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Wildlife advocates say new Maine trapping plan is a bad deal for threatened Canada lynx

13 lynx have been caught in traps the past month; activists say more oversight is needed to protect federally listed cats

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A lynx on the prowl in the forest. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new trapping plan approved by state and federal officials in Maine doesn’t do enough to protect endangered lynx, according to wildlife advocates. Instead of relying on reports from trappers in the field, activists said they want to see more active enforcement and inspections of trapping operations.

The plan, part of the state’s predator control program, was approved less than a month into the state’s trapping season, during which 13 lynx have already been reported captured. All the cats were released alive, but two required veterinary treatment for injured toes. A previous study of radio-collared lynx in Maine showed that after being caught by trappers, only three of six lynx survived a month. Continue reading

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Can good planning ease global warming impacts to wildlife?

An adult lynx in Colorado warily surveys its surroundings. The wild cats were recently named to a top-10 list of species most at risk from climate change impacts to habitat. PHOTO BY TANYA SHENK, Colorado Division of Wildlife.

An adult lynx in Colorado warily surveys its surroundings. The wild cats were recently named to a top-10 list of species most at risk from climate change impacts to habitat. Photo by Tanya Shenk, Colorado Division of Wildlife.

New report highlights actions aimed at buffering ecosystems from climate change

Staff Report

FRISCO — Congress may still be dithering over global warming, but some federal agencies are on a fast-forward path to addressing climate-change impacts to natural resources.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last month unveiled a new report describing 50 projects launched to strengthen climate resiliency, including wildlife movement areas that help buffer animals from global warming and reforestation projects focusing on climate-resilient native trees.

“Across the nation, a broad coalition of natural resource agencies is working with partners and stakeholders to collectively address the current impacts and future threats of climate change,” said USFWS deputy director Rowan Gould. “The concrete actions documented in this report represent real progress, but helping native species  cope with the effects of climate disruption requires us to build on these successes,” Gould said. Continue reading

Environment: Shifting a small amount of global military spending to conservation would go a long way

Elk Rocky Mountain National Park

Well-protected elk browse in Rocky Mountain National Park.

New paper outlines need for renewed conservation emphasis

Staff Report

FRISCO — Shifting just a small fraction of the world’s military spending to conservation could help ensure protection and sustainable management for important wildlife habitat, experts say in a new report released ahead of the upcoming IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney.

The paper, published in Nature, was compiled by experts with Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. The authors concluded that allocating US $45 – $76 billion —  just 2.5 percent of  global annual military spending — would go a long way toward meeting the need for better management of protected areas. Continue reading

Endangered species listing proposed for African lions

The USFWS says African lions are in danger of extinction. Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

It is up to all of us’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Habitat loss, loss of prey base, and increased human-lion conflict are threatening African lions to the point that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the species under the Endangered Species Act.

“It is up to all of us, not just the people of Africa, to ensure that healthy, wild populations continue to roam the savannah for generations to come,” said USFWS director Dan Ashe, explaining that his agency found that lions are in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future. In a news release, Ashe described lions as a symbol of  majesty, courage and strength. Continue reading

Native Colorado fish found spawning in Grand Canyon

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Native Colorado River fish find haven in the Grand Cayon. Image courtesy: www.coloradoriverrecovery.org.

Discovery boosts hopes for long-term recovery

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado River anglers may favor big brown lunkers and splashy rainbows, but those trout are, for the most part, relative newcomers.

The river’s real natives are bony, powerful fish that evolved to survive in a challenging environment. Huge flooding flows in the spring, when the water runs thick with silt, or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, low flows during the fall or sustained drought, when the river is sometimes reduced to a trickle.

Among those native species is the endangered razorback sucker, long the focus of a huge recovery effort that may get a boost from the recent discovery that the fish are spawning in the Lower Colorado, specifically in Grand Canyon National Park, where they haven’t been seen since the 1960s. Continue reading

Good news in the condor recovery effort?

A California condor in flight.

A California condor in flight.

