About these ads

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

About these ads

Rare California frogs finally get recovery plan

MountainYellow-leggedFrog_AdamBacklin_USGS_FPWC.tif

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

Wildlife advocates back in court on behalf of wolverines

j

Wolverine habitat in the western U.S.

Groups say federal agency erred by denying Endangered Species Act protection

Staff Report

FRISCO — Wildlife advocates are once again heading to federal court to seek Endangered Species Act protection for rare wolverines, a species deemed as vulnerable to global warming because of its dependence on deep spring snow cover for denning and breeding.

Wolverines live in small numbers mainly in the northern Rocky Mountains. The wide-ranging mammals were hunted, trapped and poisoned to near-extinction during the settlement era, and now face a climate whammy that could melt the big snowbanks they need for reproduction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed an endangered species listing in 2013 in a rule supported by the agency’s own scientific reports and by independent review panels, but then reversed course in May 2014, asserting that climate models are not accurate enough to pinpoint threats to wolverine habitat. Continue reading

Are California sea otters on the verge of recovery?

;ioh

Can sea otters bounce back from the brink?

Population along California coast hovering near targeted recovery level

Staff Report

FRISCO — Sea otters are making a slow and steady comeback along the Central California coast, with the species’ population nearing a level that could earn them the distinction of being taken off the endangered species list.

In the latest official population estimate released last week, federal scientists said there were just under 3,000 southern sea otters living along the Central California coast, based on a population index used since the 1980s. That’s up slightly from 2013 and just shy of the 3,090 threshold set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a recovery benchmark. Continue reading

Rebuilding biodiversity: Feds release whooping crane chicks

dgs

Whooping crane chicks, hatched and raised by their parents at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Maryland, were released on Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

Project aims to restore migratory flock in eastern U.S.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Efforts to boost a self-sustaining flock of migratory whooping cranes in the eastern U.S. got a boost last month with the release of four chicks that were raised in captivity at a U.S. Geological Survey research center in Maryland. The crane chicks were released on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the six-month-old birds are part ofan experimental rearing and release method referred to as “parent-rearing.”  The parent-reared whooping crane chicks were hatched and raised by captive adult whooping cranes. Continue reading

Report: Global wildlife populations drop 50 percent

kh

Global biodiversity is at risk.

‘We’re gradually destroying our planet’s ability to support our way of life’

FRISCO —Neocolonialism under multinational corporations is devastating biodiversity in developing low-income countries, as the wealthy part of the world continues to increase consumption of resources at an unsustainable rate.

As a result, populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped 52 percent, according to the annual 2014 Living Planet report released last week by the World Wildlife Fund. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds say Rio Grande cutthroat trout doesn’t need Endangered Species Act protection

troutmapGlobal warming seen as big threat to native fish

Staff Report

FRISCO — Rio Grande cutthroat trout may be rare, but they’re not facing imminent extinction anymore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said last week, asserting that collaborative conservation and restoration efforts in southern Colorado and New Mexico will help sustain populations of the dwindling fish into the foreseeable future.

But the agency’s conclusion contradicts some other studies showing that global warming is huge threat to the fish. Long-term climate models suggest that many smaller streams where cutthroats live could be too warm in just a few decades, according a U.S. Geological Survey study released last year. Most of the sampled streams with Rio Grande cutthroat trout have base flows of less than 1 cubic foot per second, making them vulnerable to drought.

Rio Grande cutthroat trout live in only about 12 percent of the species’ historical habitat. Non-native fish introductions, water diversions and other impacts have degraded the species’ habitat in the past few decades. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,658 other followers