration In The Cabinet-Yaak In The Misoulian By Tristan Scott

August 10, 2011

The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem (?) is in NW Montana. Grizzly Bears do not migrate…but Vital Ground is a good group continuing to do good things…please help them.
Matt
WHITEFISH – A Missoula-based nonprofit organization this week adopted a 71-acre tract of wildlife habitat in the Yaak Mountains near Troy that it hopes will improve grizzly bear migration corridors.

The property was purchased by the Vital Ground Foundation from a private landowner and lies within the Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone. The acquisition helps expand grizzly bear “linkage zones,” or corridors that provide safe travel for bears and other wildlife that rove between seasonal habitats.

In this case, the property connects the Kootenai River Valley floor between the Purcell Mountains on the north side of Highway 2 and the East Cabinet Mountains on the south side. The 2,600 square-mile recovery zone is designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which estimates that no more than 40 grizzly bears live south of the Canada border.

Ryan Lutey, director of lands at the Vital Ground Foundation, said the acquisition was the organization’s No. 1 priority under the Cabinet-Purcell-Selkirk Wildlife Linkage Initiative, which was launched in 2008.

“We chose this location because much of the adjacent property is on Forest Service holdings, so we were building on a conservation holding to begin with,” Lutey said.

Acquisition of the property ensures that it will not be commercially or residentially developed, he said.

The property provides low elevation and seasonal linkage habitat for grizzly bears and other wildlife species along the Kootenai River bottom. Lutey said it is an ideal winter range for deer, elk and moose, with the potential for calving and fawning areas.

“It has tremendous wildlife values and scenic values,” Lutey said.

Grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Purcell-Selkirk corridor have become restricted in their travel, Lutey said, and in some areas their migratory routes are completely disrupted due to increasing habitat fragmentation from development. If habitat linkage to more robust populations in Canada is not preserved, the viability of grizzly populations in the lower 48 states will diminish.

The purchase of the Yaak Mountain property was planned over the course of several years through a partnership between the USFWS’ Grizzly Bear Recovery Office; the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative; the Trans-border Grizzly Bear Project; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; and Vital Ground.

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative provided an incentive for the project by offering a dollar-for-dollar matching grant for up to 50 percent of the project’s cost.

The Yaak Mountain acquisition was Vital Ground’s cornerstone project, Lutey said. With its completion, the organization will turn its attention to the linkage initiative’s second priority – acquiring five parcels of land totaling 187 acres, which the organization holds under an option-to-purchase contract through December. That project budget is estimated at $1.15 million, and will pose a significant fundraising challenge.

“We have another property under contract on the south side of the Clark Fork where there has been significant documented grizzly bear activity, but it is just outside of the south end of the recovery zone,” Lutey said. “That will continue to be our focus through the end of the year.”

The organization also continues to explore possible connections between the Selkirk Mountains, the Cabinet Mountains and the south end of the Little Bitterroot Mountains between Interstate 90 and Montana Highway 200.

Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at (406) 730-1067 or at tscott@missoulian.com.

Word Association For The Naturalist In You

August 8, 2011

I first learned word association in high school. Here is some for the naturalist in you.

incredulous-mine at Pebble Creek, Alaska and highway in the northern Serengeti

frustration-climate change

island biogegraphy-large Yellowstone grizzly population

large Yellowstone grizzly population-small population parametors

Oxymoron-white bark pine nut having no impact on bears as it dies out.

US Energy plan-bird conservation

My glass is not very full today.
Matt

Rare Shorebird Seen In In Expidition To Its Breeding Grounds In Cornell Lab Of Ornithology E-News

June 22, 2011

This was very interesting to me.
Matt

An unusual shorebird with a one-of-a-kind bill is facing extinction–and a team of scientists from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Birds Russia are doing all they can to save it. They’ve mounted an expedition to this species’ breeding grounds in arctic Russia, hoping to establish a critically needed captive breeding population. Fewer than 200 breeding pairs remain on earth. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Gerrit Vyn has joined the team to capture rare images and sounds of Spoon-billed Sandpipers on their breeding grounds.

Differing diets make polar bears more vulnerable to ice loss By Doug O’Harra | Jun 20, 2011

June 21, 2011

Interesting. This bares some discussion.
Matt

Over the past 30 years, Dalhousie University biologist Sara Iverson has been part of an effort that collected fat samples from polar bears throughout the Canadian Arctic, producing a remarkable catalog of what bears eat for dinner and how that diet varies from population to population.

Finding out exactly what these top Arctic predators scarf down has become more important as summer sea ice shrinks back, forcing these ice-adapted carnivores to swim immense distances to find ice or retreat to the shore to wait for the onset of winter.

