Biodiversity: Another win for bison restoration

Montana court says bison are not livestock

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A Yellowstone bison. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A Montana district court judge this month rejected yet another attempt by ranchers to block the restoration of bison in the northern plains. The ranchers sought to have wild bison classified as livestock rather than wildlife, but Montana District Judge John McKeon ruled last week that wild bison are wildlife under state law — regardless of their confinement in quarantine.

A legal classification as livestock would have transferred jurisdiction over quarantined bison from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to the Montana Department of Livestock—a move that threatened to impede any future efforts to restore native bison as a wildlife species in appropriate portions of their historic habitat.

“This ruling rightly discredits what amounted to a stealth attack on future efforts to restore wild bison in Montana,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who represented Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation in opposing Citizens for Balanced Use’s argument. “Wild bison are classified as wildlife under Montana law. Now it is time to restore wild bison as wildlife on the Montana landscape.” Continue reading

River protection critical for snapping turtles

‘All it has is this river and it has nowhere else to go …’

Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

An alligator snapping turtle. Photo courtesy Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Conservation of coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico is vital to the survival of the alligator snapping turtle, including two recently discovered species, University of Florida scientists concluded in a recent study that sheds more light on the taxonomy of the dinosaurs of the turtle world.

The study shows the alligator snapping turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the Western Hemisphere and previously believed to be one species, is actually three separate species. Continue reading

Grand Canyon National Park eyes bison plan

Roaming buffalo create management challenges

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The buffalo are roaming in Grand Canyon National Park. bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A herd of bison brought to northern Arizona in the early 1900s has moved from a state-run wildlife area into Grand Canyon National Park, and now park rangers want to develop a plan to manage the animals.

Initially, the bison were managed in the House Rock Wildlife Area for big game hunters, but in the late 1990s, the animals have pioneered their way to the top of the Kaibab Plateau and into Grand Canyon National Park.

Resource managers say  combination of public hunt pressure, drought and fire, and reduced forage quality in House Rock Valley during the 1990s may have contributed to the bison moving through Saddle Mountain Wilderness and onto the higher elevations of the Kaibab Plateau. Over the past several years, very few bison have returned to wildlife area. Most now spend a majority of their time inside the park. Continue reading

New Idaho wolf law draws howls of outrage

State lawmakers aim to cut wolf numbers drastically

A wolf in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park)

A wolf in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Just a few years after Congress removed endangered species protection for wolves in Idaho, state lawmakers seem hellbent on driving the predators back to brink of extirpation.

The Idaho Legislature this week created a wolf depredation control board controlled by anti-wildlife interests. The board will administer a $400,000 fund set up explicitly to kill wolves. Conservation advocates say the new law could result in the slaughter of 500 wolves, leaving just 150 in the state. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Montana Supreme Court ends bison battle

Ruling gives herds more room to roam

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Bison grazing in the South Dakota badlands. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Native bison will get more room to roam outside Yellowstone National Park, as the Montana Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision that will end the slaughter of bison leaving the park. The court decision also gives the wild animals seasonal access to important winter and early spring habitat outside the north boundary of the park in the Gardiner Basin area until May 1 of each year.

The ruling ends a bitter and long-running battle between wildlife advocates and ranchers, who just can’t seem to let go of their innate hostility toward most native species, including predators. The courts have now twice rebuffed demands by some livestock producers and their allies to require aggressive hazing and slaughtering of bison that enter the Gardiner Basin area from Yellowstone National Park in the winter and early spring in search of the forage they need to survive. Continue reading

Study says invasive Everglades pythons are not much of a threat to humans

A Burmese python caught in the Florida Everglades. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

A Burmese python caught in the Everglades. Photo by USFWS.

Most attacks on humans may be cases of mistaken identity

Staff Report

FRISCO — There’s good news and bad news from the Everglades. Invasive Burmese pythons now number in the tens of thousands and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

The good news is, those pythons apparently don’t pose much of a threat to humans, according to an assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service scientists.

The human risk assessment looked at five incidents that involved humans and Burmese pythons over a 10-year period in Everglades National Park. All five incidents involved pythons striking at biologists who were conducting research in flooded wetlands. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds finalize critical habitat for jaguars

Jaguar. Image via the Wikimedia Commons.

Jaguar. Image via the Wikimedia Commons.

Nearly 1,200 square miles of territory protected for recovery of native cats

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Nearly 17 years after federal biologists first listed jaguars under the Endangered Species Act, the wild cats may now have a protected area to roam in the wilds of the Southwest.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week designated about 1,200 square miles of rugged desert, mountain and forest lands in southern Arizona and New Mexico as critical habitat for jaguars — but only after a sustained legal push by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The federal wildlife agency initially resisted mapping out protected areas, claiming that the cats are too rare for habitat protection. Wildlife advocates challenged the agency’s position and a federal court rejected the government’s argument, leading to this week’s critical habitat listing notice in the Federal Register. The USFWS is also working on a jaguar recovery plan for the area. Continue reading

Wildlife: Idaho ends wilderness wolf hunt — for now

There will no wolf hunting in Idaho and Montana this year. Photo by Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf / USFWS

Idaho halts wilderness wolf hunt. Photo by Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS.

Wildlife advocates claim hunt was intended to boost elk numbers to benefit hunters and outfitters

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Wildlife conservation advocates made some headway in their battle to halt relentless wolf hunting in the northern Rockies this week, as the Idaho Department of Fish and Game agreed to stop its trapping and hunting program in the Middle Fork region of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

Since mid-December, Idaho killed nine wolves from two packs in the region. Represented by Earthjustice, several conservation groups went to court to block the killing, arguing that the state wolf extermination program would degrade the largest forested wilderness in the lower-48 states. Continue reading

Wyoming wolf battle far from over, as wildlife advocates challenge delisting in federal court

Gray wolves a. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Gray wolves are facing state-sanctioned slaughter in Wyoming. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Lawsuit says state management plan is inadequate

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Wildlife advocates say that, without federal protection, wolves in Wyoming could soon be back on the ropes because of anti-wolf state policy that does little to protect the predators.

Based on those concerns, conservation groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The court heard arguments in the case on Dec. 17, with Earthjustice attorney Tom Preso asking the judge to restore Endangered Species Act protections to gray wolves in Wyoming until state officials develop a stronger wolf conservation plan. Continue reading

Once again, please don’t feed wild animals!

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A Northern Bahamian rock iguana (Cyclura Cychlura Inornata). Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Study shows how human food affects rare rock iguanas

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — There are plenty of good reasons to follow the old adage about not feeding wild animals, and a recent study of endangered Bahamian rock iguanas provides even more proof.

According to the findings, tourist-fed iguanas are suffering physiological problems as a result of eating human food. In the study, led by Charles Knapp of the  John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, the scientists compared blood and faecal samples from iguanas that were fed by tourists to samples from iguanas that did not have any interactions with humans.

The body condition of the two groups of iguanas was similar, but indicators for dietary indicators showed the effects of feeding by humans. Both male and female iguanas from the islands frequently visited by tourists showed notably different levels of glucose, potassium, and uric acid, as well as levels of other minerals. The female iguanas from tourist areas differed significantly in ionized calcium. Continue reading

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