Wildlife officials say a voluntary program to reduce the use of lead hunting ammunition is paying off

Staff Report

FRISCO — There may be some good news in the long-running effort to recover California condor populations from the edge of extinction. Federal biologists say the number of condors treated for lead poisoning dropped dramatically in the past year, as more and more hunters replace their traditional ammunition with a non-lead version

Since condors eat only carrion, they’ve often been exposed to fragments of lead ammo left in the carcasses of killed animals. But an extensive outreach effort by the interagency recovery team may have shifted the tide. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 13 condors were treated for lead exposure between Sept. 1, 2013 and Aug. 31, 2014, down from 28 birds the previous year and from the five-year average of 26.

Condors are the largest land-based birds in North America, with a wingspan of up to 9.5 feet. They once ranged from coast to coast and north to south from Canada to Mexico. By 1982, only 23 condors remained. In 1987, all remaining wild condors were placed into a captive breeding program.

Since 1992, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) began reintroducing captive-bred condors to the wild, the USFWS and its public and private partners have grown the population to 410 birds. In 2008, the Recovery Program reached an important milestone, with more California condors flying free in the wild than in captivity for the first time since the program began.

Biologists have identified lead exposure as one of the biggest challenges for continued recovery, so for the past few years, they’ve focused on winning voluntary cooperation from hunters.

The drop in lead exposure cases was greeted with cautious optimism.
“This is potentially exciting news,” says Chris Parish, project director with The Peregrine Fund. “We’re hopeful that the decreased measurements of lead exposure are a direct result of the hunters’ actions. With continued effort, we may well see a continuing trend of lower lead levels in coming years.”

“When they eat an animal that died after being wounded by a gunshot, or they eat the entrails left in the field after a hunter has cleaned an animal he or she has harvested, they ingest lead fragments. If hunters use non-lead ammunition, the threat of lead exposure is non-existent,” said Keith Day, a regional wildlife biologist with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

To help the birds, the UDWR and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) have asked hunters in southern Utah and northern Arizona to use non-lead ammunition. To offset the cost and encourage participation, both agencies have voluntary programs that provide hunters in those areas with a free box of non-lead bullets.

The voluntary response from hunters has been impressive, according to state wildlife officials,

“We’ve operated a lead reduction program in Arizona since 2005,” said Allen Zufelt, condor recovery biologist for the AGFD. “Over the past seven years, more than 80 percent of our hunters have chosen to use non-lead ammunition annually in support of the condor program. Many others have removed entrails, which might have lead fragments in them, from the field after a successful hunt.”

Utah’s non-lead program started in 2010. Having a comparable program in Utah may have tipped the scale in favor of the condors.

Day said 55 percent of those who hunted in the Zion hunting unit (where Utah’s non-lead program is focused) in 2013 used non-lead ammunition or removed entrails from the field if they used lead bullets.

“We anticipate that the number of hunters who participate in the program on the Zion unit will continue to grow,” he says.

Utah hunters can learn more about the state’s lead reduction program—including prizes they can win for participating—at http://wildlife.utah.gov/condors/drawing_2014.pdf.

“Hats off to hunters in both states,” says Greg Sheehan, director of the UDWR. “We’re asking hunters to change a tradition and try something different for the sake of conservation. And they’re stepping to the plate. This type of cooperation is what makes successful wildlife management happen.”

Day and Zufelt say voluntary non-lead programs will continue in Utah and Arizona this fall.

The California condor recovery effort in Utah and Arizona is a cooperative program among federal, state and private partners. Those partners include The Peregrine Fund, the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arizona Strip Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and the Kaibab and Dixie national forests.

Continue reading

Rare California frogs finally get recovery plan

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Can a recovery plan save rare yellow-legged frogs in California? Photo courtesy Adam Backlin, USGS.

 Critical habitat designation and active restoration efforts could bolster populations

Staff Report

FRISCO — After 12 years on the endangered species list, a dwindling population of California frogs will finally get some much-needed attention from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Under a settlement agreement reached last week, the agency will develop a recovery plan for Southern California’s mountain yellow-legged frogs by December 2018

“I’m so glad these severely endangered frogs will finally get a recovery plan,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center of Biological Diversity attorney and biologists dedicated to protecting rare amphibians and reptiles. “Recovery plans really need to be developed soon after species are protected, because they give us a roadmap of exactly what we need to do to ensure those species won’t go extinct.”

There are only nine known populations of the frogs, all living in isolated headwaters streams where they rely on snowmelt and freshwater springs for habitat. Most of the frogs were wiped out by the introduction of non-native trout, and habitat degradation is another factor in their decline. Continue reading

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