“Polar bears are absolutely dependent on sea ice to hunt seals, which use the ice as a platform to breed,” said Iverson in the story. “With the loss of ice, they’re having a difficult time. A major source of food has been removed and in some areas they’ve been forced ashore earlier in the spring in poor condition.”

Over the past couple of decades, the extent of summer ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas north of Alaska has shrunk to record and near record levels –matching ice shrinkage elsewhere in the Arctic. The fear that this loss will drive the U.S.-managed polar bear populations to extinction prompted the United States to list the bears as endangered, and to designate 187,000 square miles of North Slope and Arctic Ocean as habitat critical to their survival.

.The legal battle over that habitat designation – an area the size of California – has only just begun. Lawsuits challenging the legality of the decision have been filed by the State of Alaska, the Alaska Oil and Gas Commission and the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. (along with 11 other Native corporations and the North Slope Borough.) They variously argue that the designation was not done correctly, that it ignored population data or the economic consequences, or actually violated the Endangered Species Act. Conservation groups say they will intervene to defend the designation.

The biological issue hinges on whether polar bears will be able to find enough to eat as they roam shrinking ice floes. The research by Iverson and other Canadian scientists focused on the basics: what do bears in various Canadian populations eat already?

Between 1972 and 2004, these Canadian scientists took 1,902 fat samples from 1,738 bears spread among 10 different Canadian populations, including two populations that live in the Canadian portion of the Beaufort Sea, just east of Alaska’s territory.

What they found suggests that the Beaufort bears might have a harder time adapting as ice extent shrinks because they rely on just three kinds of prey.

The Cats Came Back By Kim Tingley In NRDC OnEarth Magazine

June 9, 2011

You should know this.
Matt
Thirty years ago, survival seemed unlikely for the endangered Florida panther, Puma concolor coryi. Researchers estimated that as few as 20 or 30 of the tawny cats remained, and they faced grim threats: rampant development was shrinking their South Florida habitat; constant inbreeding had introduced a congenital heart defect into the population; and the highways that crisscrossed the wilderness where they hunted at night put them at constant risk of being struck by cars.

But in 1981, state wildlife officials developed their first-ever panther recovery plan and began putting it into action. They set aside tens of thousands of acres, including 26,400 for the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, and they built dozens of highway underpasses so the cats could cross safely between territories. They also released eight Texas cougars into the panthers’ range to literally inject new blood — through crossbreeding — into the population. Now, Mark Lotz, a panther biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), says the panthers are “holding their own.” For the past five or six years, he says, their numbers have “plateaued somewhere around 100” — a major improvement.

Ongoing Series: Species Watch
But not everyone is so thrilled with the cats’ success. The panthers’ growing numbers have led to more conflicts with the humans who share their habitat, to deadly effect. Cattle ranchers have begun to complain that panthers are preying on their calves, at a loss of about $800 per head. A joint federal and state report confirmed that between July 2009 and June 2010, Floridians had five up-close encounters with the normally elusive felines. That year, the predators attacked house cats and livestock such as goats at least 12 times; so far, in the year since, they’ve been implicated in 27 attacks, each of which can include multiple animal victims. Last weekend, a Naples livestock owner reported losing eight goats and a potbellied pig to panthers.

On Tuesday, in an attempt to keep the peace, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida launched a yearlong pilot program that will pay small-farm owners $500 for every cow that panthers kill and award residents who lose pets and livestock $250 toward building a protective fence.

But the money is not available to large ranches, and before other residents can receive it, the FWC must confirm that panthers killed the missing pets and livestock — an often difficult task. As wildlife officials continue to look at the issue of panther-human conflict in search of solutions, it seems that some humans may already be taking matters into their hands: The FWC is offering a $5,000 reward for any information about the party responsible for poaching a panther in February, the third such incident in the last two years.

While biologists estimate that Florida may have housed more than 1,300 panthers before Europeans arrived, some 500 years later, says Lotz, it’s possible the southern part of the state has reached its panther limit. Though their territories overlap, male panthers need 200 square miles to live, and females, 80. Few locations outside of South Florida — home to the Everglades and numerous wetland preserves — have swaths of land large enough to accommodate more than a handful of the powerful cats. Lotz calls the lack of habitat “the number one issue,” explaining that in South Florida, “it seems like panthers are occupying just about every piece of available habitat there is.”

Now the question is whether humans can learn to live with the few that remain

Ida the polar bear, RIP, In Andrew Wetsler’s Blog In NRDC’s Switcboard

June 9, 2011

I used to go to the National Zoo a lot as a child…If you are near a Zoo I highly reccomend that you go see it…exclosures are vastly improving now.
Matt
The Central Parks Zoo’s oldest resident polar bear, Ida, had died.

I grew up in the City and some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories are of the zoo. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the Central Park Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, and the American Museum of Natural History, I probably wouldn’t have ended up working in the conservation movement.

But Ida was special. When NRDC and our allies launched our campaign to protect polar bears under the Endangered Species Act, one of the first things we did was hold a press conference. Thanks to the generous support of the Wildlife Conservation Society (which runs the zoo) we were able to have that press conference in the Central Park Zoo. We made quite an impression that day and a picture a colleague of mine snapped of Ida, the star attraction, is below. Today, polar bears enjoy the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

So rest in peace Ida. You done your species proud

Extinction Likely for World’s Rarest Bear Subspecies, From Scientific American.

May 6, 2011

Extinction is final.
Matt
The May 3 death of a Marsican brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus) has put the world’s rarest bear subspecies one step closer to extinction. Just 50 or so of the animals remain in two of Italy’s national parks, a population so small that the bears are “below the threshold of survival,” Giuseppe Rossi, head of the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio, and Molise, told The Christian Science Monitor.

The bear killed this week was likely struck by a car, an example of the increased bear-human conflict that has halved the population from 100 animals since the 1980s. In addition to traffic fatalities, poachers used poison to kill three bears in 2007, including a cub and his famous father named Bernardo, who was known for casually strolling around the streets of local villages. A female bear died in 2008, also from poisoning.

Although the bears have become people-friendly, that has put them even further at risk. As Italy magazine reported in 2008, some villagers “were unhappy with incursions by Bernardo and his kin, claiming they were a menace. The disappearance of high-mountain fodder and smallholdings has been one of the reasons why the bears have begun roaming further downhill, causing friction with humans.”

Aiming to reduce this conflict, forest rangers have planted thousands of fruit trees in the parks over the last few years in hopes of increasing the bears’ natural food supply. Last year, a $7.3 million project called Life Arctos (named after the bear) was launched, partially funded by the European Union, to coordinate conservation efforts between multiple government agencies and NGOs. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Life Arctos will help plant more trees and build electric fences around peoples’ gardens and beehives to prevent bears from using human settlements as their grocery stores. According to the U.K.-based organization Save the Bears, the Marsican bears cause around $75,000 in damage every year to beehives, gardens and livestock.

Battle over polar bear habitat heats up, In The Summit County Citizens Voice, Posted By Bob Berwyn

April 25, 2011

This case goes right to the heart of global climate change issues, so read on.
Matt

SUMMIT COUNTY — The legal wrangling over critical polar bear habitat in Alaska will probably go into the history books as one of the fundamental battles over endangered species, global warming and energy politics.

At stake is the very survival of the magnificent Arctic ursine, and the lines are clearly drawn. Living up to its obligation to protect endangered species under the law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared polar bears as threatened, citing the impacts of global warming.

Last month, the The Alaska Oil and Gas Association and the state of Alaska challenged the critical habitat designation for polar bears in court, complaining that the protections for the bears would plans for Arctic oil drilling.
Alaska Native corporations separately notified Interior of their intent to challenge the critical habitat rule but to date have not filed a lawsuit.

This week, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Greenpeace intervened in the lawsuit.

“If polar bears are going to live to see the next century, we have to rapidly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and preserve the Arctic, not turn it into a dirty industrial zone,” said Rebecca Noblin, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Alaska director. “To protect polar bears we must protect the places they live, both from dangerous climate change and from oil spills.”

The polar bear was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2008 because of the rapid melting of its sea-ice habitat. In November 2010, Interior designated 120 million acres of sea ice, barrier islands and coastal areas in Alaska as critical habitat for the bear. The Endangered Species Act prohibits federal agencies from authorizing activities that will destroy or harm a listed species’ critical habitat.

“With their homes literally melting beneath their feet, polar bears need all the protection they can get,” said Jason Rylander, an attorney with Defenders of Wildlife. “If polar bears are to survive the impacts of climate change, we have to protect the habitat that is critical to their ability to find food and raise their young.”

Despite protecting great swaths of the Arctic Ocean as polar bear habitat, the Interior Department is currently moving forward with plans to allow oil companies to drill in that very same habitat.

Earlier this year the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon and Offshore Drilling released a report concluding that the oil industry is not prepared to deal with a large spill in the Arctic and recommending that no drilling be allowed until the industry can demonstrate the ability to clean up spills in the harsh conditions of the Arctic Ocean.

“If we protect polar bear critical habitat, we are by extension also protecting the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Chukchi Sea and other important areas of the Arctic,” said Melanie Duchin, a climate campaigner with Greenpeace. “The state and oil industry’s lawsuits are a threat not just to the polar bear but to the health of the Arctic ecosystem.”